You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:1 (NKJV)
Grace is the central element of the Christian faith. Every aspect of our life in Christ is centered on God's amazing grace. We are saved by grace, sustained by grace, and strengthened by grace. Because grace is such a vital part of our faith, it is important to have a biblical understanding of what grace is.
Within the Christian community, there are many views of grace. Some believe that although a person is saved by grace, we must maintain our salvation by our own efforts. As such, a believer's relationship with Christ rests upon their ability to keep the commandments and live according to religious rules or practices.
On the other hand, some believe that grace frees the believer from any responsibility to live righteously and nullifies the commandments found in the Scriptures. This position maintains that since Christ has already paid the penalty for sin, believers can continually sin without affecting their relationship with God.
Resolving the tensions between these two positions requires a careful study of what the Bible actually teaches about grace. According to Titus 2:11, grace is the means by which God teaches Christians to live according to His righteous standards.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,
Here, Paul states that grace is personified in the person and works of Jesus Christ, who redeemed us from sin by his death on the cross. He further teaches that because we have been redeemed and purified by Jesus' death on the Cross, believers should be "zealous for good works." (v 14). Thus, God's grace is grounded in our belief in the saving works of Jesus Christ and our willingness to obey his commands.
Paul clarifies that salvation is not a result of anything we have done. God saves according to his own "purpose and grace" which was given in Christ before time began (2 Tim. 1:9-10). This grace is received as a gift from God, apart from human works. Yet, it cultivates in the heart of the believer a desire to live according to God's standards.
Paul reminds Timothy that Jesus is the source of grace and that same grace empowers us to serve God faithfully. Paul's admonition to "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" is his encouragement for Timothy to rely on God's enabling power (grace) to fulfill his ministry and calling.
Paul uses the examples of a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer to illustrate the power of grace and to remind Timothy that he works in partnership with God. The soldier serves because of his loyalty to his country. He does not expect to win in battle simply because he enlisted for service. Similarly, athletes recognize that they cannot win if they do not obey the rules of the competition and the farmer knows that in order to enjoy the harvest, he must first sow the field. These examples illustrate that obedience, preparation, and faith are necessary to realize the measure of God's grace fully
We cannot neglect prayer, Bible study, and obeying God's word and expect to experience the fullness of God's grace. While we engage in the process, we know Christ gives us the strength and the ability to live out our calling. Paul exhorts Timothy to be "strong in grace." This does not mean that Timothy needs abundant grace, but rather that his strength is found in the grace he has been given in Christ.
Paul's words are a wonderful reminder that God has not only called us to be workers in his kingdom, but he has graced us with his power, love, and strength so that we can fulfill our calling. We are not all called to vocational ministry, but we are all called to be Christ's ambassadors. Whether we are in gospel ministry or public service, let us find strength in the abundant grace we have been given in Jesus Christ.