By David Gray
When the Holy Ghost fell at Pentecost, a new day was born. It was a day of hope, of blessing, and it was for the whole world. The Apostle Peter declared,
“The promise,” (that is, the promise of the free gift of the Holy Ghost which the grace of God brought to mankind,) “the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39).
The new day had come! And we are in it today. It is called “The Dispensation of Grace,”
” … by grace are ye saved … ” (Ephesians 2:8).
Paul speaks of,
” … the exceeding riches of His grace … ” (Ephesians 2:7).
Grace, then, is the most important essence in all the world. Without it we all are lost, with it we are saved. It is as simple as that. How vital it is, therefore, that we know how to obtain grace, both for our salvation and for all our needs.
May I say at the outset that, frankly, I have never been satisfied with the glib definition of grace so commonly used: “unmerited favor.” Of course grace is unmerited, none of us deserve it; and of course it is the free favor of God to supply it but that definition does not tell us what it is that is unmerited and freely given to us of God. Just what is it? That very hazy, incomplete, and partial picture of grace can be and has been twisted by clever theologians who are themselves unsaved, to present a distorted picture of the true grace of God to the hungry, sincere, seeking sinner. It is, because of its incompleteness, what might be termed a half-truth. And a half-truth can be devastating in terms of scriptural understanding.
The old question, “What is worse than a worm in an apple?” illustrates this. The answer, “Half a worm!” tells it all. Sadly enough, a half-truth may at times be worse than a whole lie, because it is so easy to swallow and not even know we have done so.
So it is with the commonly accepted definition of grace. While it is true that grace is “unmerited favor,” that is only half the story. I want to tell you the full, beautiful story of what grace is and what it will do for you. The definition of grace that I have found most satisfying and helpful is, “The power God gives us to fulfill the will of God in our lives.” Now let us substitute this definition for the word “grace” in verses which speak of the grace of God. Let us take the last part of this scripture,
” … God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
Putting our definition of grace in, it reads, “God resisteth the proud, but gives power to fulfill the will of God to the humble.” Now that makes sense! Another verse which shows how that this is a true definition of grace is,
“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (II Timothy 2:1).
Putting this definition in it reads, “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the power God gives you in Christ Jesus to fulfill the will of God in your life.” And that makes sense. Finally let us go to,
” … by grace are ye saved through faith, … ” (Ephesians 2:8).
Substituting our definition for the word grace it would then say, “By the power God gives you to fulfill the will of God in your life, are ye saved through faith.” That really makes sense!
Now let me ask you, do you want this power, the power God gives you to fulfill His will in your life? You can have it. It is freely given you by God, and Ephesians 2:8 declares that it is by faith that we obtain this grace and power.
This power is the power of the Holy Ghost. Jesus said,
“Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8).
John the Baptist said,
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matthew 3:11).
This is how Jesus bestows His grace upon us. It is the free gift of the Holy Ghost, and in it is power, the power of grace, the power God gives us to fulfill the will of God in our lives. This is what Jesus came to bring mankind, and it is the grace by which we are saved. We receive this power, this grace, by faith. Jesus said,
“He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said (that is faith, friends, faith in the Word of God], out of his belly [his innermost being] shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit [or Holy Ghost], which they that believe on him should receive” (John 7:38-39).
This gracious invitation was Jesus’ way of saying what Paul did,
“For by grace [or the power of the Holy Ghost] are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
Oh, thank God for grace! It is the free gift of Jesus in the Holy Ghost, received by faith, and it is God’s power which enables us to fulfill God’s will in our lives. In the Old Testament in II Kings, chapter 4, there is a beautiful picture of receiving the Holy Ghost by faith. The little widow woman’s sons were to be sold into slavery unless she paid her creditor. She had no money, but Elisha told her to borrow empty vessels from her neighbors, because God was going to fill them with oil. “Borrow not a few,” He said. Now friends this is where faith comes in. She had to believe that God would do what He said and fill those empty vessels with oil. Then she must act on her faith and borrow the vessels. How many was she to borrow? Friends, she borrowed to the extent of her faith. How many vessels could God fill with oil? How many vessels would God fill with oil? How many vessels did God fill?
