After a long journey, Jesus stopped at a well in a town of Samaria. A local woman came to draw water, so Jesus asked her for some. This led to a deeply spiritual conversation about living water (Jn. 4:10). “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again,” says Jesus to the woman, “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn. 4:13-14).
The “living water” was an Old Testament metaphor pointing to the provision of grace that cleanses, saves, and transforms (Is. 1:16-18; 12:3; 44:3). Ultimately, this metaphor pointed to Jesus. He was the well from which living water springs forth and all who come to drink of Him will be eternally cleansed and transformed by the grace which wells up. Coming to the gospel is like coming to the well of living water. It is an endless spring that strengthens, cleanses, and transforms forever. Grace is the provision of the gospel.
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.Romans 1:1-7
In the opening prologue of Romans, Paul packs a great deal of truths that will tease the rest of the epistle. He is writing to the believers in Rome about the gospel. First, he introduces himself as a messenger of the gospel (Rom. 1:1). Second, he talks about the promise of the gospel (Rom. 1:2). Then, he speaks about Jesus, who is the substance of the gospel (Rom. 1:3-4). Now, he brings our attention to the provision of the gospel, which is grace (Rom. 1:5).
The Provision of Grace
Although there were many stories of Christ to draw from, I can’t help but imagine Paul reflecting on the story of Jesus at the well when writing, “through whom we have received grace” (Rom. 1:5). This is exactly what Paul has in mind. The living water of grace flows from the well of Christ to all who believe. When we receive the gospel, since it is all about Christ, we receive grace.
Simply put, grace is the unmerited favor of God poured out upon perishing sinners. It is a compassionate response to those who are spiritually bankrupt, not a warranted response by those who are spiritually rich. In fact, it cannot be earned and is never deserved. Nor is it ever achieved, accomplished, or profited. Grace can only be received. It is a free gift of God. No one affords it. The extent of man’s exertion is to hold out an uncalloused, open hand.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.Ephesians 2:8–9
Grace is not only received, it is only received through Christ. As Paul implies by the text, grace comes to us through Jesus. He is the conduit and pipeline. He is the riverbed by which the living waters flow to us. No drop of grace is ever received through any other person. God is the source and channel of grace.
Furthermore, this kind of grace can only be received by believers. It never flows to those who are not in Christ. A common grace falls upon all creation, but it doesn’t lead to salvation. This passage refers to a special grace, a saving grace. It makes us right before God and fuels our transformation into glory. The “we” in this verse refers to Paul and his co-laborer. However, when combined with the “you” in the next verse, all believers are enveloped into the recipients of grace. In other words, God’s grace is exclusively for those who draw from the well of Christ.
Evenmore, the well of grace never runs dry. It has an endless supply. It is a bottomless well full of an abundance of living water. Jesus is God. God is infinite. Grace comes from God. Grace is infinite. Therefore, those who come to the well and draw from Him living waters are supplied with an endless flow. Salvation is not a drop that teases the parched mouth. It is a flood of grace that overwhelms and carries the believer throughout his Christian life. He experiences “grace upon grace” (Jn. 1:16).
Grace justifies (Rom. 3:24) by faith alone (Rom. 4:16). Grace upholds (Rom. 5:2). Grace covers sin (Rom. 5:17), even when sin has abounded (Rom. 5:20-21). Grace rules all of its citizens (Rom. 6:4) and chooses all of its residents (Rom. 11:5) without considering their achievements (Rom. 11:6). Grace fuels faithful living (Rom. 12:3). It makes you more obedient, more faithful, more wise, more spiritual, more truthful, more merciful, more loving, more like Christ. The gospel gives us grace for life.
The Work of Grace
Grace also empowers us to “apostleship” (Rom. 1:5). It sends us to work. It sets us in the business of grace, which is to spread the gospel. This is what “apostleship” implies. In this context, it refers to our duty as recipients of grace to carry the message of grace to others. William Hendricksen, a biblical commentator, once wrote:
“Anyone who is on a spiritual mission, anyone who in that capacity represents the sender, anyone who brings the message of salvation is in a sense an apostle.”
