I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
— 1 Corinthians 1:4–9 —
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he begins by observing evidences of God’s grace (1:4). This astounds us because of how easily Paul could have fixated on their immaturity and iniquity rather than their position in Christ—after all the church was divided, disorderly, and dangerously lax towards sin. For most of us, it would have been difficult to get past Corinth’s glaring sins to commend the grace of God in their midst.
And yet, in his opening verses, he looks below the surface and praises God for the grace he sees in the Corinthians. How did he do that? How might we do that? When we encounter other believers whose sin stains their lives, how can we find evidences of grace?
In my Sunday’s sermon, I argued that grace looks back to see the work of Christ in a believer’s life; it looks in to see the ongoing work of Christ; and it looks forward to the day when a believer—however immature now—will be made complete in the day of Jesus Christ. This is how Paul saw grace in the Corinthians: he remembered how the gospel (i.e., the testimony of Christ) brought spiritual life to them (vv. 5–6); he saw an abundant supply of spiritual gifts in them (v. 7) ; and he trusted that God who began a good work in them would complete it on the day of Christ Jesus (v. 8; cf. Philippians 1:6). There is much we can learn and apply from Paul’s observance of grace in the Corinthians. But how?
Ten Ways to See Grace in Others
Personally, no one I know has highlighted this vital ministry of seeing grace in others more than C.J. Mahaney. Though Mahaney has had his share of troubles, his ministry and his writing continue to model for us the way we ought to see grace in others. He is right to say “We . . . motivate others by grace when we perceive where and how [Christ] is at work in their lives” (Humility: True Greatness, 104).
Still, how do we do that? How might we learn to look for grace like Paul did in Corinth? In one sense, it is a work of the Spirit that replaces our critical attitudes with grace-giving encouragement. But this work of the Spirit is not without cognitive renewal, even developing a grid to see grace in others.
Helping us build that grid, I found Steve Bice’s guide to seeing grace in others incredibly helpful. Steve pastors Sovereign Grace Church in Dayton, Ohio, a church affiliated with C. J. Mahaney and the Sovereign Grace Pastor’s College in Louisville, Kentucky. He has put together a helpful table to show ways we can discern grace in the lives of others. I share it here to help us put into practice the ministry of observing and commending the grace we find in other believers.
|Belief in the Gospel||Trusts in Jesus’ death on the cross as satisfying God’s wrath for his or her sins; believes in God’s forgiveness, acceptance and favor through Jesus and puts no hope in personal performance (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 3:28)|
|Walking by Faith||Lives in a way that shows his or her trust that God’s word is true; doesn’t need to know how things will turn out before taking the next step (Colossians 2:6-7; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 11)|
|Confession of Sin||Identifies areas in his or her life that are contrary to God’s will and admits to them before God and others (1 John 1:8-9; James 5:16)|
|Mortification of Sin||Grieves over his or her own offenses against God and takes action to sin less, depending on the Spirit’s power to do so (Romans 6:1-2; Acts 26:20; Romans 8:13)|
|Desire for Christlikeness||Wants the character of Jesus to be more obvious in his or her life (1 John 3:2-3; John 13:13-15)|
|Obedience to God||Willingly complies with any of God’s commanded attitudes or actions in Scripture (1 John 2:3-5)|
|Resisting Worldliness||Hopes in God rather than in the experiences and possessions of this life; isn’t ruled by cravings for things (1 John 2:15-17; Philippians 3:8)|
|Love Toward Others||Takes initiative to help others experience God’s goodness, including addressing their sin when necessary; is not self-focused and unaware of what others need (1 John 4:7; John 13:34)|
|Spiritual Fruit||Demonstrates love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control or other commendable qualities (Galatians 5:22-23)|
|Biblical Fellowship||Participates in discussion; shares about his or her current understanding and experience of God; isn’t silent (1 John 1:3)|
For more on seeing “Evidences of Grace,” read chapter 8 in C.J. Mahaney’s book Humility. Or listen to this week’s sermon.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds