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 merit eternal life, but in gratitude for the grace or gift
already conferred upon us.
What "good works" flow out of hearts which 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" (2Co 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
in 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 (2Co 6:20), the precious blood of Christ (1Pe
1:19), willingly give themselves to the Lord (2Co 8:5). Having made that
commitment -- of the entire being 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 church, or ecclesia at Philippi) (2Co 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 (2Co 8:2,7; 9:8).
Giving to the work of the Truth -- whether it be 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 (Mat 6:1-4), neither should its necessity be
hidden away as an embarrassment (Mat 5:14-16; 2Co 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, which only an accountant could love -- these may be the
means by which other people may come to praise God for His grace, for present
burdens eased and for futures made infinitely brighter. We need to "see" the
circle of God's grace growing ever wider, and to "hear" 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" (2Co 8:9). "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift" (2Co