Oh my goodness gracious!

The Character of God:  Graciousness

Old Testament, Hebrew chanan

Numbers 6:23-27
Nehemiah 9:1-31
Psalm 41:1-13
Psalm 145:1-21
Isaiah 30:8-26

Other Aspects of God's Character

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Numbers 6:23-27 (3/28/2011)

John Wesley is primarily known as the founder (by accident) of the Methodist churches and their relatives.  In the United States alone, there are United Methodists, African Methodists, African Methodist Episcopals, African Methodist Episcopal Zions, Christian Methodist Episcopals, Wesleyans, Free Methodists, Nazarenes, and West Africa African Methodists, not to mention the Salvation Army.  According to the
World Methodist Council, there are about 75 million members worldwide in the Methodist and other Wesleyan denominations.  Wesley is also well known as a great evangelist who preached in the open air to crowds numbering in the thousands.

Wesley is less well known, even among Methodists, as one of the great theologians.  Wesleyan theology is grace theology:  free grace, prevenient grace, accepting grace, sustaining grace.  This week and next week, as we examine God’s graciousness, we’re also going to take a look at grace theology. 

The root idea of chanan “be gracious” is to bend or stoop to be kind to an inferior.  “Grace” is a kindness or favor.  So the first thing to know about God’s graciousness is that it is something that is shown by a superior (God) to an inferior (you or me).  Grace is not an exchange between equals. Nehemiah 9:1-31 (3/29/2011)

Read verses 16-26 especially carefully.  Not only is grace a favor or kindness granted to an inferior, but it is typically an undeserved favor or kindness.  God is kind to us even when we have been presumptuous, stiff-necked, disobedient, ungrateful, and blasphemous.  Why?  Because God is gracious (vs. 31).

John Wesley’s primary idea about grace is what he called “free grace.”  Free grace is “FREE IN ALL, and FREE FOR ALL”  (caps original).  Wesley explains “free in all” in
Sermon 128:
So we don’t earn grace and can’t earn grace.  That’s fine, because God’s supply of grace never runs out, it only runs into us and through us, issuing forth in good works. Psalm 41:1-13 (3/30/2011)

King David’s depressed because people are gossiping and saying hurtful things about him and to him – even his so-called friends.  David turns to God, who he knows will chanan be gracious to him.  This psalm teaches us two lessons.  You can always turn to God, no matter how bad things are in your life.  And don’t gossip or say hurtful things about people. 

John Wesley’s second point about free grace is that it is free for all.  In Sermon 128, Wesley devotes most of the text to refuting the concept of predestination, which holds that God’s grace is for some people (the elect), but not for others.  Consequently his description of grace that is free for all is not as succinct as we saw yesterday in his description of grace that is free in all.  Clearer by far, just not as succinct.  In brief, Wesley’s position is that God’s grace has been, is, and will be available to every single person who ever has lived, who is alive now, or who ever will live.  No one is excluded from God’s grace:  not the unsaved, not the apostate, not (naturally enough) the saved.  God has not chosen, or elected, some to be saved and others not to be saved.  Grace is “FREE FOR ALL.”  Wesley felt very strongly that God’s grace is freely available to you and to me and to everyone else.
Psalm 145:1-21 (3/31/2011)

David praises God for being chanan gracious, as well as holy, slow to anger, glorious, and merciful. Vss. 14-16 highlight God’s grace in giving his creatures all they need.

In
Sermon 43, which takes as its text Ephesians 2:8, John Wesley lays out the idea of “preventing” or “prevenient” grace: The modern definition of “prevent” is “to keep from happening.”  Wesley is using an older (now archaic) definition:  “to come before; precede.”  God’s grace comes into our lives before we know God, and without it we would have no way of coming to know God.
Isaiah 30:8-26 (4/1/2011)

Have you ever heard or said, “He didn’t want to hear it”?  My own experience is that the things people don’t want to hear are usually the things that would be good for them.  We rarely have trouble hearing spend-yourself-happy, get-rich-quick, eat-yourself-thin, five-minute-fitness, gloom-and-doom, me-me-me.  We don’t want to hear save-for-retirement, work-hard, eat-right, exercise, things-looking up, you-and-God.  God’s prophets were told to go away until they had better news.

It’s good news that God is waiting to be gracious to us.  He’s waiting for us to hear him.
Other Aspects of God's Character
Glory, Old Testament, New Testament
Holiness, Old Testament, New Testament
Longsuffering, Old Testament, New Testament
Steadfast Love, Old Testament, which is Mercy in the New Testament
Graciousness, Old Testament, which is Grace in the New Testament
Jealousy, Old Testament
Intolerance of Sin, Old Testament, New Testament

Copyright 2011 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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