Continuing the study of A W Tozer’s “Attributes of God” Part 6
There is a difference between grace and mercy- two words we often use interchangeably. Mercy, which was discussed on the previous chapter and blog, is God’s goodness being used toward our guilt. Grace is God’s goodness being used toward our indebtedness to Him. In other words, mercy is God not giving us what we deserve and grace is God giving us what we do not deserve.
Speaking of similar words, according to Tozer, the Hebrew word for grace is often translated as favor in your Bible, so remember that as you read it- it really changes how I think of a few verses! And, just as I mentioned in the mercy blog about mercy being stated four times more in the Old Testament than in the New, grace is stated about three times more in the New Testament than the Old.
So, enough background bits. On to the cool stuff.
There is often a dichotomy between the law and grace- Moses was all law, Jesus all grace, right? Well, how about this- Exodus 33:17, God is speaking to Moses after He gives the Ten Commandments and says “I look at you and see you covered in grace”. (My paraphrase, but please look it up and research for yourself) After the law- before Jesus. And, even more mind blowing, what about Genesis 6:8 where God looks at Noah- a long time before the law- and says “You are full of My grace”? That kinda blows the whole ship out of the water.
This really goes back to the same old idea that we seem to throw out of the window so easily. God does not change. Ever. If there’s grace now, there was grace at creation and before. If there was law in Moses, there’s law now. But. It’s important to remember- grace is the only way to be saved- ever. And that grace only comes through Jesus Christ. Which- and here’s the brain stretcher- has nothing to do with time as we understand it. God is infinite- time does not really matter to Him like it does to us. Both before and after Jesus’ incarnation, humanity was saved by grace from Him and Him alone.
This begs two questions- 1.) So why did God give the impossible to follow law anyway if it did no good? And 2.) So, if grace was already in effect, why did Jesus have to come and die for us? The short answer for the first one is that the law, in and of itself, is a wonderful thing, and if we follow it, we will have healthy, hopefully long, lives. If you look at all the parts of Leviticus about staying away from dead animals, and eating only meat from particular animals that they had the ability to cook well enough, and general cleanliness, it makes a ton of sense. It is, in part, a home economics and health class, and in part, a class on focusing your entire life on God. Can we totally achieve it? No. This is the point of the law- to show that we cannot ever get to God by ourselves. This is why there were sacrifices.
This brings me to the second question. Why did Jesus have to incarnate, die, resurrect if grace was already active? For one thing, Jesus came so that we could see God- so that we could relate to Him and see how much He loves us and cares about us and how much we need Him. He couldn’t do that in the same way without Jesus. Yes, He sent prophets and angels to the earth to show us all that, but sending a messenger is not the same as going yourself any more than sending a letter is the same as talking to someone in person. It’s called relationship. And, Jesus had to die and resurrect because we broke God’s law, so God, because He was in covenant with us, had to curse Himself- which meant that He had to die… (If you wish more on that subject, you may leave a comment and I’ll write about it at a later date- it’s too lengthy to go into here)
It is important to understand- God gives us His grace as we accept it, but that is not a free ride. Although this is not covered at all in Tozer’s writings- grace is never an excuse to just do our own thing. Grace has to be accepted. And acceptance implies humility, which implies willingness to shape ourselves into what God desires.
Ok, I’m trying to keep this short, because it’s just a blog, not a research paper, and this is not meant to be a putting-you-to-sleep read for whoever reads this, but the subject of grace is vast. And I really can’t cover it well here. Suffice it to say- God is grace; a grace that lets Him see us with His amazing love and mercy, instead of the aloneness and punishment we deserve; that that grace is only through Jesus- we cannot earn it through the law or any other effort of our own, and that freely accepting that grace on our own part means that we are acknowledging the above two statements and that we need God just to live- that His plan is better than ours and we will walk by His plan the best we can as He enables us to do so.