Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that save a wretch like me.
Paul sees a yawning gulf between being spiritually dead and alive in Christ. The former are rarely aware of their condition; they simply follow the ways of the world, conforming to its prevailing thought patterns and actions. Often they think they have kicked over the constraints of rules and are enjoying freedom–but Paul is sure they are not free. He describes them as controlled by their cravings and in bondage to Satan, pointing out that we all once lived in this state. By contrast, those who are alive in Christ are set free from these patterns of conformity and self-delusion. They have a different outlook, not focused on themselves but God; open to the good things God wants from us.
Paul is keen to show that the move from one state to another is not one we can make by ourselves. We can’t work for it, earn it, or take any credit for it. It’s a gift, and outworking of God’s love and mercy. It is a kind of resurrection, available only through the grace of God. The only part we play is to admit our own failings and receive it in faith.
Grace is a uniquely Christian concept. Other religions believe in a merciful God, who is sometimes prepared to withhold his anger against wrongdoing, but grace goes deeper. It means that God not only holds back the punishment we deserve, but also pours on us the love and kindness that we do not deserve. Even when we are living for ourselves, ignoring God, pursuing self-interest, God still reaches out and draws us into life. Paul knew first-hand what God’s rich mercy and grace meant for him. May you experience today the freedom this brings you.
Are you still trying to earn God’s favour? How might it change your relationship with God if you could accpet more of this grace?