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What Does it Mean to be Under Grace? — 27 Comments

  1. William, here is the way I see grace whether it be right or wrong. The standard definition that I have heard through the years seems to me to be about the best one for us even though it is probably woefully inadequate, "Grace is unmerited favor."

    When I consider the fact that I am still alive after sinning, to me, that is grace and I think that is essentially what you have presented in your article. To extrapolate the whole idea even further; God made Adam and Eve even though He knew before hand that they would eventually sin, is that grace? He also made the universe and all that it contains with the knowledge that the great controversy would take place and that Christ would have to die in order to correct the problem - way before He started creating anything. Can that be considered unmerited favor? Further the only difference between what we call sin and what we call righteousness is a matter of knowledge and the decisions we make with respect to it. I can do something before knowing that it is wrong and it is not sin but after I know then it becomes sin (James 4:17; Lk 12:47-48; Jn 9:41; Jn 15:22; Acts 17:30). I therefore can rightfully ask if grace did not exist before I had knowledge while doing things that we normally would consider sin.

    Stating it this way puts grace beyond law where it becomes a relational attitude of a sovereign king to his vassals but applied in the Bible specifically to God. I think one can even question whether or not God has any obligation at all to keep created beings alive, sin or no sin. To me grace started before law in the mind of God but for the purposes of your article I think considering its relation to law is a very good place to start especially within the scope of the concepts that other Christians have of the subject.

    • By nature, "God is love" (1 John 4:8)
      "Love does no harm to a neighbor" (Romans 4:8)
      Therefore, in a sense, God is under obligation, to His own perfectly righteous character, to take care of His creation. Authority does not imply freedom from restraint.

    • I agree. I think the problem with most non SDA Christians is that even though they agree that grace is "unmerited favor", they fail to see it's association with sin, because although the Bible defines sin as the transgression of the law,they are still willing to say that the law is abolished. So even if grace existed in the mind of God before sin, He can only extend it to the sinner who becomes aware of his/her condition and requests it(Acts17:30).

    • I have read Tyler's comments with interest.Tyler says,"To me grace started before law in the mind of God but for the purposes of your article I think considering its relation to law is a very good place to start especially within the scope of the concepts that other Christians have of the subject".Well,it depend on the law Tyler is talking about.But to remind my friend ,the law of God has always been there before mankind.If that be the case,then grace was also in exitence long before mankind was created.In short both Grace and the Law have always been in the mind of God.To be specific,Grace + Law = GOD.God's character is Law and Grace.The Bible says Lucifer broke the law in heaven,infact the Bible calls him a murderer from the beginning.He was coveteous of the throne of God.Because he broke God's law ,no place was found for him in heaven,he was thrown down.God could have killed him instantly but he found GRACE in the eyes of God.His Grace period ended on the Cross.God is and will always be a God of Law and Grace.He is a God of order;without law there is no order.All the elements of the universe are orderly aligned and follow the LAWS as prescribed by the Mighty Designer and are kept in check by His GRACE.The English Dictionary define grace as " generosity of spirit: a capacity to tolerate, accommodate, or forgive people". "generosity of spirit: a capacity to tolerate, accommodate, or forgive people". "gift of God to humankind: in Christianity, the infinite love, mercy, favor, and goodwill shown to humankind by God". "freedom from sin: in Christianity, the condition of being free of sin, e.g. through repentance to God".From the Above definitions ,you realise even the earthly intellectuals realise that you cannot divorce GRACE form LAW.

        • The tree of the knowledge of good and evil contained the knowledge of the Law of God.
          God tells us the Law of God existed before man in Genesis 3:22,"... man has become like one of us, to know good and evil.....
          For Lucifer to have rebelled / sinned against God, there had to be a Law to accuse him of his sin. Lucifer wanted to trust his own knowledge and ability and wanted to be god. Thus breaking the first command of the Decalogue.

        • Hi Mark,
          We always need to remember that the 10 Commandments (and all the laws in the Bible) are revelations of the character of God and accordingly have existed before God created the Universe out of nothing.

        • Why would it be necessary for God to say " Honor your Father and Mother " when there were no mother's and father's. The 10 Commandments are not God! A lot of people try to make the Decalogue God. And although the laws of God do reflect His character, it still stands that the laws are a creation of God. That's why Jesus said the Sabbath was made for Man.Therefore it was made or created. God or Jesus was not created. Look at the 10 Commandments and you'll see that the last 6 apply to Man.Unless Man has no beginning like God then the laws that apply to Man are not eternal. People need to stop trying to make the 10 Commandments eternal. It makes no sense. And it's not Biblical.

