What is GRACE in biblical terms?
Grace means unmerited favor and pardon. It is the kindness of God toward His creation and individuals that is neither earned nor deserved. There is nothing that we can do to earn God’s favor for it is an undeserved gift that God gives because He desires to give it.
It is because of God ‘s divine favor [grace] that we are called and then given the opportunity to become renewed into the spiritual image of God eventually becoming His very sons and daughters.
In addition to our calling and receiving unmerited pardon when we receive Christ’s atonement for our repentant sins, God continues to pour out His grace in the form of divine assistance in our sanctification process until the very end of our lives if we remain faithful until death.
The grace of God is a PRICELESS GIFT! but it is never a license to sin; nor is it to be used as an excuse to be lax in our calling to become perfect as God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are perfect. Jude has something to say about the grace of our God.
Jude 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith [fight for the truth of sound doctrine] which was once delivered unto the saints [In the Holy Scriptures].
1:4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace [Turning the mercy of God for the sincerely repentant into a license to continue in sin.] of our God into lasciviousness [license or permission to tolerate sin] and denying the only Lord God [Denying the authority of the Word of God, by using his name to justify sin], and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Here Jude is warning the people of God of the need to earnestly contend for the faith that had been given to them (by God through the prophets of old, and by Jesus and the apostles – 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Ephesians 2:19-21, 2 Peter 3:1-2) for Jude could see (verse 4) that false teachers (pretending to be of the faith) were coming into the assemblies by stealth and were bringing with them their damnable false teachings.
What was one of those false teachings? Jude tells us in plain language: alerting the brethren to the fact that there were certain men [false teachers and false brethren] who were propagating the idea that because of the grace of God and the fact that He is so merciful, that God’s grace frees us from the “law”; therefore Christians do not have to worry about keeping God’s commandments; that God’s grace will cover all sins, in effect, turning the mercy of God which is given to those who sincerely repent, into a LICENCE (permission) to continue in sin.
This teaching comes in various forms and has continued to infiltrate the Ekklesia from the time of Jude and the other apostles down through the ages. This teaching is very much a component of the false teachings of mainstream religion, but also raises its insidious head within the assemblies of God even to this day.
Just as the brethren of Jude’s day were being warned; this solemn warning is also directed to God’s Ekklesia from the time of Jude’s writings right up until the time of Christ’s return. As we look back over the history we see that this indeed has happened.
Jude tells us that we must earnestly contend for, and to VIGOROUSLY FIGHT FOR the sound doctrine of Holy Scripture especially in the latter day Ekklesia when love of the truth has grown cold. (Matthew 24:12)
Our faith and salvation are under very strong and subtle attack. We need to remember Satan’s subtlety in the garden, where sin was made so desirable in appearance and the logic to partake seemed so reasonable; that Eve was tempted to obey Satan [have faith in Satan] instead of obeying and having faith [trusting] in God.
Our faith in God and the Sound Doctrine of Almighty God the Father is under attack! Our faith and zeal to live by every Word of God is being attacked through the temptation to take the easy way; through the temptation to sit back and let others work out our salvation for us; through the temptation to just sit back, blindly follow and depend on the institution, or the leader; instead of making a personal diligent effort to grow in knowledge and understanding.
The apostle Paul in his letter to those living in Rome, explained that those who are forgiven (have received God’s unmerited pardon) and are now walking according to the Spirit, are no longer under the death sentence; which is God’s divine punishment for all those that break His law. Because of what Christ has done for us by dying on the cross, we are no longer condemned to die the eternal death if we have sincerely repented, have been forgiven, and then commit to sin no more for the rest of our lives.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] to them which are in Christ Jesus, [those who are called and are faithful] who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 8:4 That the righteousness [and justice] of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Modern day Christendom does not understand this profound truth, and instead teaches that God’s laws have been done away with, or that because Christ fulfilled the law, we do not have to keep it anymore; or that the teachings of the Old Testament about those laws are no longer relevant to those who are now under the New Covenant.
