Freely Received, Freely Given

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by David A. DePra

If we wanted to find a single word that encapsulates the gospel of Jesus Christ, that word would be GRACE.  Most believers have heard the most common definition of, “grace” – grace is God’s unmerited favor.  That is a good definition. 


Now, of course we should not think of, “grace,” as a THING that God gives – sort of like a bucket of something, or a power.  It is easy to do that because sometimes vocabulary fails us.  But no.  GRACE is actually God’s attitude and heart towards humanity.  That means that GRACE is out from God – it is an aspect of His very Person extended to humanity.


John, the apostle, wrote, “Grace and Truth came in Jesus Christ.”  (John 1:16)  Sure.  Jesus was, “FULL of grace and Truth.”  (John 1:14)  Thus, Jesus not only accomplished His Redemptive work by the grace of God – but He was God’s gift of grace in a Person. 


The Bible calls God, “the God of all grace.”  (I Peter 5:10)  It is impossible for God to act except it be in grace, and it is impossible to experience God without experiencing grace.  Grace is the nature and character of God, and His Son, Jesus Christ. 


All Grace is in Christ


We cannot separate the Person of Jesus Christ from the grace of God – for as noted, grace and Truth were given IN Jesus Christ.  Therefore, if a person wants the grace of God they will find it only in Christ.  Indeed, even when God draws unsaved people to Christ it is by His grace in Christ. 


Grace is never imposed.  It can be resisted -- God Himself has made that possible.  Grace is absolutely FREE – meaning there are no strings attached.  But we do have to believe.  “By grace through faith,” is a Truth that governs all.  That is not a condition – it is simply the TRUTH.  If ALL grace is found ONLY in Jesus Christ then unless we put our faith in Him we cannot be under His grace.


God has given all things FREELY in His Son.  (Rom. 8:32)  So, again, we see that what we cannot experience what God has freely given in Christ unless we experience Christ.


God’s Purpose


Anyone can learn the doctrine of grace.  It is fundamental to Christianity.  But actually receiving the grace of God is another matter.  The fact is, you and I will NOT receive the grace of God – dare I say CANNOT? -- until we see that God’s grace is ONLY means by which we can receive Christ and walk with Him. 


We must grasp this Truth:  Grace is the ONLY means by which we can receive anything from God – whether we are talking about salvation or whether we are talking about that which we need to walk with Christ or whether we are talking about material provision from God – grace is the ONLY means. 


Why?  Because the alternative is that we must MERIT what we need from God.  We would need to MERIT or EARN from God what we need – whether it be through our works, our attitude, or by, “having enough faith.”  (Lots of us try to muster up faith and generate it up to God!)  But unless God has freely given us ALL things solely by His grace in Christ -- THIS is what we are left with.


So many believers are blind to the necessity that ALL is by the grace of God.  That is because we are blind to the One in whom ALL grace is given.  Therefore, in our ignorance, we continue to try to be good enough, measure up, feel good about ourselves, or have a good attitude.


But let’s ask:  Why are we blind to grace?  Why do we keep trying to measure up?  It is for one reason alone:  We still have not seen that we are utterly empty; that there is nothing in us.  We have not seen that we will NEVER measure up.  So we continue to try to muster up something out of ourselves that will convince God that we deserve what He has.  Oh, we probably don’t use those words, but it is there. 


All of this is self-righteousness.  But again – we likely don’t think in those terms – but that is exactly what it is.  And self-righteousness is unbelief – it is actually sin.


This blindness or hardness of heart – if that is the case with me – is not resolved by keeping laws.  It is not fixed by religion, study, or a change in circumstances.  It is resolved ONLY if God brings me to the end of my occupation with myself and my righteousness.  I must be brought into an absolute failure to maintain myself before the Lord.  This is the ongoing work of the Cross.


Now, if God brings me to the end of my own righteousness, it is then, and really, ONLY then, that I will truly receive the grace of God.  Until then it might have been a true doctrine to me; a good teaching.  But now I have met the grace of God in Christ.