    • Tyler, I agree with your definition and understanding of what grace is. Your question is valid however we do know the difference between sin and righteousness. Ignorance of the law is not applicable as I see it. The questions that I have are about what God knew at creation and before. I don't know where to look in the Bible for those answers. It does not make sense to our limited rational to think that when God created man, He called it and everything He had created very good, with the knowledge that they would sin. God is omnipotent and not obligated to anyone or anything. The ultimate question is how sin originated in Heaven. From our perspective that is unthinkable.
      Our answer is that God created the angels with the ability to chose.
      That answer may not be complete and is from what we know of our brain power which certainly inferior to theirs. We have limited information from the Bible regarding many questions about Heaven.

    • If God is a God of love, (He IS), could He be a hypocrite and still remain justified? Could God tell us to do one thing and then do different? I hardly think so. Any one thinking that would be at risk of worshipping the wrong god.
      Is Mercy grace also. God has given us many a promise as to our love towards him. One is mercy to those who love Him and keep His commandments. It is love because of a greater love which first existed from a depth man has not known. Which is greater grace or the love it comes from. The liberty of God is the freedom to choose. At the judgement, God will honour everyone's wish, either one will desire everlasting life and follow according to the testimony of Jesus, or they will choose continual sin and eternal death. God will honour that choice.

      • Sin originated in heaven because of doubt.
        The great controversy is unfolding so that when it is complete, there will be no doubt that there is apsolutely no benefit in sin. To God a day is as a thousand years and one thousand years as one day. Here it seems that what will take 7000 years of our understanding to unfold could be something shown to the heavens in just seven days. No wonder creation and the memorial of it is seven days long.

        • I believe that sin originated in heaven because of pride not doubt, at least according to Isaiah 14..Lucifer had an "I" problem.

        • Then why did 1/3 of the angels follow satan? obviously satan was proud to want to be god, but what benefit was there for the angels to follow satan rather than God? It was because they doubted God and trusted satan's deception.

        • Col Davis, my Bible says in Ezekiel 28:14-17 that Satan was perfect till iniquity was found in him. The iniquity was pride not doubt. The pride was due to his beauty and his position in Heaven. Isaiah 14:12-14 tells what his pride led to. "I will be like the most High." There is no mention of a law or of the 10 commandment law in heaven or on earth till Moses. Paul confirms this in Romans 5:12-14. This is an answer to Mark Johnsons question. The idea that there must be a law for sin to occur, Paul answers that also

    • William, I wasn't really disagreeing with you but was expanding the definition of grace to include other ways it is used. Since others also seem to have a big problem with what I said and you seem to imply that what I presented was unbiblical I need to explain why I said what I did.

      the English word "grace" is used 148 times in the New Testament (NKJV) but the Greek word that the English comes from which is charis (χάρις) is also translated into "favour, thanks, thank, pleasure" along with other words that according to the computer program I use accounts for a total of 156 uses in the New Testament so it has a wider meaning than one would expect. In fact Thayer's Greek lexicon defines the Greek word, "1. properly, that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: 2. good-will, loving-kindness, favor: 3. what is due to grace; 4. thanks (for benefits, services, favors); properly:" which is accompanied by all the texts which I did not quote for sake of space. It is also a word that was used quite a bit in classical Greek as well from which the Koine Greek of the Bible derived word usage.

      Not only that, the usage of the word quite often has to do with people to people relationships and with an attitude of thankfulness in people, for instance (I have emphasized where the Greek word is used):

      So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:46-47 NKJV)
      But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound (Acts 24:27 NKJV)
      Then the high priest and the chief men of the Jews informed him against Paul; and they petitioned him, asking a favor against him, that he would summon him to Jerusalem-- while they lay in ambush along the road to kill him (Acts 25:2-3 NKJV)
      But Festus, wanting to do the Jews a favor, answered Paul and said (Acts 25:9 NKJV)
      I thank God-- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin (Rom. 7:25 NKJV; extended form of the word)
      But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks (1 Cor. 10:30 NKJV; second occurrence is an extended form of the word)
      And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry (1 Tim. 1:12 NKJV)

      And that shouldn't surprise us because the Septuagint which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament Hebrew that was used during the time of Christ uses the word charis quite often in the same way rather than in a forensic (legal) sense.

