A Study in Grace from the Precept Austin website
Grace (5485) (charis from from chairo = to rejoice. English = charity. Beggars need “charity” even as sinners need grace, for we are all spiritual paupers outside of Christ, but “God gives where he finds empty hands“-Augustine [cp Mt 5:3–note]) is a word which defies a simple definition but at its core conveys the sense of favor while the specific nuances of charis depend on the context in which it is used. Someone has written that the word grace is probably the greatest word in the Scriptures, even greater even than “love,” because grace is love in action, and therefore includes it. It is hardly too much to say that God has in no word uttered Himself and all that was in His heart more distinctly than in this word grace (charis)!
The English word grace is from the Latin gratia meaning favor, charm or thanks. Gratia in turn is derived from gratus meaning free, ready, quick, willing, prompt. Webster defines grace as the…
unmerited love and favor of God which is the spring and source of all benefits men receive from Him, including especially His assistance given man for his regeneration or sanctification. (Grace is) a virtue from God influencing man, renewing his heart and restraining him from sin. (Compare this more “modern Webster” with Noah Webster’s original definition of grace)
Grace in simple terms is God’s unmerited favor and supernatural enablement and empowerment for salvation and for daily sanctification. Grace is everything for nothing to those who don’t deserve anything. Grace is what every man needs, what none can earn and what God Alone can and does freely give (see Ro 8:32–note where “freely give” is charizomai [word study] from charis = a grace gift!). Grace addresses man’s sin, while mercy addresses man’s misery. The gift of grace makes men fit for salvation, miraculously making separated strangers into God’s beloved sons (1Th 1:4–note, 1Jn 3:1–note, 1Jn 3:2–note, 1Jn 3:3–note).
J H Jowett summarizes grace as God’s “holy love on the move” (Another source attributes this quote to H G C Moule). This reminds me of the phrase that God is like the “hound of heaven” chasing after sinners, sinners who before Christ saved them by grace through faith, chased after sin but now because of the transforming power of sanctifying grace, they no longer chase after sin but sin “chases” after them! And so we see the continual need for God’s grace!
Charles Allen offers a succinct synopsis of grace noting that…
In the Bible there are three distinctive meanings of grace; it means the mercy and active love of God; it means the winsome attractiveness of God; it means the strength of God to overcome.
The grace of God is described as…
Abundant (Acts 4:33)
The Grace of God (Read the NT occurrences of this beautiful phrase – Acts 11:23; 13:43; 14:26; 20:24; Ro 5:15–note; 1Co 1:4; 3:10; 15:10; 2Co 1:12; 6:1; 8:1; 9:14; Gal. 2:21; Col 1:6–note; Titus 2:11–note; Heb 2:9–note; He 12:15–note; 1Pe 5:12–note) expresses the Source of the Grace, God Himself, “the God of all grace” (1Pe 5:1–note) Who reigns as sovereign on “the throne of grace” (He 4:16–note), and Who Alone “gives grace and glory” (Ps 84:11–Spurgeon’s note)
The Expositor’s Greek Testament writes that the grace of God…
…is His kindness and love of man (Titus 3:4–note) (a) as a revelation, in the Incarnation, and also (b) in its visible results; and so it is both heard and recognized (Col 1:6–note). Accordingly Barnabas could see it at Antioch (Acts 11:23).
Jamieson calls the grace of God…
God’s gratuitous favor in the scheme of redemption.
Wuest quotes Trench who wrote that…
“It is hardly too much to say that the Greek mind has in no word uttered itself and all that was at its heart more distinctly than in this.” In other words, all that the Greeks were and loved and exemplified in their art, literature, and thought, lies embedded in this word. We can take Trench’s words, and substituting the word “God” say, “It is hardly too much to say that God has in no word uttered Himself and all that is in His heart more than in this.”
One of the most familiar short definitions of grace is God’s unmerited favor. Unfortunately, the practical, everyday, working definition of grace in the lives of many believers goes little beyond this basic simple definition.
There are many who are barely Christians and have scarcely enough grace to float them into heaven, the keel of their vessel grating on the gravel all the way.
Too many of us (yours truly included far too often!) are like the story of the poor European family who saved for years to buy tickets to sail to America. Once at sea, they carefully rationed the cheese and bread they had brought for the journey. After 3 days, the boy complained to his father, “I hate cheese sandwiches. If I don’t eat anything else before we get to America, I’m going to die.” Giving the boy his last nickel, the father told him to go to the ship’s galley and buy an ice-cream cone. When the boy returned a long time later with a wide smile, his worried dad asked, “Where were you?” “In the galley, eating three ice-cream cones and a steak dinner!” “All that for a nickel?” “Oh, no, the food is free,” the boy replied. “It comes with the ticket.” Indeed, Amazing Grace, not cheap, but free, sufficient to save a wretch like me, the first day, and then every day for the rest (pun intended) of my life!
