The Characteristics of Biblical Grace
by Dr. Terry Anglea
Terry Anglea is the pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Bourbonnais, Illinois.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (I Corinthians 15:10)
First Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” I want to speak on ‘Characteristics of Biblical Grace’.
In my opinion, and it is my opinion only, the most beautiful word in the Christian vocabulary is the word grace. I love our hymns that celebrate the theme of grace. I love the song that many call the Baptist National Anthem called ‘Amazing Grace.’ I love ‘Grace greater than all of our sin’ and ‘New grace.’ I love all the songs that we sing about the subject of God’s grace.
I think about this acrostic of GRACE that we are all familiar with: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. I think about grace, the free and unmerited favor of God. I think about grace, the divine influence of God upon the human heart.
When you study the Bible, we often use the law of first mention. When you look at the law of first mention with the word grace, you find in Genesis chapter 6 and verse number 8, where the Bible tells us that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. That encourages me because, as we descend into perilous times much like the days of Noah, it encourages me to know that grace is still available and still powerful for you and me today. That’s the law of first mention.
When you study the Bible, you also look at the law of repetition, which will bring you to I Corinthians 15 verse 10, you see where the word grace is used three times in one verse. Friend, when God repeats Himself in the Bible, it’s not because He ran out of something to say. When He repeats Himself in the Bible it’s for the sake of emphasis. He’s emphasizing a particular doctrine, a particular theme. Here in this verse, we can learn a lot about the subject of Biblical grace. When I read this verse, it says to me that grace characterized Paul’s life. It characterized his walk. God’s grace had tremendous power and tremendous effect on the Apostle Paul. He had been saved for approximately 30 years when he wrote these words.
But here’s what’s interesting about it. Paul didn’t talk about grace in the past tense only. He talked about grace in the present tense. Sometimes I wonder if we are not just looking at God’s grace in our lives as something that took place in the past. I’ll talk about that in just a moment.
Obviously if we’re saved, we got saved by grace. We understand that. But the truth of the matter is that the power of grace and the effectiveness of grace and the influence of grace ought to be current in our lives today.
Unfortunately, grace is the doctrine, the teaching, that is being used and abused by so many in Christian circles today. Sad to say, even in some Baptist circles, this word grace is used to define a walk that is contrary to what Paul experienced under the grace of God, and I’m burdened about that.
The greatest abuse, and this is just my opinion, the greatest abuse of any Christian doctrine in this day and age is what is happening all over this country in the name of grace. What this crowd is promoting has nothing to do with Biblical grace.
Grace has power. Paul said in Galatians 2:21, “I do not frustrate the grace of God...” I don’t neutralize it. I don’t cut it short. I don’t want to short-circuit the power of God’s grace. I think all of us can relate to what he is saying here.
No doubt at some point in life, if you’ve been driving a car for any length of time, you spent the day doing what you do and you came home at evening and pulled into the garage, and everything is fine. You turn the car off, pull the key out, and went in the house. Then you got up in the morning and got ready to go to work, went out and stuck the key in the ignition and turned the key. but all you got was a tik, tik, tik.
The first thing you did was reach under the dashboard and pull the little lever to pop the hood. You raised the hood and looked at the battery. You looked at the positive and negative terminal and there was this whiteish, purplish, greenish, pinkish gunk growing on those terminals. You realized what was wrong. In the old days, you’d go in the house and grab an old toothbrush and a bottle of Coca-Cola. Now they make fancy tools you can use. But you get the brush or whatever and clean up those posts. You take the cables off and take your wire brush and you clean those posts up really good. You clean up the clamp really good, and then you put the clamp back on the posts. You tighten it up as tight as it will go, get back in your car and turn the ignition. Vroom.
There was nothing wrong with that battery. There was enough power in that battery to start that car. But that power was neutralized. That power was short-circuited by the gunk that was growing up all around those posts on your battery.
I’m convince that’s what is happening today. In so many Christian circles, we’ve got a lot of gunk in existence being preached as the grace of God, that has nothing to do with the grace of God as far as the Bible is concerned.
Paul said God’s grace had an effect on his life. Currently, there was something going on in his life that was the result of God’s grace at work. It wasn’t just something that happened 30 years ago. It was happening presently, when he penned these words. This is what Paul said about the power of God’s grace.
Paul said, “God’s Grace Did Something For Me”
First of all, Paul said, “God’s grace did something for me.” In verse 10, he said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am...” What was Paul? He was the Apostle born out of due time. In verse number 8, He used to be a persecutor of Christians. He went from persecutor to preacher. He went from murderer to missionary.
