To understand what the bible means when the word grace is used we are going to look at how grace is used in scripture: what's the context, what's the outcome, and is there any reason why God’s grace would be extended to one person over another?
In the English language, grace is a word that is used in many different ways. It is used to mean many different things. Words used in this way tend to end up having no real meaning at all. The bible uses the word grace and tells us it’s vital to our salvation Ephesians 2:8 Ephesians 2:8For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
American King James Version× .
So understanding what grace helps us understand how our salvation is accomplished. To cut though all the clutter… and to understand what the bible means when the word grace is used we are going to look at how grace is used in scripture: what’s the context, what’s the outcome, is there any reason why God’s grace would be extended to one person over another?
1 Peter 5:12 1 Peter 5:12By Silvanus, a faithful brother to you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein you stand.
American King James Version× it is possible for your to have a false idea of God’s grace. Your Creator wants you to have a trustworthy and reliable understanding of grace… and to stand firm in it. To say there is a true grace implies there is a false grace .
To understand grace is to understand how you can attain salvation… Yet, the subject of grace is also controversial because of the way in which the word and the concept are misused… the false grace implied by Peter. You may have heard grace described as “God’s unmerited pardon”, or simply “forgiveness of sin”… but these are only a small portion of a biblical understanding of grace [forgiveness of sin is more an outcome of grace rather than grace itself… in the way winning is the outcome of running fast, but not the same thing].First Appearance of Grace in the Bible
Genesis 6:8 Genesis 6:8But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.
American King James Version× Noah was quite literally saved by this grace. Its is important to understand that grace is not limited to the new testament. Grace is not a new concept only introduced into God’s revelation after the death of Jesus Christ. Grace is how the Creator has dealt with humanity from the beginning.
The Hebrew word used in this instance is Chen: it means favor, grace, acceptance, unmerited favor with God. Its also frequently translated simply as favor . Like most Hebrew words its derived from a word picture… in this case bending down to help out another person who is in an inferior position… offering help to a person in need when that person has no right or reason to expect assistance.
Think of this grace as being on a person’s good side, in their favor… when they see you they smile, they are willing to overlook minor flaws and work with you, to help you succeed. Grace would be an important ingredient for a successful relationship between: husband and wife, with your next door neighbor, with co-workers. Grace smooths over rough spots in the relationship. On the flip side: without grace, without favor….even the smallest transgressions become a big deal.
John 15:15 John 15:15From now on I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known to you.
American King James Version× This kind of positive relationship is what God wants to have with you.
God didn’t save Noah because Noah was the only person on earth who had never made a mistake. Noah had his shortcomings. But, God had a positive relationship with Noah… there was something about this man that pleased God… certain traits.
Hebrews 11:17 Hebrews 11:17By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
American King James Version× a man who walked uprightly and was humble enough to act upon God’s warning.
Psalms 84:11 Psalms 84:11For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
American King James Version× your Creator wants to give favor to you, He wants to shower you with good. And just so you know, He is especially favorable to those who conduct their lives by His standards of righteousness. But He also wants you to understand that He doesn’t owe you anything just because you try to live righteously.
Proverbs 3:34-35 Proverbs 3:34-35 34 Surely he scorns the scorners: but he gives grace to the lowly.
35 The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.
American King James Version× God gives gifts and favor based on attitude… humility. This proverb is quoted in James 4:6 James 4:6But he gives more grace. Why he said, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
American King James Version×, and 1 Peter 5:5 1 Peter 5:5Likewise, you younger, submit yourselves to the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble.
American King James Version× indicating this is how the OT concept was understood and applied to grace by the apostles. Chen = Charis
These two: conduct and attitude work together. God is not pleased with a person who is righteous but not humble [Jesus had much to say about this]. Neither is God pleased with a person who is humble but does not act in a righteous way [God’s message to such folks is stop living in sin].God’s Deliverance of Israel Was Grace in Action
Jeremiah 31:2 Jeremiah 31:2Thus said the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest.
American King James Version× [see also Deuteronomy 7:7-10 Deuteronomy 7:7-10 7 The LORD did not set his love on you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people; for you were the fewest of all people: 8 But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn to your fathers, has the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of slaves, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God, he is God, the faithful God, which keeps covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; 10 And repays them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hates him, he will repay him to his face.
American King James Version× - because of my favor to Abraham]
Grace is an expression of His nature Exodus 34:6-7 Exodus 34:6-7 6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the children’s children, to the third and to the fourth generation.
American King James Version×
Zechariah 12:10-11 Zechariah 12:10-11 10 And I will pour on the house of David, and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look on me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
11 In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.
American King James Version× God’s nature does not change He will continue to extend grace even in the future. Note: the context here is when Christ returns as King of Kings. The people of Israel will realize the terrible mistake they have made in rejecting their Messiah… they will repent. Once again the extension of God’s grace accompanies a change of attitude. Humility and commitment to walk in God’s way.
