Theme: Growth in Grace
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
But the verse that ends the Bible is also a wish, as I wrote earlier. It is a wish that “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [might] be with God’s people.” How are we to understand this? Thus far, nearly everything I have said about grace has been in the past tense, meaning that God has revealed his grace to us or has been gracious to us in Christ Jesus. Or else it has been a promise that God will continue to be gracious. How is it, then, that we can wish the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to be with anybody? Revelation 22:21 does not tell us itself, but by thinking of other Bible verses about grace, we can notice that there are at least four ways this can and should be done.
We need to be settled in the great grace doctrines. Therefore, we can pray that those who know Jesus Christ as Savior might be so settled. There seem to be several ways we can fail to be settled in grace. For one thing, we fail to be settled whenever we allow something other than Jesus Christ to be at the center of our lives. The prophet Jonah learned this through trying to put his own plans ahead of what God had called him to do. His conclusion: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8). Another way we can fail to be settled in the grace of God is when we forget how gracious God has been to us and therefore become harsh with others. The author of Hebrews seems to have this in mind when he writes, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Heb. 12:15). Hebrews also refers to a third way this can happen. It is by substituting the mere form of Christianity for the gospel. Therefore, he says, “It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods” (Heb. 13:9). The cure for these multifaceted ills is to be so aware of the nature of the grace of God in saving us that we become enamored of Jesus Christ and never forget that it is by grace alone that we have been brought out of death and darkness into God’s marvelous life and light.
We need to grow in the knowledge of God’s grace. Knowledge of the grace of God is not a static thing. Nothing in human life is. Therefore, we need to ask God that those we are concerned for might continually grow in that knowledge. Peter wrote, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). We have an example of this in the case of Jesus, for it is written of him: “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). If you know Jesus as your Savior, you should never stop learning about him and what he has done for you.
We need to exercise the gift for serving others that God has given each of us. We do not often think of the grace of God and the gifts of God as belonging together necessarily, but it is significant that a number of Bible passages combine the two ideas. For example, Peter wrote that each Christian “should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:9). In the same way, Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, saying, “To each one of us grace has been given as Christ appointed it” (Eph. 4:7). Therefore, when we pray that “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with God’s people,” one thing we are praying for is that each might use the gift he has been given.
We need a continuing supply of grace in order to grow in grace and thus complete the work God assigns us. Paul was conscious of having received much grace to carry out his calling as an apostle. We know this because he mentions it often. To the Romans: “Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith” (1:5); “By the grace given me I say to everyone of you…” (12:3); and, “Because of the grace God gave me” (15:15). To the Ephesians: “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (3:7, 8). To the Corinthians: “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder” (1 Cor. 3:10); and, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).
Paul was also aware that God gave others grace to do the work to which he had appointed them. He told the Corinthians, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8). We should also have this truth in mind when we wish an abundance of “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” upon others.
What are the four ways we can wish for the grace of Jesus Christ to be with someone?
How can we fail to be settled in grace?
Through what means does our growth in grace occur? Are you taking advantage of those opportunities for growth that God has provided?
Application: How can you use your spiritual gift or gifts that God has given to you to build up other believers in their own growth in grace?