Grace Now and Not Yet

As heirs of the Reformation, we rightly champion salvation by grace alone. If God was not gracious to us we would have no hope. The simplest definition of grace is: favor extended where wrath is deserved. Others have made the definition in the form of an acronym:

God’s

Riches

At

Christ’s

Expense

Grace is a present position of every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Rom. 5:2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

As we turn to 1 Peter chapter one, we notice that grace is both something that we presently possess but also something that is fully brought to us in the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter articulates it this way precisely because it is both the first and the second coming of Christ that brings grace to us. Grace is accomplished in Christ alone.

Notice these juxtaposed in 1 Peter:

1Pet. 1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,

1Pet. 1:13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Old Testament prophets, being given the Holy Spirit, prophesied concerning Christ and the grace that would come to the church. The prophets were so enamored by this that they longed to know the person and time of the Messiah. Similar to Simeon waiting in the temple, the prophets waited anxiously wishing they could see the person and time of the Messiah. Imagine the anticipation.

However, this does not mean that the Old Testament saints did not experience God’s grace. They too were saved by grace alone. Yet, they longed to see the fulfillment of the person who is the grounds of that grace. They experienced grace in anticipation but we experience grace in recognition. We see the fulfillment of the promises in Jesus of Nazareth. We look back upon what they looked forward to. Same faith, looking to the same Savior, but directed in a different temporal direction.

At the same time we look back, we too like the saints of old, look forward. This is where Peter directs us just a few verses later:

1Pet. 1:13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Like the Old Testament saints, we too are looking forward to the revelation of Jesus. Not for the accomplishment of salvation but for the completion of it. The price of my salvation was fully and wholly won in Jesus’s sacrificial death on the cross. But at the return of Christ the fullness of my salvation will be present. Jesus will be here and I will be with him.

Jesus’ second coming will be a revelation. He will appear. We shall see him as he is for we too shall be made like him (1 John 3:2). He will reveal His person in the full majesty of His glory. He shall descend in the same way that He ascended—visibly and upon clouds of glory and majesty.

This is a certain hope. It is a living hope (1 Peter 1:3) because Christ lives and because he lives, he is returning.

So now what?

First, we need to ask ourselves: have I come to experience the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do I know this new birth and comes from knowing Jesus Christ alone where I experience the forgiveness of sins and enjoy peace with God?

Pause for a second. How many of us just read over the question without even asking it? Pause again. Do I know Jesus? Have I placed trust in him?

In generations gone by the church as known there are few things more dangerous than the unconverted “Christian”—the person who warms the pew but has not had his heart warmed by grace. The person who has “walked the aisle,” “prayed the prayer,” or experienced baptism but does not have a true heartfelt life-changing faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Have I experience grace? Is it the present possession of my heart? Does Jesus Christ reside within?

It is the person who dismisses such questions that should worry us. A dismissive “I’m fine; I know the answer” may not be taking the time to actually examine their heart and be concerned with spiritual realities. Paul reminds us all:

2Cor. 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Second, where is your hope? Are you looking ahead? The Christian runs a serious race. We do serious battle on the road of sanctification. We put on arm, we steal our minds and hearts for war—war against our own flesh (1 Peter 2:11-12) and war against the evil one who seeks of devour us (1 Peter 5:8). It demands of us a soberness of mind. When we were called to salvation we were drafted into a spiritual war. Christ has one the victory and we are his possession. Yet we are holding on and holding out.

The grace that is already yours will be yours even more when we see him who has accomplished our grace brought near at his revelation. What a day that will be. Maranatha.

Tim Bertolet is a graduate of Lancaster Bible College and Westminster Theological Seminary.  He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He is an ordained pastor in the Bible Fellowship Church. He is a husband and father of four daughters. You can follow him on Twitter @tim_bertolet.