14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
The word Grace appears four times in this short section of scripture. Clearly the Gospel writer saw Grace as important. As United Methodists we believe that Grace is a gift from God. It is the underserved, unmerited, and loving action of God in human existence through the ever-present Holy Spirit in the person of Jesus. Grace is the transfer of undeserved generosity, kindness, and favor that a giver bestows when giving a gift to another person. When the Apostle Paul discusses it he describes it as part of God’s character whereby he gives people mercy and makes Christians righteous (i.e., “justification”).
John Wesley’s notes on the bible further flesh out Grace. We are by nature imperfect but in order to raise us to dignity and happiness Jesus came in the flesh to be with humanity on earth showing his glory in the form of compassion, miracles, temperament, pardon of sins and the transfiguration. Wesley describes three levels of Grace.
Prevenient grace literally means “the Grace that comes before.” Prevenient Grace calls us into a relationship with God before we are even aware of God. It prepares us for the dawning awareness that God loves us so much that God seeks us out first.
Justifying grace happens when Christians abandon all vain attempts to justify themselves before God, to be seen as “just” in God’s eyes through religious and moral practices. When God’s “justifying Grace” is experienced and accepted, it’s a time of pardon and forgiveness, of new peace, joy and love.
Sanctifying grace enables us to grow into the image of Christ and leads to inward and outward holiness.
Peace and Grace are related. We experience peace, individually and as a community, as we respond to God’s Grace. “Peace gives Christians the ability to have Grace when facing enemies, an inward knowledge of and conformity to the will of God, a spiritual blessing, and a sense of calm and assurance, a trust that cannot be willed into existence but can only be felt when it is given. Peace found throughout the community and world is considered a sign of God’s kingdom as envisioned by Jesus Christ.” (The Upper Room Dictionary of Christian Spiritual Formation)
by Clarence Beverage
For Pondering & Prayer
I hope that, if you have not read or heard this explanation of Grace before, that it has touched your heart. If you are more mature in your faith, but like me, prone to forget the underpinnings of our faith, I hope that touches your heart as well.
Where are you on your faith journey? Is this helpful to ponder and pray on? MUMC has many levels of resources from pastoral through lay people to reach out to. Reach out to someone you know or to Lisa in our church office.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we thank you for coming into this world in the flesh and the great love that shows for every one of us in the pardon of our sins. Amen