Coming to Terms: Grace

Terms in the Bible are specialized words of particular significance. In Coming to Terms we explore the significance of these terms to deepen our understanding of biblical truth through a question and answer format.

Unpacking the Term

"Grace" in the Bible refers to the free, unmerited favour of God. It refers to the favour or kindness given to those who can never deserve it or earn it by anything they do or refrain from doing. Favour is given simply out of the goodness of the heart of the giver. God’s grace as one-way love is shown in many ways.

Where do we begin in order to understand the grace of God? We must begin with the God of grace who is infinitely holy and perfect (Psalm 92:15).

Contrast that with humanity: “…everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23). Our sinfulness has made us by nature enemies with God (Colossians 1:21). God’s holy nature compels Him to respond to sin with anger (Romans 1:18) and so “…the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Against this dark backdrop of man’s sinfulness, enmity to God, and His wrath toward sinners, how is God still gracious? God graciously still allows sinners to live, albeit separated from Him, spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1, 5), and in need of reconciliation. God still shows grace to all he has made by giving good things to all including the ungrateful and wicked (Acts 14:17; Luke 6:35). He shows grace by restraining evil in human actions and in human hearts so even sinners do good things (Genesis 20:6).

How is God’s grace magnified even more? He gives saving grace to His enemies. The whole Bible is the story of God’s grace toward sinful man. Saving grace makes its ultimate, defining appearance in the person and work of Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11). God graciously sent Jesus Christ to die in our place as sinners so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). The central message of the New Testament is the fact that grace, the free gift of salvation through faith alone in Christ alone, is the means of salvation (Acts 14:3).

But isn’t there something we must do to receive God’s saving grace? No. If God’s rescue program had included our efforts grace would not be a free gift. Salvation is not of our doing. “And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved” (Romans 11:6). We receive it by believing the message. And even the faith to believe is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8).

What place does grace have in the life of a believer? Having begun the Christian life by grace we continue to be totally dependent on it. Grace gives us the desire and power to live like Christ. Through His grace God equips us with spiritual gifts, strengthens us to walk as believers (2 Timothy 2:1) and controls all phases of a believer’s life. By His grace God gives us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope (2 Thessalonians 2:16). The grace of God is our sufficiency for all that comes to pass in our lives: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 2:9). “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 2:8).

What should be my response to the grace of God? Humility. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Humility is having a true perspective on who we are in relation to God. It is to see ourselves as God sees us—needy sinners deserving death and totally dependent on God and His grace in every way. The better you believe yourself to be the less you will sense your need for God’s grace. 

Accept God’s gracious gift of salvation. “So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift” (Romans 4:16).

Live a life of gratitude to God and grace-giving to others because of the grace He’s shown you. “Give as freely as you have received!” (Matthew 10:8).

In times of difficulty and suffering seek “grace to help in time of need,” (Hebrews 4:16). Persevere in the truth of the Gospel and don’t drift away (Colossians 1:19-23).

Participate in God’s mission. As recipients of grace we are privileged to serve as agents of grace. Having been graciously reconciled to God we now are ambassadors carrying that message to a lost world (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).