We received this question from a Communication Card on Sunday: “What does it (James 4:6) mean by ‘more grace’? God has already shown grace by sending Jesus. Does it mean God is showing ongoing love?”
This is an excellent question, because the person asking has been reading their Bible and doing what the Bible teaches us to do: trying all the threads together through Christ. I’d like to say “well done” to the questioner, and I really mean that. I’m so encouraged when I see people asking questions because they know what other parts of the Bible say and they wish to see how Scripture speaks with on voice on a topic such as grace. James ties into this as he writes what is God’s word on the subject.
As we read through the Bible we see that God has already given us grace (a free gift) in Jesus Christ. It’s Jesus who died in our place on the cross taking God’s right and just punishment we deserved, so that by faith in Jesus we can have forgiveness of sins. Jesus gives us a right relationship with God, when we had done all the wrong to wreck that up as much as humanly possible – which is a lot! So when we see ourselves rightly, and we see God’s righteousness, and Jesus giving us his righteousness by his death on the cross – we see grace, and it’s amazing.
God has already given us all the grace we need in Jesus Christ (John 1:14-17, Acts 15:11, Romans 3:24, Romans 5:15, Romans 5:17-21, Ephesians 2:5, Ephesians 2:8, Philippians 1:7, Colossians 1:6, 1 Timothy 1:14, 2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 2:11, Titus 3:7, Hebrews 2:9).
The context of the Old Testament, and the fulfilment found in the New Testament, is that God has given us grace in Jesus Christ. God has already shown grace by sending Jesus, so then let’s get to the crux of the question – what does James mean in 4:6, where he says: ‘But he gives more grace’?
The person who asked this question is onto something, I think they have started to see the answer when they suggest maybe it’s “part of God’s ongoing love”. Yet, let me add my answer as I see it from the Scriptures, particularly found in the context around James 4:6. There we see that James has been writing to the church, Christians, who don’t look very much like the Christians of the church anymore but look as worldly as their neighbours who don’t know Jesus as Lord. This culminates in James indictment of this appalling situation as he writes (preaches!) James 4:4-5, You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit cthat he has made to dwell in us”?
What’s the effect of this? If you’re a born-again believer, who has the implanted word working in your heart (James 1:18-21), you’ll be convicted that you need to change – or rather, be changed. James points out that we are so fallen, so sinful, so prone to speaking with an untamed tongue or neglecting doing good toward others or not living as if faith in Jesus actually works anything different for you, or all of the above! This is us, and we cannot reform ourselves. Willpower cannot fix this, we need a power that is outside of ourselves, we need God to do something that we can’t do – and God does this by going us more grace. Again and again.
This amazing news of more grace that God continues to pour out is also found throughout the Scriptures, (John 1:16, Romans 5:20, 2 Corinthians 6:1, 2 Corinthians 8:9, 2 Corinthians 9:8, 2 Corinthians 9:14, Ephesians 2:7, Hebrews 4:16, Hebrews 13:9, 1 Peter 1:2, 1 Peter 5:5, 2 Peter 1:2, 2 Peter 3:18, Revelation 22:21).
We are saved by grace, for certain. But we still sin, are misshaped by sin, and in need of reshaping, reforming, by the grace of God in Christ. What we see in the Book of James again and again, is that God is working through His word here, reforming us, to believe in Jesus and be more like him. And God does this not by our own work, but by his grace.
Can God give even more grace? Yep. So that we can always be reforming by the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ.