Shame And Grace Part 2 - What Grace Is

Nov 29

Shame And Grace Part 2 - What Grace Is

Tue, 11/29/2011 - 06:38 — Thabo Mokete

The first meaning of grace on our list strikes me as very bold, It says:

1. a: Grace Unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification b: a virtue coming from God c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace.
It may seem unfair to test the dictionary with the Bible, but we may not get to know the truth if we don’t.

It says firstly, that grace is unmerited. The Bible agrees with this.13 This means that if you earn a salary at month-end, it is no act of grace or if you pass your matric examinations, we sincerely hope it is not an act of grace. So, once you work for, or deserve it, you’re not allowed to call it grace.

What does the dictionary say further? ‘unmerited divine …’ The Bible says yes, grace is an attribute of God.14 The next word is ‘assistance’. Paul asserts that only by God’s grace can moral excellence be achieved.15 Grace is therefore not a feeling that God has towards sinners, but His active agent in our salvation. So ‘assistance’ is within grace.

Next follows ‘given’, which tells us that grace is a gift from God. God loves to give rich gifts to his children16, and grace is certainly one of God’s best gifts.14  So we agree that grace is something given to us.

The next word is ‘humans’, such that our definition now reads : Grace is unmerited divine assistance given humans’. ‘Humans’ refers to us, all living people17, if doubt should exist in anybody’s mind. Grace is not meant for a few selected individuals, or a certain privileged class, this gift is for the whole human race.

Our definition goes on to say ‘for their regeneration or sanctification’. To try and define these here fully would overtax time and space. Nevertheless, just to get some kind of handle on these concepts we can safely say: We need to be reborn before we can enjoy God’s kingdom of love and freedom. The work of rebirth is performed by grace19. So that’s what regeneration means in an elementary sort of way.

‘Sanctification’, on the other hand, comes from the word ‘sanctify’, which means to set apart for a religious or sacred purpose. It also means to free from sin . Thus, the Bible is perfectly agreeing15.

It seems like the Bible and the dictionary both agree on what grace is, don’t you agree? Having come this far then with our definition still intact, we can be bold to restate and affirm the dictionary when it says that grace is ‘unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification’. Simply put, it is what God does for you.

So what shall we say? Paul Tillich, a celebrated Theologian has this to say:

“Furthermore, grace does not mean simply that we are making progress in our moral self-control, in our fight against society. Moral progress may be a fruit of grace; but it is not grace itself, and it can prevent us from receiving grace…And certainly [grace] does not happen … so long as we think, in our self-complacency, that we have no need of it. Grace strikes when we are in great pain and restlessness

“It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel our separation is deeper than usual, because we violated another life. It strikes when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us.

“It strikes us when year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage.

“Sometimes at that moment, a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: “You are accepted”, accepted by that which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now, you will find it later”.

Just take the money and run! So goes a popular saying. Those who have been through this experience have come to know that it is the voice of God.

The woman who was caught in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus for a death sentence. She was anticipating at that moment with a solemn sensation of destiny the first stone that would begin the last anguish of her miserable life of sexual slavery. She was ready to die. Instead, a gentle voice said: “I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more”.18 It was the voice of Jesus. I suppose that if grace were a little girl, her mother would be called shame. Without shame, an encounter with grace is impossible.

This is Good News! And it is this Good News that must be preached to the whole world before the end of time. Think about it. You might have tried, tried and struggled. There is  a way…

I conclude with a story told often by my father and it stuck in my mind. He tells how he observed sea-rescuers at work, trying to save helpless victims about to drown in the water. They would swim and just stop close to the person, who would be struggling and striving for his very life. They (sea-rescuers) would just watch until he or she is exhausted and ready to die. Only then do they start picking him up safely to the shore.

The world is looking for a saviour. Hunger, strife, endless wars, incurable diseases, crime, violence and broken homes seem to be our daily bread. The Saviour of the world is here. But how long will it be till we get it…?

May the grace of God be with you.


1Ephesians 2:5.
2Colossians 1:6.
3Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations.
4Thomas Harris, I’m OK-You’re OK.
5Romans 6:20, 21.
6Romans 3:23.
7Luke 3:8.
8Galatians 6:7.
9Amplified Bible, Expanded Edition 1987.
10Samuele Bacchiocchi, The Sabbath in the New Testament.
112 Corinthians 5:19.
12Matthew 5:17, 18.
13Ephesians 3:7; Romans 5:8; Romans 11:5, 6.
14Ephesians 3:7.
152 Corinthians 1:12.
16Matthew 7:11.
171 Corinthians 1:4; John 3:16.
18John 3:7.
19Romans 3:23, 24.
20John 8:1-11.

Copyright – ST Mokete, 2010