- Allan Chapple
Grace as gift
This is an excerpt of Allan Chapple's book 'True Devotion. In Search of Authentic Spirituality' p 34-35
How does a ‘spirituality of grace’ reflect the gift-character of God’s grace? It does so first of all by where it focuses. Grace is all about the initiatives God takes to secure his great salvation for us and to impart it to us. As a result, a spirituality of grace-as-gift is focused on God the gracious giver. It is all about what he does for us and with us; it is not about initiatives we take towards him. We always remain the undeserving recipients of his overwhelming kindness – and authentic spirituality will therefore always centre on our recognition of this fact. Heartfelt praise will thus be a constant mark of true devotion: ‘I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips’. (Psalm 34:1)
This means, secondly, that a spirituality of grace-as-gift will always be marked by deep gratitude to God and deep humility before God.(1)
We will never see ourselves as elite spiritual athletes who take noble initiatives to and for God, or spiritual warriors who win great victories in God’s cause. We do not come to God full of our exploits and what we have achieved; instead, we come as debtors who have been immeasurably enriched by him. In humility, we recognize ourselves to be very low and poor indeed; in gratitude, we magnify what he has done for us, given to us, and made of us through his Son. True devotion will always identify with Mary’s words: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant’. (Luke 1:46-48)
Thirdly, a spirituality of grace-as-gift involves deep assurance about our standing before God. We can come to him and relate to him with great confidence. (2) This is not due to the merits of the way we approach him; it is due entirely to the fact that he has opened the way and brought us near: ‘we have confidence … by the blood of Jesus’. (Hebrews 10:19) This kind of firm, unshakeable assurance cannot be based on the work done by me – including my spirituality – for this is never perfect. Nor is it based on the work done in me by the Spirit, for this is never complete in this life. Rather, it is based on the work done for me by the Son – and because this is both perfect and complete, my assurance is rock-solid. We have already seen that the complete supremacy of Jesus’ person means the complete sufficiency of his work. Now we can add that this means the complete security of his people – we could not be more secure because his person and work cannot be surpassed. That is why the New Testament rings with such confidence about where we stand with God.(3)
This is one of the choicest fruits of God’s grace towards us.
1. See, for example, Psalms 9:1 -2; 145:1-21; 149:4; Isaiah 25:1-8; 66:2b; Jeremiah 9:23-24; Micah 6:8; Matthew
11:25-27; 18:1-4; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Ephesians 1:3-14; 5:19-20; Colossians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Hebrews 13:15; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6,
2. Ephesians 3:12. Hebrews 4:16, 10:19-20
3. See for example John 36:37-40, 10:28-29, Romans 8:28-29, 2 Timothy 4:18, Jude 24-25
Allan Chapple is senior lecture in New Testament at Trinity Theological College, Perth WA. He has pastored churches in Western Australia and England, and was founding Director of Perth Centre for Applied Christians Studies, then founding Principal of Trinity College. Some of his books published by the Latimer Trust can be found here.