A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
21st March 2004
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The doctrine of Grace is the teaching of generosity. For grace is the generous character of God, demonstrated especially in his unmerited favour we find in Jesus.
Nobody can ever deserve the pardon that we receive in Jesus’ death for us. We cannot merit mercy. Mercy by very definition is what we do not deserve. To be forgiven requires guilt. Guilt deserves punishment. But God in his grace – his generosity – is merciful.
Mercy without justice undermines justice. If all people are ‘forgiven’ of all crimes then crime ceases to be a category for there is no justice. But God’s generosity is more than forgiveness it is atonement. It is paying for the crime of others that they may be forgiven.
So God’s generosity – his grace – is expensive, not cheap. He paid the heaviest of prices for our forgiveness. In the death of his Son, God was reconciling the world to himself and reconciling himself to the world. For God was in Christ reconciling all things.
This generosity of God cannot be demanded or required. He can sovereignly bestow it upon whomever he wishes. Justice is fulfilled in that the penalty is not ignored but paid. But justice cannot be used to demand that mercy be fairly or evenly distributed. God can have mercy upon whomever he wills.
There is no point demanding that God be merciful. We the guilty are in no position to demand anything. We the recipients of mercy, of all people, should not be seeking justice. Mercy by its very nature is in the hands of the one who gives, and cannot be required, demanded or sought on the basis of equity; otherwise it would not be mercy.
Begging for mercy is appropriate. And the generous one who gave his son for our salvation can be trusted to hear our appeal for mercy.
Requesting mercy on the basis of his promise to give to all who ask will bring us pardon. But that is holding God to his word not demanding our rights as humans, or sinners.
So the grace of God is connected to his love, mercy, sovereignty, atonement, election for it is in the gospel that his grace appeared. And when it appeared it trained us to renounce the ways of this world and seek to live as God’s peculiar people – quite zealous to do good works, especially generosity.
It is not surprising therefore that Christians are to be generous people. Our God is generous, and he loves a cheerful giver. We are saved by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and we are to be merciful and kind. Jesus himself taught us that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
In the King James translation of the bible “love” - the favourite word of the world – is translated “charity”. Charity is despised in the world today as it was in the ancient world. Yet the heart of love is giving to people in need and not because of desert. In that sense the love of God is charity indeed.
So as recipients of the generosity of God, let us not grow weary in doing the good works that God has prepared for us to walk in. The generosity of the many gospel partners at the
Cathedral speaks volumes about their appreciation of the grace of God.
So many partners give their time in serving the needs of others and of us all. From the hours spent in voluntary office administration or cleaning, to the effort put into Sunday school teaching or singing, people give of their time and talents. The increase in financial contributions in this year as we strive to meet an expanded budget to pay for the new ministry initiatives – is part of that grace response to the generosity of God.
Let us hold fast to God’s grace as we seek to live our lives generously in his service.