And so we need to amplify the simple definition of grace as unmerited favor by stating that grace is the unmerited favor of God shown to man primarily in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, Who is now the believer’s new life and new Source of strength for this supernatural life (cp 2Co 5:17–note). This truth about the “Christ life” (which I think is synonymous with the “grace life”) is one many believers do not seem to grasp and so they live a bit like spiritual “yo-yo’s”, attempting to live the supernatural Christian life in their own natural strength instead of in Christ‘s rich, boundless supply of grace (cp Jn 1:14, 16, 17, 2Cor 8:9). Christian – take “a” and place it at the beginning of the word = “A Christ in“! Does you life reflect this truth, beloved? May the Lord grant us this most precious grace and may we be every one of us led of the Spirit of God to seek Him Who alone can open “the well-stored granaries of grace” [CHS].
Paul writing to young Timothy exhorted him in view of the challenges that lay before him…
You therefore, my son, be strong (present imperative and passive voice = action exerted from outside source = In short, this is a command calling for believers to continually make ourselves “ready receptacles” for the outpouring of God’s grace) in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2Ti 2:1–note)
Where then do we find the source of grace?
Answer: In 2Ti 2:1 Paul clearly states that grace that is able to continually make us strong to fight this good fight of faith (1Ti 6:12, 1:18, 2Ti 4:7–note) is found in the Person of Christ Jesus, the very One Who is now “our life” (Col 3:4–note, see In Christ). As discussed above, in Titus 2:11 Paul equates the “grace of God” with Jesus Christ (cp Jn 1:14, 16, 17). So He and He alone is the Source of all “grace upon grace”. As Chuck Swindoll says “Grace is summed up in the Name, Person, and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
How do we appropriate God’s amazing grace in and through Christ?
Answer: Of course the seminal answer is God’s unmerited favor is not earned or deserved but is appropriated by faith in Christ. Paul writing about Abraham’s appropriation of God’s promise states that “is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace” (Ro 4:16–note) Paul amplifies this truth in Ephesians explaining…
Grace first inscribed my name
In God’s eternal book:
‘Twas grace that gave me to the Lamb,
Who all my sorrows took.
And so we see that we begin this race of salvation by grace through faith (Eph 2:8, 9–note), we run daily by grace through faith (cp Col 2:6–note with 2Co 5:7, Hab 2:4, Ro 1:17–note, Heb 10:38–note) and finish by grace through faith (Rev 22:21–note). Grace is God’s generous favor to both undeserving sinners and needy saints. Therefore, it behooves every Christian runner to understand some of the practical truths about how he or she is enabled to run with endurance the grace race that is set before us (Heb 12:1–note). One of the primary ways by which we are to run is by keeping our focus on our Source of Grace, the One Who ran and “won” the race, Christ Jesus (Heb 12:2–note).
To reiterate saving grace is God’s provision for the believer’s sinful past (see Eph 2:8, 9–note) while enabling grace His provision for day to day Christian living (See also the comments on Titus 2:12–note where the grace of God is depicted as our “instructor” for daily living [= sanctification], cp Heb 13:9–note where “strengthened by grace” is in the present tense = indicating that one function of grace is to continually increase our inner strength and resolve to run the grace race with endurance).
Asking the question again – How do we appropriate God’s amazing grace in and through Christ?
Answer: Weakness and Humility. These truths are in taught in the following passages from James and Paul.
First from the apostle James…
But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” (Jas 4:6– see in depth note), Peter experientially understood this truth (Compare Peter’s affirmation in his natural strength in Mt 26:33, 34, 35, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75 with the transforming power of God’s grace in Peter’s change in 1Pe 5:5–note, 1Pe 5:6–note)
Story of the young Scottish minister who walked proudly into the pulpit to preach his first sermon. He had a brilliant mind and a good education and was confident of himself as he faced his first congregation. But the longer he preached, the more conscious everyone was that “the Lord was not in the wind.” He finished his message quickly and came down from the pulpit with his head bowed, his pride now gone. Afterward, one of the members said to him,
If you had gone into the pulpit the way you came down, you might have come down from the pulpit the way you went up.
The humble man realizes that all that he has comes from God and must be given back to God. But when we think we’re humble–we’re not!
The “gravity of grace” works like the earth’s water system, which always flows from the highest to the lowest point. Just as the waters of Niagara roll over the fall and plunge down to make a river below, and just as that river flows ever downward to still more low-lying areas where it brings life and growth, so too it is with God’s river of grace (cp Jn 7:38, 39). Grace’s gravity carries it to the lowly in heart, where it brings life and blessing. Grace goes to the humble.