You know what it sounds like to me? It sounds like there is a great change that took place in the life of Saul of Tarsus. Can I say tonight, brethren? It was grace that facilitated that change for Saul of Tarsus. Paul could not save himself. God’s grace worked that miracle in him. It did something for him that was life-changing, and I know that I am not preaching to novices tonight, I’m preaching to the choir, but please stay with me.
Under the canopy of the great doctrine of salvation, we begin with justification. The Bible talks about that in Romans 5:1 and Romans 3:24. Justified freely by His grace. That moment in time when each one of us, trusted the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as sufficient payment for our sin debt. We did that by faith, and at that moment in time, God’s grace justified us. Justification in the sight of God, we are now ‘just as if I’d never sinned.’ That is an amazing thing. That happens the moment you and I trust the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. Grace facilitated that change in my life and yours. Grace facilitated that change in the Apostle Paul’s life when he was Saul of Tarsus. Grace justified Paul.
Then at this end of the spectrum, we know about the doctrine of glorification. We know that one of these days, we’re going to see Jesus. He’s going to come in the air. Either by way of the grave or by way of the rapture, we will see Jesus, and at that point in time, I Corinthians 15:51 tells us, “Behold I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep,but we shall all be changed,” That change, folks, is facilitated by grace as much as the change that took place in justification was facilitated by grace. You know, that’s going to be a wonderful day when we see Jesus, and we’re going to be given a glorified body. “This robe of flesh I’ll drop and rise to seize the everlasting prize.” Amen!
But seriously, won’t that be a wonderful day? Not so much as a headache ever again. Won’t it be a blessing to be in a place with no more cancer? No more Alzheimer’s. I’ll be so glad to be in a place where there is no sickness or suffering or death. Living in a glorified body, where there is no chance of it. Not just the disease we will be rid of, but what about our sin nature? It’ll be gone, friend. We will be glorified!
We shall all be changed. Grace facilitates that change. I can’t work that change up. I can’t work up getting a glorified body, any more than I can work up justification. That was the result of the power of God’s grace. He justified us. One of these days, the power of God’s grace is going to glorify us, as well. We look forward to that day.
But you know that, between justification and glorification, there is this great doctrine of sanctification. The Bible says in II Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” So, I was changed at this point, I passed from death unto life, when I was justified by the power of God’s grace. On this end of the timeline, when I see Jesus, I’m going to be glorified and get a glorified body by the power of God’s grace.
In between my justification and my glorification, if the grace of God is doing what it’s supposed to do in my life, it should be changing me through sanctification. I should be becoming less and less what I was when I got saved and more and more like what I am going to be when I get glorified. That means I’m supposed to be becoming less and less like the world that I was saved out of, and more and more like Jesus who I will be like someday. The Bible tells us that change is facilitated by grace, also. Grace facilitated justification. Grace is going to facilitate glorification. Grace presently facilitates sanctification.
Turn over in your Bible to Titus chapter 2, where Paul wrote about this to his preacher boy, Titus. Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” You can write beside verse 11, justification – that’s talking about the grace that brings salvation. I like that the verse says ‘to all men’. We believe in a “Whosoever Will” gospel. I only need one verse; I think I can defend my position with more than one verse, but I only need one. Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” That verse begins with word ‘all.’ Do you fit into that all? That verse ends with ‘all.’ If you fit in the first all, then you fit in the last all. That’s for everybody. This whole business of choosing some for Heaven some for Hell, that heretical doctrine is out of Hell.
So, verse 11 is talking about justification. Then you drop down to verse number 13, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;” That is glorification. That’s when we see Jesus, and that’s a good verse for the Jehovah Witnesses and folks who deny that Jesus is God. So that’s glorification.
But wait a minute! Between verses 11 and 13 is verse number 12. (They taught Brother Grimaldi and I that at Bible college.) Verse number 12, look what Paul wrote here, “Teaching us...” What is he talking about teaching us? He was talking in verse 11 about the grace of God; that’s what is teaching us. So, look at verse 12, “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” That’s sanctification. That’s what God’s grace is accomplishing in us between justification and glorification.
Verse 11 is the power of God’s grace at justification. Verse 13 is the power of God’s grace at glorification. And verse number 12 is the power of God’s grace for sanctification, and what does it say that facilitates sanctification? God’s grace is what facilitates sanctification. Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness. Grace teaches us to deny worldly lusts. Grace teaches us to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. Folks, we don’t have a Bible that expired in the year 2000. We don’t have a Bible that expired in 2012 or 2020. We have a present-day Bible that is forever settled in Heaven. It never changes.
