By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
Grace is not simply leniency when we have sinned. Grace is the enabling gift and power of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.
This is plain, for example, in 1 Corinthians 15:10. Paul describes grace as the enabling power of his work. It is not simply the pardon of his sins; it is the power to press on in obedience. “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
Therefore, the effort we make to obey God is not an effort done in our own strength, but “by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified” (1 Peter 4:11). It is the obedience of faith. Faith in God’s ever-arriving gracious power to enable us to do what we should.
Paul confirms this in 2 Thessalonians 1:11–12 by calling each of our acts of goodness a “work of faith,” and by saying that the glory this brings to Jesus is “according to the grace of our God” because it happens “by his power.” Listen for all those phrases:
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The obedience that gives God pleasure is produced by the power of God’s grace through faith. The same dynamic is at work at every stage of the Christian life. The power of God’s grace that saves through faith (Ephesians 2:8) is the same power of God’s grace that sanctifies through faith.