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Two kinds of favour
- Jacob Ninan
Christians are generally aware of 'grace' defined as 'the unmerited favour of God'. We are accepted by God 'just as we are', when we go to Him in repentance and trusting in the price Jesus has paid for our sins (Ep.2:8,9). We don't deserve it, and we can never do anything to earn this favour from God. But we mustn't think that this is the only dimension to God's dealings with us.
Some people, extrapolating on this understanding of grace, imagine that since all of us are accepted by God in the same manner, we are all equal in His eyes. No, there is a difference. We are all accepted on the basis of grace as a free gift, and there is nothing any of us can boast over another person. However, now that we have been accepted by God, there is going to be a differentiation based on how each one of us makes use of this grace. Jesus talked much about this, about someone producing hundred fold returns for the seed that was sown in his life, while others produced only sixty or thirty fold (Mt.13:8). He also mentioned about someone who had received a talent from the master and had not bothered to produce any return at all! (Mt.25:18). So God does take note of these differences among us.
Paul mentions about how he had worked with the grace he had been given, with more vigour, zeal and diligence than others (1Co.15:10). He was humble enough to recognise that he had nothing to boast for this, and that he was just making use of the grace that was given to him. Paul was not aiming to get a better reward or greater name than everyone else, but it was His love for Jesus that energised him (2Co.5:14,15). Compare this to our own life and see our attitude and diligence in this regard!
When God once looked all around at the people He had created, He saw wickedness and corruption everywhere. But Noah found favour in His eyes, because he was righteous and blameless in God's eyes and walked with God (Ge.6:8,9). This was not an unmerited favour! Noah deserved it.
Of course, in a sense even here there was an element of undeserved favour. All have sinned, including Noah, and come short of God's glory (Ro.3:23), and in that sense no one deserves any favour from God. All we really deserve is death and separation from God, and any good we receive is an unmerited favour from God. But at the same time, God does recognise faithfulness.
Is this an Old Testament concept that has been overriden in the new covenant of grace? No. Actually even under the old covenant, people were accepted by grace on the basis of faith - we just have to read He.11 to see this - even though it was not so obvious because Jesus had not come yet. God accepted their sacrifices and offerings looking ahead at the true sacrifice from Jesus that was going to replace them all.
We are all not going to be the same in heaven; some will shine brighter than others (1Co.15:41,42). Some will have greater authority than others (Lk.19:17).