© Jeff Stacey | Last updated: 22 September 2016
2A8. God launched His way of GRACE for people to receive His acceptance:
God confirmed His ongoing commitment to Adam and Eve and their descendants
2A8(title) God launched His way of GRACE for people to receive His acceptance
At the FALL Adam and Eve had disobeyed God’s one requirement. Yet after the FALL God had shown that He still valued and was merciful to all people [1B33]. He now launched His offer of GRACE for how people could receive His acceptance, be restored to relationship with Him and know Him!
2A8(sub-title) God confirmed His ongoing commitment to Adam and Eve and their descendants
God was now confirming His ongoing commitment to Adam and Eve and their descendants. His offer of GRACE was a profound expression of His unchanging love for all people. It was how He pursued His strategy of love [2A3(d)]. The following explains this in detail.
2A8(a) Two meanings of “love”
The word “love” has at least two distinct meanings. Firstly it refers to the whole principle of desiring to benefit others. But secondly it can just refer to what people “really love to do!” This could of course involve attitudes and actions which are totally self-serving and the very opposite of “love” in the first sense. It all depends on motives – why people think, speak and act in the ways they do.
2A8(b) Two “hearts”: why people and God responded in different ways
2A8(b)(i) The meaning of “heart”
The first two uses of the word “heart” in the OT occur here Gen 6:5-6. The Hebrew words used were leb and lebab (852 OT occurrences). They referred to the inner person, especially their inclinations, desires and preferences. In other words, the deep-seated motivations that were driving them.
Their motives could be outward-looking, such as hope, gratitude and compassion. Or they could be self-serving, such as pride, fear, anger, greed, hate and lust for power or pleasure. Arising from these were associated thoughts and emotions.1 Obviously the meanings of “heart” and “love” are closely related.
2A8(b)(ii) The hearts of people
Significantly the word “heart” first appeared in the context of the total sinful degeneration of almost all the people Gen 6:5b. It pinpointed the source of the problem! Because of their evil motivations, people continually ignored God and their ethical awareness or “conscience”.2 Instead they chose to think about and do only what they now knew was evil.
2A8(b)(iii) The heart of God
In the next verse “heart” is also used about God Himself Gen 6:6. These are truly extraordinary statements! To think of God being so deeply troubled by people and hurting inwardly is astonishing beyond comprehension. God in personal anguish? Regretting that He had even created people?? Did this mean that He now rejected all people and His love for them had ceased – that He hated them…?!
It seems that the cause of God’s inner turmoil was nothing less than the demands of His own nature, in response to the awful sinfulness of the people. His perfection had been polluted by them, His power ignored and His love rejected. His perfection then demanded judgment and His power was totally able to carry it out!
Yet God’s unchanging heart of love for all people still yearned for them to reciprocate His love!! Probably this profound inner conflict was why “His heart was deeply troubled“. It certainly revealed how ardently God was devoted to all people and therefore was so moved by them! Could it even be said that He was “broken-hearted” over them?!
2A8(b)(iv) God’s quest for the love of people for Him
What God’s heart was desiring from all people was for them to respond wholeheartedly to His love – to really love Him. To delight in Him and want Him and everything about Him more than anything else. Only then would they be restored to a loving relationship with Him. They would love to think and do as He did and He would be making Himself known TO and THROUGH them. That would always be beneficial to others as well as for themselves.
But such responses from people were almost completely absent. So God’s heart was profoundly distressed, filled with pain. This showed that He was prepared to suffer agonizingly in the cause of seeking the wholehearted love of people for Him. Without this voluntary choice of their hearts [1A6(f)] His primary purpose could not be accomplished positively through them. So the central issue was always going to be God’s battle for people’s hearts. His strategies were all aimed at achieving this [2A3(d)].
2A8(c) GRACE: a profound new dimension of God’s love was revealed
2A8(c)(i) God’s offer to Cain
God then revealed a profound, radical new dimension of His love. He put a further extraordinary question to Cain Gen 4:7a. This indicated that CONDITIONALLY, Cain could be “accepted” by God despite his bad attitudes! Accepted? Even evil Cain ACCEPTED by God?!!!
God was saying that IF Cain did what was right THEN his sinfulness could be overruled and his relationship with God restored!! This was an extremely unexpected, radical, sublime offer by God in view of Cain’s attitudes (as well as all that God had endured due to the FALL!). But it all hinged upon that huge word “IF”…
2A8(c)(ii) God’s “acceptance” of fallen, sinful people?
The full meaning of this offer of “acceptance” is not given, but is illustrated by God’s response to Abel and his offering Gen 4:4. Despite Abel’s fallen nature as inherited from Adam and Eve, God’s favour and acceptance had somehow not been prevented. This acceptance included not only Abel’s offering but also Abel himself Gen 4:4b. The only CONDITION for this acceptance was implied by God’s question and warning to Cain Gen 4:7a [see 2A10 and 2A11]. Apparently Abel’s motivations, his heart, and his resulting offering had met this CONDITION.
God had previously shown mercy in His compassionate forbearance for fallen, sinful Adam and Eve [1B33]. Yet His favour towards Abel and offer to Cain of acceptance now indicated something far deeper. Apparently the consequences of violations of God’s absolute “one strike and you’re out” requirement [1A12(a)] were now being eased somehow. God was saying that He could potentially change the fallen status of sinful people!
2A8(c)(iii) The concept of “grace”
The word “grace” does not occur in the OT until Era 6 Psalm 45:2. “Gracious” first appears briefly in Era 4 Gen 21:1, 33:5,11, 43:29 and Era 5 Ex 34:6, Num 6:25. Yet “grace” is a theological term or concept that makes its first appearance here in Era 2. It is one of the key aspects of God’s own nature, being a major expression of His love.
