Tony Evans — The Concept of Grace
Every other religion is predicated on what you do for God. Christianity is predicated on what God has done for man, and that word is summarized in the one word called grace. The verse says grow in grace. That is grow in your understanding, grow in your experience and your utilization of grace. I don't want you to look at the word merely as a theological term, but as an atmospheric environment, sorta like adjusting your thermostat in the room and it changes the temperature of the room. Grace is an atmosphere in which you live and move and function. When you reduce it to a theological concept, you may know the data but not have the experience. So it is an atmosphere. It is an environment in which you are to understand and in which you are to operate.
Grace is like soil. It says grow in grace, like you grow vegetables, grow out of the soil of grace. It is unfortunate that so many people do not functionally understand the term. Grace is critical to go to heaven, but grace is also critical to get heaven to you. You see, the whole thing is grace. There is a major difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament, the old covenant and the new covenant, fundamental differences. The new covenant, New Testament, the Bible calls it a grace covenant, a grace arrangement, a grace way of operating, as opposed to the old covenant, which is called a law way of operating.
Far too many people, even Christians, are still operating out of an old and never having transferred to the new. Now, the reason why grace is critical for the non-Christian, it gets you to heaven, the message of grace. But for the Christian, it gives you victory. It provides the mechanism for peace. It is the mechanism for joy. It is the mechanism for power. And all of that flows through this one word called grace. That's why Peter wants you to grow in understanding it, grow in accepting it, and grow in functioning in it so you can get more benefit from it. Because as you'll see as we go along, you can cancel out what grace has to offer.
So, what many people don't know is they come to church while canceling out the benefit of grace. And therefore, not understanding the term or what it means and how it is to be applied to their lives, they can literally live in defeat while being more religious than ever. So, if it has become too much work being a Christian, then you need to know about grace. If your Christian life is miserable, even though you want to be a good Christian, you need to understand grace, because it is God's liberating word. One word, but when you grow, it's like a pregnant woman. It's gonna all show up after a while, because grace will expand and expand and expand to give you more experience of God's reality operating in your life. It is the key word for your existence.
So, what does grace mean? The Greek word charis means to show favor. It meant to show favor. So, a substitute, a synonym for the word grace is favor. But it was used of a superior showing favor to an inferior. It would be the king showing favor to a peasant. A more direct definition is grace is unmerited favor. In other words, you don't earn it. You can't earn grace. A even bigger definition is grace is the inexhaustible supply of God's goodness whereby he does for us what we could never do for ourselves. It is the inexhaustible. It has no end to it. It is the inexhaustible favor or goodness of God doing for us what we could not do for ourselves, what we do not deserve, what we could not earn, and what we never could repay. It is what God does for us independent of us.
Grace emanates from God to us without us. It is a whole new world of operating, but it's a world we're not used to. And unfortunately, it is a world we're not trained to operate in, and so we wind up either not operating in it at all, or operating dually. Grace offers an inexhaustible supply of God's goodness, and it introduces you to a whole new world of operating. So let's look at the ingredients of grace. Let me let you understand the ingredients of this unmerited favor. First of all, you need to understand, we need to understand that grace is always free.
Romans 3:24 says justified freely by his grace. Revelation 21:6 says it's without cost. Revelation 22:13 says it is without cost, and there are no strings attached. So let's get this in your mind, 'cause I know it's not normal. Grace is free. Romans 4, verses 4 and 5 says it is not a wage to be earned. Grace cannot be earned. The moment you charge grace, you cancel grace, and you insult the grace giver. So this is a different way of thinking. This is a different way of operating because grace is always free. Not only is grace free, but grace is apart from works. Romans chapter 11, verse 6 puts it this way. He says: "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works". Otherwise, grace is no longer grace. Works cancel grace. Grace is separate from law. The Old Testament was law. The New Testament is grace, and the two are separate and are not to be mixed. That is, the Old Testament law.
Romans 6:14 says: "You are no longer under law. You are now under grace". Galatians 2:21, Paul says: "I do not nullify and cancel out the grace of God by going back to law". Galatians 1, verses 6 and 7, the Apostle Paul says: "Who has bewitched you? Who has tricked you Christians in Galatia, that you have left grace"? They were being duped by being driven back to the old system. So it's not that nothing transfers. It's that whatever legitimately transfers, it transfers to a whole new system. The system is what's different. So there are things in the old covenant that do transfer to the new covenant. There are some things that do not transfer.
One of the reasons that Christians stay defeated for so long is they've never switched systems. Because, as you will discover in our series, the old system can't help you. The old system can't fix you. This is what Galatians 2:21 said, I nullify the grace of God. I cancel it out. And he's talking about as a Christian. I can cancel grace's power and work in my life. Let me tell you something else about grace. It is comprehensive. Mmm, it's comprehensive. It includes everything. Ephesians 1:3: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places," it's comprehensive. 2 Corinthians chapter 9, verse 8, it says: "Grace is sufficient for every good work," it's comprehensive. The Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 5:10 says that God is the God of all grace. In fact, grace is fully loaded, and it is so fully loaded that Ephesians 2, verse 7 says that in the ages to come... billions of years from now... you will be experiencing more grace.
