“But for the grace of God there go I”. Various people say it but you will especially hear it around people with a history of drug/alcohol addiction. The context refers to you seeing someone is a bad situation and acknowledging that if God had not helped you – THAT COULD INDEED BE YOU! The saying allegedly originated from John Bradford, a mid-sixteenth-century reformer, as he witnessed a group of prisoners being led to execution and said, “But for the grace of God there go I”. The saying contains a mixture of humility, gratitude and faith in God’s providential, loving care for you personally.
This saying was used 2,000 years ago in the New Testament by another recovering sinner by the name of Saul of Tarsus – more popularly known as the apostle Paul. In I Corinthians 15:8-10 Paul writes to the church about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. In his teaching he mentions the eyewitnesses who saw Jesus alive from the dead with the nail holes in His hands and feet and a spear hole in His side – it was Jesus alright! There’s Peter, the other apostles, James (Jesus’ brother), and 500 brethren who saw Jesus alive from the dead. But there is one more witness Paul mentions – himself. He writes, “…last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also” (I Corinthians 15:8). Then he makes a powerful statement as he looks at his past and then at his present station in life. In I Corinthians 15:9-10 Paul writes, “For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me”. Paul humbly, honestly and faithfully recognizes and admits that if God had not intervened in his life everything would be different – everything would be wayyyyy worse. In other words: If not for the grace of God, there goes Paul.
If we are humble, honest and faithful we will come to the same conclusion as Paul: If not for the grace of God, there goes every one of us. Reflect on your life and how God has helped you to be where you are today. Thank God for sparing you. Thank God for saving you. Then read Psalm 30:1-12 and listen to Amen by Micah Tyler. Finish it off by meditating on the statement, “If not for the grace of God, there go I”.
I will exalt you, Lord,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.
Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
Lord, when you favored me,
you made my royal mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.
To you, Lord, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:
“What is gained if I am silenced,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
Lord, be my help.”
You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.