5 Words That Show How God’s Grace Is
Far More Amazing Than You Ever Realized!
[Editor’s Note: “Amazing Grace” has been called our unofficial national hymn, sung at nearly every major event of national mourning, such as recent memorial services after mass shootings. Most Sundays, thousands of congregations lift it up at some point in their worship times. Yet, when it comes to the biblical teaching on the full meaning of God’s grace toward us in Christ Jesus, the hymn’s British composer John Newton recorded only part of the truth in the seven verses of his 1779 gospel song. In this blog post, David Bryant surprises us by exploring how much more radical God’s grace is toward those who belong to his Son. You WILL be amazed! Maybe even shaken.]
Grace. It’s what you might name your new baby daughter. It’s what many families say before the evening meal, or how we describe the flowing movements of a ballet dancer. Or it might be our term for the dignity with which someone walks into a room. It can be a title when speaking to certain persons of nobility (Your Grace).
Grace. It’s also the word the Bible frequently uses to describe the means by which the Father works through the Son by the Spirit to bring all who trust in Jesus into the fullest measure of our great salvation.
But what does that grace really include? How amazing is God’s grace after all? In one of the hymn’s verses, this prolific 18th-century pastor and hymn writer (a converted former slave trader, by the way) plumbed some of the depths of God’s grace like this (I’ll bet you’ve sung this at one time or another):
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
But that’s only part of the story of how amazing God’s grace really is!
Let me introduce you to even more powerful prospects that God’s grace holds for you that make the words of this verse (as true as they are) pale by comparison.
I want to give you five words that will change what you expect the Lord Jesus to do in your walk with him every day for the rest of your life.
Let’s Turn “Grace”
Into a Dynamic Five-Word Acrostic:
But first, we should clarify three terms.
God’s mercy, God’s grace, God’s love—what’s the difference among these foundational concepts used when we talk about God’s redemptive response to a world of sinners?
One way to think about it is this: “Mercy” defines the judgments God withholds from us that we DO deserve as sinners. “Grace” defines the blessings God pours out on us that we DO NOT deserve. “Love” defines God’s covenant commitment to remain toward us the God of all mercy and grace forever. All three, of course, are directed toward us through Christ Jesus our Lord.
OK, next let’s dig deeper into the “grace” part.
There’s one very familiar acrostic for grace that employs its letters to represent five words that can help us remember what many believe to be the essence of God’s grace. It goes like this:
G → God’s
R → Riches
A → At
C → Christ’s
E → Expense
As far as it goes, this is an excellent summary of one facet of God’s amazing grace toward us.
For you see, Scripture concludes in Ephesians 3 that in Christ there are “unsearchable riches” waiting for us, just as 2 Corinthians 1 declares that all the promises of God have been made “Yes to us in Christ Jesus.”
In other words, we still have no idea what untold, inexhaustible blessings we’ve inherited in Jesus, which will be enjoyed without end. All are made possible by the incomparable “expense” paid by the living God because he loved the world so much he gave his one and only Son to suffer at the cross the infinite price for all of our sin against him.
John Newton pictured some of these riches in this verse of “Amazing Grace”:
The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.
But wait a minute! When we look at key passages on God’s grace in the New Testament, there appears to be a whole lot more at work than this popular acrostic suggests.
Let me propose a second set of five words, define them, sample some Scriptures that back up this perspective and conclude by highlighting the significant differences this can make in your daily walk with the Savior.
Here’s a whole other way to think of God’s stunning GRACE:
G → God’s
R → Revolution
A → Achieved by
C → Christ
E → Exalted
Let’s look at each word.
“GOD” naturally comes first because he is the initiator, the source, and the guarantor—all three—of the profound impact his grace intends to have on our lives.
“REVOLUTION” is his determined goal for all of us in all manifestations of his grace—and nothing less. God seeks to turn everything in his people upside down—or better said, right side up—so that nothing about us ever remains the way he initially found it.
When the Bible talks about believers being “born again” as “new creations” in Christ Jesus, this signals a drastic, even subversive, transformation of the Christian that knows no limits and no end, focused on renovating us inside and out into the image of the living, triumphant Jesus himself (Romans 8:28-29). You can’t get more revolutionary than that!
“ACHIEVED” reminds us that all the radical work God does for us and in us and through us is a total gift, secured on our behalf and made available without any effort or contribution on our part. It was accomplished for our sakes by someone else at an unfathomable price we can never repay.
