The Grace “But”

I rarely heard about, or witnessed, grace in my younger years. When I attended Bible college much of my doctrine was reinforced through classes that also rarely stressed grace. I was taught to play biblical hop-scotch with verses pulled from contexts to win debates.

I learned to speak the word “grace” with the word “but.” In fact the word “but” became a rather important theological word in my life. More important than the word “grace” in fact.

Now in fact no one verbalized exactly like that. Yet, as they say, communication is 90% body language and 10% what is verbally stated. So typically, if I heard or read something about grace the word “but” was invariably mentioned.

Grace, BUT not grace only
Faith, BUT not faith only
Spirit works, BUT not apart from the written word

As I sat with the family today at God’s Table, and the Spirit preached the mighty acts of God he said, “Bobby BUT for grace, you could not be here.”

There is no “grace, but” at the Lord’s Table.

The word “but” does, in fact, occur in scripture. We use the word “but” as a limiting agent. Yet in Scripture it is a means to MAGNIFY the audaciousness of the stunning gift of grace. Look at these “but’s” in Scripture.

“we were by nature children of wrath. BUT GOD, who is rich in mercy, out of his great love made us alive …” (Ephesains 2.4)

“sinners of whom I am the worst. BUT FOR THAT VERY REASON I was shown mercy …” (1 Timothy 1.16)

“We lived in malice and envy being hated and hating one another. BUT WHEN THE KINDNESS AND LOVE OF GOD our Savior appeared …” (Titus 3.4)

The Bible does not use “but” in reference to grace in the way I learned to speak grace. Instead of saying

Grace, BUT …

The biblical pattern is


“If you, O Yahweh, kept a record of sins,
O Yahweh, who could stand?
BUT WITH YOU there is forgiveness”
(Psalm 130.3-4)

So rather than tarnishing the glory of God by saying “grace, BUT …”

Embrace the biblical pattern and give glory to the Lord by saying,

“But GOD …”

God loves you and in his grace God has decided to NOT be God … without you and me!

It is difficult to stress the magnitude of difference in the theology reflected in these divergent statements.