What is Grace?
The word grace is commonly used by Christians and in the church. Many church names include the word grace. My youngest daughter’s middle name is Grace. In the New Testament, the favorite salutation of the apostle Paul is grace and peace. One of the most memorized passages in the Bible is about grace (Ephesians 2:8). The term grace is a big deal. It’s a theological term that has massive practical implications. In this blog post, I want to define grace as used in Holy Scripture, and then I want to show how the grace of God impacts a person’s everyday life. The word grace is more than a Christian buzzword, but it impacts everyday life.
It’s All Greek to Me
The Greek word for grace is χάρις. It has the sense of favor or someone freely giving a gift to another person. You cannot merit grace, but it’s a one-way transaction. χάρις can also be translated to demonstrate a person’s thankfulness. In particular, χάρις is used to express a person’s thankfulness to God. Romans 7:25 captures the essence well. We read,
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
– Romans 7:25
When χάρις is reflecting a person’s gratitude thanks is an appropriate translation. However, when χάρις is used with God as the source, grace is often the better translation. There are two senses of grace when it’s used in conjunction with God. First, God extends common grace to all people. Second, God offers saving grace to some people.
Here is a helpful definition of common grace.
Common grace is God’s general favor by which he restrains sin and its consequences, maintains human life and culture, and bestows a variety of gifts and blessings to all people indiscriminately.– Gayle Doornbos, “The Spirit and Common Grace.”
Matthew 5:45 captures God’s indiscriminate common grace well.
For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
– Matthew 5:45
It does not matter if a person is a Christian, atheist, or agnostic. God’s common grace (whether a person realizes it or not) is for all to enjoy. The Christian and nonChristian farmers equally benefit from the rain.
Grace is also used in a more narrow sense, and it’s this sense that receives more attention in the pages of the New Testament. God extends saving grace to some people.
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
In so many ways, the grace of God to save and sustain sinners is what makes Christianity not only distinct, but I think, altogether appealing. There is no concept of grace in other religious traditions, at least not in the way grace is defined in the Bible. When God freely extends saving grace to a person, complete transformation takes place. The change begins in the heart, and then a person’s actions follow the heart. The first few lines of the iconic song Amazing Grace describe the change due to salvific grace.
What does saving grace cause a person to see? A person sees that Jesus Christ is the sinless Son of God who was crucified to atone for the sins of God’s elect people. But opened eyes also see that Jesus did not stay on the cross. He was buried and then he rose from the dead. Without saving grace a person remains blind to the truth of the gospel.
Grace that Sustains
There is one more aspect of grace I want to touch on. The amazing grace of God not only saves but also sustains the Christian. Here is Titus 2:11-14
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.– Titus 2:11–14
So, from Titus, we see that the grace of God is at work in the life of a Christian. It’s God’s grace that enables a Christian to say no to habits and patterns of life that are not congruent with God and the gospel. Further, it is the grace of God the enables the Christian to say yes to good works. Good works that have been prepared beforehand by God (Ephesians 2:10). The way Ephesians 2 and Titus 2 frame the grace of God clears the deck of any temptations to antinomianism.
God’s Grace is Amazing
God’s grace is amazing. His common grace for all, and more significantly God’s grace to save and sustain. And on this said of heaven, we know God’s grace is still at work in every Christian. It was no lost on the apostle Paul that when writing to various churches, he reminds them of the grace of God at the outset. And in the case of 2 Corinthians, Paul ends by mentioning the grace of God with this benediction.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.– 2 Corinthians 13:14
Shawn Powers is the lead pastor of Redemption Hill Church. You can follow him on Twitter at shawn_DSM.