Sometimes as I've traveled, people have said to me, "Our church is focusing on grace this year." When I'm told that, I can't but find myself thinking, "What did you focus on last year? What will you focus on next year?" I've even heard some say that grace is a very important doctrine and how important it is that we understand it.
These kinds of statements sound good on the surface, but they completely miss the point of grace. Grace is not an important doctrine. In fact, grace is a Person. His name is Jesus Christ. He is Grace personified. When we talk about grace, we're talking about Him.
Grace is the essence of our very lives in Christ. Grace is the foundation of who God the Father is to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. To say that grace is an important doctrine puts it in a categorical list of other doctrines, which undermines its value and meaning. Grace is not to be put in a list of doctrinal teachings. It is the fountainhead from which every doctrine of the Bible flows.
To suggest that grace is an important doctrine is like saying that breathing is an important part of my life. That would be an understatement of ridiculous proportions. Breathing is not an important part of my life. When Paul said, “For me to live is Christ,” he might as well have said, “For me to live is grace.” They are the same. John said that Jesus came “full of grace.” (See John 1:14) It’s who He is.
Yes, grace is as much a part of our lives as is breathing. It is the core and essence of the gospel. In Acts 20:24, Paul showed that grace is the gospel. “I do not consider my life of any account, as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” Note how the gospel is inseparably joined to grace here.
The word gospel means “hilariously good news.” What is this good news that Paul said he had been entrusted to share with those around him? It was the good news of the grace of God. Once we wander away from grace in what we proclaim, we've left the gospel. We might be telling the truth, but we've left the gospel. We might be helping people to some degree, but we've left the gospel. The gospel is the message of grace. It's the only thing that has the power to transform lives. Paul described it as "the power of God unto salvation."
Let's not think we flatter grace when we call it an important doctrine. It's more than that. It's everything.