GRACE = UNRECOMPENSED, UNMERITED FAVOR
Individuals with a sacramentalist religious background redefine the word grace so as to include works:
[David Gooding states]:
"...to them, being saved by grace means that, through faith, Christ gives them the grace to do the necessary works and to make the necessary progress in sanctification that, when complete, will, they hope, qualify for acceptance with God."
But taken in accordance with the normative rules of language, context and logic; and how Scripture uses this word, we have a different picture which excludes works entirely.
GRACE = "CHARIS" IN THE GREEK SCHOOLS IMPLIES A FAVOR FREELY DONE WITHOUT CLAIM OR EXPECTATION OF RETURN
[Kenneth S. Wuest, 'Ephesians and Colossians in the Greek New Testament', Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Mich, 1963, p. 21-23]:
"In the ethical terminology of the Greek schools charis implied ever a favor freely done, without claim or expectation of return....
..Both Luke (17:9), and Paul in Romans 6:17 and 2 Corinthians 8:16 use charis in its classical meaning of 'thankfulness.' Peter uses the word in its meaning of 'that which is beyond the ordinary course of what might be expected and is therefore commendable, in his first epistle (2:19, 20), where the words 'thankworthy' and 'acceptable,' are the translations of charis which appears in the Greek text... ...Charis in classical Greek referred to a favor conferred freely, with no expectation of return, and finding its only motive in the bounty and free-heartedness of the giver. This favor was always done to a friend, never to an enemy.
GRACE IS SET APART FROM WORKS RELATIVE TO SALVATION UNTO ETERNAL LIFE
"Right here charis leaps forward an infinite distance, for the Lord Jesus died for His enemies...
(v. 8) "But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(v. 9) Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through Him!
(v. 10) For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!"
[This was reconciliation of man to God through the grace of God is]...a thing unheard of in the human race. Surely this was beyond the ordinary course of what might be expected and is therefore commendable. This is what John is speaking of in his first epistle (3:1) when he says, 'Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God.' The words 'what manner of' are from a Greek word which means 'what foreign kind of.' That is, the love shown by God at the Cross is foreign to the human race. Man simply does not act that way (Rom. 5:7, 8, 10). That is why God's action at the Cross in dying for lost humanity is an action beyond the ordinary course of what might be expected and is therefore commendable. Here is one of the strongest proofs of the divine source of the Bible. The substitutionary atonement never came from the philosophies of man but from the heart of God.
Thus, the word charis comes to its highest and most exalted content of meaning in the New Testament. It refers to God's offer of salvation with all that that implies, which salvation was procured at Calvary's Cross with all the personal sacrifice which that included, offered to one who is His bitter enemy, and who is not only undeserving of that salvation but deserves condign [deserved, appropriate] punishment for his sins, offered without any expectation of return, but given out of the bounty and free heartedness of the giver. This means that there is no room for good works on the part of the sinner as a means whereby he could earn his salvation, or after salvation, whereby he might retain that salvation. Paul sets grace over against works as things directly in opposition to one another so far as the means of salvation is concerned...
(v. 4) "Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.
(v. 5) However, to the man who does not work but trusts God Who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
(v. 6) David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works."
"And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace."
Furthermore, he shows that this grace is unlimited in its resources. In Romans 5:20 he says,
"Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound."
The word 'abound' is from a different Greek word then that which is translated 'abounded.' It is a compound word made up of a verb which means 'to exist in superabundance.,' and a prefixed preposition which means 'above.' The translation could read, 'grace existed in superabundance and then more grace added to this superabundance.' "
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Continue the study of Grace
[J. Dwight Pentecost states, ("Things Which Become SOUND DOCTRINE", Fleming H. Revell, Westwood, N.J., 1965), pp. 19-29]:
"Grace is God's response to man's need. Born into this world with a sin-nature, under a curse, spiritually dead, in the Satanic world system and under control of its head, man's need was greater than man could meet. But to those who were in sin, [which is all men] God has manifest grace....'
The subject of grace is much larger than we could possibly consider in one brief study. For, from Genesis through the Book of the Revelation, you find manifestations of the grace of God. In Jeremiah 3:12 the prophet is told:
"Go, proclaim this message toward the north:
'Return, faithless Israel,' declares the LORD, 'I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,' declares the LORD, 'I will not be angry forever.' "
"I am merciful". The word translated "merciful" in Jeremiah 3:12 is the [Hebrew] counterpart of the word that in the New Testament is translated "grace" God affirmed the fact that He is a God of grace.