The gravity of grace will always channel the rivers of divine favor to the lowly—to those (1) who submit to God, (2) whose soul’s momentum is away from the Devil and toward God, (3) who purify their inner and outer lives, (4) who mourn over their sins, and (5) who obey the final summary command, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (Jas 4:10). Notice that all five of these aspects of a lowly heart are themselves dependent on bestowal of God’s grace. What a mystery is His grace!
The unbowed soul standing proudly before God receives no benefit from God’s falling grace. It may descend upon him, but it does not penetrate, and drips away like rain from a statue. But the soul lying humbly before God is immersed—and even swims—in a sea of grace. So while there is always “greater grace,” it is reserved for the lowly—the humble in heart.
Andrew Murray, adds that
Humility is the only soil in which the graces root. The lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure.
William MacDonald commenting on James 4:6 writes…
Think of it—the mighty God opposed to our pride and determined to break it, contrasted with the mighty God powerless to resist a broken and contrite heart!
Paul’s answer is related to James’ call for grace partakers to practice humility…
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is perfected in weakness.”
Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2Cor 12:9–see in depth note, 2Cor 12:10–see note).
Comment: Our weakness is the fertile soil for God’s grace to grow richly, beloved! Note that grace is not some abstract concept to be learned but is power (dunamis [word study]) for supernatural living! What keeps us from admitting our weakness (e.g., our inability as husbands to love our wives like Christ loved the church, our inability to love others as we love ourselves, etc)? Is it not our pride, our fallen flesh, which says “I” can do this in my own strength? And so we see James’ call to humility is related to Paul’s confession of weakness, and that this combination is a powerful catalyst for the pouring out of grace upon grace! In a word God’s grace can transform trial into triumph and sorrow into joy.
Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.
Man’s security is Satan’s opportunity.
HE GIVETH MORE GRACE
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater;
He sendeth more grace when the labours increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done:
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
–Annie Johnson Flint
Dearly beloved, this great promise is one every believer can claim. If the grace of God is sufficient to save us (and it is), surely it is sufficient to keep us and strengthen us in our times of suffering and weakness. God permits us to become weak so that we might receive His strength. Grace is the active working of God to reach us at our point of need and supply what we cannot obtain for ourselves and becomes most evident in our lives when we are humble, helpless and things look hopeless.
Man’s extremity is God’s “opportunity” to demonstrate His amazing grace in our lives
Commenting on 2Corinthians 12 Warren Wiersbe adds that
In the Christian life, we get many of our blessings through transformation, not substitution. When Paul prayed three times for the removal of his pain, he was asking God for a substitution: “Give me health instead of sickness, deliverance instead of pain and weakness.” Sometimes God does meet the need by substitution; but other times He meets the need by transformation. He does not remove the affliction, but He gives us His grace so that the affliction works for us and not against us…When Paul accepted his affliction as the gift of God, this made it possible for God’s grace to go to work in his life. It was then that God spoke to Paul and gave him the assurance of His grace. Whenever you are going through suffering, spend extra time in the Word of God; and you can be sure God will speak to you. He always has a special message for His children when they are afflicted. God did not give Paul any explanations; instead, He gave him a promise: “My grace is sufficient for thee.” We do not live on explanations; we live on promises. Our feelings change, but God’s promises never change. Promises generate faith, and faith strengthens hope.” (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)
SOME OTHER AMAZING
ASPECTS OF GOD’S GRACE
Grace and works don’t work!
They are diametrically opposed (cp Ro 4:4–note where “favor” = charis, Ro 9:30, 31, 32–note), for works give “glory” to man not God. Whatever begins with God’s grace will always lead to God’s glory (Ps 84:11 [Spurgeon’s note]; 1Pe 5:10-note) because we can take no credit for the effects or results.
God’s grace insures that those who have been truly regenerated will in fact persevere until the end of life.
This entire work is called sanctification, a work of God “whereby we are renewed in the whole man and are enabled more and more to die daily unto sin and to live unto righteousness” as stated by the Westminster Shorter Catechism (see notes Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:10; 2Cor 4:16).
Grace can be seen!
Acts 11:23 Then when he
arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord
Grace is that in which believers now and forever “stand”.
Believers now live in freedom of the “land of grace” not in the fetters of the law, not in our “meritorious” works (an oxymoron). We now live in God’s grace in Christ Who is in us Paul explaining…
Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand (perfect tense = past completed action with a present and continuing result. Now in Christ we are forever in grace, the permanent, secure position every believer enjoys whether he understands that truth or not! Beloved, let us grow in our understanding, that we might live in the light and power of this grand truth – cp Peter’s command in 2Pe 3:18–see note); and we exult in hope of the glory of God. (Ro 5:1, 2–note)
Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm (aorist imperative = Do this now! Don’t delay! It is urgent!) in it! (1Peter 5:12–note)
Scripture is permeated from beginning to end with God’s grace.
Contrary to “popular opinion” the Old Testament is not all law and the New Testament all grace, but both are filled with God’s grace. Grace has always been the provision of our holy, loving God for sinful men who do not deserve to be shown such favor and could never earn it.
Exodus 33:13 “Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor (Septuagint – LXX = charis) in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor (Septuagint – LXX = charis) in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” (Notice on the basis of God’s grace, Moses in essence asks for more of His grace. And notice it wasn’t self serving but for God’s glory, Ex 33:16, cp Ps 115:1–note)
Psalm 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield. The LORD gives grace and glory. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
Spurgeon Comments: The Lord will give grace and glory. Both in due time, both as needed, both to the full, both with absolute certainty. The Lord has both grace and glory in infinite abundance; Jesus is the fulness of both, and, as his chosen people, we shall receive both as a free gift from the God of our salvation. What more can the Lord give, or we receive, or desire.
No grace, no peace. Know grace, know peace.
Grace and peace are found in the greeting of all of Paul’s epistles (Ro 1:7–note, 1Co 1:3, 2Co 1:2, Gal 1:3, Eph 1:2–note, Php 1:2–note, Col 1:2–note, 1Th 1:1–note, 2Th 1:2, 1Ti 1:2, 2Ti 1:2–note, Titus 1:4–note, Philemon 1:3). It is no accident that grace always precedes peace (eirene [word study]), for grace is the fountain of which peace is the stream. When we know the grace of God, we have peace with God (Ro 5:1–note) and then can daily experience the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension (Php 4:7–note)
Grace is the foundation and peace is the result. Grace is God’s free unmerited favor toward man. Peace is the result to those who respond to His grace. Our hearts are kept in peace as we realize that the favor (grace) of God is upon us.
William MacDonald has said that the combination of grace and peace is in one sense “in miniature, the gospel for the whole world” for the essence of the gospel is grace, therefore peace. Through the gospel we are all brought under His grace and therefore have peace with Him and peace within. The gospel is not so much about “not fighting” but about wholeness of life (shalom) as God intended it. The peace flows out of the grace, and both together flow from God our Father and were made effective in human history through the Lord Jesus Christ.
The greeting of grace and peace bears the poetry of redemption, for the regular Greek greeting was Rejoice! (chaire), and the regular Jewish greeting was Peace (Shalom). Paul combines the two and then replaces rejoice with the similar sounding but far richer charis—“grace.” He in effect combines the greetings of the Eastern and Western worlds, then modifies the Western and gives the whole world the sublime Christian greeting, “Grace and peace.” The two combine naturally and beautifully in cause and effect, because when God’s grace comes upon us, taking away our sins and making us objects of his favor, His peace floods our being.
Hiebert explains that the grace of God is…
(D. Edmond Hiebert: “Titus and Philemon”, page 56, Moody Press, 1957).
Dr. Donald Hubbard nicely sums up grace, mercy and peace writing that
Mercy is for the helpless. God withholding from me what I do deserve.
Peace is for the restless. The assurance that whatever happens to me will work out for God’s glory (cp Ps 84:11)
The two great heritages of the Christian are grace and peace. These are two things you can always have, no matter what your circumstances. Grace is all God’s power, all his love, all his beauty available to you. It is a marvelous term which wraps up all that God is and offers to us. It comes from the same Greek word from which we get our English word charm. Grace is charming, lovely, pleasant. It is something which pleases, which imparts charm and loveliness to a life. Peace is freedom from anxiety, fear, and worry. These are the two characteristics which ought to mark Christians all the time: Grace — God at work in their life; and peace — a sense of security, of trust. (Read the entire sermon Ephesians 1:1-14: God At Work) (Copyright © 1972 Discovery Publishing, a ministry of Peninsula Bible Church.)
Guy King commenting on grace and peace writes…
Grace – a quality which is, at once…
(i) an Attitude, which He adopts towards us, as in Eph 2:8 (note);
(ii) an Activity, which He exerts for our help, as in 1Cor 15:10; and
(iii) an Accomplishment, which He works in, and out from, us, as in Acts 4:33.
Paul ardently, and prayerfully, desires for his converts everywhere – for he uses the words in all his church letters – that they may experience to the full this “grace”….Grace is needed for every service, mercy for every failure, and peace for every circumstance. (King, Guy, Joy Way,1952 – online)