We've looked at the idea of grace in the Old Testament and have seen how it is similar to the hesed love of God, the faithful and firm love of God that moves Him to act to bless and care for us out of His own goodness, not out of whether we stay faithful or obedient or not. It is a love that acts to help us even when we fail, a love that goes beyond failure to bless and restore us to joy.
So what about the New Testament idea of grace? The word grace is used many times in the New Testament. Let's see how it is defined for us in Ephesians 2:.
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
How do these verses describe us on our own, without God? Well, it's not too pretty, is it? We were dead in our sins. And what/who were we ruled by? We followed the ways of the world, the ruler (the devil) who works in the disobedient, and followed the desires and thoughts of the flesh. What did we deserve by nature? We deserved wrath.
But God did something good for us, though we were in such a state! What moved Him to do this good thing? It was His great love for us that caused Him to help us, for He is described as rich in mercy! Mercy is a similar word to grace, just focusing on a different aspect of God's love. Mercy is the love of God that moves Him to withhold the punishment we deserve, while grace is the love of God that moves Him to give us the blessing we don't deserve! Mercy is God being moved to pity us who have fallen into the ditch of life and are so alone in the cold, and grace is God being moved to give us a warm bath, a hot meal, and a permanent place of honor at His table! Mercy is God loving us in our need and trouble and mess caused by sin; grace is God loving and lifting us out of our mess into His glory!
But back to our text. We see that God's love and mercy motivated Him to help us when we were dead in sin and controlled by the world, flesh, and devil. What did He do for us? He made us alive with Christ, raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ! Wow, that's upward mobility! What was the purpose of Him giving us life along with Christ and raising us up to sit with Him along with Christ in heaven? It was so that in the coming ages He might shower the riches of His grace on us and show off His grace by being kind to us. In other words, He saved us to be kind to us forever! What are we called at the end of this passage? We are called God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus. Why were we re-created as His masterpiece in Christ? To do the good works God planned for us.
Now let's look at how this took place. We were saved by what? By grace! That is the grace of God, not our graciousness. The only thing in this passage that could refer to us or our response is what? The words 'through faith' refer to our response, and even this is said to be not of ourselves, but the gift of God. So salvation is by grace, to be simply received by faith, and God makes it so easy He not only does all the work of salvation, but He also gives us the faith necessary to believe and experience that salvation! Salvation is seen to be being made a new creation in Christ, seated in authority beside God, to be showered with God's kindness as we have an eternal love relationship with Him, which overflows into good (loving, kind, generous) works of God flowing through us! Wow! That is what He has done for us by grace!
So what does this passage tell me about the grace of God? It tells me that grace is 'not of works' so that 'noone can boast'. Grace means God did something for us when we could do nothing for Him to earn or deserve it - He raised us up when we were dead in sins, following after evil. We deserved wrath, He gave us deliverance and new life in Christ. We were ruined, He made us new. We see that we didn't contribute anything to make this happen. We didn't have to somehow 'get' God to love us, He already did! We didn't have to earn or deserve His kind act of salvation, He just acted out of the goodness of His heart, out of grace! So how is grace defined in the New Testament, according to this passage? It is the love and kindness of God that moved Him to save us, without our having to earn, deserve, or merit this love and saving in any way. It is the favor of God that made Him act in our favor/do us a favor! Wow, what a wonderful thing is grace!