There is a vast difference between being a God of grace and being gracious. Grace refers to the essential character of God and tells us what kind of God He is. Graciousnesses or graces come to an individual because of what the One gracing is within Himself. God is, first of all, a God of grace, and from a God of grace, comes to us because He is a God of grace. God is kindly disposed within Himself, and this kind disposition spontaneously manifests itself apart from the desert of the one upon whom this grace is showered. God is a God whose disposition is such toward a sinner that, spontaneously, mercy flows out from Him to meet man's miseries. And because God is a God of grace, what He is causes Him to be favorable in His disposition and His works. God is a God from whom grace pours forth upon the sinner and the graces or the graciousnesses that come to us from God, because of what He is, are called mercies is Scripture. There is mercy for our misery.
When the Apostle writes, 'Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need' (Hebrews 4:16), he is presenting three concepts within the word 'grace.' We, first of all, come to the throne of grace; the quality of God's being is imparted to the throne from which He rules the universe. Second, we may come with boldness unto the throne of grace to obtain mercy and find graces to help in time of need. Third, because God is gracious, when we come to Him with our need God replies, not because of our merit, not because of the persistence with which we plead, not because of anything other than the need represented by the suppliant. Grace responds to our need.
From the opening chapters of the Old Testament we find revelations and manifestations of the grace of God. God created Adam and put him in a perfect environment. Adam was placed there with an untried innocence. Adam graciously was given the privilege of confirming himself through his obedience in the realm of grace. But Adam, by an act of disobedience, refused to be confirmed in a state of righteousness and became a lost sinner. At the fall of Adam we have the manifold mercies of God manifested as He demonstrated that He is a gracious God Who pours out grace upon the sinner. In Adam's experience we see the manifold grace of God. In Genesis 2:17 God in grace postponed judgment upon Adam. In Genesis 3:15 God in grace promised One Who would crush the tempter's head. In Genesis 3:16 God continued Adam as head of the race and as head of the family, even though he had sinned. This was an act of grace. In Genesis 3:19 God provided work for Adam, and this was an act of grace. God continued the usableness and usefulness of the earth, even though it had been cursed by Adam's sin, and this was a manifestation of grace. In Genesis 3:21 God provided a covering for Adam's sin - an act of God's grace. In Genesis 3:24 God opened to Adam the prospect of access into His presence. There we read that God drove out man and He placed at the east of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword which turned every way to keep the way to the tree of life.
The usual interpretation is to view these cherubim as policemen who were stationed at the entrance to the Garden of Eden to prevent Adam and Eve from coming back into the Garden again. I want to make a suggestion, although I will not dogmatize upon it. These cherubim with the flaming swords were not policemen to prevent the sinners from coming, but guardians to keep the way of access open. God, in the Garden had set up a place of sacrifice where the lamb had been slain whose blood covered Adam's sin, and whose skin covered Adam's nakedness. That place of sacrifice was divinely instituted place of meeting. Satan would have delighted to have closed that gate so that the way of access into the presence of God was barred to Adam. But God saw to it that the place of access was kept open so that Adam, through sacrifice, could come into the presence of God. God graciously kept the way open by which sinners could come into His presence. Thus Adam experienced the grace and mercy that came from God, the God of all grace.
We could point out that Abel received of the grace of God, for God had respect to Abel and to his offering, as it is recorded in Genesis 4:4. God was not obligated to receive the sacrifice, but graciously did so. Or again, in Genesis 5:24 we see the grace of God to Enoch, for God walked with Enoch and Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. This was an act of grace. We turn to Genesis 6:8 and we read that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. This is the first specific mention of God's grace poured out upon man, although God had been gracious before the days of Noah.
Abraham knew much of the grace of God, for God's call issued to Abraham when he was in Ur of the Chaldees was a gracious call, because Abraham was born in the home of an idolator, and Terah, the father of Abraham, continued in his idolatry until his death (Joshua 24:2). It was not because Abraham was righteous that he was called, but because God was gracious. We find that Abraham was constituted righteous by the grace of God. Paul points out in Galatians 3:6 that Abraham believed the promise and was constituted as righteous because he believed. Paul reminds us in Romans 4:5 that 'to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.' Abraham was called by grace; he was constituted as righteous by grace; and Abraham was given a covenant from God that promised him the land, and the seed, and the great blessing. This was a gracious covenant promise from God to Abraham. The covenant was not given to Abraham because Abraham was faithful - he wasn't. It was not given because Abraham's children would be faithful - they weren't. It was not given because Israel, the nation coming from Abraham, would be a faithful and obedient nation - they never were. The covenant was given because God was gracious. And all through the Old Testament, from the time of Abraham to the time of our Lord, God dealt in grace with the nation Israel, not because they deserved the grace of God, not because they were obedient, not because they were righteous, not because they were faithful, but because God was gracious. Because He had a covenant with them, as a faithful God, He would fulfill His promise even in spite of their unfaithfulness. God in grace responded to their disobedience by faithfulness. God responded to their sin by graciousness. God responded to their need in mercy. That is why the Prophet Jeremiah could write..
