The Grace that Dwells with Us
Perhaps one of the most endearing hymns in Christendom is “Amazing Grace” by John Newton. The Wikipedia article on Newton states “Amazing Grace is a Christian hymn written by the English poet and clergyman John Newton, (1725–1807), published in 1779. Its message was that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of the sins people commit, and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God. “Amazing Grace” is one of the most recognizable songs in the English-speaking world.
Newton wrote the words from his own personal experience. He grew up without any particular religious conviction but his life’s path was formed by a variety of twists and coincidences that were often put into motion by his recalcitrant insubordination. He was pressed into the Royal Navy and became a sailor. Eventually he became involved in the trading of slaves. One night a terrible storm battered his vessel so severely that he became frightened enough to call out to God for mercy, a moment that marked the beginning of his spiritual conversion. His career in slave trading lasted a few more years until he quit going to sea altogether. That is when he began studying theology.”
Anyone who has experienced firsthand the amazing love and forgiveness of God through Christ by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit can truly declare that His grace is amazing. It is no doubt from this vantage point, which as a former son of Thunder and now fully converted to be a lover of Christ alone; John the apostle writes his gospel (truly good news). In the gospel of John in the first chapter we read:
“6 There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.
9There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
12But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘ He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'”
16For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”
The words of John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, who literally heard the heartbeat of God (see John 13:25), presents a picture of God the Father who was virtually unknown to the Jews of that day. The people, guided by religious leaders, did not understand the heart of the Father towards us, and Jesus, who with intention and purpose, as written so intimately by John in this passage, came to reveal or manifest Grace and Truth. First, presented here is the grace of God and its importance for us all.
The Grace that Dwells
14And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Word dwelt among us…… He was full of grace and truth. In Matthew 1:23 the prophet Isaiah was quoted. “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”
God himself came to dwell among us in the form of a baby, and that baby was full of grace and truth. That baby brought with Him the redemptive cure for sinful man that he might once again live in harmony with God. All that God ever wanted, from the very beginning, was an intimate relationship with man.
The relationship God desired was first seen in His relationship with Adam and Eve in the garden. Daily they walked and talked with God, communicating with Him on an intimate and personal basis. The grace that dwells with us speaks of the intimate relationship we are permitted to enjoy with the creator of the universe. But how can we have a relationship with deity? It is only because of this wonderful thing called grace. His grace was evident with the man and the woman in the garden; His grace was given from the beginning.
God did not desire distance in relationship. He wanted a close one, an intimate one; but God’s people were filled with fear. They were intimidated by His presence. As seen in the Exodus, God wanted a relationship with the children of Israel, and as with all relationships, one built upon trust…their trust in Him as sovereign, as creator and sustainer of the universe, and as provider and protector for them. But they refused. They gave in to their fear, and withdrew from the Lord, placing Moses between themselves and God. It was that same fear that eventually caused them to err in disobedience at the edge of the Promised Land. Because they were unwilling to develop a genuine relationship with the Lord, they did not have the faith to believe Him and to boldly enter into the land of promise.
It is out of genuine relationship that one can exercise faith or trust. Faith and trust in relationship requires maturity for it to grow, and one can assume that the children of Israel were simply not mature enough for healthy relationship. An intimate relationship takes us into greater depths and higher levels of understanding in the knowledge of the person we are relating to, including God. The bible states the people perish for lack of knowledge. In order to advance in the Kingdom of God we must know who He is, for in so doing we come to understand who we are. An understanding of one’s identity is crucial to the exercising of the authority that was freely given to us as His adopted children. As His children, we were made in His image and His likeness, that we might exercise dominion over all God created (Gen 2:26-28).
The desire of God to dwell among His people, to cultivate an intimate relationship with them was the plan. In spite of the disobedience and in spite of their sin, He still loved them. How could this be possible? It is only by God’s grace.
Grace is defined as God’s unmerited favor. It goes beyond mercy (which was shown to Old Testament saints) and speaks of being spared from the punishment for sin, no matter how well-earned and deserved by most men and women. Grace goes beyond mercy, as it speaks of the positive benefit of God’s blessings, blessing that we do not deserve. Christ came to reveal the Father, and to fulfill the promise he made to Abraham, the friend of God, to be a blessing to all nations (people groups).
Of course as we shall see, grace and truth are to flow seamlessly with one another. They are not mutually exclusive, although in some ways they must be kept in dynamic tension with each other. Let’s look at several scriptural insights into grace and the dwelling presence of God as found in the scripture.
There are times in life when things happen beyond our control; we often do not understand where God is in the midst of our circumstances. The death of a loved one, a business that suddenly goes belly up and all of one’s assets are lost. It may be an illness or disease, a tragic accident. A loved one that gets caught in the trap of an addiction to drugs, alcohol, or worse; it is called life, and it happens. Unfortunately, we don’t have all the answers but we do have with us One who knows, cares and walks with us through the most difficult of circumstances… His name is Jesus.
Paul recounts in 2 Corinthians 12:7 “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
God’s grace is sufficient. No matter what dilemma we may be facing, no matter how difficult it may seem, we have this same assurance that Paul had. God’s grace is sufficient for every single need.
Blessing until next time… Dr. Stan