The song “Amazing Grace” has defined for many of us our experience and thankfulness for salvation like no other. We sing it – frequently at funerals – with hearts full of the knowledge of what we were when God found us and of the blessed home to which He promised to take us. But these bookends of grace are far from the whole story. And though it may be imprudent to judge a book by its cover; as the poster child on the dust jacket of grace, Ephesians 2:8 does provide us with some wonderful insights into this great grace adventure.

Ephesians 2:8-9
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. KJV[1]

Saved by grace, how glad we are! These verses give us some great insights into the nature of grace and, more importantly, the nature of God. Grace isn’t something that originates from me. Grace is a gift, a gift from God. Grace isn’t works. When my boss gives me my paycheck, he isn’t being gracious to me. He is paying his debt to me, delivering something I have earned. What comes through grace is simply given. I haven’t earned it. I don’t deserve it.

This understanding of grace is contained in its most commonly accepted general definition: unmerited divine favor. Grace is God’s favor residing on us because He desired it. His initiative, His focus, His decision. Our role in this equation is reception. Salvation is an outcome, but not the essence of the reality of grace.

Genesis 6:7-8
7 And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

These circumstances should sound familiar to you even if you haven’t faced a flood of biblical proportions. Mankind is being scrubbed from the face of the Earth because “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”[2] The condemnation is just, the sentence justified. But Noah finds grace. Where? In the eyes of the Lord! Grace is in His gaze and with love He looks on Noah.

Genesis 6:13 “And God said unto Noah…”

God’s grace wasn’t silent. He spoke with Noah and His words – and obedience to those words in faith[3] – brought salvation to Noah and his household. Grace is the term. Salvation is the outcome. Presence is the essence.

Genesis 18:1-3
1 And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,
3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour [Hebrew chen, grace] in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:

When Abraham saw the travelers, he knew who they were. Note his prayer in verse 3, “If I have found grace in your eyes, don’t walk past me.” He continues in the following verses asking the Lord to stay awhile. Consider the activities enumerated in verses 4-8: water collection, feet washing, resting, bread baking from scratch, culling a calf from the herd, butchering the calf (slaughtering, gutting, skinning, and cutting), milking the cow (or goat, not sure which – but I’m fairly sure the milk wasn’t in a carton in the cooler), getting butter, serving it all underneath the tree, and eating together. Their encounter began at mid-day (i.e., the heat of the day). I have no doubt that it was closer to a late supper they ate than a late lunch. As an exhibition of grace, God stopped on his journey to Sodom and ate dinner with Abraham. He spent time with him, lots of it.

Exodus 33:16
For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.

Moses asks and answers the question: how will it be known that we have found grace in God’s sight? It is because He goes with us. God’s presence with His people is the proof of grace.

John 1:14, 16-17
14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Grace came by Jesus because Jesus “dwelt among us.” The Presence of God among his people is the grace of God to his people. Christ is truly in us, the hope of glory.[4] He will never leave us, nor forsake us.[5] Grace isn’t just the doorway in. It is the entire atmosphere surrounding His throne.

Exodus 34:5-9
5 And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord.
6 And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
8 And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.
9 And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance.

Moses has asked to see God’s glory. God tells him that the face of His glory is too much for mortal man to behold, but He would let him see His “back parts.”[6] The Lord has Moses hide in the cleft of a rock and puts His hand over it as He passes by and declares His Name, the essence of who He is. Following is a list of what the Lord enumerates as His qualities from verses 6-7.

  1. Merciful
  2. Gracious
  3. Longsuffering (patient)
  4. Abundant in goodness
  5. [Abundant in] truth
  6. Keeping mercy for thousands
  7. Forgiving iniquity
  8. [Forgiving] transgression
  9. [Forgiving] sin
  10. And will by no means clear the guilty

In the expression of the backside of glory, God describes Himself as nine tenths patiently, mercifully, graciously, in abundant goodness maintaining mercy and forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. One tenth of His description involves judgment. And yet, how often do we approach God as if He were 9/10 predisposed to judgment and 1/10 obligated to grace?

Hebrews 4:14-16
14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
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.

The only guilty ones who are never cleared are those who never come. Grace is the seat from which He rules. Grace is where He sits and invites us to be with Him as He is with us.

[1] All Scriptures are from the King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.
[2] Gen 6:5
[3] Heb 11:7
[4] Col 1:27
[5] Heb 13:5
[6] Ex 33:17-23