Hosea 14:4 I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.
Is God's Grace Sufficient?
by Tracy Plessinger
"My grace is sufficient for thee". This is perhaps one of the most comforting statements given to us by God through the pen of the Apostle Paul. In this article we want to examine this statement closely and understand how it applies to every aspect of our lives. As we do so, we will see that God's grace is, in fact, sufficient for our salvation, for our security and for our suffering. In this Age of Grace, God's grace reigns supreme for all of our needs.
What is Grace?
Someone has said that grace can be defined as, "The free unmerited favor of God, happily lavished upon those that deserve nothing but judgement". Another has defined it as, "All that God is free to do for you because of Calvary". Perhaps you have heard other definitions of grace. However you define grace, there are two truths about grace that are made abundantly clear in scripture.
First, grace and works are mutually exclusive principles. They can not coexist.
And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. Romans 11:6
The truth of this passage is critical. Many people seem to have the opinion that if they simply, "do their best, God will take care of the rest," or if they, "reach up as high as they can toward God, he'll reach down the rest of the way,". This understanding is in direct contradiction to the principle of Romans 11:6. We will either be rewarded based entirely on our works, or we will be rewarded based entirely on God's grace (more on this later).
The second principle of grace that scripture teaches is that God's grace will accept only one response from man-faith.
Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Romans 4:4,5
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6
We have already seen that grace and works are mutually exclusive. Therefore, the only response that grace can accept is something that is not a work. Notice that in Romans 4:5 Paul specifically excludes faith as being a work-"to him that worketh not, but believeth". This is because the merit of faith is not in the faith itself, but in the object of the faith. Faith alone does not save. Faith in Mohammed will not save. Faith in your works will not save. Faith in your church will not save. Faith cannot save because faith is not a meritorious work. Faith in Christ will save because in Christ there is merit, not because there is merit in the faith. Scripture is clear-the only response that grace will accept is faith.
As we consider the working of grace in our lives let us keep these two important truths in mind. Grace and works are mutually exclusive principles and the only response that grace will accept is faith.
Saved by Grace
As the Apostle Paul begins to present the message of salvation by grace, he does so by pointing out the fallacy of relying on our own works to save you. Paul starts by presenting the works principle-God will reward perfect righteousness with eternal life and will punish unrighteousness with eternal damnation.
Who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God. Romans 2:6-11
Paul goes on to make it clear that God has already evaluated our works and found them to be wholly inadequate.
What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: Romans 3:9,10
Where does this leave us? If we are to be evaluated by our works, and God has already determined our works to be inadequate, how can we have any hope of salvation? Fortunately, the story does not end there. Paul goes on to tell us that there is one work which is adequate, one work which God does accept, one work which satisfies his standard of righteousness. That work is the work of Christ at Calvary.
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [satisfaction]through faith in his blood, ... Romans 3:24,25a
To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; . . . II Corinthians 5:19
In His mercy and grace, God has provided a work that will satisfy his justice. What should our response to God's work be? Remember, the only response that grace will accept is faith.
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Romans 3:28
Our salvation comes when we respond in faith to God's work accomplished by Christ at Calvary.
The choice is ours. Do we want to take God's offer of judgement based upon our works? Or, do we want to believe by faith that his judgement has already found us wanting and accept his offer of eternal life as a free gift of grace? We cannot have it both ways. We must either work for our eternal life or we must accept eternal life as a free gift of God's grace.
God's grace is the only thing that is sufficient to save us.
Secured by Grace
Once we have settled the issue of our salvation, we must consider the issue of our security. Many today seem to have the idea that we are saved by grace, but it then becomes our responsibility to keep that salvation by our works. In other words, salvation deals with all of our past sins but after salvation we must "walk the straight and narrow" in order to keep that salvation. Another variation of this idea is the teaching that after salvation, we must confess our sins and receive "parental forgiveness" for them. These teachings generate an interesting question. Is the same grace and power of God that saves us also the grace and power that keeps us saved, or is the maintenance of our salvation up to us? This is not a new question. In fact, this question was asked rhetorically by the Apostle Paul as he wrote to the churches in Galatia almost 2000 years ago.
