THE GRACE OF GOD - UNMERITED FAVOR
We often hear about ”grace” in sermons, teachings, conversations and explanations. But do we really understand the true biblical definition of grace?
The Greek word used in the Bible for grace is “charis.” Let's see what the original meaning is, so that we may have a better understanding of what the writers of the New Testament were truly saying.
According to “Strong's Exhaustive Concordance,” the word “charis” means: “graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act, especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude. It can also mean: acceptable, benefit, favor, gift, grace, gracious, joy, liberality, pleasure, thanks, thank-worthy.”
“Thayer's Greek Lexicon” translates the Greek word “χάρις” that reads “charis” as: grace, that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech. It can also mean: good will, loving-kindness, favor; or: of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.
The term can be also used for the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace or for the token or proof of grace, benefit; It can also be a gift of grace, benefit, bounty, it can also mean: thanks, (for benefits, services, favors), recompense, reward.
- John 1:14-17 (AMP) “And the Word (Christ) became flesh, and lived among us; and we [actually] saw His glory, glory as belongs to the [One and] only begotten Son of the Father, [the Son who is truly unique, the only One of His kind, who is] full of grace and truth (absolutely free of deception). 15 John testified [repeatedly] about Him and has cried out [testifying officially for the record, with validity and relevance], “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I and has priority over me, for He existed before me.’"16 For out of His fullness [the superabundance of His grace and truth] we have all received grace upon grace [spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing, favor upon favor, and gift heaped upon gift]. 17 For the Law was given through Moses, but grace [the unearned, undeserved favor of God] and truth came through Jesus Christ."
Jesus Christ, the Word that became flesh, God the Son, the Way, the Truth and the Life is the source of eternal life, love, joy, all that is pure, beautiful, holy and all that “grace” means. Jesus is the Truth and He is the Word and the Bible as His Word is also the Truth. The deeper we understand the Scripture, the more we know who God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit really are.
The apostle John writes that “we have all received” the super-abundance of Jesus' grace and truth and “grace upon grace,” which the Amplified Bible explains as: “spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing, favor upon favor, and gift heaped upon gift.” This is God's lavishness as His gifts are not given to us sparingly; all He is giving us through Jesus is in abundance, always more than enough. If we do not have them, the problem lies with us, not God. We cannot benefit if we do not understand or are not aware of what is ours and we do not know how to access what the Lord has already provided for us in Jesus Christ and His Word. Sadly, we see that not everyone lives blessed and fulfilled lives in Christ. To possess what Jesus won at the cross for us, we have to be born-again and have the desire to understand who Jesus is, know who are we in Him and the blessings that belong to us because of Him. The Holy Spirit has been sent to us to be our Helper and to reveal the truth of God's Word. That means that by asking the Lord to help us, we are more able to understand and benefit from God's grace unto us.
Let's take a closer look at some of the many verses that talk about grace.
- Acts 6:8 "Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.”
- Acts 11:23 "When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.”
- Acts 14:3 "Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.”
God's grace brings blessings and spiritual growth for Christians so they will bless others in return. The signs and miracles that follow God's children, are the gifts received from the Holy Spirit. These gifts cannot be earned, but are the free gifts of God. When people see the power of God working through signs and wonders, is harder for them to continue to deny Jesus.
Let's look at another attribute of grace:
- Acts 15:11 "But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they."
- Romans 5:15-17 "But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”
- Ephesians 2:7-8 "that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,”
We receive our salvation based on God's grace, not on our performance. The original Greek word used for salvation is “sṓzō” and means: save, heal, restore to health, preserve, rescue. The word comes from the root “sōs” which means "safe, rescued" – properly, deliver out of danger and into safety; used principally of God rescuing believers from the penalty and power of sin – and into His provisions (safety). (Strong's Concordance and NASB Translation)
Jesus paid the price in full for the sins of every person. His blood shed on the cross, not only covered our sins, as the blood of sacrificed animals did in the Old Covenant, but washed them away and canceled them forever. By faith in Jesus we receive His righteousness, too.
- Romans 6:14-16 "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? "
We will reign in life, if we understand the fullness of God's grace along with Jesus' righteousness (Romans 5:17). We can reign only through Jesus, as we stay submitted to Him. In order for this to happen, we have to abide in Him, to live holy, sinless lives, so we will not “give any place to the devil.” (Ephesians 4:27) What does this mean? When we sin, we give the devil the legal right to attack and hurt us. Paul says that we are the slaves of whoever we obey. While we are living right, Jesus rules over us and we reign through Him. However, when we choose sin, we put ourselves under Satan and we forfeit our rights.
