Grace, “charis” in Greek, is often defined as God’s unmerited favor or undeserved mercy, which are correct but simplified definitions. God’s grace is much, much more than simply unmerited favor or undeserved mercy. Grace is all that God is free to do for mankind on the basis of Jesus Christ’s saving work on the Cross. The grace of God is the expression of His character, His integrity, His love, His longsuffering, His justice, His righteousness and His perfection. The maximum expression of His grace is the Cross.
The word efficacious is defined as “having the power to produce the intended effect,” or simply stated, effective. Therefore, efficacious grace is effective grace - grace that has the power to produce the intended effect. When applied to salvation, efficacious grace is all that God does for people when they put their faith in Christ that produces the intended result of deliverance (salvation). This is called saving grace because it saves the unbeliever from the condemnation of spiritual death (separation from God) and places that person, who is now a believer, in a permanent relationship with God. This permanent relationship sets up great potential for blessing from God, all of which is based upon His grace. (John 3:18; Romans 8:1)
Grace is always “pitted” against works throughout the Word of God. Works, therefore, are the opposite of grace. Mankind from the beginning has been attempting to “work” his way to God. Works are any form of legalism that can be imposed upon a person. These works include, but are not limited to, water baptism, church membership, giving money, changing your behavior, obeying the Ten Commandments, turning from your sin and penance. Scripture is very clear that it is impossible to work your way to heaven and yet mankind continues to pursue God on man’s terms (works) instead of God’s terms (grace). When man, in his ignorance or arrogance, adds works to salvation he cancels grace. Grace is the total absence of human works or it would not be unmerited favor and undeserved mercy. If it were possible for mankind to earn or deserve salvation by his good works, then he would have a reason to boast about it. However, since Christ has done all the necessary work, salvation can be based only on grace through faith. This means that salvation is not only undeserved but it cannot be earned. (Romans 4:4; 11:6; Galatians 2:16; 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9)
Efficacious grace is dependent on the perfect character of God. It is God’s desire to be gracious to every human being. This grace begins at birth when God breathes the breath of life into each human being. His grace continues as God the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment in an effort to lead us to Christ. As long as a person is breathing, God’s grace is at work and there continues to be hope. In every dispensation God’s grace has been operational and will continue to be operational throughout all eternity. If a person desires to have a relationship with God, it must be based on grace. (Isaiah 30:18-19; John 16:7-11)
In order for grace to be effective in the life of a believer he must become grace oriented. Being oriented to God’s grace means to be familiar with what God’s Word teaches about it, to understand it and to know how it applies to one’s life. Failure by the unbeliever to orient to the grace of God results in eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire (hell). Failure on the part of a believer to orient to God’s grace results in loss of blessings in time (i.e. a miserable life) and a loss of rewards in eternity (shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ). (John 3:36; Titus 2:11-14)
The first step in being grace oriented is to understand that your personal sins don’t condemn you. A shock to most people when they hear this, it is actually Adam’s original sin that condemns you. Imputed to every member of the human race at birth, Adam’s original sin means a person is born physically alive but spiritually dead. Contrary to what most Christians think, you are not spiritually dead because you sin, you sin because you are spiritually dead. It may also be hard to believe, but the imputation of Adam’s original sin is also God’s grace at work on your behalf. The reason is that condemnation must precede salvation. (Romans 3:23, 5:12)
The reason that your personal sins never condemn you, is that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for the sin of the entire human race, past, present and future. The issue at salvation is never sin. The issue at salvation is acceptance or rejection of God’s free gift of eternal life by faith alone in Christ alone. This gift is a grace gift and can be appropriated only by faith, a non-meritorious system of perception. When an unbeliever makes the decision to accept God’s gift of eternal life by faith in Christ, he is in effect adjusting to the grace of God (aligning with God’s plan, purpose and will). This decision causes the elect angels to rejoice and brings glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ. (John 3:15-16; I Peter 3:18; I John 2:2)