The new testament is written in Greek. The word translated grace is charis . It means roughly the same thing as Chen : favor, acceptance, receipt of God’s gifts and blessings.
The first appearance of the word chronologically in the new testament is Luke 2:40 Luke 2:40And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was on him.
American King James Version× . God desire was to protect, nurture, care for this boy… because He loved the boy Jesus but also so Jesus could fulfill His mission.
Notice that in this application grace must be understood as far more that forgiveness of sin. The logic is simple: Jesus never sinned and needed no forgiveness… yet He received God’s grace abundantly. So, if I say “you are saved by grace” or “We are under grace” it means far more than how God deals with sin. Forgiveness is only one of many ways God’s grace expresses itself.Grace & Law
One of the greatest gifts God give you is enlightenment… light that shines in a dark place. You may have preferred a new Porsche, but that would be short sighted since you cannot take a Porsche with you beyond the grave. God’s greatest gifts are everlasting:
- He give you His commandments - a way of living that leads to peace and joy
- He gives you His spirit - the power to understand and the conviction to apply His word
- He has also provided a means whereby the penalty for your sins, transgressions and mistakes can be paid for without costing you your eternal life.
- He gives you understanding of His plan of salvation and what lays ahead: resurrection to life everlasting.
These are some examples of God extending His grace to you. He doesn’t have to enlighten you, He doesn’t have to provide payment for your sins, he doesn’t have to provide you with life. But He does… and it should be understood as an expression of His positive, forward thinking, and gracious nature.Grace and Overcoming Sin
Romans 6:14 Romans 6:14For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.
American King James Version× this verse is often used to teach that we don’t need to think much about God’s commands…
- “why should I worry too much about violating the commandments, I know God’s going to forgive me anyway… so, I’ll kinda obey Him but I’m not too worried about it” [Heine quip “God will forgive me, that’s His job”].
- Or perhaps that if I confess the name of Jesus as my savior God is then obligated to save me from death. I have His grace and assurance of salvation… so I needn’t worry too much about what happens between now and them.
It s not my purpose to day to do a full exposition on the law and its role in the new covenant… let’s simply read the verse that follows: Romans 6:15 Romans 6:15What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
American King James Version× .
Even the popular notion that God’s grace means never ending forgiveness only makes sense because there is a law. Grace is God showing His favor and acceptance to those who are making the effort to overcome sin… which is breaking the law John 3:4 John 3:4Nicodemus said to him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
American King James Version× .
In His goodness and grace God wants you to learn how He thinks and acts. He wants you to put that way of thinking into your heart. So, He gives you His law and convicts you through His spirit that this is the way. As you learn you make mistakes [sometimes we learn only through our mistakes].
When we fall down… we could give up… well I’ve done it now. I’ve sinned so there’s no hope for me… but we don’t! We get back up, we brush the dirt off and we get right back at it. We repent, we pray, we seek His forgiveness. If we don’t get back up to fight again then we are showing we really don’t have the desire to learn what it takes to live God’s way… the way of peace and joy… the way of eternity.
People who don’t want it… won’t be there.
God also does not want you to be destroyed because of a mistake(s) you make while learning. So, in His amazing grace He provides a way to pay the penalty for your sin. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Psalms 19:7-9 Psalms 19:7-9 7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
American King James Version× the revelation of His law is as much an outpouring of His grace as forgiveness.
2 Peter 3: 14- 18 growing in grace and knowledge means avoiding lawlessness 1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
American King James Version× .
Acts 4:33 Acts 4:33And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was on them all.
American King James Version× God’s grace and favor was upon the church. His great power worked on their behalf to smooth the way so they could proclaim the good news. It was also at work within the members that they showed great brotherly love towards one another. Again we see the results of Grace not tied to the forgiveness of sins but rather power and teaching.
Please pray for God’s grace and favor upon the church. We are the mechanism through which God is graciously providing enlightenment… that shines in this dark place.Grace and Calling
Romans 11:5-6 Romans 11:5-6 5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
American King James Version× God did not have to give you enlightenment. He did not have to reveal His laws and ways to you. He did not have to provide a payment for your sins. He did not have to give you His spirit. He is not obligated to give you the gift of eternal life.
But He offers all these very things to you as an expression of who and what He is… gracious, friendly, positive… upbeat.
God will show Himself gracious to the one who is humble… willing to listen and learn… the one who is willing to walk with Him in uprightness. He doesn’t owe you a thing… but He wants to share all things with you.
That is biblical grace.