What is the Bible meaning of grace? What is the grace of God?
The gospel message is the good news of God’s grace, so it is important to know what grace is and to constantly seek to get a better view of what grace does in our lives. Grace is God’s unmerited, undeserved and unearned favor!
Grace is an essential part of God’s character. Grace is closely related to God’s benevolence, love, and mercy. Grace can be variously defined as “God’s favor toward the unworthy” or “God’s benevolence on the undeserving.” In His grace, God is willing to forgive us and bless us abundantly, in spite of the fact that we don’t deserve to be treated so well or dealt with so generously.
To fully understand grace, we need to consider who we were without Christ and who we become with Christ. We were born in sin (Psalm 51:5), and we were guilty of breaking God’s holy laws (Romans 3:9-20, 23; 1 John 1:8-10). We were enemies of God (Romans 5:6, 10; 8:7; Colossians 1:21), deserving of death (Romans 6:23a). We were unrighteous (Romans 3:10) and without means of justifying ourselves (Romans 3:20). Spiritually, we were destitute, blind, unclean, and dead. Our souls were in peril of everlasting punishment.
But then came grace. God extended His favor to us. Grace is what saves us (Ephesians 2:8). Grace is the essence of the gospel (Acts 20:24). Grace gives us victory over sin (James 4:6). Grace gives us “eternal encouragement and good hope” (2 Thessalonians 2:16). Paul repeatedly identified grace as the basis of his calling as an apostle (Romans 15:15; 1 Corinthians 3:10; Ephesians 3:2,7). Jesus Christ is the embodiment of grace, coupled with truth (John 1:14).
The Bible repeatedly calls grace a “gift” (e.g., Ephesians 4:7). This is an important analogy because it teaches us some key things about grace:
First, anyone who has ever received a gift understands that a gift is much different from a loan, which requires repayment or return by the recipient. The fact that grace is a gift means that nothing is owed in return.
Second, there is no cost to the person who receives a gift. A gift is free to the recipient, although it is not free to the giver, who bears the expense. The gift of salvation costs us sinners nothing. But the price of such an extravagant gift came at a great cost for our Lord Jesus, who died in our place.
Third, once a gift has been given, ownership of the gift has transferred and it is now ours to keep. There is a permanence in a gift that does not exist with loans or advances. When a gift changes hands, the giver permanently relinquishes all rights to renege or take back the gift in future. God’s grace is ours forever.
Fourth, in the giving of a gift, the giver voluntarily forfeits something he owns, willingly losing what belongs to him so that the recipient will profit from it. The giver becomes poorer so the recipient can become richer. This generous and voluntary exchange from the giver to the recipient is visible in 2 Corinthians 8:9: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
Finally, the Bible teaches that grace is completely unmerited. The gift and the act of giving have nothing at all to do with our merit or innate quality (Romans 4:4; 11:5-6; 2 Timothy 1:9-10). In fact, the Bible says quite clearly that we don’t deserve God’s salvation. Romans 5:8-10 says, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . . While we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son.”
Grace does not stop once we are saved; God is gracious to us for the rest of our lives, working within and upon us. The Bible encourages us with many additional benefits that grace secures for every believer:
– Grace justifies us before a holy God (Romans 3:24; Ephesians 3:24; Ephesians 1:6; Titus 3:7).
– Grace provides us access to God to communicate and fellowship with Him (Ephesians 1:6; Hebrews 4:16).
– Grace wins for us a new relationship of intimacy with God (Exodus 33:17).
– Grace disciplines and trains us to live in a way that honors God (Titus 2:11-14; 2 Corinthians 8:7).
– Grace grants us immeasurable spiritual riches (Proverbs 10:22; Ephesians 2:7).
– Grace helps us in our every need (Hebrews 4:16).
– Grace is the reason behind our every deliverance (Psalm 44:3-8; Hebrews 4:16).
– Grace preserves us and comforts, encourages, and strengthens us (2 Corinthians 13:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; 2 Timothy 2:1).
Grace is actively and continually working in the lives of God’s people. Paul credited the success of his ministry not to his own substantial labors but to “the grace of God that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Grace is the ongoing, benevolent act of God working in us, without which we can do nothing (John 15:5). Grace is greater than our sin (Romans 5:20), more abundant than we expect (1 Timothy 1:14), and too wonderful for words (2 Corinthians 9:15).
As the recipients of God’s grace, Christians are to be gracious to others. Grace is given to us to serve others and to exercise our spiritual gifts for the building up of the church (Romans 12:6; Ephesians 3:2, 7; 4:7; 1 Peter 4:10).
What does it mean that salvation is by grace through faith?
Salvation by grace through faith is at the heart of the Christian faith. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). The statement has three parts— salvation, grace, and faith—and they are equally important. The three together constitute a basic tenet of Christianity.
The word salvation is defined as “the act of being delivered, redeemed, or rescued.” The Bible tells us that, since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, each person is born in sin inherited from Adam: “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Sin is what causes all of us to die. Sin separates us from God, and sin destines each person to eternal separation from Him in hell. What each of us needs, is to be delivered from that fate. In other words, we need salvation from sin and its penalty.
How are we saved from sin? Most religions throughout history have taught that salvation is achieved by good works. Others teach that acts of contrition (saying we are sorry) along with living a moral life is the way to atone for our sin. Sorrow over sin is certainly valuable and necessary, but that alone will not save us from sin. We may repent of our sins, also valuable and necessary, and determine to never sin again, but salvation is not the result of good intentions. The road to hell, as the saying goes, is paved with good intentions. We may fill our lives with good works, but even one sin makes us a sinner in practice, and we are already sinners by nature. No matter how well-intentioned or “good” we may be, the fact is that we simply do not have the power or the goodness to overcome the sin nature we have inherited from Adam. We need something more powerful, and this is where grace comes in.
The grace of God is His undeserved favor bestowed on those He has called to salvation through His love (Ephesians 2:4–5). It is His grace that saves us from sin. We are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). Being justified, we are vindicated and determined to be sinless in the eyes of God. Our sin no longer separates us from Him and no longer sentences us to hell. Grace is not earned by any effort on our part; otherwise, it could not be called grace. Grace is free. If our good works earned salvation, then God would be obligated to pay us our due. But no one can earn heaven, and God’s blessings are not His obligation; they flow from His goodness and love. No matter how diligently we pursue works to earn God’s favor, we will fail. Our sin trips us up every time. “By the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Romans 3:20).
The means God has chosen to bestow His grace upon us is through faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Salvation is obtained by faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, in what He has done—specifically, His death on the cross and His resurrection. But even faith is not something we generate on our own. Faith, as well as grace, is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). He bestows saving faith and saving grace upon us in order to redeem us from sin and deliver us from its consequences. So God saves us by His grace through the faith He gives us. Both grace and faith are gifts. “Salvation belongs to the LORD” (Psalm 3:8).
By grace, we receive the faith that enables us to believe that He has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross and provide the salvation we cannot achieve on our own. Jesus, as God in flesh, is the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Just like the author of a book creates it from scratch, Jesus Christ wrote the story of our redemption from beginning to end. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:4–6). The Lord died for our sins and rose for our justification, and He forgives, freely and fully, those who accept His gift of grace in Christ—and that acceptance comes through faith. This is the meaning of salvation by grace through faith.