When we gather together and sing about God’s amazing grace, we likely have some idea of what that might be. Grace can commonly be defined as “unmerited favor” or “getting what you don’t deserve” (avoiding the punishment for sin and gaining eternity with God). However, there is more to grace—even more than we realize.
By surveying Scriptures that use the term “grace,” we begin to see a more comprehensive and dynamic picture of grace. We’ll start briefly in the Old Testament and then look at how grace is seen through the work of God for us and for our salvation.
Grace in the Old Testament
The Hebrew words for grace show themselves in three predominant domains:
- As an attribute of God (Ps 86:15)
- As blessings God provides those in need (Jer 31:2)
- The generosity of a superior (either God or man) giving favor to an inferior (always man; Gen 6:8; Gen 39:4; Ruth 2:10).
Of all the ways grace is used in the Old Testament, the third is most prevalent.
Grace in the New Testament
In the New Testament, grace is most often used to indicate the intrinsic quality of God’s being—and something that characterizes his actions with us.
The Agents of Grace: Father, Son, Spirit
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ—1 Corinthians 1:3.
Exercising grace is a privilege of the Godhead. The salutations and benedictions of many epistles demonstrate grace comes to the believer from the Father and the Son. As is established in the Old Testament, grace is an essential attribute of God. However, unlike in the Old Testament, grace is only displayed by God to men, not by man to men. While God did display His grace in the Old Testament, He has revealed it in the person of Jesus Christ.
The Personification of Grace: Jesus Christ
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known—John 1:17-18
Christ makes it clear that men can only see or know God the Father through Him (John 14:6-10). As the image of God, who is not visible, Christ makes the Father and His attributes visible to men (Col 1:15). As John states, the attributes of God’s grace and truth are realized in Christ, further demonstrating the deity of Christ. The actions of Christ show us the grace of God and allow us to enter His grace.
The Word of Grace: The Gospel
Scripture describes the gospel as the word of God’s grace (Acts 14:3; 20:32). This good news encompasses the message and ministry of Christ and tells how man is saved (Mark 1:1; 1 Cor 15:1-8). The word of grace tells us of the grace of salvation.
Further, many of the components of salvation are specifically identified as gifts of grace.
- Election: being called by God (Gal 1:6; 2 Tim 1:9)
- Justification: being declared righteous before God (Rom 3:23-24)
- Forgiveness: having all our sins are covered; God no longer requires payment from us for them (Eph 1:7)
- Redemption: being bought out of enslavement from sin (Eph 1:7)
The Cost of Grace: Christ’s Blood
. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus . . . Romans 3:23-24
The gift of grace costs the believer nothing. However, grace is not without cost. It comes at a great cost: the blood of Christ. As Paul states, we received justification, a gift of grace, through redemption. Redemption requires payment, and Christ, our great Redeemer, bore the cost.
The Path of Grace: Faith
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
Scripture stresses that faith is the exclusive pathway to salvation and the grace of God. It is only through faith that the believer is saved and enters the realm of grace.
The Realm of Grace: Our Current Reality
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God—Romans 5:1-2
Once saved, believers are always standing in the grace of God. Consequently, we approach His throne of grace, never of judgment. Because of Christ’s person and work, we are confident we will find grace when we fight temptation (Heb 4:16). In this realm, we are given spiritual gifts of grace to serve the body, and we exercise these gifts as stewards of God’s grace (Rom 12:3-8; 1 Pet 4:10). Grace also provides the energy by which we engage in the ministry of God (1 Cor 15:10).
In the realm of grace, sin has no power or mastery over the believer (Rom 6:14). Additionally, there is no space for works in the realm of grace. In fact, any believer who attempts to gain favor with God through works declares the grace of God invalid through his or her actions (Gal 2:21-3:3).
The riches of God’s grace are more than abundant and freely given (1 Tim 1:14; Eph 1:6-7). We are assured that this abundant, abounding, free, lavished, surpassing grace is sufficient in all circumstances (2 Cor 9:8; 12:9).
The Hope of Grace: Christ’s Return
Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ—1 Peter 1:13
The hope of grace is the coming of the Lord. God will end our present sufferings at Christ’s return (1 Pet 5:10). We will be like Christ and see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).
The Holy Spirit has divinely-provided the application of the truths of grace in His Word. Here are four expressions of grace lived out by the Christian.
- Be empowered by grace (2 Tim 2:1; 1 Pet 5:12). We are strong in grace when we acknowledge the reach and power of grace and our need for it.
- Rejoice in the Lord always (Phil 4:4). In all circumstances, we continually express gladness and thanks to our Lord because of His sacrifice which makes us recipients of the abounding grace of God.
- Grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord (2 Pet 3:18). Christian growth happens in the realm of grace: where sin does not have mastery over us and where we do not gain favor with God through works. The means of growth is knowledge of Christ, and this knowledge is revealed in the Word (2 Pet 1:2; 1 Pet 2:2).
- Speak with grace (Col 4:6; Eph 4:29). Believers are not commanded to be gracious in the way God is gracious, probably because we are not superior to anyone. However, we are commanded to use words that give grace: kind words that build up and benefit other believers since we are members of Christ’s body.
About the Author: Candice Wilson-Stykes is a long-time Genesis member who, along with her husband, Bart, leads a community group in the Fox Run area. She is currently working on her PhD in Higher Education and Policy Studies.