By Joe Babendreier
Grace is the gift God gives us so we can do his will. The New Testament uses the word more than a hundred times. The gospels tell us that grace “comes through Jesus Christ”. They say the Angel Gabriel called the Virgin Mary “full of grace”. The Acts of the Apostles was written to “bear witness to the good news of God’s grace”. St Paul wrote in Romans that all Christians “are justified by the free gift of his grace through being set free in Christ Jesus”, noting that “however much sin increases, grace is always greater.”
St James, after clarifying that “faith without works is dead”, went on to state that “God opposes the proud and gives his grace to the humble.” St Peter told the first Christians: “Put all your hope in the grace brought to you by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Finally, the very last verse of the Bible says: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen.”
Humility means recognising the fact that we have done things that make us unworthy of receiving any gift of any kind from God.
This is why St Paul urges us in Colossians: “You were once estranged and of hostile intent through your evil behaviour. Now he has reconciled you, by his death and in that mortal body, to bring you before himself holy, faultless and irreproachable.”
The greatest battle over grace took place 1,500 years ago when an African bishop confronted a British priest named Pelagius. Pelagius said that we can count on Jesus for no more than good example and that grace is nothing more than the law by which God commands us to do good and avoid evil.
St Augustine proved from sacred Scripture how mistaken Pelagius was.
St Augustine noted how God’s grace and free will act together: “St Paul said: ‘By the grace of God I am what I am.’ Then, in order to exhibit also his free will, the Apostle added: ‘His grace within me was not in vain, but I have laboured more abundantly than the others.’
Paul also appealed to the free will when he said: ‘We beseech you that you receive not the grace of God in vain.’ Lest you think that free will can accomplish any good thing without the grace of God, after saying, ‘His grace within me was not in vain, but I have laboured more abundantly,’ Paul added the qualifying clause, ‘Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.’ In other words: ‘Not I alone, but the grace of God with me.’ And thus, neither was it the grace of God alone, nor was it he himself alone, but it was God’s grace with him.”