Demonstrating God’s Grace

Close-up photo of church bulletin

This is the second in a series of three posts reflecting on the three phrases at the top of our church bulletins, “Delighting in God’s Glory. Demonstrating His Grace. Declaring His Gospel.” Read the first in the series.

It has often been said that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone, but ours is not a faith that remains alone. God’s grace is his unmerited favor toward the guilty; those who receive and rest on Jesus Christ for salvation receive his grace and respond with gratitude. Part of our grateful response is seen in demonstrating God’s grace to others. God’s grace includes not only salvation, but “all the physical and spiritual benefits that God out of his grace demonstrated to his creatures.”* The Heidelberg Catechism, which is famously organized around the three-part framework of guilt, grace, and gratitude, says, “Christ has redeemed us . . . with our whole life we may show ourselves grateful to God for his goodness and . . . be assured of our faith by its fruits and by our reverent behavior may win our neighbors to Christ.”**

God’s people demonstrate God’s grace when we proclaim it while gathered around God’s word and sacraments (Ezekiel 37; 1 Corinthians 11:26; Ephesians 3:7-8), “holding forth the Word of Life,” as our church bulletins said for decades. Jesus Christ and his benefits are held out, received, and rejoiced in. Demonstrating God’s grace also happens outside the church’s walls, when people who have been reconciled to God in Christ are made ambassadors and carry God’s message of grace to the world (2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Proverbs 16:24). This can include extraordinary acts of reconciliation, like Corrie Ten Boom forgiving her concentration camp guards.

Demonstrating God’s grace can also include daily acts that seem quite ordinary, like our work. Having freely received God’s grace and Christ’s benefits, Christians no longer work for ourselves (riches and recognition), but for the good of others. Serving others in our vocation is part of how we obey Jesus’ command to love our neighbors (Matthew 22:36-40; Luke 10:25-37). During this pandemic, Fourth’s members are involved in demonstrating God’s grace to the world by restocking grocery and warehouse shelves, providing medical care, searching for vaccines, directing government funding toward potential cures, securing grants so that small businesses can retain their employees, raising crops and livestock to feed others, praying with the sick and dying, sewing masks for others, and raising and educating the next generation. Highlighting these vocations during this time clearly demonstrates that loving our neighbors through the work we do is an important part of demonstrating God’s common grace to the world.

This idea was encapsulated by Dick Halverson (Fourth’s Senior Pastor, 1958-1981) when he closed each worship service with these words, “You go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you. Wherever you are, God has put you there. God has a purpose in your being there. Christ lives in you and has something he wants to do through you where you are. Believe this and go in the grace and love and power of Jesus Christ.”

*Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics Volume 3, p. 574
**Heidelberg Catechism, selections from Answer 86