There, but for the grace of GOD, go I.
You should know there are expressions for which I am fond. This is one of those expressions. I am sure you have heard it before. It is used when someone else has suffered some misfortune and the speaker acknowledges how easily it could have happened to them.
It is hard to ascertain the origin of expressions such as these. I have read this one came from a martyr named John Bradford as he watched condemned men being led to their execution. This did not hold true forever for Bradford himself was burned at the stake in 1555.
As is the case with many such expressions the root can be found in the Scriptures. 1 Corinthians 15 is one of my favorite chapters. It is often called the Resurrection chapter because it discusses at length the LORD’S victory over death as well as our coming resurrection. But early in the chapter in verse 10 we find, “But by the grace of GOD I am what I am.”
In the context, Paul confesses that he is the least of the apostles. That he is not worthy to be called an apostle because of his past persecution of the church. But we know Paul to be the great apostle the Holy Spirit used to write so much of the New Testament. Paul recognized that also and uttered our expression. But by the grace of GOD, I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain.
Grace. There is no more thrilling study in religion.
Using the Greek letters, the word appears as χάρις. The Greek letters are chi, alpha, rho, iota, sigma. So now we know a Greek word and it is a great word to know! It is translated as charis which is the origin of our word charisma. We usually associate charisma with charm, appeal or favor. Although I have no proof of such, I suspect there is a connection with charis and our word charity (gift).
The New Testament uses the word 156 times. It is defined as good will, loving-kindness or favor. Spiritually speaking, it is His favor on behalf of sinners, who actually do not deserve it.
Grace is simply what I need but don’t deserve. Without it I have no hope of salvation. It is GOD offering me the opportunity to be saved. I have to take that opportunity. He offers, but I have to accept. This gives us the understanding of Ephesians 2:8. For by grace are you saved, through faith. Grace is GOD’S part and faith is my part.
Grace and mercy are two of GOD’S characteristics. They are similar but they are not exactly the same. My way of distinguishing them is simple. Grace is our getting what we don’t deserve. Mercy is not getting what we do deserve.
Let us illustrate using a scene from our judicial system. Suppose a person guilty of robbing a bank of a million dollars stands before the judge to be sentenced. But the judge says “I am going to show mercy on you and set you free. I am not sending you to prison.” This is mercy. The guilty is NOT receiving what he deserves (prison). But then the judge says, “Not only am I going to set you free but I am also going to give you the million dollars.” This is grace because not only is he NOT getting what he deserves (mercy) but he is getting what he doesn’t deserve (grace). Mercy is a wonderful thing. But grace carries it to a whole new level!
I am guilty of sin. Therefore what I deserve is death (Romans 6:23). Because of His mercy I don’t get what I deserve. Because of the gift of the Savior I have opportunity to get what I don’t deserve, eternal life. Now that is grace.
As I look back over my life I see it filled with mercy and grace. There have been so many times when I didn’t get what I deserved. And my life is blessed beyond measure when I don’t deserve it.
I thank you GOD for your grace and mercy. Help me be like Paul and say that YOUR grace toward me is not in vain. Help me to be useful for YOU.