God’s grace is undoubtedly the most important subject in the entire Bible and in our Christian lives. Without grace, we would not have the “gospel of grace” through which we have been reconciled to God, made righteous in Christ, and received salvation and eternal life.
The term “grace”, as it should be understood from a New Testament perspective, comes from the Greek “charis”. The word can, depending on the context in which it is mentioned, for instance be translated into grace, joy, good pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, mercy, loving kindness, favor, divine power, divine ability, gift, benefit, bounty, gratitude, reward. In other words, grace is something that is extremely positive!
Throughout the New Testament, it is a common thread that grace is something good that we are completely undeserved of in ourselves, but which we nevertheless receive through faith in Jesus Christ and what He has done for us through His death and resurrection.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:8-10)
In the biblical passage above, we see that salvation is by grace and that it is a gift that has nothing to do with our own deeds, so that we ourselves may not boast of our own goodness or excellence. We can thus conclude that grace can be defined as God’s unmerited, or underserved, favor toward us!
Grace, however, does not only include salvation, the remission of sins, and freedom from punishment; God’s grace also gives us the power to live a holy and righteous life that pleases Him.
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. (Tit. 2:11-12)
”For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Rom. 6:14)
God’s grace also gives us strength, power and inspiration to work and cope with the various tasks of everyday life. Not in a way that turns us into “superhumans” in the sense that we can work as much as we like without having to rest, though. In the midst of our humanity, God’s grace is with us as a helping hand in the journey through life – in both moments of ups and downs.
”But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Cor. 15:10)
Sometimes preachers trying to attack the message of God’s grace and the New Covenant emphasizing the latter side of God’s grace. Slogans like “God’s grace gives us strength to stop sinning, so now make sure you stop sinning” or “God’s grace gives us strength to work, so make sure you work hard” (meaning in their own church), can then be heard. In practice, however, they then place a burden on the listener which means that they try to get them to take themselves by the collar to tackle all the problems and sins in their lives. The liberating message of God’s grace has then suddenly been distorted into acts of law (ie, our own good deeds and achievements to get God on our side through them).
The word “undeserved” is the key to understanding God’s grace. If the aspect that God’s grace can never be earned and is always a gift is lost, it is no longer about grace but about law. As soon as the understanding of grace as an undeserved gift that we cannot deserve by ourselves is removed, grace loses its power.
”For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Rom. 1:16)
”For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.” (1 Cor. 1:17)
”I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” (Gal. 2:21)
”You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Gal. 5:4)
It is certainly true that the grace of God in our lives leads us to avoid sin. But God’s grace does not work because of our own efforts or accomplishments, but because we rest in faith in what Christ has done for us on the cross. Therefore, let us never remove the word “undeserved” from the meaning of God’s grace, for then what we may call “grace” is no longer true biblical New Testament grace.