He is God’s gift of grace to us
What Does the Bible Say? Read or listen to John 1:1-18; 3:16-17.
In the last lesson, we learned Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man. We also learned something about the word favor, which is very similar to the word grace. In this lesson, we will explore how Jesus Christ is the personification of God’s grace to us.
Personification (noun): If you say that someone is the personification of a particular thing or quality, you mean they are a perfect example of that thing or they have a lot of that quality.4
How is Jesus the personification of grace? Let’s start by looking at another title for Jesus—Messiah.
From The Bible Project
Before we human beings separated ourselves from God by making up our own definitions for what is good and evil, he already had a plan in place to bring us back to himself. Jesus, who declared at the age of twelve that he wouldn’t have gone anywhere except to the temple, grew up to be the Messiah King that God promised would come. Even though he is both the Son of God and equal to God, Jesus is the ultimate example of someone who stoops down to help someone who is dependent. Those “someone’s” are all of us.
But hold on. You may be saying, “Hey, my life is pretty good, and I’m a pretty good person. Why do I need grace?” Or, you may be wondering how life in a world of evil and chaos can have anything to do with grace and favor.
Here’s another perspective on grace:
From Chuck Knows Church
- Almost nobody uses words like prevenient in regular conversation, and you won’t find justifying or sanctifying on many Facebook pages. But the meanings of these words are important to help us understand why God’s gift of grace through Jesus is an important part of being his protégé.
(A) Look up the following three words. Try to restate the definitions in your own words, individually or as a group: Prevenient—preceding in time or before. Justifying—right, reasonable; righteous/right standing/upright in God’s sight. Sanctifying—set apart as holy, legitimate, free from sin; continues for our entire lives
1) What did Jesus do to become the personification of grace?
- a) Read Titus 2:11-14 below. First use “grace of God,” then replace it with “Jesus.”
“For the grace of God/Jesus has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce (say “no” to) ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” (ESV)
- b) What do you think of when you hear the word ungodly?
- c) Can you think of any examples of “worldly passions”? Hint: One meaning of passion is strong feelings that are very hard to control. If someone is living an ungodly life, what kinds of passions or strong feelings may affect him or her?
[Sexual lust may be an obvious response. Point out that worldly passions are more than that alone. Other possible answers may include uncontrolled anger, hatred, bigotry, and selfishness.]
- d) Think of examples of how God’s grace can help you have self-control and live an upright, godly life.
[Reasonable responses may go in the direction of the ways God can help us, eg., through provision, changing circumstances, etc. Students with more exposure to Christianity may, of course, mention salvation through Jesus Christ and/or empowerment by the Holy Spirit. You/the discussion leader may want to bring it up now or wait until the discussion when we talk more about grace—or even longer. Either way, keep in mind that some students (churched and unchurched) may not yet fully grasp what salvation really means].
- But what really makes grace so amazing?
(A) In 1779, an Englishman named John Newton wrote the famous hymn, “Amazing Grace.”5 Newton was a former slave trader whose life became radically different after he accepted God’s free gift of grace and allowed Jesus to completely change him. Later in his life, he became a pastor and an abolitionist. In other words, Newton became a protégé of Jesus. You may know the first line of his poem that became a hymn:
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost and now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”
Some people have trouble with the word wretch. [Idea: ask students to define wretch or have someone look it up.] “But,” someone might say, “Newton was a wretch. After all, he was a slave trader!”
But God looks at things differently.
(B) Look up these Scriptures and take turns reading them aloud: Romans 3:10-12, 19-20; Romans 8:7; 1 John 1: 8-10.
1) What do these verses seem to say about not just John Newton, but all of us?
Now let’s look at a video about what sin means.
From The Bible Project
- a) Name some ways that we all can fail morally. (Hint: Morality is basically about someone’s personal rules about doing right or wrong.)
- b) Think of some of the selfish desires and urges people have that can make us want to “act for our own benefit at the expense of others.”
- c) Take a moment of quiet reflection and think of how you personally have failed morally or acted for your own benefit at someone else’s expense.
2) God loves us too much to leave us in that condition. Read:
Romans 5:6: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (NIV)
And 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV)
3) He extended his grace (or favor) to us. Read Ephesians 2:8:
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” (NLT)
(B) Think about getting a gift from a friend or family member. Is it something you earn, or is it something that person gives you out of love?
