When I first became a believer, I had a pretty narrow view of grace. I would have described it as a pardon for my sin. But that view began to change when I studied the attributes of God and came to realize grace was more than a pardon, it was one of God's attributes. That means grace has permeated every action God has taken and every instruction He has given. This means grace dates all the way back to the Garden of Eden when God created Adam and Eve, He graciously placed them in the Garden to tend to it. In that Garden they had everything they needed. They had human relationships that were unhindered by sin, deception, guilt, or shame. They had a sense of purpose when they explored the beauty God created, when they tamed and named the animals, and they they tended the Garden, freely eating from the fruit. They had a spiritual life that was unhindered by sin, allowing them to fellowship freely with their Creator. They lived with only one protective limitation placed on them and as long as they obeyed God's instruction this sheltered, abundant, and harmonious life they live would continue indefinitely. The world and the life God gave them was a demonstration of God's favor--the byproduct of His grace.
Then Adam and Eve came face to face with a crafty serpent, through whom Satan cast doubt on God's goodness. He did this by questioning God's command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As the serpent spoke Eve glanced at the forbidden tree, noticing it was full of beautiful fruit that whet her appetite. She began to ponder over the serpents words, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God knowing good and evil." Those words filled her with doubts God's integrity and about God's goodness and provisions for them. And most importantly she felt a sense of deprivation and dissatisfaction for the first time ever as she longed to be like God, knowing good and evil. And in that state of dissatisfaction and that sense of wanting more, she chose to quit relying on God and to take charge of her own life. She took the fruit and bit and turned to her mate and offered him a bite and he, too, bit.
Their eyes were immediately opened and they were filled with the dark feeling of shame. They sewed fig leaves together to cover their shame and to hide their nakedness. Then when they heard the Lord walking in the garden, instead of moving towards Him, they hid themselves from His presence. The deceiver hadn't prepared them for the guilt and the shame they would feel over their actions. Nor had prepared him for the fear of the Lord that would fill their souls in the in the aftermath of the choices they made.
But God's attribute of grace was still in place when He entered the garden that day. Not seeing them, He called to Adam, in a sense inviting him to confess his sin. Adam didn't take him up on the invitation, instead he admitted to God that he was afraid to be seen by Him because of his nakedness. God asked him if he had eaten from the tree He had commanded him not to eat. Adam once again ignored the invitation to confess his disobedience. He instead cast blame on God for creating the woman and then he blamed the woman as well. And the woman did no better. She blamed the serpent for her choice.
The next verses in the story contain what has always been known as "the Curse." But as I read them, I see God's grace beautifully woven through God's declaration of their consequences. Within the curse, we see grace in the form of the first promise of the Savior who would take their sin in His body. Within the curse we see grace through the protective covering of Adam's leadership assigned over Eve. Within the curse we find grace in the promise that Adam will someday die and return to dust. That may not seem like grace, but it was because God didn't want them to live forever in their fallen, sinful state. I believe Adam saw God's grace in the curse as the name he ascribed to the woman was "Eve," "the mother of all living."
We also can see God's grace in His actions towards them. God killed an animal and clothed them in garments of skins. When Adam and Eve took off their fig-leaf coverings and replaced them with the garments God had made, they acknowledged that they, themselves, could not repair the damage their sin had caused to the world, to their relationship with each other, and to their relationship with their Creator. He also removed them from the Garden so they could not eat from the tree of life and live in that fallen state forever.
God's grace also shows up in our lives everyday. It shows up in the sunrises and the sunsets He paints across the sky. It shows up in the way He fulfills our needs. It shows up in the work of the Holy Spirit as He convicts us of our sin, brings to mind God's truth, and whispers the truth of God's love into our hungry souls. It shows up in the design of the church as He gifts people with gifts and passions to build up the body. It shows up in His daily reminders that because of Jesus we are no longer defined by our sin, but by the words Jesus has spoken over us--words like chosen, beloved, redeemed, blessed, restored, reconciled, delivered, forgiven, holy, blameless, above reproach before Him, and qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints. He has also shown us grace through the comfort He gives, the healing He does, and the discipline he administers that helps us grow into His likeness.
Yes, grace is more than a pardon, it is the assurance that comes from knowing our God and the truths contained in His Word--truths like, "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by his love; He will exult over you with loud singing."(Zephaniah3:17)