The Attributes of God Devotional - God is Gracious
“The LORD is merciful and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” - Ps 103:8
While all of God’s attributes should evoke a sense of awe, humility, and wonder, reflecting on God’s graciousness provides something much more personal for the believer. If God is all His other attributes but is not gracious toward us, we are left in a great state of fear and alienation. As sinners, we have forfeited every right to the favor and blessing of God, deserving only separation from Him forever. When we declare that God is gracious, we are saying that He deals with humanity graciously; that He is full of mercy, benevolence, and compassion toward us. In short, we are declaring the gospel!
God’s gracious dealing with humanity went into effect immediately after the Fall, when the expectation for a redeemer was first conveyed (Gen 3:15). In “common grace” (universal goodness and love), all humanity benefits from temporal blessings, the restraint of sin, and the forbearance of God’s just wrath. More than this, God’s covenant love for His church is revealed in His “saving grace.” As such, we cannot understand God’s attribute of graciousness apart from the person and work of Jesus Christ our redeemer. Our salvation is entirely from God and is entirely dependent upon God. Our only contribution was our sins laid upon Jesus at the cross. God’s grace is not some third thing or substance mediating between God and sinners; it is God’s redeeming action. To understand His grace means to understand redemption. As believers, we do not just understand His grace, we experience it in our own salvation and sanctification. In spite of our unrighteousness and rebellion, God does not leave us in our deserved misery. Instead, He works to renew us into the image of God by removing sin, with its entanglements of guilt, pollution, and punishment. Herman Bavinck explains in his Reformed Dogmatics, “The same treasure that was promised in the Covenant of Works is granted in the Covenant of Grace.” The gospel message we treasure and rejoice to hear is what Luke refers to as the “word of his grace” (Acts 20:32, 14:3).
In our Reformed tradition, we speak of the “Doctrines of Grace” to summarize and emphasize that our salvation from the judgment of God is according to His generous grace alone. These doctrines, called the “Five Points of Calvinism” or summarized as “TULIP,” are Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. Each doctrine reveals God’s monergistic work to save His people and His utterly sovereign grace appears in spite of man’s unrighteousness and lack of merit. Dr. Michael Horton explains that Paul understood the grace of God as not merely an attribute of God, but an event in history. God’s grace appeared in Jesus Christ. John emphasized that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17), but God also continues to sanctify us through His grace.
Through the means of grace, rightly administered, we continue to be spiritually nourished to receive daily grace and grow in grace. In God’s Word, written and preached, we hear Him speak to us. In baptism we see a sign that signifies our union with Christ and the washing away of our sins. The Westminster Larger Catechism describes what we experience in the Lord’s Supper as “spiritual nourishment and growth in grace” (WLC 168) when we reflect on what the sign signifies; Christ’s broken body and shed blood for us.
God’s graciousness in our salvation leaves no room in us for pride, since grace is not a gift for good works. Grace does, however, provide the power to do good works (2 Cor 9:8, Eph 2:10), and should inspire thankfulness, humility, and praise. As a church we should bless one another with evidence of the grace we experience. When Barnabas arrived in Antioch where many gentiles believed in Christ, he “saw the grace of God” (Acts 11:23). May we rejoice together again soon for the same grace we also experience, for the Lord indeed makes his face shine upon us and is gracious to us!
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