1) Reread Ephesians 2:8. This time, add verse 9. What do you think would happen if grace wasn’t a gift?
Vs 9: “Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” (NLT)
2) Read 2 Corinthians 8:9: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; rich as he was, he made himself poor for your sake, in order to make you rich by means of his poverty.” (GNT)
- a) How did Jesus become poor when he came to live on earth? Who was he before he was born as a baby in Bethlehem? (Hint: Read John 1:1-5). Jesus—who John calls “the Word”—was and is just as much God as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. [If group leaders or students want to talk more about Jesus as the Word, or Logos, Strong’s and Helps word studies or the commentaries for John 1:1,especially Matthew Henry’s, on Bible Hub might help.]
- b) What did Jesus give up to live in a human body?
- c) How do we become richer because he came? What do we gain by being someone who “believes on his name”?
3) God’s grace is purely because of his love for us. It’s a gift we can’t buy, will never deserve, and can have forever.
- a) In what ways do people try to “deserve” God’s grace? Why is it hard for some people to accept God’s grace as a free gift? Hint: What do we have to admit about ourselves in order to receive God’s grace?
- b) Is there someone who comes to mind who, in your opinion, should never have God’s grace? Do you think that Jesus’ death on the cross is able to cover that person’s sin? Why or why not? Read John 3:16-17. How do we know that God’s grace really does cover anyone who’s sorry enough about their sins that they’re willing to turn to Jesus for help?
(A) While Jesus was in the world, he gathered a group of disciples, or protégés, and taught them the best way to live in a world that had become chaotic because Adam and Eve chose to disobey God. That choice allowed evil into the world. Since then, every human being, in one way or another—just like Adam and Eve—has failed to live to God’s moral standards of loving him and loving our neighbors as ourselves. In other words, we all have sinned and are in major need of God’s grace and favor.
(B) Jesus became the personification of grace to us when he allowed himself to be killed by ancient Rome’s favored method of execution for non-Roman criminals—crucifixion. God put the penalty for our sin and wrongdoings on Jesus, who never sinned; he never let selfish wants or desires make him step on others to get his own way or what he wanted. Grace makes us righteous before a holy and perfect God and allows us to live a life of love and freedom—not from our chaotic world, but from sin and its ultimate penalty, eternal death and separation from our loving creator.
(C) God’s grace cost Jesus everything. Because of that, it’s free to us. Grace is for anyone who wants it, is honestly sorry enough for the wrong things they’ve done to ask God to forgive them, and who wants to live the upright life of a protégé of Jesus. We’ll still live in a world of chaos, and will mess up sometimes, but that will no longer be our modus operandi (look it up if you don’t know). That’s because Jesus rescues us from the power of sin and gives us the ability to do better and better in this life. He sends the Holy Spirit to live in us, giving us the same
power Jesus had when he lived on earth. Ultimately, God’s grace will enable us to live with him and Jesus his Son, our Messiah King, forever and ever.
[After a discussion of sin and grace, one or more students may be ready to seriously commit their lives to Christ. However, in some cases, it may be better to let the concept of personal sin and God’s grace sink in before encouraging students to repeat a prayer that they may not appreciate or be sincere about at this point.
Prayerfully gauge where your group members are in their understanding. For example, if it’s appropriate, help them to consider if they are committing—or not committing—to Christ because of their friends, the opinions of teachers or professors, because it would please their parent, etc. Avoid using, or explain before using, “Christianese” terms, eg, “born again,” or “washed in the blood.” One idea may be to ask students to discuss with each other what salvation means and present their answers.]
Pick one or more of these activities to do individually or as a group. Then let the whole group know what you did:
(A) The Bible and other sources in history say that Jesus’ protégés/disciples didn’t keep Jesus’ message of good news to themselves, and because they didn’t, Jesus has continued to have protégés from then until now. Think of something you, maybe with friends, can do to spread the good news about Jesus. Then do it.
(B) Jesus became God’s grace by showing kindness and love to the people around him, and to everyone, when he died on the cross. Find something you can do as a protégé of Jesus to show kindness and grace, especially to someone you wouldn’t ordinarily hang around with.
(C) Give a gift to someone not because they deserve it, but for no particular reason. You may want to talk with your group, family, or discussion leader on what, who, and how best to do that. It doesn’t have to be big and shouldn’t be expensive. But it should show kindness, or maybe an act of service. Make sure the person knows the gift is given because of Jesus’ love in you for him or her.