What does it mean to be ‘under grace’?


When we speak about being ‘under grace’ we refer to the New Covenant. To understand the necessity for the New Covenant, we must first understand God’s intent in the Old covenant. Let me explain this as simply as possible. God did not give the law to prevent man from sinning, but to make man aware of sin and of God’s perfect righteousness and utter holiness.  These standards revealed man’s unrighteousness (sinfulness).  Additionally, the stringent requirements towards keeping them showed how utterly impossible it is for anyone to try to attain because the law cannot be kept perfectly. To keep the law meant keeping it in its entirety, without failing in even the tiniest aspect. That is impossible for any sinner to achieve. Yet, that’s exactly what God’s intention was when gave the law! He designed to show through the law, that we are incapable of keeping it perfectly and could never be righteous in his sight by our own effort. That does not sound very encouraging! However, God did that to display his mercy and love towards us. He wanted to give us what we do not deserve and cannot achieve on our own – that very righteousness which he expects of us!  He showed us through our inability to keep the law that we are utterly at his mercy. This mercy he displayed  by sending his Son, who took God’s wrath against sin upon himself in our place, so that all who believe in him may not perish, but rather be reconciled to God forever in perfect righteousness. The Bible describes this momentous act in these words: “but when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Gal.4:4).  This act by which God freely gives to us what we do not deserve and cannot earn, we call God’s grace. God credited (imputed) Christ’s righteousness to us whilst we were yet sinners, simply based on our faith in Christ’s atonement in our place.  This imputed righteousness is all we need to appear before God without any condemnation. In other words we have a legal status of ‘righteous’ conferred on us in place of the status of ‘condemned’. We call this legal status being ‘justified’ (not guilty). God confers this status on the believer immediately, based on faith in Christ alone, and not on any meritorious actions in the keeping of the law. It is a final verdict and irreversible. It is the established starting point in the process of achieving in actual life that righteousness with which he has already been credited. This process of achieving in actuality by the Holy Spirit’s enabling, that righteousness which is ours positionally is called ‘sanctification’. All the while that the believer is being ‘sanctified’ he remains eternally safe and secure from God’s wrath against sin. What I have just set out explains in a nutshell the whole operation of grace in Salvation. To come to Christ (which implies “to be saved’) we must come on these terms and no other. When we do, we are described as being under the ‘Covenant of Grace’ (or the covenant of Promise) as opposed to the ‘Covenant of the Law’.  Alternatively, to put it plainly, we are ‘under grace’.

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