2A8(c)(iv) Law and grace
The idea of grace is probably best understood in relation to the administering of laws, because the FALL involved legal or judicial issues. These can include:
# allegations of a criminal offence
# charges laid against the accused, according to the law
# the demand for justice
# formal trial of the accused
# presenting of evidence
# defence by the accused: denial, self-justifications, blaming of others or circumstances
# judgment of the case
# verdict (proof of innocence or guilt)
# dismissal of charges or conviction as a criminal
# if charges dismissed: a status of innocence (complete freedom from any guilt of law-breaking, or any punishment)
# if convicted: sentencing to appropriate punishment as required by the law
# punishment applied, according to the sentence
However, even if someone is proven guilty of a crime, the judge might still be lenient. Punishment may be deferred, reduced or possibly cancelled. The reasons for this are usually related to the circumstances of the particular case.
But if applied excessively this could threaten the whole legal system. The dispensing of justice and punishment based on the observance or violation of laws could be overidden by rulings based on a principle of leniency.
2A8(c)(v) God’s grace in legal terms
These judicial issues are raised by God’s merciful responses to people after the FALL. His actions could easily create wrong impressions about His justice. Was God condoning sinfulness? Did He lack power by not acting more promptly or heavily in judgment? What was He really doing?! WHY?
In legal terms, if God’s sentence was a lenient or cancelled punishment, that would still involve a criminal conviction. But surely He could not “accept” an offender whose guilt had been proven? Would this not still be a violation of God’s perfection?
By offering His full acceptance to sinful Cain, God must have been proposing something extremely radical! Apparently God was offering to cancel the conviction or even to drop the charges! If so, God would be freely giving Cain a status of complete innocence! That is, perfection!!
God would be granting Cain a remarkable legal standing: “a state of grace for a disgraceful state”! Yet this was surely the only way that God could consider any sinner to be acceptable.
Based on the above, a summary of “grace” relative to some other legal terms could be:-
justice: is applying the punishment that is deserved when proven guilty of a crime, in accordance with laws
mercy: is allowing relief from some or all of the just punishment that proven guilt of a crime deserves and the law requires
grace: is granting total pardon from all the proven guilt and just punishment that a crime deserves and the law requires!
2A8(c)(vi) An outline of God’s grace
God’s grace could be outlined as follows:-
# Despite people’s sinfulness, God’s love for them was unchanging
# God was prepared to be long-suffering in His love for people
# God generously offered a way to grant people an undeserved status of acceptability to Himself, IF they made the necessary change of heart towards Him
# God then allowed people time to respond
2A8(c)(vii) God’s grace was proactive, not condescending
It could seem that God was condescending to the weakness of the people’s heart-motivations towards Him by “lowering the bar” of His requirements. But actually He was exhorting and trying to persuade people to change their hearts.
This was the emphasis of His approach to Cain Gen 4:6-7. God was offering him a full acceptance that would bring restoration of relationship and intimacy with Himself! IF that was what Cain or anyone really wanted, THEN God was making it possible for them to have it!!
They would be restored to a loving relationship with God and He would make Himself known TO them and even THROUGH them positively, so accomplishing His primary purpose! [see 2A11]
2A8(d) The concept of “repentance”
Like grace, the word “repentance” is another theological concept that first appears here, although the actual word does not occur in the OT until much later Isaiah 30:15. Specifically it refers to turning FROM self-serving and sinful motivations TO being wholeheartedly committed to serving God. That is, to loving God – being motivated to know and please Him – and putting that into practice. This was the change of heart that God was seeking.
God had finally threatened people with His coming judgment Gen 6:3. Yet in grace He was giving them a warning to turn from their sin before it was too late. He was providing further opportunities for them to repent, to freely choose to “do what is right” and receive His acceptance [see 2B24(b)].
2A8(e) All of God’s offers for people to find His acceptance and righteousness were “in grace”
God’s grace was the most profound way that His unchanging love for fallen, sinful Adam and Eve and their descendants continued to be expressed. It was His response to any people who obeyed the CONDITIONAL requirements He set for them all. This demonstrated His ongoing commitment to them. Consequently many of the following “box” titles and/or sub-titles contain the phrase “in grace”. These contain descriptions of God’s offered way to find His acceptance and righteousness.
These people had very long lives. God was waiting for positive responses from them. Yet the extended years of grace would not go on forever… [see 2B31(e, f)].
Arrows 2A4 -> 2A8,
2A5 -> 2A8 and
2A6 -> 2A8
These arrows indicate that despite the FALL, God continued to accomplish His primary purpose by still sustaining the whole universe and interacting with the people. He was making Himself known by expressing His own nature TO all people as His love, power and perfection. But due to their mixed responses to Him they experienced this as both positive and negative.
Yet God’s new offer of GRACE radically confirmed His ongoing commitment to all people. In this way they could become acceptable to Him and restored to a loving relationship with Him.
1. W.E.Vine, Merrill F.Unger and William White Jr, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville: Nelson, 1985), pages 108-9 (OT section).
Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections (Portland: Multnomah, 1984), page 8.(Return to reading)
2. “Ethical” refers to a system of moral principles by which human actions and proposals may be judged good or bad, right or wrong. A.Delbridge et al eds., The Macquarie Dictionary (Dee Why: Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 1985), page 605.
“Moral” is concerned with right conduct; founded on the fundamental principles (ethics) of right conduct. ibid, page 1113.
“Conscience” refers to the internal recognition of right and wrong as regards one’s actions or motives. It is the faculty which decides upon the moral quality of one’s actions or motives, enjoining one to conformity with the moral law. ibid, page 396.(Return to reading)