In the opening of the Gospel of John, we have a beautiful description of God incarnate, coming to “pitch his tent” among humanity. In the midst of that description is this beautiful, poetic line:
“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” – John 1:16, ESV
As though grace was not enough, we, the followers of the Christ, have received grace upon grace, abundant grace, grace flowing out of grace, overwhelming grace. It is a gift of immeasurable worth, one Jesus described as a treasure hidden in a field that a man sold everything he had in order to secure. (Matthew 13:44)
We frequently refer to the “gift of God’s grace,” (Ephesians 2:8) but rarely look at how closely those two words and concepts are related. Paul told the church at Ephesus:
“Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.” – Ephesians 3:7, ESV
We are pressing through Thanksgiving, and into the full-on Christmas season very soon. There will be much gift-giving. As English speakers, we do not see any natural correlation between gifts and grace. It does not occur to me to think of the gift-giving Christmas event in terms of grace, but to the Greek mind, that relationship is embedded in the very language used to describe the two concepts.
To the Greek, charis (kah – rees) is grace, and the gift is charisma. The link between the gift and the grace is unmistakable!
The apostle Peter teaches us that every believer has received a gift that is to be used in serving as stewards of God’s grace.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” – 1 Peter 4:10
The greatest gift we have is the gift of grace, the charisma of charis that was poured into our lives through the calling of God’s spirit to the gospel of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. This same gift of grace was proclaimed boldly by Peter on the day of Pentecost, and the days following, when men and women by the thousands were coming to saving faith in Jesus, and we are told that “great grace was upon them all.” Acts 4:33 The gift, grace, and message combine in a powerful way to change men and women, pulling us from death to life.
Ultimately, grace is all we need, yet we have received grace upon grace. The apostle Paul pleaded with God repeatedly to remove a specific affliction that he referred to only as a thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7). This thorn made him “weak” and prevented him from falling victim to conceit. When he pleaded with God to remove this affliction, God explained to him that its removal was not necessary.
“But [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'” 2 Corinthians 12:9a, ESV
You don’t need the thorn removed Paul. All you need is my grace, the gift of the grace. Read it from the paraphrase, “The Message.”
“and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9, MSG
If you stand in the grace of God, everything else is serendipitous. It is grace upon grace, because the gift of God’s grace is truly all we need. Perhaps not all that we want, but certainly all we need.
Victoriously in Christ!