Grace facilitates godliness ‘in this present world.’ Present means now. Present was now in Titus’ day. Present was now in the reformation and the dark ages. Present was now in the founding of America. Present still means now in 2021.
Grace still facilitates godliness. Grace still facilitates holiness. Grace still teaches godliness. Grace still teaches holiness. Grace always confronted the culture, never capitulated to it. I’m concerned about some of what we’re hearing out there. Grace has never influenced the culture by God’s people becoming like the worldly crowd around us. Grace has always influenced the culture by God’s people becoming more Christ-like, not less. It’s unbelievable what is going on in the name of grace. I’m talking about body and spirit, internal and external.
Psalm 24:3-4 says, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.” Clean hands, that is external. Pure heart, that is internal.
I am weary of hearing, “We are under grace now. Brother, don’t you know this is the day of grace?” Well, can you tell me when there was a day of ungrace? It’s always been grace, brethren. It always has been. It always will be. I do not understand it. I’m weary of that talk that is used to justify worldliness. We are under grace. Brother check it out, the difference between being under the demands of the law compared to the demands of grace. Jesus Christ raised the bar. He didn’t lower it.
It’s in my town and your town. We drive through town and see church after church where the doctrine of biblical grace is being abused. It’s being abused and twisted and not being preached properly from the pulpit. It’s not be exhibited properly in the lives of God’s people.
I was planning to visit a missionary some years ago in one of the eastern European countries that had been formerly under communism. I inquired about bringing our teenagers over. We had been supporting him since deputation. He emailed me back and said, “We’d love to have you come, but you need to understand a few things before you come, especially before bringing your young people here. Our music has changed. We have drums on the platform. Our dress has changed. We’ve changed quite of few things since we were with you.” But they were still receiving our support money and hadn’t told us they had changed.
He said, “I’m going to send you our manifest.” I got the manifest and started reading it. I thought, ‘Goodness, gracious. This is unbelievable.”
It wasn’t too much longer a missionary from Haiti, same story. I thought, ‘This is not coincidence. Where is this coming from? What’s happening here? There’s an influence somewhere, that these young men are getting books and going on the internet and getting this kind of stuff, and their whole direction and philosophy of their ministry is changing.’ I found out pretty much where it came from. I’m not going to pick a fight with anybody tonight, but I found out where that mess was coming from.
I’m going to tell you, brethren, grace has never facilitated worldliness. Grace has always facilitated holiness. The word ‘holy’ and the word ‘sanctified’ come from the same word – meaning ‘set apart.’ Why are we bothered by them? We’re not supposed to be like the world. We’re not supposed to act like them, talk like them, listen to their music, smell like them, dress like them, and go to the world’s entertainment like them. We’re not supposed to be worldly.
“You’re under law.” No, I’m not under law. I’m under grace, God’s grace. Hopefully staying true to what God instructs us in this Book and under the power of His grace. Grace does not make us less consecrated and holy and separated. It makes us more consecrated. That’s what grace does.
Here’s a fair question for us tonight. When was the last time grace changed us? You can say, “Brother Anglea, I can tell you my testimony.” I’m not talking about your salvation testimony. How about a sanctification testimony? How about something that God’s grace has worked into my life and your life that’s current, that’s present, that’s taking place right now, making us more like Christ?
Because if we don’t short circuit, if we don’t neutralize, if we don’t cut short and frustrate the power of God’s grace, then the power of God’s grace will continue to change us, no matter who we are. For many, it’s three steps forward and two steps backward. Second Corinthians chapter 3 talks about the power of God’s grace changing us little by little by little. When was the last time God’s grace changed you?
For instance: I can, at times, be cutting with my tongue, and I’m not proud of that. My wife and I will celebrate 42 years this June. We’ve never thrown the word divorce at each other. But you know, gentlemen, sometimes it’s not what we say, but how we say it. I have sometimes had a problem with that. My wife and I got into a bit of a tiff one morning. This is years ago, and we were leaving for a family vacation. We had a little conflict, and I think we were traveling in a conversion van in those days. She made some excuse and sat in the back of the van the whole way from Illinois to Tennessee.
That night it was time to go to sleep. She said, “Terry, are you listening?” Yes. “Are you asleep?” No. She said, “Can I just talk to you for a second?” She began to share her heart with me. She said, “I know that you’re a man and I don’t expect you to be anything less. But boy, sometimes when you talk to me like you did this morning, it just slices me up in little pieces.” But that’s not what got me. What got me was this spirit of God inside saying, “If this doesn’t change, your marriage will never be what I want it to be.” That got me! I went home and got on my knees. This was long before this message ever existed. I got on my knees and asked the Lord to change me.
