God is Free and He Gives Grace Freely
We’ve read about past grace. We’ve come to terms and wrapped our minds around future grace. We understand now that all of the Christian life is founded on past grace and depends on future grace. In this chapter, Piper must put down another layer of foundation. This chapter is a doozy! He turns to understanding grace in general. What is it? How does it come to us from God?
Piper begins by differentiating between grace and mercy. He writes, “Grace is the goodness of God shown to people who don’t deserve it; mercy is the goodness of God shown to people who are in a miserable plight.” Then he takes us all the way back to the Garden of Eden, to Adam and Eve prior to the fall, in order to explain what he means. Even then, Adam and Eve were living on grace. “Not as a response to their demerit,” writes Piper, “but still without deserving God’s goodness. You can’t deserve to be created. You can’t deserve, as a non-being, to be put into a lavish garden where all your needs are met by a loving Father. So even before they sinned, Adam and Eve lived on grace.”
We know what happened. Instead of trusting God, Adam and Eve sinned.
This is where outside reading and memorization help me tremendously. The kids and I are working through A Baptist Catechism. This past week we studied question #21 which asks, “Into what condition did the fall bring mankind?” Answer: The fall brought mankind into a condition of sin and misery. Not only were Adam and Eve in need of God’s grace because of their demerit (sin), they were in need of His mercy because of their misery.
My sin brings me misery every single time. So that now, every time God extends mercy to me because of my misery it is also an extension of his grace because I do not deserve it. Both are gracious and, therefore, free….
But which one is the freest of God’s acts, showing grace or showing mercy? Piper says that “grace toward sinners is the freest of all God’s acts” because mercy is constrained by pity, but grace is totally free and unconstrained.
At this point, Piper explains what he means by “free grace.”
1. Conditional grace is free grace because working out the condition in order to receive grace is an act of grace. “Grace responding to grace is still grace.”
2. In Exodus 33:19, God declares who He is to Moses: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” Essentially, God says here that He will show grace and mercy to whomever He pleases. No sin can stop Him. God is completely independent. He is the freest of all beings.
3. Grace is one-sided. Paul writes in Ephesians 2 that, “even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—” We do not do anything to merit God’s grace. We are dead, and God making us alive is a totally free act of His grace.
4. God’s electing grace is free grace. Believers do not do anything to merit becoming believers. There are no conditions that must be met. God chooses and He chooses freely. He will show grace to whomever it pleases Him to show grace. (See #2).
5. God’s grace is inexhaustible. He loves to be gracious and He will be gracious to His people for all eternity. As gracious as God has been in the past, there is promise of more and more, never-ending grace for the future.
I can’t improve upon Piper’s words here,
There are two astonishing things here. One is that the purpose of our salvation is for God to lavish the riches of his grace on us. The other is that it will take him forever to do it. This is a mighty thought. God made us alive and secured us in Christ so that he could make us the beneficiaries of everlasting kindness from infinite riches of grace. This is not because we are worthy. Quite the contrary, it is to show the infinite measure of his worth. Grace would not be grace if it were a response to resources in us. Grace is grace because it highlights God’s own overflowing resources of kindness. Grace is eternal because it will take that long for God to expend inexhaustible store of goodness on us. Grace is free because God would not be the infinite, self-sufficient God he is if he were constrained by anything outside himself.
Isn’t that wonderful?!
I promise you’ll enjoy reading Mark’s response to this chapter.