Psalm 5:12 English Standard Version (ESV) For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.
When I was young in the Lord I sat in the front row of the church and hung on every word being said. I was enthusiastic to receive God’s Word.
One day a teacher was given the opportunity to take a turn preaching. He looked at me and asked, “What is the definition of grace?” From the depths of my heart I answered “God’s great love for me played out in my life.” He said, “No. Joe, what is the definition of grace.” Joe answered “Unmerited favor.” The teacher had a lesson plan and my answer didn’t fit his plan, so I was dismissed curtly.
Could that teacher have said something a little more gracious than NO? I was wounded in that moment. Was I that wrong?
Study Vines Expository Dictionary on grace and you will not find the words “unmerited favor”. What is found in part are these words “in another objective sense, the effect of “grace,” the spiritual state of those who have experienced its exercise”. It is as much an experience as it is an intention.
Along with those studies about “unmerited favor” are tendencies to focus on the issues of election, to be chosen. While those teaching have their place in context they should not be used to imply that God loves us more than He loves the lost. God’s love does not show favoritism.
John 3:16 English Standard Version (ESV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Whoever is inclusive of all mankind in the exercise of their free will. We are free to accept the gracious offer or to reject the offer. God’s love does not cause the lost to reject the offer.
2 Corinthians 12:2 English Standard Version (ESV) I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.
Various discussion over the years have drawn a conclusion that this man Paul refers to was Paul himself. Verse six says “though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me.”
Then why mention it at all?
Allow me to place my own opinion here. How would any of us react to similar experiences? Perhaps this is a teaching moment from Paul knowing that there will be others who experience the same thing and how he acted is how we should act.
Humility in the face of the danger of conceit is what Paul speaks to in verse seven. The following verses lead to one of Paul’s great conversations with our Lord.
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Needful things is the title but sufficient grace is the object of discussion. How God manifests His grace to us will be personal, designed to provide exactly what we need at the moment we need it the most.
I know a man in Christ who forty years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.
He did not know love, had never experienced love and needed to know that God is love. He saw nothing, heard nothing, but was bathed in God’s love. He had no words to compare that love. Words failed to match what Paul described as “the surpassing greatness of the revelation” in verse 7.
Relating to others what we experience in a personal way should always be presented in a believable manner, without hype or ego.