How many times have we heard the excuse, “Well, that’s just how I am, that’s just how my family was?” That does not make it right. I’m not going to stand here and lie to you and say that I am 100% changed. But I think I can be honest with you and say I am 75% to 80% better. I am 100% more aware and trying not to let that fault hurt my wife and our relationship. How did you change like that? I didn’t. That’s the power of God’s grace at work in our lives.
See it’s not just the external, it’s the internal as well, where God is changing us. So, Paul said God’s grace did something for him. It changed him. “I am what I am by the grace of God.”
Paul said, “God’s Grace Did Something To Me”
Then he said number two, grace did something to me. Look at the middle of the verse 10, “...and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” What made you labor Paul? Oh, I know you had to fill out that report Monday morning. How many doors did you knock? How many tracts did you pass out? How many gospel presentations? That’s what motivated you, right? Because you knew you had to check off a little apostle check list every week?
No, that’s not what motivated Paul. What motivated Paul to serve, to labor, to work was God’s grace. Grace does not make us less consecrated. It makes us more consecrated. Grace does not make us less committed. Grace makes us more committed to the cause of Christ.
I don’t know, brethren, if you are having the same hair pulling experience that I am having? But there just seems to be such a lack of commitment among God’s people. There is just no accountability or responsibility. “I’ll be here this Sunday, and then I’ll be gone, but I’ll be back in a few weeks.” How will you teach a Sunday school class like that? Folks, I’m not against family vacations. But we are in a day and age when people think, ‘Because we’re under grace, I don’t have to do anything.’ Human nature loves that kind of Christianity, but that’s not a result of biblical grace.
Paul said grace made him labor, and labor more abundantly. “How unfortunate to associate the word grace with labor and work. I thought grace freed us from all the expectations.” It didn’t do that in the life of the Apostle Paul. He labored more abundantly.
I’m just trying to get through to churches and Christians, our best people. God gives us a picture of how the church works by the example of the physical body; the church is like the physical body. God and His grace put all the members you can see here, and some that you cannot see, that makes up the body of Terry Anglea. By the way, some of the members that you cannot see are more vital members. I can live without my hand, but I can’t live without my heart. By God’s grace, He put all these members in place, and each one has its own particular purpose and job to do. Some work visibly, in a way that can be seen by others. Some work invisibly, not seen by others, but the result of it is seen, as the body lives and moves.
I have never known my father-in-law with his right arm. He was a farmer in Iowa. He lost his arm in a corn sheller accident way back in 1968, the day after Christmas. He had a prosthetic arm with a hook. He had a farm of 100 acres and he sold feed. He worked hard. I’ve never seen a man work harder than my father-in-law. I saw him do everything on the farm that all farmers do, with a hook instead of a hand. He could do almost everything. Until it came to buttoning the top button on his dress shirt. His wife had to do that for him. He worked hard to overcome that disability, but there were some things he could not accomplish because of a member that was missing.
Don’t misinterpret what I’m about to say, listen to me fully here. I’m not saying that our churches cannot be effective, but I doubt that there is a single church represented in this conference tonight that is living up to its full potential. The reason is because we have members who are not serving and not faithful. “Well Brother Anglea, let’s put together a manual and an expectation list.” I’m not against that, but brother, if it requires an expectation sheet to get our folks to be committed to serving the One who died for them, we’ve got a problem. Paul said it was God’s grace that moved him to serve.
I don’t know who’s a member of this church, but if you are, then get plugged in somewhere. There are folks in my church who have been there for 52 years and they are still plugged-in and serving, brother. We need them. But it’s not them that lets their church down. It’s this younger generation that’s got a prosperous job, money, a nice vehicle and they can travel and camp and do this and that with no sense of commitment to the church and the Lord. ‘You can’t expect that of me, I’m under grace!’ That is an abuse of biblical grace. Paul said God’s grace made him labor and made him serve.
Paul said, “God’s Grace Did Something Through Me”
Paul said God’s grace did something for me, God’s grace did something to me. Then last of all, he adds this statement, “...yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” So, he said God’s grace did something for me, to me, and through me. What had he just said, brethren? He just said, “I labored more abundantly than they all.” Was he lying? No. You want to stack up against Paul? How many missionary journeys? How many churches started? How many books in this Bible came from his pen? Souls won from Caesar’s palace to Caesar’s prison? He labored more abundantly than they all, so he was quick to add this thought, “Wait a minute, it was not me, it was God’s grace working through me.”