In all of this, the primary mover is “CHRIST”—Jesus’ official title, which literally translates as “Anointed One.” It was given to the Son by his Father to designate him as Lord of heaven and earth; as the focus, fullness and fulfillment of every one of God’s purposes and promises; as the central praise and passion of saints and angels for the ages to come; and as the one set apart and set on high to be our prophet, priest, and king.
This leads us to declare that Christ is “EXALTED.” This modifier refers to the cosmic-level transaction that took place when Jesus ascended to the right hand of the throne of heaven.
When the Father exalted our Redeemer to the place of highest honor in the universe (see Acts 1, for example), this unrepeatable and irreversible act comprised both a sign and seal that everything necessary for God’s grace to have its radical way with us was fully sufficient in Jesus.
All Jesus had carried out for our salvation—by the invasion of his incarnation, the mission of his crucifixion, and the re-creation of his resurrection—was ratified by his coronation. Then that salvation was unleashed with unrivaled authority on behalf of all who trust in him, so that now and forever “grace” means Christ exalted has become both the total identity and eternal destiny of God’s people, from beginning to end.
WOW! Do you see how this added focus on G.R.A.C.E. makes it even more extraordinarily amazing?
With those five simple words, we magnify even more the unfathomable greatness of God’s grace. Clearly, it is nothing other than revolutionary!
Actually, This Radical View of God’s Grace
Is All the Bible Talks About
There are so many passages to draw from that illustrate this amazing outlook on God’s grace that we can sample only a few examples here. However, let this get you started as you watch for how this theme unfolds in scores of other texts.
My first example is the very familiar Ephesians 2:8-10. Unfortunately, when quoting it most people stop with verse 9, so it sounds like this:
For it is by GRACE you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (emphasis added).
But actually, Paul’s point requires we read the next sentence, verse 10:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
In other words, “saved by grace” is revolutionary because we are recreated (we become the new “handiwork” of the God of creation) in our union with Christ Jesus in order to live out a lifestyle planned for sinners long ago—for which grace takes hold of us now through the exalted Jesus.
Here’s another example, 2 Corinthians 8:9.
For you know the GRACE of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich (emphasis added).
Notice, it does not merely say that grace gave us riches. No. Instead, because Jesus is both Lord and Christ, he is able to take us from abject spiritual poverty and make (recreate) us to actually become rich. “Rich” is who we now are. “Rich in Christ” is revolutionary, carrying far-reaching implications for every facet of our walk with him.
Or how about this familiar passage in Romans 5:20? It says: “But where sin increased, GRACE increased all the more . . . ” (emphasis added). But why stop there. Keep reading onto verse 21: “. . . so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also GRACE might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (emphasis added).
God’s grace is about reigning! Right now Christ is reigning over all. Believers have not only come under his sway, but we also participate in his royal triumphs. Instead of slavery to the grip of death, this verse assures us we have been conquered by eternal life through Jesus exalted (“Christ our Lord”). If that’s not revolutionary, then what is?
In that same vein, when Ephesians 4:7 encourages us with the words “but to each one of us GRACE has been given as Christ apportioned it” (emphasis added), let’s not forget that this activity is rising out of the ascension of Christ—Christ exalted—with all of grace’s ramifications for taking us into “the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (see verses 8-13). Talk about a complete overhaul that leaves nothing about us ever the same!
Is it any wonder, therefore, that the Bible culminates the way it does? After Revelation 21-22 portrays the greatest revolution ever—the gracious renovation of creation into a new heaven and earth where “the Lamb is the lamp of the city”—the next to last verse of the Bible declares about that Lamb, “Come, Lord [exalted] Jesus.” Then, the final sentence reads quite simply: “The GRACE of the Lord [exalted] Jesus be with God’s people. Amen [let it be done]” (Revelation 22:21, emphasis added).
That is to say, every surprising, irreversible, transforming work of God found in Scripture from Genesis forward, including establishing the eternal state, rests upon one simple benediction, which offers one overarching explanation for the entire story: Ultimately, ALL of it has been one grand drama of “God’s Revolution Achieved by Christ Exalted.”
This Revolution Gets Very Personal
When we look at God’s grace at work in individual believers in the Bible—stories given to us as examples to encourage us about how God wants to work in each of our lives too—we find revolutionary changes time and time again.
For example, when in risen, ascended, ruling glory Jesus confronts Paul (Acts 9), our Lord not only immediately brings him into eternal life, but at the very same moment he calls Paul to a life-long, world-changing ministry meant to create all kinds of revolutions of grace for people and cities across the empire.
Jesus’ saving message to Paul proved to be all-encompassing of his past, present, and future—it demonstrated “God’s Revolution Achieved by Christ Exalted” in his life. Thus, Paul was turned right side up from being a persecutor of the gospel to serving for decades as the chief proclaimer of the gospel.
