There is no such "thing" as grace. That may sound like something heretical coming from a Christian pastor, but hear me out. There is no such "thing" as grace, because grace is not a thing. Grace changes everything — but it is not a thing itself. Grace is not some kind of spiritual substance or energy that God gives to us. It is not that Christians are like cars and we need this heavenly substance called grace to fuel us. You may already know this, but I want it to be clear.
We sometimes talk as if grace is something quantifiable, as if it is something that can be measured out. We talk as if there is this storehouse of grace that we can access if we need a little more for whatever may be happening. “I need 12 Grace Units (GU’s) to love my wife today. I need 62 GU’s to love this hard to love person at work! I need to 300 GU’s to fight this sin!” But grace is not a commodity that Jesus gives to those who don’t deserve it. There is no such "thing" as grace!
In Titus 2:11 the apostle Paul tells us the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all people. What does he mean there? He means that Jesus has appeared, that Jesus has come. In a sense Paul is saying God’s grace is a person. Grace is Jesus in redeeming action. Jesus does not come to distribute grace packets or gift bags to change us — gifts we do not deserve.
Grace is a gift to the undeserved, but God is not only the giver, he himself is the gift. God graces us with himself. To say we need grace is to say that we need Jesus. We need his love. We need his strength. We need his protection. We need his tenderness. We need his assurance. We need his presence. We need his forgiveness. We need his comfort. Grace is Jesus and all that he is for us as those who have trusted in him.
When Paul sums up the end of salvation and all of grace, he says this:
“God has not destined you for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for you so that whether you wake or sleep you will live with him.” 1 Thess.5:9-10
You will live with him. With Jesus. Jesus is the gift of grace.
As Sinclair Ferguson has said, “Remember that there isn’t a thing, a substance, or a 'quasi-substance' called 'grace.' All there is is the person of the Lord Jesus — Christ clothed in the gospel, as Calvin loved to put it. Grace is the grace of Jesus. If I can highlight the thought here: there is no 'thing' that Jesus takes from himself and then, as it were, hands over to me. There is only Jesus himself.”
Jesus doesn't just send some grace over to us. Jesus doesn't just push some grace over our way. He gives us himself and all that he is for us. Jesus is the great undeserved gift of grace.
James Calderazzo is pastor of Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church in Destin. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.