GRACE | CADET LANCE GILLARD
Augustine defined Grace as “God’s generous and quite unmerited attention to humanity, by which the process of healing may begin; and it’s freely given.” The topic of God’s grace is a biblical theme that resounds throughout both the Old and the New Testaments, and runs from Genesis to Revelation.
Grace, in the Old Testament, is displayed as a pattern of God continually offering himself to the Hebrew people who continually rebel against their Creator. Yahweh extends undeserved forgiveness to His sinful people. The description of God found in Exo 34:6-7 shows a glimpse of God’s character; gracious, patient and abundant in love. This describes how God’s grace is shown in the Old Testament. The Israelites were not deserving of God’s love, but God gave it to them anyway. God’s grace was not only confined to His chosen people, as we see in the book of Jonah. God extended his mercy to the people of Nineveh much to the dismay of Jonah, God’s prophet. This particular story found in Jonah, portrays that God’s grace and mercy is available to everyone.
In the New Testament, God’s grace is introduced to the world in a new way. The grace of God comes in the incarnation of Jesus Christ through his ministry of love and compassion to those who were considered outsiders; the poor, the unclean, the sick and the sinner. In John 1:14 we read, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” This concept of grace as exemplified by Christ in the Gospels is further expanded by Paul. Grace is seen as the fundamental cornerstone for our faith and also as a means to justification, and it is offered to all people, Jews and Gentiles alike. The atonement and salvation are all a result of the graciousness of God to an undeserving humanity.
Doctrine 8 states, “We believe that we are justified by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and that he that believeth hath the witness in himself.” What does grace mean in the context of our doctrinal beliefs as an Army? In this instance I referred to our Handbook of Doctrine and found that we define grace as “the persistent, loving favour of God towards undeserving humanity.” We also see grace as that which awakens in us knowledge of the need for salvation. This leads us to a necessary response of repentance. Grace is also believed to be that which convicts of us our sin, and leads to a decision of accepting the gift of grace through repentance, forgiveness and new life.  It is the start of the healing process of sanctification through justification.
There are three types of ways that grace has been understood in our faith tradition and those are prevenient grace, justifying grace and sanctifying grace. Prevenient grace goes ahead of humanity and prepares a heart for conversion. It is how God opens doors and presents opportunities that, if taken, will lead up to some decision for Him. It is the grace that comes before everything we do and it leads to sanctifying grace. When we make a decision to turn our will and our life over to God we receive justifying grace. When we are justified, God looks past our sins. All he sees is a soul covered in the atoning blood of Jesus and we are accepted as righteous. This justification is the beginning of a new creation. We start to be changed from our old selves into the creation that God has always wanted us to be. This is a result of sanctifying grace. Once we are saved, the Holy Spirit continues to work in our life. This is sanctifying grace. Through it we become more like Christ. This is not to say that we will not sin, or that we will ever attain the perfection of Christ. This may not be fully realized until we are in the presence of God Himself. With redemption comes a shedding of the self and an emergent new creation. Rev 21: 5 states, “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” That includes us.
In my research for this paper, coupled with the other classes that I am taking in CFOT, I have added so much to my humble understandings of theological issues. It really strikes me that before College, I had a very elementary understanding of my faith. I didn’t realize the theological weight that a statement such as “Justified by grace, freely given” had. As the saying goes, ignorance is bliss. I used to believe this to be true, but I am finding that as my understanding around issues, such as grace, deepens, the realization of how much my heavenly Father loves me also deepens. The depth that my studies have added has affected me at the very core of my spirit. I see the atonement in a different light. I see the resurrection with new eyes. My very understanding of the Word has been challenged and expanded. The one thing that stands out to me in my study upon grace is I have to accept it, the divine gift of God, freely given. All I have to do is unwrap the gift. Then all there is left to do is to enjoy the gift that was so costly to Him, but cost nothing to me.
When I become a Salvation Army Officer, I will take my understanding of God’s grace and offer it to the people that I have the privilege to serve. I hope that I will be able to journey alongside those who choose to pursue a deeper understanding of God. I believe that it is through this deepened awareness that we open ourselves up to a fuller experience of what God offers us. When serious study goes into concepts such as grace, we will no doubt be presented with a multitude of differing opinions and explanations, differing forms of grace and different ways to receive grace. I realized the beauty in it when I was able to strip down all of humanity’s strivings to understand Godly concepts and realized that God made it very simple. Grace is a gift! I am a great sinner and Christ is a Great Saviour, and there is nothing that I could ever do to earn God’s favour. My prayer is that as an Army Officer I will help people realize the gift they have been given, and then to have the privilege to stand beside them as they unwrap it and enjoy it.