‘But by the grace of God, I am what I am’ (1 Cori 15:10)
This is the testimony of a person about himself who was caught up to the third heaven ( 2 Cori 12:2). He was a ‘Hebrew born of Hebrews, as to the law, a Pharisee, as to righteousness under the law, blameless’ (Phil 3:5-6). It was Paul the Apostle of whom Jesus Christ himself said; ‘ He is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel’ (Acts 9:15). This Paul confesses that he is what he is because of God’s grace.
When we stay under the shadow of grace, the biggest advantage is that sin will not have any power over us. ‘For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace’ (Rom 6:14)
Though divine grace shelters us, we live in a world full of sin. For us to survive this deluge of sin and the circumstances that lead to it, we need the protective power of grace from above. Yet very often we feel that it is becoming more and more difficult to lead a true Christian life and remain blameless in a world corrupted by sin. Then we should stand firm and remember the promise of our Lord. ‘Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’ ( Rom 5:20).
This grace is being transferred to us from Jesus Christ. It is through the ‘grace of God that has been given us in Christ Jesus’ (1 Cori. 1:4) that the gospel ministry, that is to be handled with much care like a ‘treasure in a clay jar’, is entrusted to us. The source of grace is Christ and Christ alone. While describing in depth the role and ministry of Jesus Christ as High Priest and exhorting us to ‘approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’ ( Heb 4:16), the letter to the Hebrews underlines the fact that the Lord is the fountain of all graces.
The apostles preached this gospel of grace. Paul describes this ministry as one that he ‘received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace’ (Acts 20:24). Wherever the gospel was proclaimed, the works of grace were manifest in multiple ways. We read about the experience of Barnabas who was sent to visit the church in Antioch. ‘When he came and saw the grace of God he rejoiced’ (Acts 11:23). To a Church so filled with grace, the apostles ‘spoke to them and urged them to continue in the grace of God’ ( Acts 13:43), because they knew that grace is at the root of a fruitful Christian life.
The words of Jesus are streams of grace. It is our everyday experience that wherever the word is preached miracles, healings and conversion happen. As we read in the Acts of the Apostles, the Lord, ‘testified to the word of his grace by granting signs and wonders to be done through them’ (Acts 14:3).
Paul advises us to gather strength from this grace. ‘You then, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus’ (2 Tim 2:1). Grace leads us to salvation. In continuation to his assertion that ‘we are saved by grace’ (cf. Eph 2:5), Paul writes about the way grace works for our salvation. ‘ For by grace you have been saved through faith’ ( Eph 2:8).
In other words grace and faith work together. Where there is grace, there will be faith also. And faith is accompanied by love. ‘The grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus’ (1 Tim 1:14). Paul has every right to give testimony to the grace of Jesus who himself told Paul: ‘ My grace is sufficient for you’ (2 Cori 12:9).
Lord’s grace is sufficient for us too. When Paul appealed three times to the Lord about the torment that he is subjected to by a messenger of Satan, Jesus did not grant that appeal but strengthened him in grace to withstand the testing times. God’s grace will protect even the weakest who need it most from falling, the reason being ‘power is made perfect in weakness’ ( 2 Cori 12:9).
As fragile ‘clay jars’ selected by God’s mercy to be a testimony to His grace, let us praise and worship Him, for without grace, we will fall down and break any time.