What Is Grace?
I often hear people talking about grace. When I listen I wonder if they have ever taken the time to really look at how the word is used in the Bible. The way it is described is not even close to how the Bible uses the word. If we are able to put the subject of grace into proper perspective and come to some kind of correct understanding there are very few subjects which inspire, motivate, humble and cause us to be thankful.
What is grace? We need a good definition. What are we talking about? There are a lot of definitions. A charismatic person is one who possesses a gift. Whether or not they have the gift they think they possess, is another discussion.
Take off the last three letters and we have charisma. What is charisma? It is the gift of the charismatic. The charismatic is the one who possesses the gift; charisma is that gift.
Take off “ma” and we have charis which in, most cases, in the New Testament, is our word grace. When we talk about grace it has to do with gifts and the possession of gifts. Whenever we see the word grace used in the New Testament it doesn’t always refer to what we generally make it refer to.
Generally when we use the word grace we give it a very narrow definition. At times that particular definition does not fit the meaning. When defining grace it is often defined as unmerited favor. The idea of unmerited favor relates to grace but we need to understand that the word translated grace often used in the New Testament does not always mean unmerited favor.
Look at these few passages where “charis” occurs. It will not always be translated grace, but it will be this word charis.
Notice, one of the first concepts of grace has to do with that which is pleasing and produces favor in the hearts of people.
Regarding the appearance of the angel to Mary concerning the birth of Jesus, she is said to have found favor….. (Lk. 1:30). “Favor” is a word translated grace in other passages. There is something in Mary that was good, favorable, pleasing to God. Again, Jesus grew in favor with God and man (Lk. 2:52). “Favor,” i.e., something about Jesus was favorable and pleasing to the people that were around Him. As He grew, He grew morally and physically. He also grew in favor and people liked him.
Further, the first disciples led the kind of life and conducted themselves in such a way they were favorable and pleasing to the people (Acts 2:46-47).
Consider, when Jesus read scripture in the synagogue, “… all bore witness to Him. And marveled at the gracious words (“words of grace, ASV) ….” (Lk. 4:22). Not words of unmerited favor. The gracious words were talking about preaching the good news of salvation to men (Lk. 4:18-19). These were words which were favorable and pleasing. It was pleasing to them to hear that men could be forgiven of their sins.
Also, regarding our speech, what kind of speech is to come out of our mouths? “… but that what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Eph. 4:29). Is he saying words that give unmerited favor? No, but words which are pleasing and have a positive good impact on other people.
We also sing with grace in our heart (Col. 3:16). Singing with unmerited favor? No, but singing with a favorable and pleasing disposition toward God.
Second, notice grace is that which produces joy. Paul says to Philemon, “I have much joy,” (charis), favor. What is favor? That which is favorable. That which is pleasing is that which produces joy. That was the idea in grace.
The word is also used as thanks . “But thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus” (2Cor. 8:16). “Thanks” be to God for His indescribable gift.” (2Cor. 9:15). It doesn’t mean unmerited favor but is simply talking about thanksgiving.
The word is also used referring to a gift offered by the Macedonians to the saints in Jerusalem (2Cor. 8:1, 4, 6, 7, 19). When Paul talks about this grace what is he talking about? Grace is referring to a gift. Paul uses this word “charis” to describe what was taken up and given to the poor saints.
Sometimes the Greeks used it to describe the quality in a thing that made it pleasing and favorable. Maybe it was the aroma, the sweet smell of something. The aroma was pleasing. Maybe it describes a person had a good quality. We say, “She is graceful.” Sometimes used to describe the joy a person felt over something that was favorable and pleasing. Sometimes it was used to describe thanksgiving a person felt for that which was favorable. Sometimes it was used to describe a gift that was favorable and pleasing, that a person was thankful for and it made them happy. All of that relates to the subject of grace.
The free gift of God is called grace (Romans 6:23). The wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is grace. What are wages? Wages are things that you work for; they have to do with pay. We work for our pay. We receive the wages because we earned them. There is a debt owed. But there is a contrast between wages and free gift.
What is the free gift? It is opposite of wages. A wage is something we earned, worked for or a debt owed you. But the free gift is something that is just that, something we didn’t work for, did not earn and not a debt anybody owes us.
That is the classic definition of grace in the New Testament. Grace is something we didn’t work for, didn’t earn, not owed us but given to us anyway. Once we received it as a gift we looked at it and gave thanks. Some gifts we receive and appreciate the fact they were given but we are not very thankful. The grace we are talking about we feel gratitude for. When we receive it, it causes us to rejoice in it. It is very favorable and pleasing.