Grace – what is it and what does it do?
A very brief glance at grace at work in the book of Acts.
Does grace accept me as I am or does grace change me to be what I should be?
I surveying the book of Acts, I think the better answer is -- grace calls me wherever I am, and enables me to become what God intends for me.
Acts 2. The Holy Spirit through Peter, calls the very ones who had crucified their Messiah (grace), to turn again (demonstrated by immersion) and be changed by the incoming of the Holy Spirit. Some 3000 did so and what a change it effected.
Acts 8 . The Spirit sends Phillip on an unlikely mission – explain the Gospel to an Ethiopian . Something of grace happened in the heart of this man, so that when the Word of God was explained about the Lord Jesus, he wanted to show his faith by requesting immersion in water.
Acts 10. Peter learns the great truth, that in every nation , God accepts those who fear Him and do what is right (v35) This is different to the notion that God accepts people even if they continue in their self indulgent rebellion. When Peter sees the sheet let down from heaven, it includes reptiles, so abhorrent to Mosaic food laws. What is it that makes them acceptable in this vision? The answer is clear – “ what God has cleansed”. Peter confirms this point of ‘grace’ in Acts 15.9 - “cleansed their hearts by faith”! Grace reached Cornelius in his circumstance as an uncircumcised alien. Grace brought light to shine into his heart in the Gospel message through Peter and grace responded to the faith of Cornelius by the giving of the Holy Spirit. Thus he received illumination, cleansing, assurance and courage to be what God wanted him to be.
Acts 8 describes a man who received grace but was not changed – Simon ‘received the grace of God in vain’ Read this tragic story of one ‘in the gall of bitterness’.
Acts 9 records the story of interruptive grace. Paul gives his own commentary “ I am unworthy.. I persecuted the church of God.....but by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain........I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I , but the grace of God that is in me.” ( 1 Corinthians 15.9,10 ) . This is a very telling recount of grace at work – grace picking up the most unlikely , changing mind and attitude of the individual then effecting the work of God , not now on the principle of law or seeking to merit God’s favour, but the active response of gratitude and love imparted by the Holy Spirit.
Acts 16 sees the grace of faith imparted to a devout Lydia, and grace changing the hardened jailer so that, they being so different can be one in Christ!
Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me!