The word ‘grace’ as used in a Christian context may be defined as favour shown by God to people who don’t deserve any favour at all. It means that God loves, forgives and saves us, not because of who we are or what we do, but because of the work of Christ. It is initiated entirely by God and we are saved in spite of ourselves. Human works don’t come into it at all.(1)

During the days of the apostle Paul, Israel as a nation had generally rejected its Messiah, and a substantial number of Jews had embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ. God had not cast away His people entirely and those He foreknew had been elected, or chosen, by God’s grace to form a remnant people. This remnant was preserved solely because it was in the purposes of God and would
be used to His glory, just as another remnant had been used in the time of Elijah.(2)

Today, there is another type of remnant, made up of those serving God faithfully from among both Jews and Gentiles. The qualification to be part of this remnant is by means of the new birth,(3) by adherence to the Apostles’ teachings, and to the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ.(4) It is not by race but by grace that we are called and saved.

By the sovereign grace of God, every believer has been chosen in Christ and provided with a wealth of spiritual blessings.(5) These include the gift of the Holy Spirit,(6) and also spiritual gifts.(7) However, we probably know from our own experience that not every believer is constantly filled with the joy of the Lord or rejoices in God’s grace at all times.

Timothy was a young man who had come to know the Lord Jesus as his saviour, had received the Holy Spirit and was devoted to serving the Lord.(8) However, it seems that Timothy reached a certain point in his life where he was in need of much encouragement. Paul writes to him to remind him of the gift that God had given to him, of God’s power and tells him not to be ashamed of the gospel. Given that Paul often mentions the concepts of bravery and courage to Timothy, this might have been a spiritual weakness that Paul was helping him to address.

Paul reminds Timothy that he has been saved and called to live a holy life, not because of any merit of his own, but solely because it was in God’s purpose and because of God’s grace. This grace was given to Timothy in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time. This is an amazing concept that applies not only to Timothy but to every believer.

At salvation every believer receives God’s grace that not only forgives, but is also able to equip and embolden, so enabling him or her to live a holy life, holding fast to sound teaching.(9) Sometimes, like Timothy, we need to be encouraged to stir up the gift of God which is in us. This has the idea of stirring up embers to make a fire burn more brightly. It is not achieved through mere human effort, but by diligent cooperation with the Holy Spirit who fills and enables us to become certain of our calling and gracious choosing.(10) Through grace, God will provide the resources a person needs for every situation.(11)

By exercising godly discipline, we produce the fruit of God’s nature in our lives.(12) God gives us His power when we are weak, His love to deal with those who seem unlovable and His discipline for the times we lack self-control.

We keep the gift ablaze by not letting our spiritual selves grow cold or, worse, lukewarm. We fan the flames of faith by continuing to keep in step with the Spirit, following the Holy Spirit’s direction. We stir up the gift by not quenching or neglecting the Spirit of God, but by allowing Him to thrive in us like a living fire.(13)

We may have periods in life when we feel despondent or discouraged. At such times it is good to reflect on the grace of God which enabled Paul to write, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me and my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.(14)

References: (1) Eph. 2:8-9 (2) Rom. 11:1-6 (3) John 3 (4) Acts 2:41-42 (5) Eph. 1:3-7 (6) Acts 2:38 (7) 1 Cor. 12:8-10 (8) Acts 16:1-5 (9) 2 Tim. 1:6-14 (10) 2 Pet. 1:5-8 (11) Acts 1:8 (12) Gal. 5:22-25 (13) 1 Tim. 4:14 (14) Phil. 4:13,19

Phil Allen, Cardiff, Wales

Bible quotations from NKJV