Grace. Often defined simply as “unmerited favor.” Another focus when defining grace could be something along the lines of “God made real to us through the Person of Jesus Christ not due to any merit on our part” (John 1:12; 14). In either case, or in whatever other definition of grace me might come up with based upon the Bible, we may be in the bad habit of not exploring the depth and mechanics of God’s grace.
On the one hand, having a simple definition of God’s grace is enough to grasp an understanding of what it means to have received and enter into the enjoyment of God’s grace. On the other hand, exploring the composition of grace in detail can bring a person into a greater awe of the Giver of grace and deepen the appreciation of what we have received through Jesus Christ.
The Puritan theologian John Owen spent a short chapter exploring the nature of purchased grace (the grace “purchased” for us by Christ’s redemptive work on the cross) in his book Communion with the Triune God. Owen opened up three aspects of purchased grace: (1) grace of acceptance with God, (2) grace of sanctification from God, and (3) grace of privileges with and before God (p. 289).
Owen’s study of grace is worth reading and contemplating. As with most of Owen’s work, the reader will miss out on some biblical gems if the writing is simply skimmed. So, we will start off with some of his thoughts on the grace of acceptance with God:
Of acceptation with God. Out of Christ, we are in a state of alienation from God [John 3:36; Ephesians 2:12-13], accepted neither in our persons nor our services. Sin makes a separation between God and us… The first issue of purchased grace is to restore us into a state of acceptation. And this in done [in] two ways: (1) by a removal of that for which we are refused – the cause of the enmity; (2) by a bestowing of that for which we are accepted.
Not only all causes of quarrel were to be taken away, that so we should not be under displeasure, but also that was to be given unto us that makes us the objects of god’s delight and pleasure, on the account of the want whereof we are distanced from God:
It give the removal of that for which we are refused. This is sin in the guilt, and all the attendancies thereof. The first issue of purchased grace tends to the taking away of sin in its guilt, that it shall not bind over the soul to the wages of it, which is death [Romans 6:23]… By his death, Christ – bearing the curse, undergoing the punishment that was due to us, paying the ransom that was due for us – delivers us from this condition. And thus far the death of Christ is the sole cause of our acceptation with God – that all cause of quarrel and rejection of us is thereby taken away. And to that end are his sufferings reckoned to us; for, being “made sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21), he is made “righteousness unto us” (1 Cor. 1:30).
But yet further; this will not complete our acceptation with God. The old quarrel may be laid aside, and yet no new friendship begun; we may not be sinners, and yet not be so far righteous as to have a right to the kingdom of heaven… [We] must not only have a negative righteousness …not guilty of anything; but also a positive righteousness…
This, then, is required, in the second place, to our complete acceptation, that we have not only the not imputation of sin, but also a reckoning of righteousness. Now, this we have in the obedience of the life of Christ… The obedience of the life of Christ was for us, is imputed to us, and is our righteousness before God – by his obedience are we “made righteous” (Rom. 5:19)…
These two things, then, complete our grace of acceptation. Sin being removed, and righteousness bestowed, we have peace with God – are continually accepted before him…Christ [has] dealt with that which was against us; and not only so, but also he puts upon us for which we are received into favor (pp. 289-290).