Once we receive God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ, sin no longer has authority over us (Romans 6:14). What the Bible says is very clear. God does not force us to accept or apply it. But if we want to understand His will and live in obedience to Him, the Holy Spirit has to open our spiritual eyes, so that we can understand God's Word and cause it to become “living and powerful” in our hearts and lives.
The grace of God does not give us the liberty to sin. It is the contrary!
- Galatians 5:4 "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”
Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, warns us to not fall from grace through his letters addressed to the churches in Corinth and Galatia.
- Galatians 2:20-21 "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.””
In order to follow Christ, we crucified our flesh and continue to do so on a daily basis, because as long as we live in our physical bodies, the flesh will continue to try to rule again and quench the Spirit. How? By lusts, moods and no desire to obey the Holy Spirit. We are in a continuous war with the carnal, fallen nature. We need to be aware of it and fight it every day. Jesus already won the war for us, but to posses the real victory at the end of the road, we have to be committed to obey the instructions of the Holy Spirit and not the flesh. Hopefully we will be able to say as Paul did, that if we live “by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us”, we will be certain that we will finish our race in the arms of our Lord.
Paul was serious in his fight against sin and he lived according to what he preached:
- 1 Corinthians 9:27 “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
- Galatians 5:13-25 "For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself."15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! 16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
During his first missionary trip to Asia Minor, Paul helped start the churches in the Roman Provence of Galatia. The close relationship he had with the saints there, explains the tough tone and the firm warnings conveyed through his letter, about mixing salvation through the grace of Jesus Christ, with the circumcision and keeping the mosaic Law. In the 4th verse of the same chapter, he writes: "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”
Apart from Jesus, we cannot benefit from His grace. If our righteousness doesn't come from Christ and Christ alone, then we do not have it at all. The righteousness that is required for salvation through the Law means fulfilling it 100%. No human being has ever been able to keep the Law without sin, except Jesus Christ. Only in Jesus was there no sin. If we were able to be saved by keeping the Law, Jesus would not have had to die for us as the perfect sacrifice. The blood of sacrificed animals only covered the sins of the ones who brought the sacrifices. For their sins to be forgiven and eradicated, this required the blood of the Son of Man, the One who never sinned, that was not born in sin, but who took upon Himself the sin of all mankind and was sacrificed only once for all past, present and future sins.
- Jude 1:4 ”For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The apostle Jude warns that there are some who pretend to be Christians, but in reality, they are ungodly who teach that it is alright to sin and make a mockery of God's grace and our personal lordship of Jesus Christ. They are twisting the Scriptures to make it sound like God tolerates sin because of His grace. Why would Jude say that, by living in sin, we deny the lordship of Jesus? Because as Paul said, we “are the one’s slaves of whom (we) obey” (Romans 6:16). The lordship of sin brings death, but the lordship of righteousness brings life.
- James 4:4-7 ”Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? 6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.“”
In our days, we hear more and more that “God's grace forgives it all”. Many say: “It's okay if I sin, because God is love and He forgives me. Once I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I cannot lose my salvation” or “A Christian is a forgiven sinner. What can we do, making mistakes is what makes us human. Why are you judging me?” And there are many other variations that make a mockery of God's grace and are taking people to hell.
Galatians 5:17 "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
Paul also warns us, that we cannot do all the things we want. If it were true that salvation could not be lost, and God does not force anyone to obey Him, because of free will, then it would mean that we could do whatever we want, without consequence. (You may read more about the matter in the article "Once Saved Always Saved?").
James 4:4-7 warns us also. To be friends with the world and live like them and enjoy going to the same ungodly places, where there is nothing clean or holy, would show a serious problem. We cannot be of this world and of the Kingdom of God both. God yearns for us to be His. Also, God never requires us to give up something, without a much more beneficial return. The grace that He gives us is more precious, than any sin or relationship we could ever give up. One of the meanings of grace in Greek is “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight and sweetness” and all in much more measure than any sin could ever offer. The wonder of God's grace is that its joy and pleasure are for now and forever. Every so called pleasure that comes from sin, is not only short lived, but also leaves behind a bitter taste and is followed by regret and if not repented of, the cost is eternal.
Other attributes of God's grace:
- Acts 15:40 "but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.”
- Acts 20:32 "“So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.””
By the grace of God we are protected and kept secure and safe. Once we commit ourselves to God and His grace, we are in the most secure place that there is. God's Word shows us what His grace is and the more we understand it, the more we grow in faith. All that we have we inherit from Jesus, because of God's grace.
- Romans 4:13-17 "For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, 15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed--God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;”
- Romans 5:1-2 "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
By having faith in Jesus Christ, we are right standing with God and that allows us to access His grace and have it at work in our lives, even if we are not Hebrew by birth. Abraham was considered righteous by faith, before he was circumcised, so we, the Gentiles to be able to become God's children, and inherit eternal life by faith and not by birthrights.
