The three aspects of grace

In yesterday’s blog I quoted Francis Turretin on the right relationship between grace and works. Turretin states that the status of the believer is merited or conferred upon her by the efficacious action of God alone. The question which arises from this is: what is the nature of grace? Or, what merits are conferred by God upon the believer?

There are three distinct aspects of grace.
1. Grace is an efficacious action of God toward certain sinners. The giving of the gift of salvation is a work of God alone.
2. It follows that the gift has a nature. The qualities of the gift can be described.
3. It follows that the nature of the gift tells us something about the nature of the giver.

Evangelicals today are often clear that God gives salvation as an act of grace. But we talk very little about the nature of the gift itself and so underestimate the nature of the giver. This is, perhaps, at the root of the problem which Jerry Bridges highlights in the lives of many Christians.

The reality for such Christians is that their Christian life begins with a surge of God’s grace (justification) and they know it will end in grace (glorification) but they muddle through life with a mixture of grace and works and this stems, in part, from a misunderstanding of the nature of the gift of salvation.

For these Christians God can be compared to a man who gives his wife flowers on their first date and then puts a wreath of lilies on her grave. She knows little of her husbands love and grace, expressed in the giving of flowers, during most of their relationship. If, however, I were to give my wife, Amanda, a bunch of her favourite flowers in season every week from the time we met until she died, the gift would be rich and varied in nature: scented lilies, freesias, irises, stock, alstroemeria, tulips, daffodils, gerbera, gladioli and sunflowers. Amanda’s appreciation and love for her husband through the rich variety, beauty, scent and abundance of the gifts would be far higher than beginning and ending our relationship with a single act of grace. So it is with the way we need to view God’s grace. Not that God gives extra blessings as time goes on, believers already have have every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Rather, the nature of grace necessitates our frequent appreciation of the gift in all its variety. We should ask: what merits are conferred by God upon the believer? What is the nature of the gift?

Thomas Watson begins his exposition of the beatitudes with this line: “I here present you with a subject full of sweet variety.” I’ll begin to explore this sweet variety in later posts.

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