What is a “word of grace?” In Luke 4, in response to Jesus’ comment, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” after having read from the prophet Isaiah, Luke says the people present in the synagogue there at Nazareth “bore witness to him and marveled at the grace of his words.” To understand what a “word of grace” is, it is crucial to see this in the context of verse 14 of this chapter, which says, “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee.”
Grace in not God’s unmerited favor which is how it it commonly defined. That is a result of grace, not grace itself. If grace is undeserved favor, then Jesus had none because all the favor Jesus had was earned and deserved, yet we are told that Jesus grew in grace with God. In a response to the Apostle Paul’s request to take away a “thorn in the flesh,” God says to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” And in his response, Paul says, “Most gladly, therefore, will I boast all the more in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ should dwell upon me.” So, Paul’s ability to overcome his “thorn” is the result of God’s grace.
So then, what is grace? Grace is the empowering presence of God. Jesus moving in the power of the Spirit caused his words and teaching to be full of power and authority. So, a “word of grace” is a word, a teaching, that is full of God’s empowering presence. And it was that empowering presence within him that, after quoting a passage from Isaiah about having the Spirit of the Lord upon him and being anointed by the Lord so that he would carry out his mission of announcing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and sending forth the oppressed in deliverance, he could say, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” It was a word of power.
It’s interesting that there are typically two responses to power and authority: positive or negative. Rarely is there ever a middle of the road response. Power and authority are polarizing – some for and some against. And, sometimes, people switch their reaction based on outside influence and circumstances. Consider how many of the same people who were shouting praises to Jesus at his triumphal entry into Jerusalem were shouting “Crucify him!” just a few days later.
Now, let’s connect some dots for us today and the implications of that empowering presence of God and “words of grace.” Jesus, in Matthew 28:18, says, “All authority in heaven and upon the earth has been given to me.” Paul tells us that when a person believes, God sends forth the Spirit of His Son into that person’s heart and becomes that person’s one and only true nature. That means that Jesus’ authority is flowing to and through that person. Furthermore, Paul states in Ephesians 1 that God has directed His surpassing greatness of power unto those who have believed “according to the energizing of the might of His strength, which He energized in Christ,” the very power that raised Christ from death.
So, how often do believers offer “words of grace,” words full of the empowering presence of God, to those around them? How often do believers respond with and in power and authority to the situations around them? Far less than what it should be. How often do believers offer ineffective words, powerless words? How often do believers offer domination instead of power and authority that empowers people, empowering that draws people to God? Probably far less than I care to consider.
What is crucial for us who are believers, who are adopted sons and daughters of the living God, is that we remember who and what we are and what flows to us, in us, and through us. When we see situations and people around us, our thought, our motivation, our modus operandi, must be to direct the empowering presence of God toward that person or situation as God would so His goal of drawing people to Himself is accomplished.
We must allow those “words of grace” to flow through us for all believers have been commissioned by Christ himself to continue his mission and even go beyond. All believers must be continually asking questions like, “What of God’s empowering presence does this person need to experience?” or “How can this situation be impacted by God’s empowering presence?” so that God is revealed and people are drawn to Him.