"I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever."
....I am merciful
When we come into the New Testament we find the Apostle John emphasizing this theme of the grace of God. God's grace had been manifested from the time of the fall of man to the time of the fulfillment of the first promise to the sinner that God would send a Satan-Bruiser. But God's manifestation had been apart from a Person. God multiplied His mercies to man's miseries, and heaped up grace upon grace. Adam and Abel and Enoch and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and Job and David and Isaiah and Zechariah could testify to the grace of God. But the grace had never been manifest from God in the Person of the Son. After the coming of Christ, John can say, '...of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came [put in their appearance] by Jesus Christ.' (John 1:16-17) John does not mean to infer that there was no grace manifested under the old economy, for God has always been gracious and merciful; but now grace is personified and is paraded before men in the Person of Jesus Christ. When the Lord manifested His grace to the miseries of men during His life, as recorded in the Gospels, we have multiplied witness to the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. I think, for instance, of the publican who prayed (Luke 18:10) and would not lift up his eyes unto heaven but said, 'God be merciful to me a sinner.' Our Lord says he went down to his house justified. Why? There was grace and mercy for the sinner. I think of the sinful woman whose life is laid before us in Luke 7, and who came to anoint the feet of the Lord Jesus when the self-righteous Pharisees would give Him no water for ceremonial cleansing. She washed our Lord's feet with her tears. Christ said, 'Thy faith hath saved thee...." (v. 50). There was grace for the sinner. I think of our Lord's teaching in the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son in Luke 15. He shows us the grace of a Father who seeks that which was lost so that He might bring it to Himself. A gracious God responds to the lostness and misery of the sinner by seeking that which was lost. I think of the great supper in Luke 14, where those who were bidden would not come. The Lord said to go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in. There was grace for the sinner. I think of the laborers if the vineyard in Matthew 20. He sent some out early in the morning, and some at noon, and some in the evening, but He graciously bestowed His bounty upon all of them. I think of the thief on the cross to whom our Lord said, 'To day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.' (Luke 23:43). Our Lord's life was characterized by the manifestation of mercy for the misery of men; by the display of the grace of God to those who stood under condemnation and judgment. In John 10 Christ pictured Himself as the good Shepherd Who giveth His life for His sheep. Luke testified (19:10), '...the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.' He came because He is gracious, and He came to bring grace to those who stood in need of manifestations of His mercy. I do not care what passage you turn to in the Gospels, you see grace heaped upon grace as the Son of God, the gracious One, met the needs of men with whom He came in contact. The grace of God is revealed in Jesus Christ. God is the Fountainhead, but Christ is the Channel through which it flows to men.
As in the Old Testament God had a basis for His manifestation of grace through His covenant which He established with Abraham, so in the New Testament God has a basis upon which He may manifest grace to man - the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul writes at considerable length and in many passages to present the different facets of the grace that has come to us from the God of all grace. We would like to point out briefly a number of the different facets of the truth presented by the Apostle as he magnifies his office as an apostle of grace. The first thing we would call to your attention is the fact that God has manifested grace. This is so self-evident that it may seem superfluous to you to mention it, but we want to remind you not only that God is a God of grace who spontaneously pours out favor in response to the miseries of men, but that God has done so. In Titus 2:11 the Apostle affirms the truth that 'the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.' It is not a grace that is propounded as a theological proposition, but it is a truth that can be appropriated because it is a grace that has appeared. According to the first chapter of Ephesians, all that God has done in planning salvation, He has done to the praise of the glory of His grace. Salvation stands as the great demonstration that God - spontaneously, and apart from the merit and just desserts of the sinner - pours out mercy because He is a God of grace. Think of Paul's words in Romans 5:15: 'For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift of grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.' Notice it - the grace of God hath abounded unto many. Or again, in verse 17, Paul writes, '...if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.' They have received 'abundance of grace.' Or again, in 2 Corinthians 8:9, the Apostle reminds us that Christ has manifested the grace of God to men: '...ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.' Scripture gives abundant testimony that God has manifested grace.
