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Grace Apart From Sin

Luke 2.40

by Mark Horne

Copyright © 2002

And the Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.

There is nothing faulty in this translation (New American Standard Bible); Jesus was the recipient of the grace of God His Father from whom He is eternally begotten and with Whom he is equal.

Jesus was never a sinner needing forgiveness; and it would be abominable blasphemy to say otherwise. Yet Jesus received divine grace, as an incarnate child growing towards adulthood. Obviously, then, grace can refer to an attitude on the part of God that has no reference to any sinful state in the recipient. It refers to his favor and bounty without regard to personal merit. That grace being shown to sinners is a much more amazing (and to Jesus, costly!) thing, but it is not wrong to say that God shows grace to creatures (in this case, an incarnate one–both creature and creator in one person) who have not sinned.

Thus, it cannot be wrong to claim that Adam, like our incarnate Lord, received grace from God his Father. Luke undoubtedly knows and reveals that Jesus is dissimilar to Adam in that he is himself God. But in giving Jesus the title, “son of God,” Luke makes it quite clear that Jesus is receiving a title that Adam had originally by virtue of his creation by God and their covenant relationship. After telling us of the voice of the Father speaking from heaven and naming Jesus as his son at his baptism, Luke chooses that place to list a genealogy for our Lord which goes all the way back to Adam, and beyond Adam to God. Adam was the son of God and Jesus is a new creation, a new son of God (Luke 3.38).

God’s relationship with Adam was not that of an employer with an employee, but that of a parent and child. As Norman Shepherd has argued so well, the covenant of works with Adam was not a “labor contract,” but rather a familial relationship of love.

To repeat: The Bible explicitly teaches that Jesus of Nazareth received grace from God. Grace has real meaning apart from the forgiveness of sins. Luke’s Gospel is the very Word of God and we dare not quibble about the Spirit’s grammar.

Copyright © 2002

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