Fundamental Doctrines of the Bible - Grace
Grace - "Undeserved favour."
The original Hebrew word for "grace," properly signifies "kindness, or favour." Whilst in the Greek, grace denotes "the divine influence upon the heart." To correctly understand a word that the Bible uses, it is always best to place it in the context of the scriptures:
"But God who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by GRACE are ye saved;)" Ephesians 2:4-5
"But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the GRACE of God, and the gift by GRACE, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many." Romans 5:15
"For by GRACE are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8-9
"...God resisteth the proud, but giveth GRACE unto the humble." James 4:6
By using words and phrases like "free", "gift" and "Not of works", it should be clear that grace can be defined as the undeserved or unmerited favour of God. It is also clear from these words and phrases, that this favour cannot be won by religious rituals like confirmation, or baptism; nor by good or charitable works (not even the works of the Law.)
No real Christian, regardless of church or denomination, would attempt to claim that their salvation was through any other means than the grace of God. But there are some pitfalls to avoid.
Some people have reasoned that because grace is "not by works" and is "free" then their conduct as a Christian is immaterial, since they can neither frustrate, nor enrich the kindness of God through their deeds. The Bible teaches against such evil reasoning:
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" Romans 6:1-2
Jude also talks about the condemnation of those who turn "the grace of our God into lasciviousness." Jude 4
This abuse of grace, leads to a heresy known as "Antinomianism," from the Greek Nomos meaning "Law," "Anti" of course meaning "against."
It is by grace that we are offered the gift of eternal life, yet this "divine influence on the heart" does not make our will impotent. It does not force the gift upon us; neither does it frogmarch us, automaton-like, into Christ.
Grace is an astounding expression of the love of God through Christ. It is a love that seeks the surrender of our will, not through coercion, but through a heart-rending display of unselfish benevolence.
It is faith that receives what grace has given. Without faith, the gift of grace (salvation) remains a wonderful, yet unopened present. Let us also remember that God "resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble." The proud, in turn, refuse God's grace. As Stephen pointed out to the religious hypocrites of his day, "ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." Acts 7:51
This doctrine of divine grace puts the emphasis on Almighty God. It shows that God is the author of "every good and every perfect gift..." James 1:17 He is not the author of sin.
The contrast that the Bible shows is between the grace of God and the wickedness of man, in that "God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
As William Tyndale once said, "Grace: all grace, and all that is pleasant in the sight of God, is given us for Christ's sake only, even out of the fullness and abundance of the favour that he receiveth with His Father." 1
Verses for Memorizing and Meditating Upon:
Ephesians 2:4-5, Romans 5:15, Ephesians 2:8-9, James 4:6, Romans 6:1-2, Romans 5:8.
1. William Tyndale's New Testament, Notes: John 1:16.