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July / August 2017 (Vol. 62, No.6)

The Grace of God in Christ

  This congregation has a truly lovely name: "Grace Lutheran Church". A dictionary definition of "grace" states that this word means: 1.) seemingly effortless beauty or charm of movement, form, or proportion; 2.) a characteristic or quality pleasing for its charm or refinement; 3.) skill at avoiding the inept or clumsy course of action; a sense of fitness or propriety; 4.) a disposition to be generous or helpful; good will; mercy, clemency; 5.) a favor rendered by one who need not do so; an indulgence; 6.) temporary immunity from penalties; 7.) an unmerited gift from God; 8.) a short prayer of blessing before or after a meal; 9.) used as a title for a duke, duchess, or archbishop; and 10.) a musical embellishment.

  In the realm of Christian theology and biblical teaching, definitions 4, 5, 6, and 7 apply to the attributes and actions of God. When we talk about the "grace of God" in the church, we mean that God is gracious in Himself, that he is gracious and favorable toward all mankind, and that believers receive His many gifts, which include forgiveness and eternal life, through the Word and Sacrament purely by grace. In the Lutheran church we emphasize that we receive the favor of God and his gifts "without any merit or worthiness in me," so that we are saved PURELY by grace, not partly by grace and partly by our efforts or merit.

  This Lutheran doctrine of the "grace of God" is one of our unique disinguishing marks, and it is not a minor thing. You need to know that not all Christians agree with this biblical teaching. Those who believe that Christians are saved partly by God's grace and partly by their own merit include: Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Methodists, Holiness churches, and Pentecostals, among others. Those who believe that God has created some - or most - persons for damnation and are therefore excluded from the grace of Gode include: Reformed churches of various types, Presbyterians, and particular (or Calvinist) Baptists, among others.

  Our Lutheran forefathers emphasizes, against the Reformed churches, that God's grace extends to all mankind and that therefore he loves all people. As to the proof of God's grace toward all mankind (i.e., that he loves everyone), our lutheran forefathers typically pointed to four things: 1) the universal mercy of God and His beneficent will toward all, as declared by Scripture; 2) the creation of all people in Adam according to the image of God; 3) the universality of Christ's merit; and 4) the universality of the call to faith. Our Lutheran forefathers also taught that God is constrained by the Law, which he created, to punish evil and evildoers. Therefore those who reject his plan of salvation cannot be saved eternally.

  As a congregation of Lutheran Christians in San Mateo and neighboring suburbs, we have the distinct privilege of proclaiming, in all that we say and do, that "God loves you in Jesus." When we do that, we truly live up to our name "Grace Lutheran Church".

Yours in Christ,