The indefinable energy of grace.
Grace is a redeeming love-energy ministering to the unlovely, and endowing the unlovely with its own loveliness.
Last Sunday, I closed out my sermon series examining the New Testament letters of the apostle Peter. I am so grateful for the opportunity to study the words of Scripture, but most especially St. Peter’s words. Namely, because Peter remains a character in the biblical narrative who is most prototypical of believers, regardless of era. The arc of faith which he experienced and exemplified is commensurate with my own experiential faith. Perhaps yours, too. Peter’s self-assured confidence was laid to waste by the horrific hours of the crucifixion, only to then be remade and, indeed, resurrected by none other than the resurrected Christ. Thus, whereas his contemporary, St. Paul, openly declares that his conversion was such that the “extraordinary patience” of the Godhead might be demonstrated through him (1 Tim. 1:12–16), it is Peter’s example of faith and unfaith that most often speaks to my own. You might even that it is Peter himself who veritably embodies the cry, “I do believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
All that to say, I’ve been thoroughly exhorted and enriched by my studies through Peter’s letters. I haven’t yet, however, finished sharing the treasures I was able to mine from the splendid commentaries to which I resorted often. Alexander Maclaren’s expositions, as well as Martin Luther’s comments, were especially helpful. However, I found John Henry Jowett’s straightforward exposition particularly insightful. His expository method was definitely more sermonic, but I found myself spiritually applauding many of the assertions Jowett made throughout. One such example of this comes in the final discourse, which examines 2 Peter 3:18, entitled, “Growing in Grace.” In this address, Jowett aims to show that Peter’s admonition to “grow in grace” is even more remarkable than it sounds on the surface. Namely, because grace is “indefinable.” He writes:
We have the capacity to receive the Divine energy, to receive it more and more; to so grow in the appropriation of it that we are at last “filled with the fulness of God.” For Grace is an energy; it is the Divine energy; it is the energy of the Divine affection rolling abundantly to the shores of human need. Oh, it is this, and much more than this! Its manifold wealth eludes the span of human speed, and refuses to be defined. Grace is indefinable . . .
Who can define an Alp? We may describe the varying aspects of a mountain, some of its ever-changing moods; we can add feature to feature, characteristic to characteristic, but we can never say that we have exhausted the significance of its wealthy face. And so it is with grace. We may have glimpses of its features and varying moods. Even when we cannot construe its ultimate secret, we may describe when we cannot define. Now that is just what the New Testament permits us to do. It gives us a glimpse there, and we can put bit to bit, feature to feature, until we are overwhelmed with the glory of the revelation of God’s redeeming grace!
Grace is energy. Grace is love-energy. Grace is a redeeming love-energy. Grace is a redeeming love-energy ministering to the unlovely, and endowing the unlovely with its own loveliness. Wherever I see grace at work in the Christian Scriptures it is ever a minister of purity, and joy, and song and peace. Cast your eyes over these! “Where sin abounded, grace did much more about.” Like as you have seen the shore littered with filth and refuse, and the infinite deep has rolled in, and gathered up the uncleanness into its own purifying flood! “We have good hope through grace.” Like as the light in the lighthouse burns clear and steadly through the night, because of the unfailing and carefully administered supplies of oil, so the light of a cheery optimism burns strong and calmly in the night of life, because of the unfailing supplies of grace! “Singing with grace in your hearts unto the Lord.” Didn’t I say that grace is the mother of song? Grace makes a light and nimble atmosphere; the soul becomes buoyant, and breaks into music as instinctively as the bird sings in the soft airs of the dawn. All this is the work of the love-energy of the Eternal God, and the evangel is this, that to you and me is given the capacity to receive it, to grow in it, to appropriate it more and more, to more and more become its home. “He giveth grace for grace,” until every tissue and function in body, mind, and soul are saturated and sanctified in its redeeming ministry.
This “love-energy,” as Jowett terms it, is not as nebulous as you might, at first, believe. It is tantamount to the ministration of the Son of God on this earth, effecting and sealing our redemption through the gracious outpouring of his divine blood, profusely atoning for our sins and thereby covering us in his righteousness. What a wonder, therefore, that not only have we been called from the pits of darkness to rejoice in the energizing light of God’s grace, but that also we’ve been summoned to probe the “length and width, height and depth” of this “redeeming love-energy” of God in Christ Jesus (Eph. 3:17–19). This faithful expedition will never terminate. We’ll never exhaust the riches of this cavernous gospel.
Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.
John Henry Jowett, The Epistles of St. Peter (New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1906), 336–39.