The gospel of the grace of God
Just hearing his name was enough to frighten Christians in the
first century. He was known far and wide as a tireless persecutor of
Christians. He made havoc of the church, entering every house,
and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison
In those days, who would have thought that Saul of Tarsus
would ever become a Christian, let alone become Gods chosen
vessel to proclaim the Christian message to the nations of his time
and, through his writings, to the nations of all times. But, by the
grace of God, he became the apostle Paul whose commission was
to testify to the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).
In his letter to the Romans Paul explains the gospel: why
grace is necessary, how it is provided, what it accomplishes, and
how it is obtained. Grace is necessary because everyone sins. Grace
is provided by justification. The intended result of grace is
sanctification. Grace is obtained by obedient faith.
[For the many references from Romans, only the chapter and
verses will be given.]
What is grace?
Grace is benevolent, unmerited favor. The LORD is merciful
and gracious (Psalm 103:8). Gods grace is shown by His bountiful
blessings, especially salvation in Christ. God bestows grace
according to His sovereign will: I will have mercy on whomever I
will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will
have compassion (9:15, Exodus 33:19).
What is the gospel?
Gospel means good news. The gospel is the good news of
salvation by grace through the substitutional sacrifice of Christ. The
gospel which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy
Scriptures (1:2) is Gods power for salvation (1:16). The gospel
was foretold in the Old Testament as a mystery and is made
known to all nations in the New Testament (16:25, 26).
Grace is necessary because everyone sins.
Sin is the violation of Gods laws. The whole world is
blameworthy before God (3:19). All have sinned and fall short of
the glory of God (3:23). Whoever commits sin also commits
lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4).
Grace does not excuse sin. After powerfully affirming His
graciousness to Moses, God added, by no means clearing the
guilty (Exodus 34:6, 7). The righteous judgment of God (2:5) requires
that sin be punished by death (1:32). The wages of sin is death
Through Adam sin entered the world, and death through sin,
and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned (5:12).
Because of our sins, we deserve the death sentence. To
appreciate grace, we must understand how bad sin is. For the
wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and
unrighteousness of men (1:18). Gods wrath is mentioned twelve
times in Romans (1:18; 2:5, 8; 3:5; 4:15; 5:9; 9:22; 12:19; 13:4,
5). God is not unjust when He inflicts wrath (3:5).
Although everyone sins, people have different patterns of
behavior and different relationships with God, who will render to
each one according to his deeds: eternal life to those who by
patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and
immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the
truth, but obey unrighteousness - indignation and wrath (2:6-8).
Since all are sinners, and death is the just penalty for sin, how
can God extend grace to some sinners and wrath to others, and still
Grace is provided by justification.
God can forgive the sins of believers without compromising His
righteousness if the penalty for their sins is borne by someone else.
But who is qualified to serve as a sacrifice for sin?
Animal sacrifices are not sufficient: For it is not possible that
the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins (Hebrews 10:4).
No sinner is qualified because he must die for his own sins! Only a
sinless man could volunteer to suffer the penalty for the sins of
Of the Messiah it was foretold: By His knowledge My
righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their
iniquities (Isaiah 53:11).
God sent His Son who became flesh and dwelt among us
(John 1:14) and was in all points tempted as we are, yet without
sin (Hebrews 4:15) so He could die for mans sin. John testified:
Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
(John 1:29). Because He was without sin, Jesus did not have to die,
but He allowed Himself to be crucified for the sins of humanity
(John 10:11, 17, 18). He bore our sins in His own body on the
tree (1 Peter 2:24).
God justifies believers through the atonement of Christ.
Justification is mentioned seventeen times in Romans (2:13;
3:4, 20, 24, 26, 28, 30; 4:2, 5, 25; 5:1, 9, 16, 18, 19; 8:30, 33).
To justify means to declare free of condemnation. We are justified
by the blood of Christ and His resurrection (5:9; 4:25). Someone
whom God has justified may not be condemned (8:30-34)!
Justification is by faith not by meritorious deeds of the law
(3:28, 30; 4:2, 5; 5:1). Justification is a gift (5:16).
Although we are under grace and not under law
for justification (6:14, 15), grace does not exempt one from
Gods laws. Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly
not! On the contrary, we establish the law (3:31). Grace
encourages and helps believers to abide by Gods laws!
Justification is for those who keep the righteous requirements
of the law (2:26). Doers of the law will be justified (2:13). But
because the law is weak through the flesh the righteous
requirement of the law is fulfilled only by grace through Christs
sacrifice for those who do not walk according to the flesh but
according to the Spirit (8:3, 4).