Let me say right here, if God can fill one vessel, He can fill ten. If He has power to fill ten, He has power to fill one hundred. If He has power to fill one hundred vessels, He could fill every vessel in the world. So there is no lack of power with God. Once the oil started flowing, there was nothing to stop it but the limits of her faith. And that is exactly what stopped the oil.
“And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed” (II Kings 4:6).
You see, God had more oil to give; the limit to His giving was the limit of her faith in borrowing empty vessels. She actually had no room for the great blessing God was ready to give her. But when the last vessel that she had faith to borrow was filled, the oil ceased flowing. Her faith had brought her all she believed for.
And so it is by faith that we receive the oil, the power of the Holy Ghost. And faith, if it be good faith, causes action, just as it did with the little woman. Her faith caused her to borrow empty vessels for the Lord to fill. So faith in Jesus, in His sacrifice on Calvary, will cause action on your part which will result in God pouring out His grace into your life, the power of the Holy Ghost.
What action must I take? Just as the little woman acted upon her faith by borrowing empty vessels, so if you believe that Jesus died on Calvary for you, was buried and rose again the third day, then friends, you will act upon that faith by repenting of your sins, and being baptized in Jesus’ name for the remission of your sins, according to Acts, chapter 2, verse 38. Just as God honored her faith with an abundant supply of oil by filling every empty vessel, so God will honor your faith and obedience by filling you with the Holy Ghost. And you will receive this great, free gift of God exactly as the 120 believers received it on the Day of Pentecost.
It was on that memorable day, recorded in Acts, chapter 2, that the grace of God was poured out upon them, giving them the power Jesus had promised them, the power to fulfill the will of God in their lives. And as you in faith obey Him by repentance and baptism in His name, you too shall,
” … receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).
just as they did at Pentecost. This is what Jesus died on Calvary to purchase for you, my friend. An anonymous songwriter put it this way:
Hark! the gospel news is sounding,
Christ has suffered on the tree;
Streams of mercy are a bounding,
Grace for all is rich and free.
Grace is flowing like a river,
Millions there have been supplied;
Still it flows as fresh as ever
From the Savior’s wounded side.
In the baking of a cake there are a number of ingredients that are necessary, and all must be used. Just so in order for the full beauty of the grace of God to be poured out into your life, enduing you with power from on high, it is necessary for all the wonderful ingredients of faith obedience, repentance, baptism in Jesus’ name, and the mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost all to be present for the fulness of God to fill you and make you a powerful, transformed, New Testament Christian.
Many people have tried one or another of the divine ingredients of the new birth and wonder why they did not obtain the results they knew they should. It is like trying to eat just one or another of the ingredients used in baking a cake. Would you like to eat a couple of tablespoons of shortening? How about some egg whites? How would you like a cupful of flour in your mouth? Or would you enjoy eating a teaspoonful of salt? Yet all these things are necessary in the baking of a delicious cake.
Oh, but put all the ingredients together properly, pop them into a hot oven, and you will have your delicious cake. So it is with the ingredients of the new birth: faith, obedience, repentance, baptism in Jesus’ name, and the receiving of the Holy Ghost-all essential ingredients, and all given to you by God. If you will open your heart in faith to God, friend, and obey the beautiful plan of God, these will all work together to produce in your own life the sweetness, the blessings, the glory, the riches of God’s grace, freely given to you of God. May I close this message to you with a challenge: God said,
“Prove me now” (Malachi 3:10).
God is the same today. He delights in proving that His Word is true. Why don’t you come and let Him prove to you that His grace and power is for you today. Come on the terms of the gospel—simple faith and obedience. Read in your Bible Acts 2, verses 38 and 39, and you will find the will of God for you today.
Remember that grace is the power God gives us to fulfill the will of God in our lives. That power is ready to be poured out upon you. You can be changed and transformed tonight through the riches of His power and grace, the power that comes in the Holy Ghost that Jesus wants to fill you with.
This article “The Riches of God’s Grace” by David Gray is excerpted from Harvestime Guest Pulpit Library, 1982.