Theme: The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
This week’s lessons bring these studies on the glorious doctrine of God’s grace to a fitting conclusion, looking at the last benediction of grace in the Bible.
Scripture: Revelation 22:21
Revelation 22:21 does not contain all the elements of the more complete benedictions, but it is in line with them when it links the blessing of grace explicitly to Jesus Christ. In the early studies of this series we saw that although grace is known in the Old Testament, there is a sense in which it only became fully known with the coming of Jesus. Therefore, it is wrapped up in him and is related to him. Paul told Timothy, “This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:9, 10). John 1:17 expressed this same truth simply, saying, “The law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
In an earlier study I pointed out that in the New International Version there are only eight uses of the word “grace” in the Old Testament but that there are 128 uses of grace in the New Testament. In some cases the word occurs several times in a single passage or chapter. I focused on these in our study of the doctrine. Romans 5 is one important chapter. Grace occurs seven times in the last half of Romans 5 alone. The word also occurs extensively in Ephesians 1 and 2 and other passages. There are other Old Testament words for grace, or course.
“Gracious” is found 39 times in the Old Testament (NIV), seven times as an exact or near repetition of Exodus 34:6, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (cf. Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2). That is an important text, because it tells us that it is God’s very nature to be gracious. In the same way, “favor” is used 98 times in the Old Testament, though many of these are of human favor only.
So there really is a difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament at this point, and John was not overstating the matter when he wrote of grace coming in a special way with Jesus. It is significant that it is this same author, John the beloved disciple, who ends his final book and thus also the entire Bible with the words “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” The New Testament associates grace with the Lord Jesus Christ, especially, because it is through his death and by his resurrection that sinful men and women have been made righteous before God.
Another way of showing how closely grace is associated with the person and work of Jesus Christ is by reviewing what in theology are often called “the doctrines of grace,” that is, those core doctrines that emphasize the totality of God’s sovereign grace in salvation matters. These doctrines are usually presented under the acrostic of the TULIP where “T” stands for “total depravity,” “U” for “unconditional election,” “L” for “limited atonement,” “I” for “irresistible grace,” and “P” for the “perseverance of the saints.” Those are not the best of all phrases for describing what is meant by the doctrines of grace, but the truths themselves are at the heart of what is involved in salvation and stress how it is entirely of God.
Although grace was certainly present in the Old Testament, it is especially prominent in the New Testament. How did grace come in a special way through Jesus?
What is another term for the “doctrines of grace” and what do they emphasize?
Reflection: C. S. Lewis once observed that grace is the doctrine that sets Christianity apart from all other religions. Why do you think that is?