People can be righteous only by the grace of God!
The righteousness of God is bestowed on those who believe
(3:22), who are justified freely by His grace through the
redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a
propitiation by His blood, through faith (3:24, 25). This was to
demonstrate His righteousness, that He might be just and the
justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (3:26).
In justification, faith is accounted as righteousness.
Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for
righteousness (4:3, Genesis 15:6). This means that God credited
Abrahams faith to him as righteousness even though he was not
Abraham was faithful and obedient. You found his heart
faithful before You (Nehemiah 9:8). Abraham obeyed My voice
and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws
Although Abraham was obedient, he was not justified because
of his obedience but because of his faith. Justification was
necessary, not because of the good he did, but because of his sin!
God credited his faith to him as righteousness.
When someone believes on Him who justifies the ungodly his
faith is accounted for righteousness (4:5). David also describes
the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness
apart from works: Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are
forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom
the Lord shall not impute sin (4:6-8, Psalm 32:1, 2).
Abrahams example indicates that righteousness will also be
imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord
from the dead (4:22-24).
The intended result of grace is sanctification.
Pauls letter is addressed to those who are called to be saints
(1:7). Throughout Romans he calls believers saints (8:27, 12:13;
15:25, 26, 31; 16:2, 15). A saint is someone who has been
sanctified (made holy) and is dedicated to God. Pauls purpose in
writing was that his readers might be sanctified by the Holy Spirit
(15:15, 16). The branches on Gods tree are holy (11:16). The
sanctified ones present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy,
acceptable to God (12:1). They present their members as slaves
to righteousness leading to sanctification (6:19, 22 ESV).
The intended result of grace is sanctification without which no
one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14 NASB).
Sanctification involves obedience.
In the letter to the Romans disobedience is denounced seven
times (1:30; 2:8; 5:19; 6:12; 10:21; 11:30, 32). This refutes
those who would turn Gods grace into license (Jude 4) by claiming
that grace makes obedience unnecessary.
The gospel must be obeyed (10:16)! The preaching of the
gospel of grace is for obedience to the faith among all nations
(1:5; 16:26). The faith that must be obeyed is the one faith
(Ephesians 4:5) once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
Paul defines the sanctified as those who have obeyed from
the heart that form of doctrine to which they were subjected
(6:17). Believers must avoid teachers who depart from the original
The sanctified must be slaves of obedience leading to
righteousness (6:16). Christ worked through Paul to make the
Gentiles obedient (15:18). Paul complimented the saints at Rome
for their obedience (16:19).
Grace is obtained by obedient faith.
Justification is by faith (3:28, 30; 5:1, 2; 9:32; 11:20). In
the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith;
as it is written, The just shall live by faith (1:17, Habakkuk 2:4).
This has a two-fold meaning. Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted in two other
passages. The life of the just is founded on his faith (he does not
draw back but believes to the saving of the soul - Hebrews
10:38, 39) and God gives him eternal life because of his faith (not
because of his imperfect works of the law - Galatians 3:10-12).
Thus, one must live by faith! Superficial, half-hearted faith is
not enough. The faith required to receive Gods grace is a true,
living, obedient faith that walks in the steps of the faith of
Abraham (4:12) who trusted God and obeyed His voice (Genesis
26:5; Hebrews 11:8).
We are justified by faith (5:1) but not by faith only (James
2:24). As obedience to the faith (1:5; 16:26) additional
prerequisites for salvation by grace are stated in Romans: faith
comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (10:17), the
goodness of God leads you to repentance (2:4), with the mouth
confession is made unto salvation (10:10), and one is baptized
into Christ Jesus (6:3).
Since we are justified freely by His grace through the
redemption that is in Christ Jesus (3:24) and since we are
baptized into Christ Jesus (6:3) baptism is essential for salvation
After being buried with Him through baptism we walk in
newness of life (6:4), continue in doing good (2:7), and present
our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God (12:1).
What have we learned about grace?
In Romans, Paul has testified to the gospel of the grace of
God, explaining why grace is necessary, how it is provided, what it
accomplishes, and how it is obtained. Grace is necessary because
everyone sins. Grace is provided by justification. The intended
result of grace is sanctification. Grace is obtained by obedient faith.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with
God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have
access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in
hope of the glory of God (5:1, 2). Amen.
The Scripture quotations in this article are from The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise.
Published in The Old Paths Archive