In the second place, this grace which has been manifested in the salvation which God has provided. May we submit to you, beloved of God, that God's great manifestation and demonstration of grace is in the salvation which He offers to you. God's grace is not manifested principally through creation. God's grace is not manifested principally in other areas, although it is there. But God manifests His grace through the salvation which has been provided for you in Jesus Christ. Paul writes in Romans 3:24, 'Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus'; he unites redemption, justification, and grace. Or again, in Romans 5:20, Paul says, '...where sin abounded, grace did superabound' (Author's Translation): the superabundance of God's grace is seen in the provision which God has made for those who were under the condemnation of the Law. In Ephesians 2:5-8 Paul says, 'Even when we were dead in sins, [God] hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace ... [you have been saved] through faith...'; here the Apostle points out again that when God would manifest His grace, it is not by healing physical infirmities but by providing salvation from sin.
In the third place, when the Apostle speaks of grace he sometimes refers to the state into which we have been brought by the grace of God. I think of Romans 6:14 where Paul says, '...ye are not under the Law, but under grace.' Or again, of Romans 5:2: 'By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand....' The Apostle points out that the believer who once was under law, under wrath, under condemnation, under the prince of this world, and under the god of this world, has been taken out from all that under which he had been placed and he is now put in a new state. He is under grace; he is in grace. As the unbeliever's sphere was the sphere of sin, so the believer's sphere of life is the sphere of grace. We live not under law, but in the sphere of grace. The air that we breathe, spiritually, is grace. The water that we drink, spiritually, is grace. The food that sustains us, spiritually, is grace. Our whole life is in the sphere of the grace of God.
Out of this grows, in the fourth place, the necessary corollary that grace is God's operating principle for His children. In the Word of God we have two principles contrasted. In the Old Testament you had the principle of Law. Law was suited to infancy. As infants, the children of Israel had said, 'We do not understand righteousness; we do not understand holiness; we do not understand the requirements which a holy God makes. Will you spell out for us what constitutes holiness?' So God gave them the Law, which was suited to their spiritual infancy, in order that they might have a standard by which they could test the validity of any action to see whether it be right or wrong. In the New Testament, over against the principle of law, is the principle of grace, where God has taken us out from under the bondage of the Law, which no man could keep, and put us under the principle of grace. Grace makes no less demands upon the child of God than law made; grace sets up as our standard the perfection of the Lord Jesus Christ and says, 'This is what grace expects; this is what grace demands.' And we are not less obligated to holiness and righteousness because we are under grace than if we had been under law. Child of God, the Law under which Israel lived has been removed as a dominating principle, and grace is the operating principle. This is presented to us in Galatians 5:4 where the Apostle says, 'Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the Law; ye are fallen from grace' - that is, if you return to law you have left the grace principle, the sphere into which you have been brought in grace. If grace no longer governs and controls your life, you are living under law. Grace, then, is the present operating principle.
As we continue, we find, in the fifth place, that grace provides for the daily needs of the child of God. We have already referred to this briefly when we directed you to Hebrews 4:16: 'Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help...' If you translated that second grace by the plural, you would get the thought in the Apostle's mind, for there are multiplied graces that come to us from the God of grace to minister to our needs every day. What needs do you, as a child of God, have? Are they physical? Are they material? Are they spiritual? God is the God of all grace, and He delights spontaneously to provide for your needs. It is because God is gracious and has graces for every for need that the Apostle can be so confident and say, '...my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus' (Philippians 4:19). Do you think that that which God provides for you is that which you deserve? You don't deserve a thing. God provides for us in love because He is a Father and we are His children. But God provides because He is a gracious God and spontaneously responds to our need because such is His nature. He is a God of all grace for today's need.
Another fact that is presented to us in the Scripture needs emphasis; grace cannot be compromised. There can be no more union between law and grace than there is between day and night, between light and darkness, between black and white. Law and grace cannot be commingled, united together into a system that is part law and part grace. We affirm the truth of the gospel that it is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, giving us the washing of regeneration because He is a gracious God. In Romans 4:13-16 the Apostle says, '...the promise, that he should be heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the Law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the Law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the Law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.' It is of faith, that it might be of grace, to the end that it might be sure. If God covenanted to do ninety-nine percent of the work of salvation if you did one percent, you would have no certainty that you had accomplished your part of the bargain so that God could do His ninety-nine percent. You would live out your days in dread and fear because you would have no assurance that you had lived up to your part of the bargain. But, in order that salvation might be sure, God says it must be by grace. It is no wonder we delight to sing of the grace of God that brought salvation, for it is a gracious salvation that gives us certainty, security, and assurance.
