For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, ~Titus 2:11-13
This post is part of our month-long celebration of the Reformation, building on the sermon this past Sunday, preached by Bishop Bill Murdoch. You can listen to his sermon here.
The Anglican catechism describes the impact of receiving sacraments by saying that “real grace is conferred”. Sacramental churches (like St. Timothy) believe that God actually does something in our souls when we are baptized and receive communion. I’d add that He also does something as we are married, ordained, or give confession, although we call these sacramental acts.
This past weekend was a big one for St. Tim. We had a wedding of two church members, a baptism of a baby born within our congregation, and a visit from the bishop who spoke on the topic of grace alone. It’s all had me thinking about grace.
It’s a word that comes up a lot in Christian circles. We talk about “grace for the day”, “receiving God’s grace”, and more than a few churches have “Grace” in their name.
I realized something. I often think about the grace of God as a “something”. The Titus text assures us that it is a “Someone”, but that’s not where I’m going with this post. I think about having enough grace for today’s challenges, or that when disaster hits or I fall into sin, God will give me more grace (as the scriptures promise). I assure people I speak with that God has grace for them, as if their fuel tank is empty and they need a fill up of this thing called the Grace of God.
But that’s not it at all. You can see the Titus passage above, and see that there isn’t a promise of a thing called grace. It is, rather, a promise of God’s wonderful gifts to us. Salvation, training, holiness, strength against temptation, and patience to wait are all promised. These are things. But grace isn’t a thing – it’s an attitude. God’s grace is the attitude that He has toward us in giving His gifts.
That means when “Grace is conferred” at baptism, communion, and other actions – God is giving us something. He is giving us strength, patience, or new life. He is giving us salvation, or discipleship, forgiveness, or training. In “Grace for the day”, God is giving us all that we need to endure, and perhaps even solve, the issues before us. He is giving to us mission and purpose to do His work in the world. “Grace upon grace” is God giving us abundant gifts.
“Grace” is a term that might be a big enough box to include all of the things that God gives us, before salvation, in our Christian life, and in common to all humanity and society. Today, I’m thinking about the word “gifts”, because it’s helping me get closer to how God really works.
He gives us more gifts, and gifts upon gifts. I have enough gifts for today. The gift-giver of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.