Grace In Vain

Today is another Monday with a new verse rolling around in my head.

I was in 2 Corinthians 6 and although I continued to read the entire chapter, I couldn’t get the last part of verse one out of my head.

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.  2 Corinthians 6:1

Apparently we can receive the grace of God in vain and Paul thought the church at Corinth was in danger of it somehow. But what does that mean?

To do something in vain means to do it with no effect………without any useful result…….for no purpose. Like when you work really hard to lose 10 pounds but the scale numbers stay the same. Or campaigning for your favorite candidate only for them to lose the election. The work of exercising and eating right or the hours stuffing envelopes at campaign headquarters feel like a waste. No use at all.

Paul says that God’s grace to him was not in vain in 1 Corinthians 15:10: But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Paul explains that God’s grace to him was not in vain by reminding the church of his hard work. Paul doesn’t take credit for his work though. He points to God’s grace.

Grace was received. Work was done.

Paul labored in love because of God’s grace, NOT for God’s grace. There’s a vast difference between because and for. One is relationship, the other religion. One is a matter of the heart, the other is a list of dos and don’ts. One makes us humble, the other makes us proud.

The more Paul worked…..the more good he did, the less he thought of himself and the more he glorified God. Because that’s what grace does.

One way to receive God’s grace in vain is to make it all about me. To live my life, my way. Build my kingdom instead of God’s. Work for my comfort and safety without considering the comfort and safety of others.

Grace in vain makes me forget who I was before grace.

Grace in vain secretly, or maybe not so secretly, thinks I deserve the grace because of my knowledge, my faith, my leadership or accomplishments.

Grace in vain takes pride in reaching my next level. Takes pride in checking off the “good Christian” to do list.

Grace in vain makes all the work for nothing. The work is still done but without the intended results. Hardened hearts instead of soft ones. Less compassion, more judgment. Less peace, more fear. More about me. Less about God.

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. Romans 11:6

Grace, the kind that is not received in vain, remembers that God is the Grace Giver and we are nothing but what He makes us. This kind of grace makes us humble but gives us confidence. We grow and flourish in this grace. This grace flows through our love for God and for others.

“to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.        Ephesians 1:6

Unfortunately, I don’t live in God’s grace perfectly. Thankfully, His grace covers that too.

Are there any areas in your life you aren’t acting on the grace you’ve received?

Photo by Sven Gauditz on Unsplash

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  1. beaconsoflife on September 26, 2017 at 12:33 am

    Thank you for this post. It’s very well written and it cleared things up for me. This is something God has been showing and telling me about how my work needs to be for Him and not so I can get the recognition.

    • mariegriffith on September 26, 2017 at 5:49 am

      Thank you for sharing. It’s so easy for me to take all the credit for my work or art but then I remember He is why I have the work and the gifts.

  2. carrye1 on September 28, 2017 at 6:14 am

    I love this line “But grace, the kind that is not received in vain, remembers that God is the Grace Giver and we are nothing but what He makes us.” It reminds me of Isaiah 26:12 “Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” And it’s so hard to wrap our minds around the fact that we do work but ultimately God is accomplishing fruit. Thank you for sharing, it was a good reminder for me this morning!

    • mariegriffith on September 28, 2017 at 6:53 am

      Thank you Carrye. I’m always trying to wrap my mind around God’s glorious grace.

  3. Sand Lashelsea on December 6, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    I’m very grateful for God’s grace since I fall so short of reflecting His image well much of the time. I’m grateful for His patience, and that He is transforming me from glory to glory, as I behold Him. For the bulk of my life I lived under the tyranny of perfectionism–so I’m grateful to be freed from that. I always want to be better than I am, but if I focus on me–my behavior, attitude,”works”–rather than His finished work at the cross, I’d be tempted to give up. And that is not an option. He has promised to finish the good work He began in us–Hallelujah! Blessings to you in this wondrous season, Christmas!

  4. Pam Barksdale on February 5, 2019 at 6:35 am

    Yes, “Grace in vain makes all the work for nothing.” We all need that reminder once in a while. I miss you so much!

    • marieg on February 5, 2019 at 6:39 am

      Girl I miss you too! Let’s talk soon. I want to hear about your new job.

  5. Robin Turner on February 5, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    I am sending this to my small group co leaders! Perfectly expresses what our group is about.

    Thanks for writing!!!

    • marieg on February 5, 2019 at 1:57 pm

      I’d love to hear more about what your small group discusses.

  6. Brian Howard on April 15, 2021 at 11:34 am

    Thank you for this. You have helped me with your insight as I prepare to engage my small group on the subject of living a life characterized by “grace in vain” through inaction in our families and communities.

    • marieg on April 15, 2021 at 11:44 am

      Thank you, Brian. May God use your words to stir your hearts toward Him and the actions He would have you all take.

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