In Philippians 1, the Apostle Paul tells the Philippians that he prays to God that their love would increase (v. 9). This means that love is a gift of God’s grace, and we should ask Him to give us that gift. We can’t just manufacture love on our own.
This is further confirmed by what Paul goes on to say in the same passage. The fruit of righteousness “comes through Jesus Christ—to the praise and glory of God” (1:11).
In addition, the Philippians can be assured of the grace of God because “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (1:6).
Our virtues are gifts of God’s grace.
This is more controversial than it should be among Christians. One reason for this, I believe, is that people take these truths out of the broader context of Scripture.
So, Christian A will say, “Did you work out your own salvation with fear in trembling, or was it God who was working in you?”
Christian B responds, “I worked. Christianity has not been easy.”
Christian A responds, “No, it was God working in you.” And the conversation spirals down from there.
The Bible is much more balanced. In Philippians 2, God tells the church through Paul, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (12–13). A fabulous statement of human responsibility and God’s grace. If either side makes you uncomfortable, then . . .
Recently, I heard a Pastor talk about his conversion. He said, “By an act of my God-given will, I put my faith in Christ.”
I was rather taken aback. It seemed to miss the grace of God. However, as he continued, he said, “And I didn’t realize this at the time, but all of this was God’s work.”
It turned out that in the totality of his message, he captured both sides of the biblical balance.
Is it enough, then, for people to just work hard and then recognize later that it was the grace of God?
No. The work of God’s grace in us affects not only who gets ultimate credit for the work but also how we work.
Here are four ways in which we will work, if we believe that all that we do is the gift of God’s grace:
- We will maintain an attitude of humble dependence on God for any good we do.
- We will maintain a life of prayer. If we believe God’s grace is the source of any good in us, let us ask for it!
- We will maintain communion with Christ. “Neither can you bear fruit unless your remain in me” (Jn. 15:4).
- We will maintain an openness to the help of others. If we need Jesus, we should also confess we need His body (1 Cor. 12:12–31).
Grace is more than just a theological concept. It is a way of living in dependence on God. We all need to learn this more deeply and truly sing from the heart, “‘Tis grace hath bro’t me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”