Let me tell you another ingredient of grace, and we all need this one. It is powerful. Romans chapter 5, Romans chapter 5, verse 20: "The law came in so that the transgression would increase". Okay, I'll give you a hint about this 'cause I'm gonna have a whole sermon on it. "The law came in so that the transgressions can increase". In other words, the Ten Commandments came in to make you worse off because it is called, "The covenant of condemnation" in 2 Corinthians 3. All the law does is show you how sinful you are. Paul said, "I was fine until I read the law". "The law came in so that transgression would increase, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more". So why do you need grace? Because it does what rule keeping under the law cannot do. It's more stronger than your addiction. It's stronger than your sin. It's stronger than your rebellion. It's stronger than the thing that seems to be holding you hostage as a stronghold. He says, "Where sin increased," got worse, I'm worse off, "grace super abounded and overruled it".
So for deliverance from something, you don't need more law, you need more grace. If God's favor to me is free, and it's gonna keep on coming, then why don't I just keep on sinning 'cause his grace is free? Paul knew that. That's why he wrote in Romans chapter 6, verse 1: "Shall we sin that grace may abound"? Will grace free me up to do my own thing, to rebel against God? 'Cause after all, I'm saved, I'm saved forever. You know, God's still a gracious God. So because people don't understand grace, there is the possibility that they will misuse it. And Paul recognizes that people can think that way. That's why he had to clarify. Saint John chapter 1, verses 16 and 17 of Saint John 1: "For of his fullness," talking about Jesus, "of his fullness we have all received and grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ".
If you've ever seen Niagara Falls, or a picture of Niagara Falls, it's this ever-flowing awesome sight of water that just keeps on coming. That's what he means in verse 16, grace on top of grace. It just keeps flowing. The grace flow is a continuous flow. Or if you are a beach person, it's like saying wave after wave after wave after wave of something. The waves keep coming in. Like a surfer looking for the wave, they just keep on coming. So he says, "God has revealed in Christ grace on top of grace". It just keeps on flowing. He says, verse 17: "The law came through Moses". When the law came through Moses, it made Israel a unique civil society because of the laws God gave to Moses. He says, "But grace and truth come through Jesus Christ".
So, watch this, grace is not merely a theology. It is a person. I call this the conduit of grace. Okay, let's walk with this a moment. It says, "Grace and truth," so grace is intimately tied to truth. In other words, to experience the waves, to experience Niagara Falls continually falling on you, it continues to fall, but for you to get wet, for you to experience it, it is always going to be tied to truth. You can't experience more grace without learning more truth. The more truth you learn based on the Word of God, tied in the system of grace, the more of Jesus you experience, because grace is a person, not merely a philosophy. And so he says, "The law came from Moses, but grace and truth was realized through Jesus Christ".
When you're in trouble, you don't need a law book. You need a lawyer. When you're in trouble with a criminal, you don't need a penal code. You need a police person. In other words, you need the visible, physical manifestation of what the book talks about, because the physical person, the lawyer, the doctor, or the police person is going to do with you what the book requires. But the book can't fix your problem. Unless what you learn from the book is transmitted to you through the person, then you can know the manual and have the manual, and not have the experience, because Jesus must translate from the book to your experience.
I wanna show you how that's done, but the whole point of it is, grace is introducing you and me and us to a whole different way of thinking, operating, and living. And if you will grow in this understanding, and therefore, in the knowledge, 2 Peter 3:18, of a person, Jesus Christ, then you will experience God at a level beyond which you have ever experienced before, because now you won't have to talk about the peace of God. You will have had it. The joy of the Lord, you will have experienced it. The victory that's in him, you'll know what that's about, because grace is the system that God uses to deliver it.
So I want to challenge you to get rid of this. That is the old system. 'Cause the only reason you have it is 'cause you're used to it. 'Cause the new system engulfs it, and it gives you so much more. A father had died and he had a wealth of paintings, very expensive, that he was gonna auction off. And so the auctioneer, in accordance with the will, set up an auction to auction off all of his very expensive paintings. People came from everywhere, because these were expensive paintings. The auctioneer said, "The auction is now open. Bring out the first piece".
They brought out an old picture of a little boy. The boy happened to be the father's son, but it wasn't one of these fancy, expensive paintings. The father had one son, and he put the painting out there. The auctioneer said, "Who would like to make their bid on painting number 1"? Nobody bidded, because it wasn't one of the fancy pieces. An old gentleman in the back raised his hand and he says, "If nobody will take it, I will". The old man in the back happened to be the servant of the father who died. He says, "I'll take that picture". He walked up, and the auctioneer gave him the picture. As he walked out, the auctioneer took the gavel and slammed it down and said, "Ladies and gentleman, the auction is now over. It has been completed".
The roar from the crowd said, "What in the world are you talking about? You haven't even gotten to the good stuff yet. You just brought out this one painting. What are you talking about, it's over? We've just begun". The auctioneer took out a piece of paper, and it was a letter that the father had left, and it simply said this: "When you auction off my painting, the painting of my son should be the first one. And whoever gets the painting of my son you are to give everything else to, because my love for my son will affect who gets everything else". Grace says God's got everything else, but it's the knowledge of Jesus Christ that gets you to everything else. Grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ.