The word grace is found in numerous places throughout the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, and is one of the most common words used in Christianity today. But it is perhaps the most misunderstood word in all of the Holy Scriptures. What does grace really mean? I have a friend named Grace. Liz and I own an Australian shepherd named Gracie. We may say that an actress graces the stage, or some may ask the bill collectors to give them a grace period. Some people have manners exhibiting more grace than others. Grace is a term used to describe a prayer before a meal. But does the average Christian understand what the word grace really means?
Webster’s dictionary defines grace as: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification, a virtue coming from God, a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace, approval, favor, mercy, pardon, a special favor, privilege, disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency, a temporary exemption, reprieve, a charming or attractive trait or characteristic, a pleasing appearance or effect, charm ease and suppleness of movement or bearing.
The word for grace found in the New Testament in the Greek language is:
χάρις cháris, graciousness (as gratifying); especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude, acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace, joy, liberality, pleasure, thanks
In the Hebrew language we find two main words used for grace.
חֶסֶד cheçed, kheh'-sed; kindness; by towards God, piety; rarely, reproof, beauty, favour, good deed, kindly, loving-kindness, merciful, kindness, mercy, pity.
חָנַן chânan, khaw-nan'; properly, to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior; to favor, bestow; causatively to implore, move to favor by petition, beseech, fair, favour, give, grant, gracious, intreat, merciful, mercy, have pity upon, pray, make supplication.
Grace is difficult to define because we are sinful, fallen human beings, and grace is everything that we are not. Grace is God doing for us what we cannot possibly do for ourselves.
Let’s look at what grace is not, and then we will try to back our way into an accurate definition. There is one big segment of the modern church age that teaches grace as a covering for all sinful behavior past, present, and future. They fall into error and deception, as they believe God gives them a grace that condones sin and somehow gives them a license to sin or a freedom to live a sinful life. They see no need to ever identify sin, confess sin, or repent of their sins, because of a belief that the grace of God gives them freedom or liberty to live anyway they want to live. Sorry, but that is not grace; that is a big fat lie. Sin is what separates us from God, while grace is what restores us back into unity with God. Grace would never and could never be used as some divine commodity given to us from God that would empower us and liberate us to continue in our sins.
This heresy seems to endorse sin and pushes forward the idea that the God of the New Testament is soft on sin. It is almost like the God of the Old Testament was a mean God Who was tough on sin, but God somehow changed between the New and the Old Testaments, and in His older age He has taken a much milder or softer approach toward this problem of sin. It is almost like God took a Dale Carnegie course of “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” between the Old and New Testaments and had a change of heart toward this matter of sin.
They seem to think that because of grace it is OK with God if they continue to live in unrepentant sinful behaviors. Some of these modern churches even go so far as to teach that if you are living with someone out of holy wedlock, or if you are a homosexual, or if you are a drunkard, or a thief, or practicing any type of open sinful behavior, and if you are not repentant, that this is all OK in the eyes of God because God is a God of grace.
I am not implying here that God does not love everyone, for the very essence of God’s Being is love. God loves us all, no matter what our behaviors are, and He loves us unconditionally. But don’t let the reality of God’s love cause you to believe that God is not just. God is a God of justice and truth. Yes, God loves us, but God is Holy and Just, and sin must be punished.
I know some people who say that they are Christians but live with a heart full of hate, all because they think that grace gives them a free pass. Some of them scorn, slander, and hate other Christians, thinking this is somehow acceptable to God. Some carry so much bitterness and unforgiveness that it affects every aspect of their lives in a negative way.
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
This misapplication of the concept of grace has caused the Modern Church Age to grow lukewarm, and it has brought the world into the church to the point that one can hardly distinguish between the world of Satan and the world of Jesus Christ. Man has chosen to believe in a God of his own making instead of the God of the Bible, the God of Truth, just as the children of Israel did when they backslid into idolatry and made their own gods with their own hands, instead of worshipping the One True God.
Some have recently tried to define this misapplication of grace by using a term called hyper-grace. I do not like this term being interpreted this way. Why? Because how could any of us ever get too much grace, or not being in need of the maximum amount of grace that God would bestow upon His creation? It is obvious to me that the Modern Church Age's misapplication of the term grace demonstrates that they know very little about God’s grace.
There is another big segment of the Modern Church Age in which we live that seems to think Grace is a bad thing. They quote Scriptures using the word grace, and they claim to be grace lovers. But God’s grace is in direct competition with their legalistic ways of trying to save themselves. These people are like the Pharisee’s in the days that Jesus walked this earth in a human body. The self-righteous have little need of grace, because they think that they can be holy with self-effort. Call them moralists, or legalists, or Pharisees; they all think that by their good behaviors and deeds they can please God and that God will accept them based upon the fact that they are trying so hard to be good moralists or good, clean-living people.
This group will sing about grace and quote Scriptures about grace, but their lives demonstrate that they too have little or no understanding of the concept of grace. How can you say that you are saved by grace, believe that Jesus died for your sins, and at the same time spend your life trying to keep the works of the law? If you put 99% of your faith in what Jesus did on the cross to save us, and 1% of your faith in what you can do to make yourself holy, then you have fallen from grace.
I know all about this second group, because I once was a legalist. Sure my salvation experience was real, but once I was saved, I begin on a journey toward spiritual perfection and somehow lost my way because I was thinking that it was up to me to make myself holy, instead of continuing to put my trust in Jesus and His grace to sanctify my life. It is almost like I was trying to buy some kind of spiritual insurance policy, by going back into the Old Testament law and pulling out a few laws that would solidify my loyalty to God, instead of completely trusting in Jesus and His grace.
I once thought that grace simply meant gratitude. Let me be clear here. Grace does not mean gratitude, for gratitude is only one of the human responses to grace. By thinking this way, grace became something that I did and not what Jesus did for me. Whether I am grateful or not is my human choice. My being full of gratitude is all about my good behavior. However, grace is not about me; it is all about Jesus.
Thank God for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God is not soft on sin. God hates sin as much today as He did in the Old Testament. In fact, God hates sin so much that He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to this earth to eradicate sin and to save us from our sins. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life as He fulfilled the Old Testament law perfectly, every jot and tittle. Then He was nailed up on a bloody cross as He bore the sins and the iniquities of mankind. He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, and it pleased the Father to bruise Him. God loves us so much that, instead of leaving us in this sinful condition, He sacrificed His Son Jesus Christ. He who knew no sin, became sin so that we might be made righteous. God, who is a God of justice, knew that the price had to be paid for sin. So instead of making us pay the price, He sent Jesus to pay the price for us. Jesus Christ died as a substitutionary sacrificial offering in our place. Jesus was buried and even went to hell for three days in our place. Then He was resurrected by His Father, and He went to heaven and put His perfect Blood on the eternal heavenly Mercy Seat in order to make the atonement for the sins of mankind. One man, Jesus, paid the ransom for the sins of all of mankind.
It is God’s grace that allows a sinner like me to identify my sins, confess them to God and repent or turn from my sins, and to then call on the Name of Jesus to save me from my sins. It is God’s grace that I don’t have to go to hell and be punished for my sins, because Jesus did it for me. It’s God’s grace that allows me the privilege to ask Jesus to wash away my sins with His precious Blood and to make me whiter than snow.
What is grace? Grace is Jesus Christ. Jesus is both Grace and Truth. Jesus is not sometimes Grace and sometimes Truth. Instead, Jesus is always Grace and always Truth. Grace and Truth are not opposites, but rather they are the same thing, the same Person, Jesus Christ. Jesus is Grace!
"For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." — John 1:17
What is grace? It is God coming down to man, through His Son Jesus Christ, to meet me right where I am in my trespasses and sins. Grace is God saving me instead of me trying to save myself. Grace is turning from my self-effort trying to save myself to looking toward Jesus to save me.
Grace is undeserved, unmerited, unearned favor of God. We can’t work for it. We can’t do enough good deeds to ever deserve it, and we can never be religious enough not to need it. Grace is God being free to do everything that He does for us on the basis of the cross of Jesus Christ.
Grace is the divine, enabling ability from God for us to be what He has called us to be and to do what He has called us to do. Grace is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Grace will make us holy.
Grace is Jesus Christ stooping down to a lowly sinner like me. He stooped when the woman caught in adultery was accused, found guilty, and about to be stoned by the Pharisees. He stooped to touch a leper. He stooped at Gethsemane. He stooped at the Roman whipping post, and He stooped while being nailed on the cross. He stooped when He went to hell. Grace is Jesus leaving Heaven and coming to earth so that we could leave the earth and come to Heaven. Grace is God reaching all the way down to where we are in our sins. Grace is a Superior bending and stooping to an inferior.
Grace is Jesus meeting me right where I am, to take me to where He is.