When the Apostle speaks of the grace of God that has brought salvation, he includes within it all of the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ. We are called by grace; we are justified by grace; we are sanctified by grace; we are sustained and kept by grace; we are equipped by grace; we are liberated from bondage, from sin, and from the Law by grace; we are conformed to Christ by grace; we are reconciled by grace. God, in grace, has made a propitiation, a covering for our sins; God has provided redemption. List all that God has done and you find it is all the spontaneous outflow of grace as God bestows graces and mercies upon us in response to our need.
Men know something of pity. Pity is the response of an individual to the misery of another individual. God looked down upon us and God pitied us. God pitied us because He is a gracious God; but whereas our hearts may be turned away, in spite of pity, from meeting the need of that individual, God spontaneously pours from Himself because He is an infinite God, an infinite provision for the needs of men. 'For by grace [you have been 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). No man will properly understand the infinite grace of God until he understands, first of all, his own need. That is why, before we speak on the grace of God, we speak of the depravity of man. In the Old Testament, Israel is commanded to look to the pit from which they were digged, the rock from which they were hewn. If you look to what you were outside of Jesus Christ, you see yourself as Scripture sees you: lost, without hope, without God, without promise, without assurance that God would meet your needs. Then, when you see God spontaneously pouring Himself out to meet that need, you have some concept of what it means to have received the grace of God. You had absolutely nothing within you to call forth God's spontaneous demonstration of mercy other than a need that you could not meet. And in response to that need, mercy has come from a gracious God.
There was one who had experienced this grace of God. He had been raised in a Christian home in England and in his earliest years had been taught the truths of a gracious God Who bringeth salvation to all men. But he was orphaned at six years of age and he became, even as a small lad, a wanderer. He was raised by a non-Christian relative who scoffed at all he had been taught by godly parents. He became an apprentice seaman in order to get away from the conditions of the home of the relative and he joined the Royal Navy after he had served his apprenticeship. While he was enlisted in the Royal Navy he deserted and went to Africa, and he testified that he went for one purpose - to sin to his fill.
After he came into Africa, he joined himself to a Portuguese slave trader in whose home he was cruelly treated by the black woman who became the chief of the harem. She took out her hatred for her Portuguese husband against this white lad and treated him like a dog. She exercised such authority over him that she threw his food on the floor and he was compelled to eat off the floor or be lashed. He fled from this cruelty and after escaping made his way to the coast where he attracted a ship by building a fire.
The ship's master was disappointed, for he thought that the fire meant that someone had either slaves or ivory to sell, but the young man was picked up, nevertheless. Because he was a skilled navigator he was made a mate on the trading vessel which was making its way up the coast of Africa to England. On one occasion, he opened the casks of rum and distributed to the crew so that the entire crew got drunk. The ship's master was so incensed that he had the mate thrown into chains. When he was brought up from below to be punished the captain treated him so brutally that he was knocked overboard and he was saved from death by drowning by the captain who threw a harpoon and speared him. He carried the scar of that deep wound, into which he could put his fist, until the time of his death.
As the ship made its way to Great Britain it was blown off course. When the ship began to flounder the young man was sent down into the hold to man the pumps along with the slaves who were being transported. He cried to God out of the hold of that ship. The truth he had been taught as a child came home to him and he came to know Christ as Saviour while he struggled over the bilge pump. It was this same John Newton who wrote the words:
'Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Lost, but found! That can be your testimony if you do not know Jesus Christ as Saviour. You may not have been as bad as John Newton, but you are as bad off as John Newton was in the sight of God. But God has grace for the sinner. God has mercy to offer to you in Jesus Christ, and we invite you to receive Him as your Saviour so that you might join in singing:
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!"
[Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary notes on grace]:
"God’s grace is again the main theme of the New Testament. Charis occurs about 155 times in the New Testament, about 100 of these in the letters of Paul. Charis plays a crucial role in the New Testament’s presentation of God’s relationship to mankind. Grace is the autograph of the decree of God’s kingdom; it is governed by grace. Grace also shapes existence in the new age (Luke 4:19). The concept of charis is consistently defined in terms of God’s “gracious” act of redemption in Christ. His intervention in history for establishing a new covenant as well as His effort to maintain the new covenant are manifestations of His grace. Grace is simultaneously the cause as well as the effect of the saving work of Christ. The main gifts we receive because of grace are the forgiveness of sins, fellowship with God, and eternal life (see Romans 3:24f.; 5:1f.; Ephesians 2:5f.).
Everything that Jesus says and does reveals and actualizes the grace of God; thus, “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17), and “of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). Jesus’ message about the kingdom of God, the central element of His preaching, expresses God’s grace. The Kingdom’s coming is a sovereign act of grace, an unmerited, undeserved, merciful gift (Matthew 18:14; Luke 2:14; 12:32). The recipients of grace include the unworthy (Matthew 5:5; 11:5; Luke 15:21f.; 18:13,14), the lost (Luke 15), and the sinful (Matthew 9:13). By virtue of the shedding of His blood Jesus established the new covenant; moreover, He secured redemption for pardoned sinners (Matthew 26:28).
Grace is also a central concept in Paul’s theology; his entire theology might be termed “a theology of grace” (see Conzelman, “charis,” Kittel, 9:393). God’s grace partially concerns the favor and goodness of God toward sinners which displaces His wrath (Romans 5:2). At the same time, Paul considered grace to pertain also to the merciful act of God in sending His Son as the atonement for humanity’s sins (Romans 5:8,9). Because of His grace God justifies the unworthy and undeserving. Through grace in Christ He grants them a share in eternal life (Romans 3:24f.; 5:1f.,15).
Being a Christian means one is a “partaker” of grace (Philippians 1:7). It is in this grace that believers “stand” (Romans 5:2). Grace is the sphere of existence for believers (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; Colossians 1:2), and they live every aspect of their lives in light of this. They are, as Paul said in Romans 6:14, “under grace.” Although they “stand” in grace, they may also “fall” from it (Galatians 5:4).
Grace as a way of salvation stands in radical opposition to any notion that one can be saved by the Law (ibid., 9:394f.). Grace excludes any hope of achieving righteousness through works of the Law or self-redemption (Romans 6:14; Galatians 5:4). Likewise, human praise and wisdom are ineffective for securing salvation, “For by grace [you have been saaved] 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; cf. Titus 3:5). Grace and faith, therefore, complement one another (Romans 4:16; Ephesians 2:8). By faith we accept grace, and by faith the grace is in effect. Grace and faith, then, form an inseparable unity (1 Timothy 1:14).
In one sense it is proper to speak of different levels of grace (Romans 12:6; Ephesians 4:7). God’s grace may be manifest expressly through the gifts (charismata [see 5321]) given and distributed by the Spirit. Believers also can be strong or weak in their faith (2 Timothy 2:1; cf. John 1:16; 2 Peter 3:18). The effects of grace take place on a multiplicity of levels. One can speak of the “manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10; cf. Romans 1:11; 2 Corinthians 1:15). The various gifts of grace and demonstrations of grace are all manifestations of the one grace—the grace of God in Christ. Grace instructs us in holy living and provides the impetus for sanctification (cf. 2 Timothy 2:1; Titus 2:12).
Paul’s understanding of grace is echoed elsewhere in the New Testament. The message of God’s saving act in Christ is thus described as “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24) and the “word of his grace” (Acts 20:32; cf. 14:3). In this work of grace Christ tastes death (Hebrews 2:9). And at the “throne of grace” believers receive “grace to help” (Hebrews 4:16). To become a Christian is to experience the grace of God and to hold it fast (Acts 11:23; 13:43).
John did not speak of grace as frequently as the apostle Paul; however, his whole notion of love (agapE ) includes the concept of grace. Here too the notion of grace involves first and foremost the saving act of God in Christ, just as it did for Paul (John 1:14,16; cf. 1:17). Grace forms the basis for fellowship with God and the forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:6ff.). And again, faith works hand in hand with grace to see that forgiveness realized (John 3:16,36; etc.).
In summary, one could say that charis primarily denotes the demonstration of God’s grace, favor, kindness toward mankind. This especially relates to the work of Christ as that demonstration. Moreover, it concerns the effects of this gesture of grace: a new relationship with God based upon faith and grace. Charis further expresses the manifestations of God’s grace that believers continue to receive in the life of the Church (e.g., the charismata)."