Why Study Grace?

by: Roger Smalling


Has it ever struck you as peculiar how God occasionally does things in roundabout ways?

Take the definition of grace for example. Since we are saved by grace, it would seem proper for God to define it at the beginning of the Bible. He could have inspired a prophet to write a dictionary definition starting with something like, …grace is defined as…etc.  This would be to the point, just as we moderns like it.

That is not what we find, though, is it?

Instead, we encounter a series of stories about imperfect people whom God liked for little apparent reason. This helps moderately, but at this juncture the matter remains ambiguous.

Next, we encounter a series of negations. Grace is not works. Grace is not deserved. Grace is divine and not human and so forth. We find our definition-search improving, but nailing it down seems like grabbing smoke.

Then we notice how Bible writers connect grace with certain teachings they claim are important. These doctrines quickly begin to unlock the definition and our understanding improves.

When we encounter the cross, though, all the previous material takes on substance. The fog lifts and the reason for the delay becomes evident.

God could have given us a short definition but it would be pitifully shallow. The longer route turns out to be deeper and infinitely more satisfying. A brief definition would save us time but time seems a low-priority item with him. Other matters, such as a job done thoroughly, appear more important to the Father...especially when it has to do with blessing his people.

Grace itself would never short-change us with paltry definitions. So God goes about defining grace in the only way that could do it justice. Grace is altogether too glorious to do it any other way. Why? Grace reflects an essential element of God’s character. Each member of the Trinity contributes in his own awesome way. Looking at it like that, it seems amazing that the Lord managed to define it at all, since grace is involved with defining himself.

Yet once we grasp it, we say, Oh! How remarkably simple!  Then we do a double-take and say, But how incredibly profound!

Well after all, that’s typical of God’s style, isn’t it? Did we expect anything else?

That’s one reason I believe the doctrines of grace are biblical. They’re his style. His fingerprints are all over them.

So, the study of grace turns out to be an involved journey, with unexpected twists. The trip is long but not boring, and truly exhilarating. One of these twists is that while we are defining grace, we find ourselves defined more clearly…like it or not. There is plenty of glorious scenery on the way, though, and different people delight in contemplating various views of the route.

Some revel in the authority of a sovereign will. Others savor the security of an eternal covenant. Still others are enthralled at the power of the cross. Personally, the part of the trip I enjoy the most, is that it lasts forever.

Enjoy the journey.

Questions & Comments for Dr. Smalling