With Peter, we witness how the changes he underwent were like night to day. Starting with Jesus’ initial (and revolutionary) summons for Peter to leave his fishing business to become, of all things, a fisher of people (Mark 1), the Lord took this big-mouthed, impulsive, bungling, waffling disciple and spiritually reprogrammed him to go forth so impassioned for Jesus and the gospel that he ultimately was martyred for Jesus decades later in Rome.
What was the pivotal moment for Peter? It was when Jesus, before heading back to heaven’s throne, confronted him one morning in his exalted, resurrection splendor on a Galilean shore to reignite a love in Peter for his Lord and Savior that would drive him to spend the rest of his earthly life shepherding Jesus followers into what the Kingdom is all about (see John 21).
Peter knew how equally life-changing such amazing grace would be for every Christian, which is why he urges us:
But grow in the GRACE and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen (2 Peter 3:18, emphasis added).
Grow in grace. In other words, our magnificent salvation isn’t just a one-time event but a constant, glorious, God-sustained metamorphosis unfolding every day for every disciple!
You ask: What about saints who lived in Old Testament times? Excellent question. I think the answer is straightforward: Grace—“God’s Revolution Achieved by Christ Exalted”—is retroactive to generations of believers who preceded Christ’s coming into the world. But for saints today, grace is poured on us by Jesus’ victorious reign, making it much more proactive. As Peter observed:
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the GRACE that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow . . . the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven (1 Peter 1, emphasis added).
For example, look how this retroactive grace reconstituted David. God took him from the fringes (a shepherd boy wandering fields) to the front lines of God’s kingdom in his generation; from the shame of an adulterer to joy of being one of Scripture’s great adorers (look at the Psalms he wrote); from the disgrace of a murderer to become in his later years the Old Testament’s chief model of the Messiah (Jesus called himself the “son of David”).
If David is not “exhibit #1” of God in his love thoroughly recasting people in spite of themselves, then, tell me, who is? And yet, he was living only in the shadowlands of Christ exalted.
Whether experienced by Old or New Testament saints, biblical grace always remains unrelenting and undeterred in its ultimate goal for every believer: to make us what we never were before and to take us where we’ve never gone before—all activated by Jesus on the throne.
So Then, From Now On,
Be Careful What You Pray For!
The fact is, God’s grace, rightly understood, is the most potent force in the universe. God’s grace is so amazing because its impact is so inexplicably awesome.
Often, I hear Christians praying for our Father to be gracious to them in one or more particular need or circumstance. That’s fine. But when you do, realize that in asking for displays of divine grace you are opening the door for the King of Glory to come into that situation, issue, person, or community to work in such a way that we end up with more than we may have bargained for!
That’s because our Sovereign always answers in ways that bring new facets of the renovation God’s grace always pursues, magnifying and applying the impact of his exaltation in specific, practical ways—“exceedingly above all that we ask or think by the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).
For years the custom of my church has been to conclude every Sunday worship service by joining hands with those around us and reciting over one another a biblical benediction—which doubles as an appeal to heaven. It is found in 2 Corinthians 13:14:
May the GRACE of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and the LOVE of God,
and the FELLOWSHIP of the Holy Spirit
be with you all
However, if we really mean what we say, then reciting this prayer is the most “dangerous” thing any of us could do for and with each other on Sunday, or any day, because what we’re actually saying to each other can be paraphrased like this:
May the radical, life-changing revolution accomplished by the reign of Jesus
have its full effect in your life this coming week.
May that transforming work of the Son be secured for you by
the Father’s power and promises flowing out of his great love for you.
May this amazing grace be made infinitely personal to your very core by the
indwelling Holy Spirit who turns it into reality for you day by day.
Are YOU willing to have someone pray that benediction over YOU?
Are you ready to receive the magnificent implications of its answers no matter how many unexpected changes in Christ it brings, no matter where it takes you with Christ in the future, no matter what it costs you for Christ when it is all over?
Will you dare to seek more of God’s grace no matter how profoundly it will revolutionize you by consuming you with Christ exalted?
Homework: Look at these 25 Bible passages about God’s grace quoted here. See how the fresh insights of this blog post help expand how you see each text and apply each to your life.
Amazing grace? Yes, it is! Far more AMAZING and REVOLUTIONARY than most of us realize!
Therefore, I pray this benediction over you, dear reader. It is the triune God’s desire for your life. That’s why it is my desire for your life too—all through Christ now. Receive it with joy.
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and to Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely read books at DavidBryantBooks.com.