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The indefinable beauty of grace.
G. Campbell Morgan on the trait of God that defies definition.
Seeing as it is the namesake for this little publication, you’ve probably gathered that I am enthused every time I get to talk about the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Tracing the ways in which his gracious heart spills out in redemptive revelation is, perhaps, one of my favorite pastimes. Defining grace, however, is a different topic. Most often, you will find grace defined as “God’s unmerited favor.” That is, the unilateral love and compassion and pardon of God which reaches out to the wretched and weary sinner and draws them close into his righteous embrace. Irrespective of the manifold sins in the sinner’s life, the grace of the Father is extended to them in the body and blood of Son. I sort of like how David Jeremiah condenses this expansive work when he asserts that “grace is a five-letter word that is often spelled J-E-S-U-S” (21). That, I think, gets more to the heart of grace than anything else, seeing as it is the very heart of God himself — and who else but Jesus evinces God’s heart for the likes of you and me?
Nevertheless, there’s a part of me that is okay with not having a concrete definition of grace, seeing as it is the infinite spring of love which comes from God’s infinite heart. Who are we to put linguistic limits on that which is infinite? Such, I think, is what G. Campbell Morgan gets at in this brief excerpt where he alludes to the indefinable beauty of God’s grace. He writes:
Grace defies definition as surely as love defies definition, and as certainly as God defies definition. Grace is love in itself and in all its abounding activities, and love is God in Himself and in all His wondrous attributes. Who, then, can define grace? In its application to human need our fathers defined grace perfectly when they declared that grace is free, unmerited favor. But grace existed before favor was needed. Grace was in the heart of God before it was necessary that it should be operative in the interests of men. There is no definition of grace save by the way of the activity of grace. I know what grace is when I observe what grace accomplishes. I understand the real meaning of the grace of God only when I am brought to an apprehension of what grace does. (7.131)
In the end, we don’t necessarily need to arrive at a pat definition of grace in order to worship the God who dispenses so abundantly, so willingly, so freely. The liberality of his heart is seen in the ways in which he deals with such feckless wrecks like you and me. That’s the grace that “defies definition,” that sustains our days, and brings us home. Amazing grace, indeed.
Grace to you, friends.
David Jeremiah, Captured by Grace: No One Is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God (Brentwood, TN: Integrity Publishers, 2006).
G. Campbell Morgan, The Westminster Pulpit: The Preaching of G. Campbell Morgan, Vols. 1–10 (Fincastle, VA: Scripture Truth Book Co., 1954).