Hopefully you’re familiar with John Newton’s wonderful hymn, Amazing Grace. It has to be one of the greatest and most widely known songs in history. If you aren’t familiar with it give ‘er a listen real quick so this post makes sense to you.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now I see.
’twas Grace that taught,
my heart to fear.
And grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear,
the hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come.
’tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead us home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
as long as life endures.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
than when we first begun.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
I want to take some time to expound on the amazing grace that turned Newton from a British slave trader to a vehement abolitionist and hymn writer. So what makes this grace so amazing?
First let’s define our terms. Grace is receiving something you didn’t earn or couldn’t earn, grace is unmerited favor. Conversely, mercy, is not receiving something you did earn, like being spared punishment you deserve or spared the consequence of your actions. With these definitions in mind let’s look at grace that’s truly amazing.
A Wretch Like Me
Every one of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and His righteous requirements. Those of us who read the Bible see the example of Jesus Christ, and we know we are utterly doomed without God’s grace. Those of us who don’t read the Bible are not exempt from feelings of condemnation. Everyone has a conscience, and none of us have lived a day without wounding it. Everyday we do something we know that we ought not to have done. We feel guilty when we know we’ve done wrong and if we didn’t we wouldn’t spend so much time lying and covering our tracks. This is all to say that humanity is fallen, we are totally depraved.
Now the fact that we are fallible, fallen and depraved doesn’t mean we are all adulterers, rapists or murders. Rather, the doctrine of total depravity means that sin has infected our whole being, every aspect of who we are. Our intellect is tainted, our volition is in bondage, and our conscience is marred by the infection of sin. As Jesus says, “everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34). We are not just good people who sin, we are sinners who’s desires are sinful and out of our hearts we act sinfully. The Apostle Paul tells us that apart from grace we are alienated and hostile in our minds (Colossians 1:21), we are spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:5), and none of us choose God, or righteousness, but all of us have turned aside and become worthless (Romans 3:11-18, quoting Psalms).
“Park, we get it, we’re bad. What does this have to do with grace being amazing?” Well, the more we understand our wretchedness, the more we will see how amazing grace really is! If you think you’re a pretty decent fellow who’s just made a few mistakes then yeah, it makes sense that God might save you and over look a little blemish here and a tiny blunder there. But If you understand yourself compared to God’s perfect standard, The God-Man Jesus Christ, then you see the great chasm that God had to cross (pun intended) in order to reach down and pull any sinner out of the muck and the mire we so love to wallow in. Make no mistake, we are all wretches and for God to look on any of us with compassion is an astonishing act of amazing grace.
The Lord Has Promised Good to Me.
Another reason why God’s grace is so amazing is that it’s unconditional. Think back to our definition of grace, we can’t merit grace, we can’t do anything to earn God’s favor or force His hand. At first glance this might cause a feeling of despair, “we can’t do anything, Park?”. That’s right, you can’t do anything to deserve God’s forgiveness or grace but that’s also great news, it means you don’t have to! You don’t have to wear a hair shirt when you sin, you don’t have to whip yourself, or put money in the coffer to pay for your transgressions. You don’t have to do penance for your sins, and you can’t. Nothing you do can assuage God’s righteous wrath. The only way sinners can be made right with their Creator is if He decides to show mercy and grace on them (Romans 9:18), and He has! He satisfied the wrath that we earned and rightly deserve by pouring it out on His own Son on the cross. God’s electing salvation is based solely on His works of mercy and grace, salvation is of the Lord. So then it depends not on human will nor human exertion, but on God who has mercy (Romans 9:16). All whom the Father draws will be raised up on the last day. So if you hear His voice don’t harden your heart. Since salvation is secured by God and not our own ability, anyone who is drawn by the Father turns to Jesus and will be saved and have eternal life with Him (Romans 10:13, 8:1-4, John 3:16). For “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14).