O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Galatians 3:1-3
The obvious answer to this question is an unqualified NO. The flesh, our works, cannot perfect the salvation that we receive by grace. We have seen that grace and works are mutually exclusive principles. This is true both in our salvation and in our security. We must either rely totally on our efforts to stay saved or we must place the burden entirely on the grace of God. Remember that relying on our own works means God will look, not just at a few of our more shining moments, but at every work of our life. This is the point that Paul is making as he continues in Galatians.
For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Galatians 5:3
If God is going to look at any of our works, then He is going to look at all of them. Remember that our security, as our salvation, must be either all of works or all of grace.
Scripture explains why our security is the result of grace and not works. At the moment of our salvation, God places us into union with Christ. The Holy Spirit makes us a part of Jesus Christ as a member of His body.
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
I Corinthians 12:12,13 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: Ephesians 2:14-16
The creation of this "new body", and our placement in it, is completely a work of God's grace and it is because of our position in this Body that we are secure. After the Holy Spirit places us into the Body He acts as a seal to prevent us from being removed from the Body.
In whom [Christ] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13,14
The reason that we are secure in our salvation is because of the work of the Holy Spirit in placing us into Christ and then acting as a seal to keep us in that position. The only way that we could lose our security is for the Holy Spirit to fail in His sealing work. The work of our security is His, not ours. As with our salvation, our security is a free gift of God's grace.
God's grace is the only thing that is sufficient to secure us.
Strengthened by Grace
The final work of grace in our lives that we will consider in this article is the work that grace does in strengthening us in the midst of suffering.
As we begin this section dealing with the sufficiency of God's grace in suffering, it is important that we understand that suffering is going to be a part of the life of every believer in this age. In this Age of Grace believers are never promised immediate deliverance from the presence of suffering. In fact, even a casual reading of Paul's epistles reveals that we can expect to suffer infirmity and tribulation, just as he did.
Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice I was beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. II Corinthians 11:23-27
Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. I Corinthians 4:11-14
But thou hast fully known by doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. II Timothy 3:10-12
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Philippians 1:27-29
It is in the context of all this suffering that we find God's statement to the Apostle Paul, quoted in the first paragraph of this article.
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. II Corinthians 12:7-9
Notice that in this situation God did not remove Paul's thorn when he prayed, nor did He answer "No" to his request. Instead, he provided him with another option-"my grace is sufficient". In other words, the grace answer to Paul's prayer was not to take away the physical infirmity; it was to remind Paul of the resource that he already had. That resource was the grace that God had already bestowed upon him in his salvation and security. Paul could rest confidant in the fact that the blessings which he had in Christ were totally unaffected by his infirmity. Paul could have absolute assurance that the same grace that guaranteed his salvation and security also guaranteed his future delivery from a fleshly body of corruption.
In the midst of all the suffering that Paul describes in his epistles, both his and ours, there is the unmovable hope that grace gives us. Grace has promised us a complete redemption-spirit, soul, and body. That redemption of our body that grace has promised is a yet future event. Paul's admonition to us is to patiently wait for that future redemption.
For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Romans 8:22-25
The promise that God has given us of future redemption is sufficient to sustain us in times of suffering. We do not need to be delivered from our infirmities now, when we have God's promise of grace that we will have deliverance in the future. It is this hope that saves us from being discouraged and defeated when trials hit. (Romans 8:24 above) It is this hope that provides us deliverance from the despair of this world. (II Timothy 3:11 above). It is this hope that God was teaching Paul when He said, "my grace is sufficient for thee." It is this hope that allowed Paul to glory in his infirmities. And it is this hope that is sufficient to strengthen us in the midst of our sufferings.
God's All Sufficient Grace
In the title of this article we asked the question, "Is God's Grace Sufficient?" Clearly, the answer to that question is a resounding, YES! God's grace is sufficient for every area of our life. It is sufficient to save us. It is sufficient to secure us. It is sufficient to strengthen us. Yes beloved, GOD'S GRACE IS SUFFICIENT!
I WILL ALWAYS BE HUMBLED BY THE GRACE AND MERCY OF CHRIST SALVATION IN MY LIFE