Grace is one of the things that makes Christianity unique from every other religion. It’s understandable then that the topic of grace creates problems. Admittedly, I prefer to steer clear of controversial issues, but the extreme importance of grace compels me to wade into the swirling waters of contention.
One of the biggest mistakes people make about grace is attempting to force it into a one-dimensional box. The apostle Peter knew a little something about grace. Peter brashly proclaimed His undying loyalty to Jesus, only to deny Him when confronted by a servant girl (Mark 14). In his first epistle, Peter wrote the following:
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)
Grace, you see, is multifaceted—like a beautiful diamond. I was eleven or twelve years old when I laid eyes on the Hope Diamond in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. I don’t remember much from that visit to the Smithsonian, but the Hope Diamond’s beauty and brilliance made a lasting impression. Associated Press reporter Ron Edmonds gave the following description of his experience with the exquisite and mysterious gem:
You cradle the 45.5-carat stone—about the size of a walnut and heavier than its translucence makes it appear—turning it from side to side as the light flashes from its facets, knowing it’s the hardest natural material yet fearful of dropping it.
I don’t imagine that the Hope Diamond would have the same memorable effect if it were flat. A diamond’s beauty and value are the products of its multifaceted nature. And so it is with grace. The problem with grace isn’t grace itself, but with our limited understanding.
Working my way through the New Testament, I was able to identify ten different dimensions—or expressions—of grace.
- Grace can be an expression of gratitude, thanksgiving, or praise (Luke 17:9; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 12:28-29).
- Grace can be favor that may or may not be earned (Luke 2:52; Ephesians 2:8-9).
- Grace can be a favor done for someone (Acts 24:27, 25:3, 9).
- Grace can be a blessing given, or an act of giving to others (1 Corinthians 16:3; 2 Corinthians 1:15, 8:6-7).
- Grace involves the manner in which we treat others and speak about them (Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6).
- Grace enables us to believe (Acts 18:27; Romans 11:5-6).
- Grace equips and empowers us with the ability to serve others more effectively (Romans 12:6a; 1 Corinthians 3:10).
- Grace strengthens and builds us up (Acts 20:32; 1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Timothy 2:1; Hebrews 4:16).
- Grace teaches us not to sin (Titus 2:11-14).
- Grace transforms our hearts to reign over sin and bear spiritual fruit (Romans 5:17, 20-21; Colossians 1:3-6; 1 Peter 5:12).
In my book, The Divine Progression of Grace, I focused primarily on three dimensions—unmerited favor, transformation, and empowerment. I’d really like to highlight some of the other expressions of grace, however, and so I’ll be posting about each one over the next several weeks.
As already stated, there isn’t a problem with grace. Our trouble is that our perspective of grace is far too limited.