I Once Was Lost, But Now Am Found
Jesus is the good shepherd, he came to earth to do His Father’s will, to find his Father’s sheep. Grace is not amazing because Jesus “made it possible to be saved” but rather, grace is amazing because Jesus’ blood has actually paid for the sins of his sheep. The Good Shepherd has accomplished our atonement on the cross. Jesus says, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no on is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:25-29). Notice that Jesus is saying that it’s his sheep who have ears to hear, those who don’t have ears to hear don’t have sheep ears but have goat ears and goats wont hear his voice or join his flock.
The Shepherd leaves the 99 to find his 1 missing sheep and he actually finds it. The shepherd doesn’t put up signs and clues so that the sheep will hopefully find it’s way back to the sheep pen. He goes out and he looks till he finds that wayward sheep and then carries it back on his shoulders! (I’ve even heard that shepherds would break the legs of the sheep that continually ran off so they would stay close, sounds harsh but the alternative is being eating by wolves).
With his blood, Jesus purchased his flock out of slavery to sin. That’s amazing! He didn’t purchase a train ticket for us and slip it under our door hoping we might find it and make it to the train on time to get to his Father’s house. Christ barges in, opens the blinds, wakes us up, pulls us out of our mess, drives us to the train station, pays for our ticket, and accompanies us on the train all the way to his Father’s house, where he then introduces us and we’re excepted as family!
“But Park, that doesn’t seem fair, what about the goats?” Remember back to the last two sections, we are all sinners deserving of the eternal punishment. God’s salvation is unconditional and can’t be merited or forced. God has mercy on whom He has mercy, and he allows others to continue to love their sin. I don’t know why God saves some and not others, you gotta take that up with Him. But before you do, you better read Job 38-42 and check your tone. The proper question, in light of our sin, is not “why doesn’t God save everyone”, but rather, “why would a good, holy, righteous God, endure such dishonor and rebellion from those who depend on Him for life, and choose to save any of them?” God’s grace is so amazing because he goes the full distance for his sheep! He doesn’t merely make salvation possible, he accomplished salvation on the cross for all those that the Father gave him! Amazing!
Was Blind, But Now I See
God’s grace is amazing because it’s irresistible. When the Holy Spirit works in our lives to remove the scales from our eyes, we can finally see God for who He is rather than a caricature we’ve made in our own minds. The Spirit of wisdom has enlightened the eyes of our hearts so that we may know what is the hope to which God has called us, His glorious inheritance. (Ephesians 1:18). The Spirit takes out our cold dead heart of stone and gives us a new heart, a heart of flesh with new desires. The Father draws us to the Son and all who are drawn by the Father will be raised up on the last day. Jesus will lose none of those who’ve been given to him as a gift by his Father. Prior to the Spirit’s work, we think of God’s grace as foolishness, “for the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being save it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18), “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14). But we now have the mind of Christ, we’ve been redeemed and God is working in us both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Without God’s gracious regeneration in our intellect, our volition and our heart, we would never choose God. But when God does regenerate us, he gives us a new heart with new desires for Himself, our minds are transformed to think like Christ, and our volitions are free to choose that which we used to hate, God Himself. When God draws us to Himself we are able to choose Christ, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (10:9-10). ‘Twas grace that taught our hearts to fear and then grace that relieved our fears. We love God because He first loved us, His love and His grace are irresistible.
Grace Will Lead Us Home
God’s grace is amazing because He will never leave us or forsake us. Since it’s God who started the good work in us, it’s He who will bring the work to completion. No one can snatch us out of God’s hand! What is there to be afraid of? “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38). So if The Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), if Christ Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (Galatians 3:13 , and the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16), then surely we will preserve in Christ to thee end. We have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, we have been bought with a price, and having believed in Christ Jesus, we have been sealed with the promised Holy Spirit! God’s grace is amazing because by it we preserve to the end of time when we will see our Lord face to face and worship him forever.
God’s Grace is Amazing!