- and don't brag about it....
Bosnian-Croatian Apostle Damir Šićko Alić sounds a warning against perversions of grace, and shows the apostolic way to live in it!
"As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).
Many believers do not comprehend that there are various kinds of grace. This is the reason why they wrongly perceive and interpret some things. In order to gain a better understanding of grace that saves us, we need to gain a better understanding of other kinds of grace so that we would not link them, out of our ignorance, in a wrong way or put them within the wrong context.
In Peter’s statement, previously mentioned, we may see that believers receive various kinds of grace and that the grace of God is manifold. This means that there are various kinds of God's grace, and that they are not the same, identical to one another. If they are not identical, then their arrival, purpose or way of manifestation are not the same.
God releases His graces in various ways. Through the Spirit of grace (Hebrew 10:29), through the words of His grace (Acts 20:32), and through the ministers of His grace (1 Peter 4:10-11).
Sometimes grace is unconditional, sometimes conditional – depending on which kind of grace we are talking about. Also, there is grace we have already received, and grace that we are yet to receive. There is grace that some will receive, but not others.
Scripture tells us “And God is able to make all (kinds of) grace abound toward you...” (2Cor.9.8). This verse shows us that God has all kinds of grace we have not received, but are yet to receive. The word “may” points out the possibility for that to happen. However, the very possibility to receive them does not mean that we are going to receive them for sure. Therefore, we need to understand that some kinds of grace are conditional (not automatically received).
Similarly it is with, for instance, forgiveness. Forgiveness is not something that happens automatically. John says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9). Our Lord says to pray, “And forgive us our sins ...” and further, “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:26). To take the grace of God or forgiveness for granted may be detrimental.
Position our hearts
There are all kinds of grace: Grace that saves us (Ephesians 2:8), grace for giving (2 Corinthians 8:1-4), grace for being a witness (Acts 4:33), grace for performing miracles (Acts 6:8), grace for suffering (Philippians 1:29), grace for ministry that God prepared for us (Acts 14:26). However, these are not all of the kinds of grace.
Not each man or each believer has each kind of grace. In order to receive any kind of God’s grace, we have to fulfill certain conditions, or to “position” ourselves in our hearts respectfully.
For instance, not all people did receive the grace of salvation. If they did, it would mean that all people have been saved already. But are they? No. Otherwise, it could be concluded that the Lord made a serious mistake when He said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel [...] He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). If all people had received the grace of salvation, than it would be pointless to go and preach the Gospel. For that matter, Jesus would be giving one quite senseless order. However, things are not so.
In order to receive the grace of salvation in the first place, people must believe and receive the Gospel and Jesus as their Lord. When they do that with faith, God bestows on them the grace of salvation.
What are we supposed to do to receive grace?
God shall not give (automatically) to all believers all kinds of grace. In order to receive grace into his/her life, a person as a believer should fulfill conditions stipulated by God Himself. Therefore, the Bible teaches us, “Let us, therefore, come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Should we fail to come in the proper manner to the throne of grace, we will not find it or receive it.
One way is to come in humility, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). Therefore, humility is a condition. When people are not humble, they do not get grace.
God also says, “... but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:6). Those who do not love the Lord and who infringe His commandments, will not receive His mercy. Mercy is “reserved” for those who love God and execute His commandments.
Luke says, “And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50). The fear of the Lord is another prerequisite for receiving grace.
All that is mentioned above means that if we want to receive the grace or mercy of God, then we must be properly “positioned”. Our attitudes, our beliefs as well as our works should comply with each other. Some people believe that they have an unconditional right to the grace of God and that all kinds of grace will just “flow” into their lives notwithstanding their lifestyles, and what they believe. It is so far from the truth as it may be! God gives His grace to whoever He wants. We cannot make Him give it to us. We cannot force Him to give it to us. The Word says, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion” (Romans 9:15). Grace is a gift highly appreciated by God. Therefore He shares it thoughtfully, not lightly.
A Proper Definition of Grace
One of the reasons for having problems with the doctrine of grace today is an incorrect (incomplete) definition of grace. If the definition thereof is incorrect, conclusions will be incorrect, too. This is why it is so important to define grace properly.
One definitions (which I use often) is “gift or favor unmerited”. This is good definition if used in the proper context.
However, the meaning of the word “grace” has another dimension, which must be taken into consideration when defining it. This other dimension gives a more correct explanation of what grace actually is.
A Hebrew word for grace is hen. This word is derived from two other words: hanan (Strong’s, 2603) and hanah (ibidem, 2583). The word hanah means “to erect a tent” or “to abide”, and the word hanan means, “to bow or stand in a way to show favor or kindness to somebody.” If we connect the meanings of these words, we may conclude that grace is God’s presence in someone’s life, through which He manifests His favor, or gives help to this person respectively. These words point out the very sense that grace is the recognizable, visible God’s manifestation in our life. It may express itself in joy, peace, wisdom and similar things. Grace is the manifestation of God’s goodness in someone, toward someone, or through someone.
There are people today who use grace as an excuse for their worldliness or semi-worldliness, or their lawlessness. They say, “We live in grace, not under the law, and therefore, we may do these things or we may not do them respectively.” Their attitude arises from their misunderstanding of grace. Grace is a gift from God, which gives us the strength to live in a way that pleases God.
