The word “grace” (Gr “charis”) means, most literally, a gift. In Biblical terms, it is commonly associated with the gift of mercy, or the forgiveness of sins, which God has provided for believers in His Son. None of us can earn salvation; we are saved by “grace,” which is “the gift of God,” and not by our own works (Eph. 2:8,9).
Being saved by God’s grace, we are God’s “workmanship” (Eph. 2:10). He has made us all that we are; we have not made ourselves.
Nevertheless, He has “created (us) in Christ Jesus” for a purpose — to do good works (v. 10). And so, with God working in us in a mysterious sort of partnership we can scarcely comprehend, we do good works — not to earn or to deserve eternal life, but in gratitude for the grace or gift already conferred upon us.
What “good works” flow out of hearts that have known the grace of God? “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches… God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things and at all times, you will abound in every good work… You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion” (2 Cor. 8:1; 9:8,11).
The “good work” of giving to others has its origin, Paul says, not in man’s generosity but in God’s — and not just in God’s generosity regarding material things, but especially in His grace in Christ. When we understand this, then we see the need to abound in every good work — in acts of kindness, in visiting the sick, and in giving of our material blessings. There is a direct connection between God’s grace and our acts of concern for others, between God’s generosity and ours. And so there is a direct connection between the cross and the checkbook, between the empty tomb and the full collection bag. Those who have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20), the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:19), willingly give themselves to the Lord (2 Cor. 8:5). Having made that commitment — of complete indebtedness to Christ and to his Father — there is no question of the commitment of their material resources to the doing of good works. And so one “grace” surely begets another, and another.
Paul writes of the “grace of God” bestowed upon the Macedonians (probably the ecclesia at Philippi) (2 Cor. 8:1). Since this “grace” did not guarantee its recipients against either “severe trial” or “extreme poverty” (v. 2), Paul must have meant the grace — or gift — of the gospel of salvation in Christ. So the Philippians gave generously to help others, even though they themselves were neither rich nor comfortable. They gave because they knew the joy of God’s love in Christ as God’s grace had abounded, or overflowed, toward others (2 Cor. 8:2,7; 9:8).
Giving to the work of the Truth — whether for gospel proclamation or charitable assistance — is no mundane matter. It should not become just a habit or a tiresome necessity. Even though it should not be flaunted as a reason for pride (Matt. 6:1-4), neither should its necessity be hidden away as an embarrassment (Matt. 5:14-16; 2 Cor. 8:3,4). It is nothing less than an opportunity, and a wonderful privilege, to contribute in a small way to the saving purpose of God. The printed appeal, which we have seen before — the cold figures on paper, that only an accountant could love — may be the means by which other people come to praise God for His grace, in present burdens eased and futures made infinitely brighter. We need to ësee’ the circle of God’s grace growing ever wider, and to ëhear’ more voices being raised to praise His grace.
And we need to remember, with our wallets and purses and bank accounts, no less than with our Bibles and hymnbooks, the one who “though he was rich, yet for our sakes… became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15)!