Since God has plenty of grace for us all, His grace is never divided but always multiplied. From the very day you become a believer, when you receive God’s efficacious grace, God begins pouring out His grace towards you. It is impossible for a believer to remove himself from the sphere of God’s grace. Even when you are out of fellowship with God, His grace is still sending you logistical grace blessings (food, shelter and clothing). And when God, as a good Father, is disciplining you, it’s grace. You may never understand God’s grace, but you can never escape it. (Romans 8:38-39; James 4:6)
When a believer is in fellowship with God (being controlled and guided by the Holy Spirit), God’s grace is in operation. God’s grace teaches us how to live the Christian Way of Life. As a matter of fact, God in His grace has given us the supernatural power (the Holy Spirit) necessary to execute this life. Therefore, the execution of God’s plan does not depend on human effort. This is why Jesus said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. By having your eyes on what you’re doing or someone else is doing (or not doing), including your pastor, means you will never be grace oriented. We are commanded to keep our eyes on Jesus and if our eyes are focused on Him, they can’t be focused on others. (Matthew 11:28-30; John 16:12-15; Hebrews 12:1-2)
Focusing upon Christ means we are thinking His thoughts, which are found only in His Word. The Christian Way of Life under grace is a system of thinking. Once again, God in grace has given us a provision whereby we can all learn and apply Bible doctrine, regardless of education or I.Q., and grow up spiritually. This provision is the indwelling Holy Spirit. We are commanded, under the control of the Holy Spirit, to grow in grace and to be strong in grace. Grace is always sufficient in our time of suffering and we find grace in our prayer life. There is stability in grace – the stability to become the person God wants you to be. God is “tapping His foot” and waiting to show His grace in the life of every believer. (Hebrews 4:16, 12:1-2; II Timothy 2:1; I Peter 5:2; II Peter 3:18; I Corinthians 15:10; II Corinthians 12:9; Isaiah 30:18-19; Romans 12:1-2; Philippians 2:5)
The Apostle Paul, the great teacher of grace, wrote an entire book (Galatians) defending grace as the means of salvation and as the means of sanctification (execution of the Christian Way of Life). The Christian Way of Life is based on God’s grace, not human works. Your spiritual life, learning the doctrines about God and his policies as a Royal Priest, is based on grace (the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit). Your Christian life, applying the doctrines about God and his policies as a Royal Ambassador to people and circumstances, is based on grace (the filling ministry of the Holy Spirit). Putting the cart before the horse cancels grace in the life of a believer! Why? Because you cannot apply what you don’t know or don’t understand. (Galatians 5:1)
God in His sovereignty decided to treat man in grace. (Ephesians 3:11) However, righteousness and justice stood in the way because of the barrier of sin. (Romans 3:23) Righteousness cannot have fellowship with unrighteousness. (Isaiah 59:2) Justice demanded a penalty for sin. (Romans 6:23) In His love God sent His Son to die for the sins of the world, which paid the penalty for sin. (Romans 5:8; John 3:16) The barrier of sin has now been removed. (Colossians 1:20-22) Since righteousness and justice are satisfied, love, eternal life, spiritual assets and spiritual blessings are free to flow through the grace pipeline to the person that has believed in Christ as Savior. (I John 2:2)
After believing in Christ, you will never advance one step as a Christian until you orient to (become familiar with and adjust to) the grace of God. This means you must set aside any false information that you have heard in the past and begin to discover for yourself what the Word of God really teaches about the grace policies of God. You may realize that the Christian Way of Life, as outlined in Scriptures, is something entirely different from what you may have been taught in the past. You will learn that your overt activities do not make you spiritual and are not even a part of your spiritual life (your private relationship with God). Overt activities are instead a part of your Christian life (your public relationship with people and circumstances) and are to be done under the control of the Holy Spirit because you are spiritual and motivated by your love for God.
After receiving God’s efficacious grace at salvation, the believer must immediately begin a life of inculcation of the truth of God’s Word (Bible doctrine) if he expects to advance in the Christian Way of Life. Learning and applying God’s Word is a grace process that takes time. Under the control of the Holy Spirit we apply as we learn. This means we need to guard against becoming frustrated by the overwhelming amount of doctrine that there is to learn. Instead of becoming frustrated, we can use the Faith-Rest Technique (mixing the promises of God with our faith). Claiming God’s promise of guidance, we can relax mentally knowing that God will reveal the truth to us as we persist in the study of His Word. “The Christian Way of Life begins with obedience, not perfect understanding.” (R.B.Thieme,Jr., Christian Integrity, p. 27)