What is the definition of grace in the Bible?
The Bible refers to the “grace of God” twenty-one times in the New Testament. The word “grace” occurs nine times in the Old Testament and 112 times in the New Testament. This word is very common in the New Testament. But what is the meaning of grace?
The Grace of God
Every person is known by their personal characteristics. One of the characteristics of God is that He is full of grace (1 Peter 4:10). The New Testament refers twenty-one times to the grace of God. Hebrews 4:16 figuratively refers to the throne on which God sits as being the throne of grace. Because He is full of grace, He responds to man’s needs. Grace refers to God’s action toward His creatures.
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NASB)
Jeremiah 3:12 states,
“For I am gracious,” declares the LORD.
The Meaning of Grace
The word “grace” first appears in the New Testament in Luke 2:40. The Greek word is charis which is typically translated as “favor.” Someone has said that grace is “charity.” He used the older meaning of “charity” which implies giving someone something that they do not deserve. The most common definition is that grace is unmerited favor, but that is an incomplete definition.
A. W. Tozer has defined grace as,
Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines Him to bestow benefits on the undeserving.
He viewed grace as “good pleasure” with a willingness to give benefits. But maybe the best definition of grace is revealed in Romans 11:6. In this verse we are told that salvation is based on grace.
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. Romans 11:6 (NASB)
It is obvious in this verse that grace means more than just good pleasure or favor. The word actually refers to favor that cannot be earned. If grace can be earned then it is not grace. Lehman Strauss gives an very good definition of grace with,
Grace is everything for nothing. It’s helping the helpless, going to those who cannot come in their own strength.
That is, grace is favor given to those who do not deserve it. Biblical grace cannot be earned or deserved.
Common Grace or Universal Grace
In Scripture there are two different types of grace: common grace and saving grace. Common or universal grace refers to a general favor that God pours out on both believers and nonbelievers. This grace includes God’s compassion and care for all His creatures (Psalm 145:9), provision of sunshine, rain (Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:16-17; 17:24-28) and God’s kindness to the ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:35). Additionally, because God is full of grace He hinders or restrains sin through human government (Romans 13:3-4) and the Holy Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). Common grace also includes the Holy Spirit’s convicting men and women of sin to motivate them to not sin and turn to Christ (John 16:7-11). God has also placed a conscience within everyone to motivate us to righteous behavior (Romans 2:14-15). Common grace is undeserved favor that is given by God – even to unbelievers who hate Him.
Saving Grace or Irresistible Grace
Saving grace which is also called irresistible, regenerative or efficacious grace saves men and women from the consequences of their sins. Zechariah 12:10 refers to the Spirit of Grace. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts of sin (John 16:7-11) and draws men and women to Christ.
I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. Zechariah 12:10 (NASB)
God’s Grace Results in Salvation
Romans 3:24; 5:15, 17 informs us that the grace of God results in the salvation of men and women and that this abundant grace is a gift. Because of God’s grace, men and women are justified or declared righteous by faith in Christ (Romans 4:16).
. . . being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus . . . Romans 3:24 (NASB)
But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:15, 17 (NASB)
Ephesians 2:8-9 adds that faith is a gift resulting from God’s grace.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB)
Even the faith believers have in Christ is given to them by God (Acts 3:16). Irresistible or efficacious grace refers to the action of God the Father who causes people to believe (John 6:65, 44, 37-39). Men and women are forgiven their sins as a result of God’s grace.
Grace Is Not A One Time Event
1 Peter 1:10 tells us that the Old Testament prophets wrote about the grace that would come. It came when Christ was born, died and was resurrected. When one believes in Christ and trusts in Him for the forgiveness of his or her sins, then they have been saved by His grace. Romans 5:2 tells us that believers continue living this grace. Then 1 Peter 1:13 says that when Christ returns we are finally brought to heaven. Here is a summary of the grace given to every believer.
Saved By Grace – We were saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 2:11; 1 Peter 1:10).
Living In This Grace – Believers live and grow in grace (Romans 5:2; Hebrews 13:9; 1 Peter 3:7; 2 Peter 3:18).
Grace To Come – Believers will be brought into this grace when Christ returns (1 Peter 1:13).
There is a wonderful hymn about God’s grace in salvation. It is called “Grace Greater Than Our Sin” and was written by Julia H. Johnston.
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
Yonder on Calvary’s mount out-poured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.
It summarizes God’s grace to us. Romans 5:20-21 summarizes God’s saving grace.
. . . where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:20-21 (NASB)
1. Roy Zuck. The Speaker’s Quote Book. Kregel Publications. 1997. p. 177.
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Mercy & Grace in Time of Need
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