- Romans 12:6 "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;”
We receive the spiritual gifts of the Lord, because of His grace, and not according to our worthiness or performance. The Holy Spirit distributes the gifts “to each one individually as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11).
- 1 Corinthians 2:12 "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”
No one can know and understand the grace of God and all that it means, without the help of the Holy Spirit.
- 1 Peter 1:13-14 ”Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance;”
- 1 Peter 5:10 ”But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”
- 2 Corinthians 12:9 "And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
It is up to us to think correctly, to be spiritually alert and not forget the wonderful gifts and favor that God has prepared for us while on earth and for when we will leave this physical body. We have to choose not to doubt and believe that we will inherit the wonderful eternal life to come! Even if we have to face some hard times and suffering, we need to remember that the pain we endure is short lived and God uses it for our benefit, to change us, strengthen us and empower us.
- 2 Corinthians 9:8 "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”
What is Paul saying here? He is saying that we can be filled with all of God's grace! There is no limit to the good that God offers us. Our Lord is meeting all our needs abundantly, so that we can help others. It is so good to be able to say like Paul: "It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
- Ephesians 4:29 "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”
- Colossians 4:6 "Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”
It really pays to choose our words carefully and pay attention to the way we talk. The talk that brings grace, that uses words that affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness and goodness builds up those who hear us. The apostle James said it best:
- James 3:2 "For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.”
The Holy Spirit teaches us how to talk and what to say. All we have to do is ask Him to help us and then to follow His instruction. (“”For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”” - Luke 12:12)
- Hebrews 4:15-16 “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
God conceived a wonderful plan for the salvation of mankind! He sent His only Son, in a body like ours so He would be ”in all points tempted as we are,” but He never sinned. Jesus understands us the best. He knows what it takes to live as a human and to deal with daily battles and spiritual warfare. Jesus offers us all the mercy we need and understands what we are going through, even better than we do. Jesus can, and is willing to give us all the help we need. There is nothing and nobody we can trust more than we can trust our Lord.
- Hebrews 12:15 ”looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;”
Here we see a deeper meaning of grace: good will, loving-kindness and favor. Once we realize what we have received from God, it becomes easier to become givers. God loves us with a father's love and He forgives us so much, giving us more and more chances to become better and sin less. In return, we should show the same grace to others, having a loving-kindness attitude, offering them grace, forgiving, loving, showing more mercy and compassion. If we chose to be upset and choose not to forgive our fellow men, when they do us wrong, the bitterness in our heart will increase becoming hatred, contempt, gossip and even physical illness. If we choose to be at odds with someone, the words that will come out of our mouths will not speak highly of the person and we will be very tempted to let anyone know about our hurt. You may read more on the subject in the article, "Forgiveness: Why Does Jesus Command Us To Forgive?"
- Matthew 6:15 “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Jesus is very firm when it comes to forgiveness. He tells us very clearly, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that if we do not forgive others, we cannot be forgiven by Father God either.
- James 4:6,7 ”But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.“”
- 1 Peter 5:5 ”Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.””
The apostles James and Peter, both warn us about the huge price of pride. When we are prideful, Jesus is no longer Lord as we have chosen self lordship. Humility recognizes the dominion and lordship of Jesus and when He rules we all can receive His very best!
- 2 Timothy 2:1 "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
- Hebrews 13:9 ''Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.”
Once we understand the attributes of grace received through Jesus, it is up to us to be strong, reminding ourselves what belongs to us and how wonderful the benefit of eternal life in Heaven is. We must build our faith on the knowledge that we are saved, by the grace of God, through Christ, and not by our deeds. We have to reject any traditions and teachings which say that we may gain God's love by keeping certain rules. Jesus' sacrifice was perfect, we cannot add anything to improve it. We do not live a righteous life to earn God's love, but because our hearts are transformed by Jesus. We no longer have any pleasure in the old sins we used to do or in any in new ones. Salvation only comes by the inner transformation that truly changes our hearts, resulting in good works and choices.
God does not force us to receive the grace of salvation through Jesus Christ. Salvation is the most valuable and precious gift and we should treat it with full respect. We receive it freely, Jesus paid for it in full, but in order for us to keep it, we must truly repent, crucify our flesh daily along with its lusts and live in obedience to the Lord. Living this way, in love with Jesus, we will not lack any good thing. We will have God's blessings, peace, joy and all His best as part of our daily lives. Even in hard times, we can find comfort in knowing that our Heavenly Father will turn it all for our benefit (Romans 8:28). God deserves our love, respect, honor and faithfulness, for who He is and what He has already done for us through Jesus Christ. The life lived with Jesus as Lord is the most beautiful and the only one that is truly worth being lived.
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