The Greek word for grace – haris – means “a divine impact on the heart and its reflection in the life of a person” (Strong’s, 5485). Whenever we truly live in grace, grace gives us the strength and wisdom. Whenever we abide under grace, we do not fall under the influence of sin. Sin shall not have dominion over us (Romans 6:14). We shall not sin repeatedly on a daily basis. Grace is not a cover or an excuse for my sins. Grace is a divine impact on my heart and life. Whenever you live in grace, you live in God’s supernatural strength and favor. When a person receives grace, or lives under grace, God’s strength, wisdom, joy, or similar manifests in him/her. This is the grace of God, and teaching on grace should lead us in that direction. This is the reason for Paul saying, “... the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you ...” at the beginning and at the end of his letters. He knows that if the grace of God would be with them, it would give them the strength, wisdom and whatever they might need to understand and to obey God.
We need such grace, and Paul had such grace in his life. Therefore, he says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1Corinthians 15:10). When we are truly in grace, and when it works in us, it shall produce labor, effort to do what God wants and requires from us to do. Some do not like this kind of grace. They prefer grace without any labor or effort.
There is one author, a teacher of this “other grace”, who titled his book, “Destined to reign: The secret of effortless success, Wholeness and Victorious Living”. Of course, there is no wonder that some people like it - to be successful and victorious without any effort whatsoever. Appealing, is it not? However, grace, which Paul had, produced in him labor, an effort. In order to realize the will of God, he made efforts.
The second wrong side of the perverse teaching on grace is that by such grace those who advocate it cancel certain sins from the list of sins, ungodliness and worldly lusts. Seemingly, they cancel some virtues from the list of wise, godly and righteous.
Grace simply does not do such things!
Scripture says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live sober, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).Therefore, what does grace do? Grace teaches us. What does it teach us? It teaches us to deny ungodliness, and worldly desires; to live reasonably, righteously and in a godly manner.
Whenever I try to teach people to deny ungodliness and worldly desires, there is always someone saying, “We are living by grace, and not under the law.” Whenever I teach what is reasonable, and preach how we need to live righteously, and in a godly manner, there is always someone saying, “He teaches the law, not grace.” These very people say that they live “under the Spirit of grace”. If only they were living under His influence, they would hear that the Spirit and the Word of grace teaches us these things. When we truly have Him in our lives, we run from ungodliness and deny worldly lusts. We live wisely, righteously and godly. This is real grace – to have God's power in you which helps you to live wisely, godly and righteously in God. True grace gives us the strength and capability for it. It is: A DIVINE IMPACT ON THE HEART AND IN LIFE OF A PERSON!
It is the strength, capability for go through all and every circumstance in a manner that pleases God. This is what God answered to Paul when Paul asked God to set him free from the messenger of Satan, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The Lord, herein, points out that grace releases the manifestation of God’s strength. Whenever we are in grace, God’s strength shall manifest itself in us so that we may endure and overcome attacks of our enemy. Therefore, Scriptures teach us: “remain in grace, grow in grace, may grace be with you”. That means: “remain in the strength, grow in the strength, may the strength of God be with you”; or other things that grace releases in us.
Glory for grace
Some false teachings about grace pervert the very sense of grace in such way that man actually receives the glory for grace. What do I mean by it? I mean that they emphasize the following: “I AM under grace, I AM in grace” etc. When it comes to such an attitude, the definition of grace as an unmerited gift may be wrong. It becomes wrong when a person brags and says, “I have unmerited gift, I live in grace.” Often those who are saying such things are not aware of taking for themselves the glory that does not belong to them but to God. The glory of grace belongs to God! Grace is not something that belongs to me. It is of God. I have no right to brag about grace. I should give thanks for grace. In grace, the emphasis is not on me, but on God. It is not something I possess or do. It is something that God possesses and does, even through me. He accounts it to me and bestows it on me.
Aristotle’s definition of the word “grace” clearly states that grace is something that somebody gives to a person in need, expecting nothing in return, “Let, then, haris (grace) be a such quality by which he/she who has it favors the one in need, expecting nothing in return” (Rhetorica 2.7). We perverted it, putting our focus on a receiver (ourselves) and a gift we are receiving, instead on the Giver (God) and His goodness towards us. Therefore, we talk more about grace as unmerited gift rather than about the fact that God bestowed His grace on us, and that He does not expect anything in return for that particular grace He bestowed.
How may this grace come into my life?
We have already mentioned a few things: faith, humility, love, execution of God’s commandments (obedience to God’s word), fear of the Lord. Furthermore, the word of God invites us to return to the Lord from all our wanderings and by-roads, “For if you return to the Lord, your brethren and your children will be treated with compassion ( mercy ) for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful ...” (2Chronicles 30:9). The Letter to the Hebrews teaches us: “Let us, therefore, come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (4:16).
Whenever we are properly “positioned”, responding to the call of the Word of God, God may pour out all kinds of His grace on us. Then, and only then, God’s strength, wisdom, peace, and joy shall “flow” through us.
Let us enter into God’s kind of grace. Let it come into our lives. Let us “position” ourselves properly and it shall be “flowing” into our lives, bringing many positive changes. Amen!
Bio: Damir Šićko Alić is a Bosnian from Srebrenica, and was radically saved as a young man. Now he leads a network of 15 churches in Croatia, He resides with his wife Marija in Zagreb.