Grafted in the vine, we become Yahweh’s kin
Ransomed by unmerited love, God’s spirit comes in
Absolved from guilt, we are cleansed within
Clemency, not judgement, breaks the grip of sin
Enveloped in God’s mercy, a new life can begin.
Most of my acrostics arise from an incident, occasion or bible passage. A few – such as this one – reflect on keynotes of faith.
Philip Yancey famously suggested that grace is the most truly distinctive thing about Christianity. He proposed that it’s the one thing the world cannot duplicate, yet the one thing it craves above all else. Only grace can bring hope and transformation to a jaded world.
Christians think of God’s grace as the unmerited gift of divine favour, particularly in respect of the salvation of sinners. This initial act of salvation is followed by the role of grace in our regeneration and sanctification.
The most “amazing” thing about grace is that it is completely unmerited. Whatever we may have done in the past, God is eager to favour us with the gift of newness of life. Paul’s letters are peppered with supportive quotes, such as: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Crucially, we can’t ‘earn’ grace by good works: “At the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Romans 11:5–6).
Another aspect of grace which eluded me for a long time, but which appears in many commentaries, is that it is not only a quality of God’s nature but also a sign of God’s power. It is an active gift that works in us to change our capacity for obedience and service: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Grace not only prepares us for eternity, it empowers us for life.
God’s grace is such a wonderful gift that it is hardly surprising Christians want to claim its uniqueness. But increasingly I have become aware of the continuity between Old and New Testaments. Grace didn’t suddenly happen after Christ’s resurrection. Paul may be referred to as the ‘apostle of grace’, but my own understanding is that – by his careful study of the Jewish scriptures and his open-minded perception of what was happening around him – he ‘discovered’ that God’s grace was freely available to Gentiles. The new communities of believers had no need to gain salvation through adherence to ritual – faith alone enabled them graciously to be grafted into the vine.
Early in Genesis, I am fascinated by the fact that God’s attitude towards fallen creation was completely turned around by the presence of one faithful man (and his family): “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Gen. 6:8). This is the Bible’s first mention of grace, but echoes continue throughout the Old Testament, often in terms of endearment such as ‘lovingkindness’.
Throughout scripture, Israel is given the amazing choice to accept God who, through free and unlimited love, bestows Himself as Father and Saviour for ever. Their God is merciful and gracious, “Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth” (Psalm 86:15).
When writing acrostics, I’m always constrained by the number of letters in the word. Perhaps if I could have written fifty lines rather than five, I might have got somewhere close to describing the richness of this most amazing of gifts!
(Grace appears on my New Testament: The Early Church page).