Grace, defined as unmerited favor by some; a gift of something we did not earn or deserve others will say. A little surfing the net, here are a few of the definitions I found:
- Beauty of Form
- Good Will
- Favor rendered by one who need not do so; indulgence
- To give beauty, excellence or charm to
- Divine love, protection; freely given
- Excellence or power granted by God
- Effortless movement
- A condition of protection or sanctification by the favor of God
- Reprieve, pardon
It has been twenty days since I felt challenged in my spirit to study this word grace. Many people of faith observe Lent each year. Lent is a forty day period leading up to Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the tomb. According to About.com Christianity, it is a time of “fasting, repentance, moderation, and spiritual discipline” that is observed by some but not all Christians. I was not very familiar with Lent though I had heard numerous friends over the years talk about giving something up for Lent or fasting. Being curious, as it approached and I was around their conversations, I studied the concept. As I said earlier, I felt a still small challenge to focus each day on Grace. As it happened, when I looked at the calendar it was Ash Wednesday, which is the traditional starting day. I counted the days and determined it would be forty-five days and then Easter. So here we are on Day 20. So far it has been an interesting journey for me and hopefully for those who have been walking it with me via this blog.
Today’s grace verse comes from Acts 11: 23. On day 18 and 19 we looked at Stephen. After his trial and sentence, he was killed and persecution broke out among the followers of Christ’s teachings. Despite persecution, the church grew in strength and number. There also arose some confusion about the differences between the Jewish believers and the Gentile believers that were coming into their fellowship. Peter had a vision in chapter 10. Actually, he had it three different times. Peter was perplexed and just after the last vision, some men came looking for him. They had been sent to Peter by a man named Cornelius so that they could request that he come to Cornelius’ home. Cornelius was a God-fearing centurion and a gentile (those who were not of the Jewish nation). Peter accepted his invitation and went to him; there Peter told Cornelius and all his household and people about Jesus. The Holy Spirit moved in power and they all believed and received the Holy Spirit. Next they were all baptized and this was the beginning of the gospel going out to the gentile nations. Their cultural difference is what began the confusion previously mentioned. Questions over whether or not they were free to just follow Jesus or would have to conform to the Jewish traditions as well were the topic. Peter returns to Jerusalem and hears about the questions and concerns. Peter tells them all about his visions and all that had happened while he was with Cornelius. He told them how the Holy Spirit had moved in power and how they had received the Holy Spirit and then requested to be baptized right away. Peter said to the Jewish believers, “Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” Acts 11:17-18 This ended the confusion and questions from within for now but the persecution from outside continued. The believers were now scattering because of the persecution of the church. Some scattered to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. Others went to Cyprus and Cyrene speaking to the gentiles (Greeks) preaching the gospel of Jesus.
Acts 11:21-23 (NAS) “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord.”
Because of the work of the Holy Spirit, the obedience of Jesus, and gracious hand of His Father; salvation, freedom, healing and deliverance was not just for the Jewish people but for all people. Secondly, due to the persecution many went out from Jerusalem into different areas spreading the word, remaining faithful to God and bringing many people to the realization of what was available by living a life for Christ. Once again we see the Grace of God abounding in His people lives even in the middle of trials and struggles. Stephen paid a high price but he graduated into God’s presence. Persecution came and caused chaos and havoc, yet if we look closely… We have seen examples of good will, Peter going to Cornelius. Possibly, that would even be considered indulgence; favor rendered by one who need not do so…but God. We see divine love and protection as people leave their home and are scattered. We also see excellence, power granted by God in the movement of the Holy Spirit. There is good will, mercy and reprieve handed to Cornelius’ household and to all the gentile people. We see God’s grace extended, His kingdom expanded and His glory revealed to all people and it is marvelous in our sight!
Grace and peace to you!