1 Peter 4:10 “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
Down through the history of the church, men have sought to define the grace of God, the unmerited favor of God, the kindness and love of God, etc. To understand about God’s grace and what the Lord is talking about when He speaks of us “as good stewards of the manifold grace of God,” we have to know that grace is divided into two great sections or systems of truth: the grace of God as it applies to the unsaved and the grace of God as it is evidenced in the Christian.
As far as our salvation is concerned, grace is the unmerited, undeserved favor of God to us. I am not primarily interested at this time in the grace of God in salvation but in the grace of God as demonstrated in Christians. After we are saved by grace, God exhorts us to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:18). I found seven things true about God’s grace as demonstrated have found in His people.
- THE GRACE OF HOLY LIVING
God’s grace in demonstration shows that He can not only save, but He can evidence His grace in a Christian’s living for the glory of God. A great verse on this is John 1:17 : “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
Some may say, “If we are saved by grace and not of works, then under grace we are at liberty to do as we please.” That is true in a sense. You are not under law now, and you don’t have to live under law. But someone truly saved by the grace of God should long to do right. And that is what Paul is saying: “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Paul answers his own question: “God forbid.” We are to serve God, love God, live for God because we want to, not because we have to.
There is a great illustration of grace in the Old Testament-grace in the life of a believer. In the Pentateuch, God deals with every phase of the religious life, the social life, the spiritual life of His people. Back in those days people had servants— slaves, if you wish to call them such—but God said in every sabbatical year (every seventh year), every slave owner was to free all his slaves and start over.
God knew that some slaves would not want to go free. In seven years they had learned to love their masters. In seven years their masters had provided for their every need. In seven years the masters had made the servants supremely happy. In seven years the slaves had found a blessed home with them. So God said if they didn’t want to go free when released, each master could take an awl, put the slave’s ear against a hard surface, and put a hole in the ear, marking the slave as his.
Spiritually speaking, every Christian should have his ear bored, meaning he serves God under grace because he loves Him and wants to serve Him. A slave set free would say, “I love my master, and I am free because I am loved.” How true of a Christian! Under grace he is free in the Lord and is what God wants him to be because he wants to please God, not because he has to. So we find grace for holy living
- THE GRACE OF SURRENDER
Here is something that needs to be heard by God’s people:
“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3). What is God saying? That no one should ever be conceited or high-minded about himself. You may say, “I have lots of talent.” But you are still just an old sinner brought out of sin by God’s grace. So don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to think.
James 4:6 deals with it again: “But he give the more grace. Wherefore he smith, God resister he the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” There is no limit to God’s grace—“he giveth more grace.” But God’s grace is given to the humble, not to the proud.
Some 113 times in this New Testament is the expression “one to another.” God wants Christians to serve one another, to respect one another, to love one another, to honor one another; 113 times God tells us how to live with one another under grace. I heard of a young preacher just starting in the ministry. He hadn’t yet learned that sometimes when you get up to preach, your tongue is thick in your mouth and your brain, numb. He hadn’t yet learned that sometimes you aren’t able to think and that it is hard to preach. He didn’t know that so he proudly paraded across the platform to the pulpit. He reared back like a Philadelphia lawyer and began his address. Then suddenly the well went dry. He couldn’t think; he could not speak. The people got drowsy. Some even went to sleep, like people sometimes do.
This proud peacock of a preacher now thought, Well, I sure am in trouble! He felt like preachers sometimes feel: Oh, for a little button to push so an opening would swallow me up and I wouldn’t see anyone and no one could see me! I know; I’ve been there! By the time this young preacher got to the end of his sermon, he was mighty humble! He didn’t march off the platform proud and cocky; this time his head was down, and his chin, on his chest. As he sneaked down off the platform, a dear saint was waiting to say, “Son, if you had gone up like you came down, you could have come down like you went up.” God promotes those willing to take a backseat. He promotes those to the top of the ladder who are willing to start at the bottom. One principle in Christian living is the grace of surrender.
- THE GRACE OF GIVING
Anytime there are seven points in one of my sermons, one will be on giving. Don’t you enjoy hearing what the Bible says about giving? Some of you do; many of you don’t! Really, the grace of giving is just what the Bible teaches. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, said:
“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” (II Corinthians 8:1-2).
You can see God’s grace the first time tithing is mentioned in the Bible—Genesis 14:20: “And he gave him tithes of all,” speaking of Abraham. Abraham had gone to war, and God had given him success. With four hundred soldiers, he had put to rout numerous kings and recaptured goods and people who had been stolen. When Abraham came back, Melchizedek, a type of Christ, came to meet him at Salem and said, “Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.” Abraham said, “I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet… any thing that is thine.” In verse 24 he said he wanted “only that which the young men have eaten…”—only food for his soldiers. The Bible says, “And he [Abraham] gave him tithes of all.”