It was that taking a step back, Preacher, and making sure that the One who did the work got the honor for it. What a wonderful thing! Before we get too caught up in the results of our preaching, our witnessing, our teaching, our leadership, our labor, our whatever, we need to remember that our Lord said, “...without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Do you know what we do, ladies and gentlemen? We present ourselves as the conduit for God’s grace and power to work through. You gentlemen and young ladies, I assume are college students, might be saying to yourselves, “I don’t know if I can.” Let me answer that for you. You can’t.
But we know Somebody Who can. He can do it through you. You just present yourself to Him and let Him do the work through you that He wants to do. For some it may be in some rural town somewhere with 200 or 300 people in the town, and 50 or 60 people in church. God never judges a church by its size. He judges a work by its sort, the sort of work it is. You may be called to be pastor in a large metropolitan area with a huge church. But that doesn’t matter. You give yourself to God and let Him do it through you. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)
I was down in Argentina some years ago preaching at a conference with 500 folks there and a lot of BIMI missionaries there, and a missionary told a story about a man he knew that was from the state of Ohio. I don’t remember exactly what town. But he was successful businessman, upper class, with a brick ranch style home. He was doing well financially and his wife was an interior decorator.
It was Missions Conference, and God just kept squeezing his heart. The last night he went to the altar and said, “Lord, if you want me, I’ll go.” He felt somebody kneel beside him, looked over, and it was his dear wife. She said, “Whatever God is doing, I’m with you.” They talked to the pastor and made it public the following Sunday that they surrendered to the mission field. They made their plans to go and had a yard sale. They started deputation.
She was an interior decorator and had this beautiful purple curtain that she had made specifically to hang over their bay window in their living room area. She said, “Honey, could I take this purple curtain with us? It kind of speaks of home.” He said sure, so they boxed it up and moved to a huge city in Venezuela, but very third world. They lived in a safe place, but you can imagine, some of you who have been to the mission field, how different life was there for her. When she got there with her husband, she took the purple curtain out of the box and hung it up over a little window, and said, “It’s home.”
After some years there, God began to move that man’s heart for the unreached tribes in a mountain area. He told his wife one day, “We need to pack up and go to the mountains, because God wants us there.” They packed and put the purple curtain in a box. They moved to a village where animism was the main religion. The people there worshiped the spirits of their dead ancestors, and demonism.
There were straw huts with no windows because they believed devils came in through windows. The first thing he did was took a saw and made a window in the hut. He did fine, but she did not. That curtain stayed packed away. She was struggling. She had some midlife time of being down and discouraged.
One day a native lady was giving birth. This missionary wife went to assist in the birth and had this other little village woman along with her. When the baby was born it was horribly deformed, and its organs were on the outside of his little body. She knew by experience that the baby was not going to live. So, she cut the umbilical cord the best she could and placed the little baby on the mother’s stomach, not expecting that child to live long. When she turned away to wash her hands in some little makeshift sink, suddenly she heard the most horrible snarling and growling. She turned back toward the other village woman assisting her, and saw that she had taken that baby and thrown it to a pack of wild dogs, because they believed a child born like that was devil possessed. That missionary wife lost it. She screamed and ran out to their little hut, fell on her knees beside their bed and cried her eyes out saying, “God I can’t do this, I can’t do this! Please help me! I don’t want to mess up my husband’s ministry, please help me.”
After some time struggling in prayer and pouring her heart out to the Lord, she got off her knees and dried her eyes. She pulled out the box that held the purple curtain, put it up over their little window, and they stayed. Many people got saved after that day, not only in that village but in surrounding villages because they stayed.
You say, “Brother Terry, how can a refined woman from the upper middle class in the United States of America go to a mountain village where they throw little handicapped children to the dogs and worship spirits and demons? How can she go and stay and make a home there?” She can’t, but the grace of God living through her can.
That is what we need to understand tonight. It’s not us. It’s Him.
I will tell you what we need, folks. We have got to stop this abuse of the doctrine of God’s grace. It’s awful and it’s unscriptural. Biblical grace doesn’t make us less consecrated. It makes us more consecrated. It doesn’t make us less committed. It makes us more committed. Grace doesn’t make us less challenged and motivated to serve God. It makes us more challenged.
We need a baptism of God’s true grace. Not the kind they’re preaching in these nothing assemblies that call themselves churches, but the kind this brother had who God used to pen these words. “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
The power of God’s grace. We need to understand the true Character of Biblical Grace