I was driving recently listening to talk radio (something I do often). R.C. Sproul was on talking about the holiness of God. His lead into the program was by talking about a favorite Christian hymn, Amazing Grace. The point of this introduction was to ask “what is so amazing about grace?” Great question, R.C.
What is grace? The most simple definition I can think of without consulting a dictionary is this: grace is being given something you do not deserve. When we are speaking about grace theologically, we are talking about God’s people being redeemed from sin, adopted into the family of God and made co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8). We don’t deserve this, but we act as if we do.
Generally speaking, in Christendom it seems as if we’ve lost a realistic vision of who we really are. We forget every action, word, thought and deed is either for the glory of Christ or utter blasphemy. With each breath we are either breathing praise of our great God or breathing for our own pseudo-glory as our own god. We are not good people who do bad things. These type of people really are worthy of salvation. These people just need a little help to get their act together. We are bad people who do bad things. We are people who even on our best days live deplorable lives. You might think you are not that bad. If that is true, I need your help. I know my own thoughts. I know my motives. I see my pride and selfishness. I would be utterly ashamed if people were allowed to read every thought as if it were a tweet. Like Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), I deserve to be struck down immediately. My sins are equally as repulsive my last five minutes. Yet, I’m alive. I’m breathing.
This is what is amazing about grace. Though my sins deserve instant death, not only and I physically living but also in God’s goodness and mercy, he has raised this poor, wretched sinner from spiritual death to life eternal (Eph. 2). My sins, though they are like scarlet, have been washed white as snow (Isa. 1). In both of these passages, there is one who does the action (i.e., the one who does the raising and washing), and one who receives the action (i.e., the raised and washed). The one who receives did nothing to bring about this change, but happened solely because of the love and grace of the doer. Get this? The dead one was dead for a reason. The scarlet sinner was scarlet for a reason. This was their rightful lot! Yet, God did not leave us in our sins. He sent Christ who took our sins (2 Cor. 5) and became subject to death (Phil. 2) that his people might be the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5). This is the great exchange.
When I sing amazing grace, this is what I need to remember. I am wholly, completely and utterly unworthy of breathing again. I’ve offended the rightful ruler of this universe by entering into rebellion with the intent of usurping his power and installing my own. My treason deserved the death penalty. And, my crime received the death penalty, but I did not pay it. The King paid the penalty on my behalf. What!? Why? Because he loves his own. Because his grace is amazing.