Really, the theme of the whole bible is the grace of God. Grace is what distinguishes Christianity from every other faith in the world. Grace is the unmerited favor of God to sinners like you and me. It’s no wonder that “Amazing Grace” is one of the world’s best known and most loved songs. Grace announces that even though you and I don’t deserve God’s goodness, He gives it to us anyway. He lavishes us with grace.
There are two broad categories of God’s grace. The first is what theologians call “prevenient grace.” This is the kindness that is shown to every human being, in that God does good things for us just by letting us live on this planet. Jesus described this grace in Matthew 5:45 when he said about God, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” God would have the right to nuke mankind off the face of the earth if He chose to, just because we don’t deserve any of the kindnesses He shows us. But in his grace, he lets us live.
The second category is God’s saving grace. This is the grace made available to those who put their trust in Christ. It is the grace made possible because of the cross. Our sins created a chasm between us and God. God could not maintain his holiness and look the other way where sin was concerned. But His Son Jesus Christ volunteered to become our substitute at the cross. To become the sin-bearer in our place. And when we put our trust in what Jesus accomplished at the cross, we are saved.
Scot McKnight wrote this about the apostle Paul: “Paul knew he was in a place called grace. Grace is the opening word that tumbles out of Paul’s mouth. Grace is more than being lucky to be on God’s side. Grace is God’s goodness showered on people who have failed. Grace is God’s love on those who think they are unlovable. Grace is God knowing what we are designed to be. Grace is God believing in us when we have given up. Grace is someone at the end of their rope finding new strength. But there’s more to grace. Grace is both a place and a power. Grace is God unleashing his transforming power. Grace realigns and reroutes a life and a community. Grace is when you turn your worst enemy into your best friend. Grace takes people as they are and makes them what they can be. Grace ennobles; grace empowers. Grace forgives; grace frees. Grace transcends, and grace transforms. Grace turns a Christian-baiting, Torah-loving Pharisee such as the apostle Paul into a Christian-loving, Christ-following apostle.”