All of us have experienced frustration at some point in our life. Things you try to do or plans that you make just do not seem to work out. The work you put in to make things happen then seems like a wasted effort and you feel frustrated that you are not able to accomplish what you started out to do. Some apply this idea of frustration to God’s grace. Usually it is done with the idea of communicating how we can frustrate God’s grace in our lives. Can we frustrate God’s grace? Scripture reveals some interesting things about the same.
What is frustration?
The common definition of frustration is as follows: frustration, frəˈstrāSH(ə)n/noun. Noun: frustration: The feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something. An event or circumstance that causes one to have a feeling of frustration. The prevention of the progress, success, or fulfillment of something. Plural noun: frustrations. Verb: prevent (a plan or attempted action) from progressing, succeeding, or being fulfilled. (1)
What is grace?
The common definition of grace is as follows: Grace, ɡrās/noun: grace; noun: grace period; plural noun: grace periods; noun: His Grace; noun: Her Grace; noun: Your Grace. (In Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. A divinely given talent or blessing. Plural noun: graces: “the graces of the Holy Spirit” The condition or fact of being favored by someone. (2)
Can God’s grace be frustrated at all?
Given the common definitions of the words, the simple grammatically based answer would be no. To believe otherwise would be to suggest that we have the power to frustrate God because He is unable to change or achieve something that He wants to do (Psalms 147:5; Matthew 19:23-26; Luke 1:35-38). However, when discussing this topic from a Biblical perspective, the attitudes of our heart and the resultant behaviors do have an effect on the manifestation of God’s grace.
How can we frustrate God’s grace from a Biblical perspective?
Galatians 2:6-21 gives us a good overview of how this can happen (3). The context of this passage is that Paul had preached the gospel to the masses in Galatia and many of them had trusted Christ as their Savior. However, there was a group of false brethren that came in after the fact and taught that the believers had to keep the law. This despite being delivered from the law by salvation, which came by God’s grace through faith in Christ (Galatians 2:1-6). Theologically, these were known as Judaizers – those that taught that it was required to keep the law as a believer.
Paul learned of this fact and went to Antioch to discuss the matter because he had discovered that Peter was being inconsistent in his teaching on this matter. More specifically, when Peter was around Gentiles, he did not observe the law concerning association with Gentiles and what he ate. However, when there were Jews around, Peter, along with others of Jewish heritage, separated themselves from the Gentiles and followed the teachings of the law to the exclusion of the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7-17). When Paul confronted Peter about this fact, he went on to explain how God’s grace justifies us, not the works of the law as follows:
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (Galatians 2:16-21)
Paul told Peter that when we are justified by faith in Christ and we are behaving in sinful ways, it communicates to others that Christ is a minister of sin. Paul quickly followed this by denouncing this behavior and added that if he reinstated the works of the law that Christ has destroyed on the cross, then he would be making himself a transgressor by perpetuating this teaching of keeping the law. Paul added that because Christ fulfilled the law, he was dead to the law and should live for God. He was crucified with Christ, therefore the life he lives must be one that results from following the leading of the Spirit, Who lives in him, by God’s grace bestowed upon him through the faith he has in the Son of God, who loves him and gave Himself for him. Paul concluded by saying that he does not frustrate the grace of God because if righteousness came from the law, then Christ died in vain (Galatians 2:21)!
What can we learn about frustrating God’s grace?
As we just learned, grammatically, we do not have the power to literally frustrate God. However, we can grieve God by the choices we make as His children and have an adverse effect on others by promoting any idea of behaviors not rooted and motivated by faith in Christ (Psalms 78:40; Romans 14:14-23; Ephesians 4:30). In doing so, our behaviors can serve as a stumbling block for others in developing their relationship with the Lord and living their lives for Him (Malachi 2:8-9; John 11:10; Romans 9:30-33; Romans 14; 1 Peter 2:1-12). It is with this theological mindset that we can “frustrate” God’s grace. Finally, we do serve a loving and merciful God that allows us to repent and ask for forgiveness so that by His grace, we can change our ways and live by His grace as an example of what God’s grace should look like in the life of a believer (Psalms 78; 1 John 1:9).
All of us have experienced frustration at some point in our life. However, grammatically, God cannot be frustrated. Therefore, it is grammatically incorrect to think we can frustrate God. However, when we teach or exhibit ideas and behaviors that are contrary to righteousness by faith alone in Christ’s death on the cross to deliver us from the law of death, we can “frustrate” the effect of God’s grace on others. Simply stated, we can frustrate or have an adverse effect on God’s grace by becoming a stumbling block to others’ faith and growth in Christ.
Read more about God’s grace here: Bible Study About God’s Grace
Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version. (1) Google. (2017). “Frustration”. Retrieved from Google, https://www.google.com/#q=frustration. (2) Google. (2017). “Grace”. Retrieved from Google, https://www.google.com/#q=grace. (3) Williams, Michael L. (2016). “Preaching: Galatians 2:6-21 Are you frustrating God’s grace?”. Retrieved from Wisdom4Today, http://wisdom4today.org/preaching-galatians-1-6-21are-you-frustrating-gods-grace/