A common expression among some Christians is that we are living in the age of grace. If you ask them what they mean by their statement, they will often make a reference that we are living in an age when God still grants grace to those seeking salvation through His Son. Likewise, there are some that tie this phrase to a time period described as the church age by dispensationalists. For this reason we will seek to find out what does the age of grace mean and are we still in it.
What is grace?
The first thing we need to do is to establish what the Bible says about grace. The following verses tell us about grace:
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:4-9)
From these verses we see the following about grace:
- We are saved by grace though faith in Christ (See also Jude 1:3-4; Hebrews 13:9; James 4:6)
- God showed us the riches of His grace through Jesus Christ (See also John 1:14-17; Acts 15:11; Romans 3:23-24; Titus 3:7)
- God’s grace is the gift of salvation (See also Proverbs 3:34; Ephesians 4:7; Hebrews 4:16)
When you put all of these together we find that the focus of God’s grace is through what Christ did on the cross. This is why some people have defined the age of grace as a time period that began with the death of Christ upon the cross (Ephesians 3:1-6) Many Dispensationalists define this as the church age that we are in today.
Is grace time specific?
There will come a day when salvation through Christ will no longer be available (Isaiah 55:6; Acts 17:29-31; Romans 13:11; Ephesians 1:9-10; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). This is considered by many to be the end of the age of grace. Many people believe that this will come to an end at the resurrection. However, the Bible describes a remnant of Jews that will be saved during the seven year tribulation period and rescued at the second coming of Christ (Matthew 24; Revelation 7; Revelation 19:11-21).
The other factor to consider is that before Christ died upon the cross, the sacrificial system of law given through Moses was in practice (John 1:17). This is called the age of the law by many including dispensationalists. Understanding Biblical time periods or dispensations is essential to Bible study to understand the context of what is written. However, to suggest that people only get saved by grace from the time that Christ died on the cross until the resurrection is not correct.
If salvation was through the law before Christ died, then there are many places in the Bible that are incorrect. Some examples are Romans 3:19-20; Romans 7; Galatians 2:16-21; Ephesians 2:9; Titus 3:5. Therefore, if the works of the law did not bring salvation, then how did people get saved in before Christ died on the cross? The answer is the same way that people get saved after He died on the cross, by faith.
Before the cross, people got saved by believing that God would send a Savior to die for their sins. The most notable example is Abraham when he believed what God told him and it was accounted to Abraham for righteousness as follows:
After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:1-6)
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. (Romans 4:1-3)
Other verses describing salvation in Christ before He came are as follows: Genesis 3:15; Genesis 15:1-6; Luke 24:25-27, 44-47; Acts 3:18-24; Romans 4:1-16; Hebrews 11:4; 1 Peter 1:10-12.
We see that before the cross, people got saved by faith in a Christ to come and die. During the time of the crucifixion, people got saved by faith in a Christ that they saw die on the cross (2 Peter 1:16-17). After the cross, people get saved by faith in a Christ that died on the cross.
Considering these things, to call the church age the age of grace is really not correct. God’s grace was at work before the foundation of the world (Matthew 13:34-35; Matthew 25:31-34; Luke 11:47-51; Ephesians 1:3-7; 1 Peter 1:18-21). God loved us so much that before the sin of man in the garden, God had a plan for what He knew would happen (Romans 8:26-30).
God provided a way of salvation that will one day come to an end. Therefore, it is important that anyone who has not trusted Christ do so as soon as possible. We do not know when grace will no longer be available. When that day comes, the age of grace will be over.
God’s grace was demonstrated by offering His Son to die on the cross as a payment for our sins. Some people believe that the age of grace is a time period that started when Christ died on the cross and will end at the resurrection. People that lived before the death of Christ, at the time of the death of Christ, and after the death of Christ are all saved by God’s grace through faith in the Christ we know as Jesus. We are now in the age of grace, but when the age of grace is over, salvation will no longer be available. Therefore, it is important that anyone who has not trusted Christ do so as soon as possible as we do not know if tomorrow will be too late.
Article by Dr. Michael L. Williams
Dr. Michael L. Williams is a pastor, author, Christian educator and Biblical counselor who has served in ministry since March of 2000. Dr. Mike holds under-graduate through post graduate degrees in Christian Education and formerly worked as a nurse. Dr. Mike is the Senior Pastor of Selah Mountain Ministries, which he founded in March of 2010 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA (selahmountain.org). In addition to counseling, he teaches how to overcome life issues Biblically on topics such as anger management, marriage, addictions, and other subjects typically referred to as mental illnesses. Dr. Mike is also a writer at What Christians Want To Know. Dr. Mike lives with his wife Pamela Rose and adult daughter Hollie Rose. He and Pamela have other adult children and several grandchildren as well. Learn more about Dr. Mike at his personal ministry web site Wisdom4Today
Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version