I must freely receive what God freely gives.  If I try to receive on any other basis, I am not walking in the Truth.  I am not in real fellowship with God.  But if I do receive freely what God freely gives, then it is evidence that the Cross is at work.  And the grace that I have freely received will change me into a vessel through whom God’s grace can be manifested and flow.  In other words, believers are supposed to be – not only those who freely receive grace – but those who are governed by it and then pass it on to others.


Ministry of Grace


Ministry that is of the spirit of God is the ministry of grace.  God has freely given us all things in Christ.  We are to freely receive what God has freely given.  Thus, those who have freely received what God has freely given are going to freely give to others – out of what God has freely given them.


Can we see that all is of grace?  Yes.  ALL is of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.  And certainly, that which has to do with any facet of ministry to others is always going to be freely given to others – because it is out from that which is freely given to those who would minister.


The Commands of Jesus to His Disciples


This Truth was certainly lived by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry.  And He directly taught his disciples to do likewise:


Preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.  (Matt. 10:7-8)

The occasion in which Jesus spoke these words to His disciples was the very FIRST time He sent them forth to minister in His name.  But there is one sentence in this passage which gathers together all of the Truth about true ministry – which is an expression of what it means to be a FAITHFUL servant:  FREELY you have received, FREELY give.

This is, of course, the Truth of grace.  But again -- here we see that GRACE is not simply the means by which God saves His people.  Rather, GRACE governs ALL that is of God – and therefore GRACE governs ALL that God does IN His people and THROUGH His people.  In other words, if God has given His people all things FREELY in His Son (Rom. 8:32) – then God’s people MUST likewise give all things FREELY.  We have received NOTHING that is of God except it be by GRACE through Jesus Christ – therefore, having FREELY received, we must FREELY give.

If believers would see this Truth in Christ, and then live out from it, it would not only revolutionize our personal lives, but it would completely alter the face of ministry.  God has given us ALL things freely in His Son – everything that God has to give is given to us, not as a supplement to Christ – but in the Person of Christ Himself.  God has NOTHING to give humanity outside of what He has given in Christ.  And He has given us Christ solely by His grace.  But since all ministry is OF Christ, and is a matter of conveying and manifesting Christ – a faithful servant will freely give because he has freely received.  Anything other than giving by grace what we have received by grace is UNFAITHFULNESS, and a misrepresentation of Jesus Christ.

Now, this is not merely a law or principle to live by.  It is a work of His grace.  For if I have FREELY received in faith what God has FREELY given, then it means I have seen that there is nothing in me by which I can compensate God, or merit what God has to give.   I will have seen that the ONLY way in which I can receive from God is FREELY by His grace – I will have seen that I must receive from God FREELY because FREELY is how He gives.  This will not be just a doctrine or principle to me.  I will know that GRACE is the only basis by which I can have a relationship with God.  The result IN ME is that I will FREELY give to others because God has FREELY given to me.

There is simply no way to freely receive by the grace of God unless that grace does a work in me whereby I will then voluntarily and gladly freely give to others.  These things are NOT passive.  What God freely gives amounts to LIFE and LIGHT that is of His Son – and Christ in me by His spirit will begin a work of grace that will make me want to FREELY give what God has given me.  This is the ONLY possible outcome of FREELY receiving from God.

Now, of course, most of us, while we may understand this teaching, continue to try to be good enough to receive from God.   Or we try to muster things up from out of ourselves.  But if we are trying to be good enough then we are NOT freely receiving, and we will NOT freely give – there will be strings attached – because we have not yet come into the Truth on this matter.

Jesus was clear to His disciples, and He was talking about ministry.  “Freely you have received, freely give.”  This is a description of a faithful steward – it is actually the only way to be faithful to Jesus Christ.  It is a description of true MINISTRY.  We freely give BECAUSE we have freely received – and what we have freely received has made us to be people who desire to freely give. 

So we see that all ministry, at the root, is out from Christ – it is Life and Truth in Christ, being experienced by a person, doing a work in that person – and then as the result, being brought into the life of others.  Do not separate ministry from Christ; do not separate stewardship from Him – for all Life and Truth is out from Him.   It is only as a person gives themselves to Christ can such a person can be a vessel through whom Christ can be ministered.


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