      Besides that, I would like to ask you to please show me a definition of grace in the Bible that is defined in the same general way that sin is defined (grace is . . .). I don't think you can because as far as I know grace is not actually defined but rather its definition is assumed and is used in several different ways for instance, "Then the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God'" (Lk. 1:30 NKJV) where the word favor is the same Greek word. Or what about, "So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, 'Is this not Joseph's son?'" (Lk. 4:22 NKJV) where "gracious" is the same word. How did that free those people from sin or keep them, "in harmony with the law." See also Lk 6:32-34; Lk 17:9; Acts 7:10, etc. which all use the same Greek word that is mostly translated grace but doesn't seem to fit your specific definition in those verses.

      You see I believe Jesus was sinless and yet scripture says, "the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him" (Lk. 2:40 NKJV) and "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (Jn. 1:14 NKJV). So does your statement, "So grace frees us from sin so we can keep God’s law" apply in these verses that speak of Jesus, the sinless Son of God?

      You essentially use only two verses in your article to define what grace is Rom 6:14-15 along with following context and in those verses Paul only states that we are under grace rather than law in a contrasting way but doesn't actually define the term. Yes, we have been set free from sin but wasn't that through a substitutionary death? Or can we strictly equate grace with that death as though Christ's death on the cross was itself the exact equivalent of grace?

      "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9 NKJV). Another contrasting statement but is grace the forensic means by which we are saved or is it the attitude of a loving saviour that paid for our condemnation on the cross? To me grace is the thing that drove Christ to sacrifice Himself for us rather than the actual mechanical means that saves us from sin.

      So, considering all these things, am I so wrong to say what I do? Do I totally lack any scriptural backing?

  2. Hi Tyler, you stated:
    “Further the only difference between what we call sin and what we call righteousness is a matter of knowledge and the decisions we make with respect to it. I can do something before knowing that it is wrong and it is not sin but after I know then it becomes sin”
    I think differently, based on the texts quoted, I would say that the acts are sin (out of harmony with God’s character) but that one is not held responsible because he didn’t know.
    Further I also think that we should be careful how we interpret the texts quoted in isolation. We should also consider Luke 12:48 that you quoted and the following texts.
    We see in Luke 12:48 that even if he didn’t know, what he did was worthy of stripes, and he was beaten, just not so much, so we can’t say it wasn’t sin because he didn’t know, we can say he wasn’t held as much responsible as the one who knew
    Then in Rom 1:20 Paul says God’s existence has been revealed by creation so people are without excuse.
    Then Lev 5:14-17 very clearly states: that if someone disobeys God’s law, even if he doesn’t know it, he is still guilty and is held responsible.
    The wonderful thing that is revealed about God’s character by these texts is that he is a loving God and although He knows that anything out of harmony with His character is harmful to us. When He considers whether our acts are rebellion or rejection He takes into consideration our level of knowledge.
    We should be careful when discussing this issue, for instance I have a friend whose mother who loved Jesus and was very old and stubborn. My friend said she wasn’t going to talk to her mother about the Sabbath truth because she was afraid she wouldn’t accept it and my friend said that because her mother didn’t know she wouldn’t be held responsible for not keeping the Sabbath.
    While I think that in this case it would probably be true, it might be expanded to say why share the gospel with people because if they don’t know they will be more likely to be saved then if they know and reject it.
    I think we should share the truth about the love of God to everyone because it is the best thing in the world for them to know God and to enjoy such a wonderful loving relationship with amazing, almighty, all powerful loving God. When people really encounter God in truth they will love Him.

    • Shirley, the senario of your friend, doesn't the responsibility lay with the one who has the truth and does not share it? The Bible tells us when all the world hears the gospel then the end will come? And if it was God's will for one to share truth and that one doesn't, even though they would not necessarily comprehend that God's purpose in all this was to engage the Holy Spirit to convict the heart of the hearer? These are some of the things I ponder regarding sharing what God brought to me to know. Doesn't He want all to know and understand, that not one would be lost?

  3. We don't decide what sin is God does and so we need Him to teach us about it. Believe me that's why the bible is here.
    Ignorance is not an excuse for sin.
    God have made adequate provisions for us not to continue in sin.That is it is recorded in the scripture " my people are dying because they lack knowledge" while there is knowledge many chose to neglect it by either rejecting it or not searching the treasury of life now and thereafter.

  4. It seems that sin and iniquity are slightly different. Iniquity is immoral behavior; whereas sin is immoral behavior as defined by the law of God. If we kill people before we know it is wrong, Is it better than if we kill people after we know it is wrong? If we break the Sabbath's holiness before we know about it, is that worse than after we know better?

    I think it is wrong and bad to kill or steal or commit adultery before we know it is wrong, but it is even worse when we learn that it is wrong and that our loving God can not tolerate this behavior. We are living in rebellion without excuse after we know better, and this is what cannot be forgiven if we don't admit we are wrong and turn away from it by the Grace of God.

    By the Grace of God we can humble ourselves and accept forgiveness and repent of our sin when we know it is wrong.

    Ignorance of the law does not make sin any less evil, but it does not carry with it the added evil of willful rebellion which makes the sin even more unforgivable because we don't want to accept the Grace of God and ask for and receive forgiveness and repentance from our evil ways.

    In other words, God can forgive us just as well one way or the other, but we cannot receive and apply His forgiveness if we are continuing in rebellious behavior. Rebellious people cannot admit they need a Saviour until they give it up and accept God's Grace.

    • Donald, you use some terminology and understanding differently from mine. Gods forgiveness is not dependent on our acceptance. Romans 5:20,21 says God has more grace to give than our sinfulness deserves.
      Repentance is needed before pardon is granted, EGW- (That I may Know Him) pg. 109. However both are gifts of God not our determination.

      • Paul, God's Grace is proffered by Him, but it is not forced upon anyone. If we do not accept what He has given freely, this is turning down a gift of infinite value. Then we make it of no value to us. The Grace offered is refused.

        • Donald, I agree that Grace can be refused. It just doesn't fit in my mind that anyone that knows what Grace is would refuse it. We were created with the desire to live. Anyone that has that desire, would gladly accept an opportunity to live as long as possible. Like forever. You mentioned that rebellion is an unforgivable sin. Rom. 5:20,21 disagrees. When we see things from our perspective, most always it will be minus the Love, Grace and Mercy, of which our Heavenly Father gives in abundance.

  5. What a very large can of worms. Many different opinions on varied subjects. In reading most of the comments, it is difficult to single out any particular one. I like to have scripture to back up an opinion. A couple of well known that come to mind when discussing Grace and Law and the purpose of both is Eph.2:8, the purpose of Grace and The Law as a guide, and an explanation, of what sin is 1Jn.3:4. As was mentioned, Paul in discussing faith and law in Rom.4:15, it says that where there is no law there is no transgression. The law that Paul was referring to, was one that commanded the Jews to be circumcised. He is making a distinction between Law and Faith and how they are applied, plus Grace, in Eph.2:8. I am not sure if 2Peter 2:21 was the basis for an opinion about being held accountable for what we don't know, however this is talking about deception of false teachers. Context is very important in making application in my view.

    • Regarding Ephesians 2:8, be sure to read verse 10 also, noticing the works God had set out before hand.

      Regarding known sin Hebrewsz 10:26-29.

      • Col Davis Eph.2:10 says much the same in Genesis 1:31. I would say that Heb.10:26 needs some understanding that is not prevalent to some. Text like that by its self cause concern to many and like Peter about riches, wonder, who can be saved?
        Will the person that has not sinned, even willfully, after knowing truth,please raise their hand. The meaning of the truth,and the context,and who Paul was writing to would probably be more informative than trying to apply from our perspective.

  6. There are a couple of important things to remember when talking about 'grace'. One, grace is a gift God gives us grace as a gift. It's in place as we seek to serve Him and when we fail Him. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9. Romans 3:23-25 says:

    For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— (sins before we accepted Christ).

    Second is grace applied has the effect described in Romans 6:14, "For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace."

    Third, grace isn't a cover to hide sins unconfessed and cherished, but if in error, we fail, as God's children He's got us covered. According to the Bible, even when grace is extended to the wicked, they don't appreciate it, nor does it change them.

    But when grace is shown to the wicked,they do not learn righteousness;
    even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and do not regard the majesty of the Lord. Isaiah 26:10

    Romans 6:15-17 supports this by saying, "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance."

    1John 5:4 "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."


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