In Ephesians 2:10, Paul expounds this idea, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” The term “workmanship” describes the artwork created by a master artist. He produces a “masterpiece.” God is the master artist and we are His masterpieces, produced for the business of grace or “good works.” We are the agents of salvation sent to herald the good news that sin has been conquered by Christ alone.
Now, we may not feel or even look like masterpieces. In fact, some of our lives are in pieces due to sin and the world’s sufferings. But, the master artist only produces what He intends to use and it is always masterfully made. No art produced by God is inadequate. It is always sufficient, always prepared. Its limitations are purposeful and usable. Therefore, all recipients of grace are sent as messengers of grace to perform the work of grace.
The Purpose of Grace
Since grace is the spiritual octane that fuels our work, the purpose of grace is “to bring about the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5). In other words, the work of grace is to carry the message of grace to others in order that they too become recipients and workers of grace.
The phrase “obedience of faith” is theologically loaded. It speaks to the inseparable connection between submitting to God and trusting God. The two go hand-in-hand from the start. No one is saved without faith that leads to obedience. No one obeys without trusting the God who commands. As the old hymn says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way.”
While faith is a matter of the heart and hidden from others, obedience is not. Instead, it is observable in the actions and attitudes of the grace recipient. Notice the connection between the two in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Confessing is activity that begins with belief. Again, “with the heart one believes and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Rom. 10:10). We are saved by belief that results in action. Obedience always involves faith and faith always involves obedience.
“Faith is not obedience, but as obedience is not obedience without faith, faith is not faith without obedience. They belong together as do thunder and lightning in a thunderstorm.”Karl Barth
The epistle of James says a lot about this connection. In fact, a major argument is that you know you have saving faith by observing the obedience that resonates from it. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (Ja. 2:14). This is a rhetorical question with “no” as the expected answer.
Faith that has no obedience is not saving faith. Rather, obedience proves the validity of one’s faith in Christ (Ja. 2:24). “For as the body apart form the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from [obedience] is dead” (Ja. 2:26). We are saved by faith alone, but faith is never alone. It always comes with obedience. If you dwell in the river of living water, obedience of faith will float to the surface. The purpose of grace is to bring about the obedience of faith in others.
The Goal of Grace
What is the aim? What is end goal of our work of grace? It is to glorify Jesus Christ. Paul says that it is “for the sake of his name” (Rom. 1:5). It is to set the name of Christ in bright lights before a watching world. It is to make Him famous. It is not to score points, not to enlarge your reputation, not to increase your church membership, not to establish your ministry presence. It is to increase the chorus of those who sing praises to God.
“For by Christ all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”Colossians 1:16
Christ is to be the preeminent one, the first and foremost. Everything was made for the sake of His glory. Yet, this is not what everything does. There are many who rob God of His glory in order to lift up themselves. All people are born self-worshippers. We naturally lean toward self-glorification.
Grace, when it flows to us through Christ, saves us and turns our worship toward heaven. Therefore, the work of grace is meant to spread the message of grace to others in order that they too might worship God. As John Piper said, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.” The chief end of man is to glorify God, grace makes it possible.
The Scope of Grace
Finally, Paul concludes with the scope of grace, which is “among all the nations” (Rom. 1:5). Grace is poured out into your life. It saves you and sanctifies you. It empowers you and sends you into the world with gospel in order that others might join you at the well of Christ. But, it doesn’t stop there in your neighborhood or city. It extends to far reaches of the world. All people need to hear the message of grace found in the gospel of God.
Since grace flows to only those who draw from the well of Christ, there are some throughout the world who are spiritually parched. They lack grace. They have not yet come to the well. So, we must take the well to them. Is this where we might find you today? Are you participating in the spread of the gospel among the nations? If not, why? Has grace not covered your sin? Is grace not flowing to you in an endless amount?
Maybe you have not yet drawn from the well of Christ. Now is your opportunity. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Trust and obey. This is what it means to draw from the well of Christ.