My friends, that was grace. The representative of Christ said, “Take it all.” But Abraham said, “I will not. I owe God something.” Tithing is under grace, not under law. No one can make you tithe; no preacher can preach you into it; no one can scare you to do it. Even God won’t make you do it. He may make you wish you had, but tithing is under grace. Giving is to be done with a free heart. No matter how little one has, he is to tithe and enjoy it. Friends, put your funnel under the windows of Heaven and let God prove Himself to you. God dares you to in Malachi 3:10: “…prove me now herewith, Smith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven.” There’s nothing I despise any more than to hear some mossy-back, backslidden Christian say, “I’m so tired of hearing about money.” You wouldn’t be if you were doing right. Giving is a grace. Oh, how wonderfully God pours His grace into the lives of those who give!
- THE GRACE OF ACHIEVEMENT
I don’t understand it all, but the New Testament speaks of God’s grace in anything we achieve for Him. Paul mentions this in I Corinthians 15:9-10: “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” Paul says God’s grace bestowed upon him was not in vain. Every Christian should be able to testify, “By the grace of God, I am what I am.” If you can sing, God gave you that voice. If you can preach, God gave you that gift. If you can teach, the grace of God helped you to achieve that. Paul declared himself “the least of the apostles.” Paul’s humility showed. Three times he made a statement about himself. Once it was, “I am the least of the apostles.” Then Paul graduated deeper with God: “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given” (Eph. 3:8).
Paul first was the least of all the apostles. For many, that would be bragging. An apostle was one who had seen the Lord with his own eyes, touched Him, heard Him. They were a select group and few in number. So he wasn’t humbling himself much to say, “I am the least of all the saints.” He felt he was the most unworthy Christian who ever lived. Finally we read in I Timothy 1:15, “…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” Paul: “I am the least of the apostles.” Then, “I am the least of all the saints.” Then, “I am the chief of sinners.” Oh, what the grace of God can do to a Christian who wants His grace manifested! “From the gutter-most to the uttermost” I Oh, the grace of God!
- THE GRACE FOR SUFFERING
All people must face suffering. In II Corinthians 12:9 Paul is speaking about a thorn in the flesh. He had asked God to deliver him. Three times Paul prayed earnestly, but no deliverance came. Finally God said, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
I am glad that is in the Bible. God will never put you in a place where you can’t quote it—never. God will never put you where you can’t reckon upon His grace—never. Here is why: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
The Lord said to Paul, “I will not take that thorn away, but I will do something better—give you grace to stand it. That old thorn in the flesh is going to hurt. There will be sleepless nights, painful hours; but I will give you grace. I will give you power. And because of this infirmity, I will bless you as I have blessed no other man.” Paul then said resignedly, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Oh, each of us will be called upon to suffer. There will be a time when you will ask God to take something out of your life—your thorn—and God may say, “I cannot take it away. If I did, you would not be what I wish you to be. But I will give you grace to bear it.” A good Christian once said, “I would rather be in the will of God with poor health, than to be healthy and out of God’s will. I would rather be weak in body and have God’s power, than to be strong and without it.” There is grace for suffering.
- GRACE FOR GODLY AND RIGHTEOUS INFLUENCE
The only way to exercise a godly, righteous influence on others is by God’s grace. Colossians 3:16 reads, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
This applies to every realm of life. There is all the difference in the world in singing with grace in your heart to the Lord and singing because you want people to know you have talent. When you sing, sing to bless hearts. I have heard people sing because they had talent, not because they had love. There is grace for a righteous influence.
“Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Col. 4:6). Let your speech influence others for godliness. Christian, guard the door of your lips. Let your conversation be always with grace.
- GRACE FOR DYING
Down in the country where I was raised, one of the greatest things was to listen to those country people pray. What prayers—filled with truth, grace, love and devotion! You could feel the presence of God. Some of those dear people could really lay hold of the throne of grace. They knew how to talk to the Lord. They would pray, “Give us at last a home in Heaven,” and, “Give us grace to die by.”
God will never answer that prayer until it comes time to die. Butt when that hour does come, He will give all the grace needed.
I am afraid to die. Are you? Oh, I’m ready. Oh, Heaven is my home. I love the Lord. But I just don’t look forward to dying.
But I know this: whether it be today or tomorrow or at another time, the God I have walked with these many years will give me all the dying grace I need. “…that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb. 2:9). Then we are comforted also by Hebrews 4:16: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” When that hour of need comes, God will give us the grace we need for it.
Assistant to William Davis | Clays Mill Baptist Church