The Protestants teach that the laws of God were “nailed to the cross” when Jesus was crucified and therefore the commandments of God are no longer valid. This just does not make any sense but this is what they teach to justify the fact that they do not have to keep God’s commandments, especially, the Sabbath commandment. This teaching is typically taught to their adherents and one of their justifications for teaching this is because of a misunderstanding of what Paul wrote in Colossians 2:14 “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances [the list of our sins] that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.“
Most of mainstream Christianity assert that the commandments as listed in the Old Testament are Jewish religious laws which were only given to the Jewish people to keep and therefore do not apply to Christians whom they consider to be “gentiles” and therefore they are not under the “law of Moses”.
But Christ nowhere teaches that His laws are done away with in the New Testament; in fact He teaches just the opposite. Certain Scriptures have been twisted to try to make them fit these people’s definition of sin.
Even common sense tells us that God would not make up laws and ordinances in the past and then make up laws that are contradictory to those very commands at some other time. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and He does not change (Malachi 3:6)
In fact we are all familiar with what Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount in regard to God’s laws and keeping them. The Beatitudes that He expounded upon on that day go even beyond the literal keeping of God’s commandments, to the keeping of the very spiritual intent of those commandments. Jesus taught that we are to keep both the literal and the spiritual applications of the Laws of God, the very commandments that are contained in the Old Covenant (See Matthew 5).
Jesus explicitly said that:
Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill [to keep]. 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
If we correctly read what Colossians 2:14 says and what Paul is actually teaching, it definitely does not say that God’s Law was nailed to the cross. It says that the debt that we incur when we sin is what was nailed to the cross if we are sincerely repentant of those sins; not the laws that define what those sins are.
Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.
In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he was explaining that the indictment for sin [the list of our sins] against those who repent and who seek God’s forgiveness; is what has been nailed to the cross. Those who have applied the sacrifice of Christ’s blood over their sincerely repentant past sins are no longer subject to the legal indebtedness against them (the penalty against them), for Jesus paid for that penalty with His own death on the cross.
It is the PENALTY for breaking God’s laws (for those who repent) that has been dropped by nailing it to the cross at the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ, NOT God’s Law.
Many misunderstand the true definition of grace and twist what Paul said as an excuse for believing that they do not have to keep God’s laws especially the commandments pertaining to the keeping of the Sabbath and the Holy Days.
Most mainstream nominal Christians refuse to even consider the fact that these commandments are commanded for all mankind to observe and have not been done away with. It is part of man’s nature to balk at the idea that he must keep all that God commands and to keep the whole Word of God.
Romans 8:5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
Paul in many other places reiterates that he is not against the law of God, nor does he ever teach against it; but rather exhorts true followers to obey all the laws of God.
Paul even breaks out in exuberance over what the law does for us and declares that it is HOLY, JUST and GOOD! This is so very important to know in conjunction with what it means to be forgiven and to have faith that God forgives us.
Believers need to know what it means to transgress against God’s law and recognize when we have broken them and then to be heartbroken enough to seek God’s forgiveness when we sin and be heartbroken enough to commit in our hearts that we will not do those sins anymore. Here are some verses that validate that Paul was absolutely NOT against God’s Law:
Romans 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
Romans 7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
Because of the misunderstanding of Paul’s words in the Colossians 2 passage, many mainstream theologians diminish the need for believers in Christ to study and adhere to the Old Testament because they falsely teach that “we are now under the New Covenant of mercy and grace and therefore the Old Testament is irrelevant”.
This is a grave travesty for the words of the Old Testament are just as God-breathed as the words of the New Testament which is built upon the foundation of what was laid down in the Old Testament. Many verses in the New Testament tell us we absolutely ARE TO KEEP all of God’s commandments and that they are just as valid now as they have been throughout all time.
Matthew 19:17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
John 14:15 if ye love me, keep my commandments.
1 John 2:3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
1 John 2:4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
1 John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
Paul warns us about the spirit of lawlessness and giving heed to deceiving false teachers and false prophets.
1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 4:2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
2 Thessalonians 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.
The Greek word for “man of “sin” is anomia (Strong’s #458) and means: lawlessness, iniquity, disobedience, sin. (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance)
The Greek word for “perdition” is apóleia (Strong’s #684) and means: damnation, destruction, perish, waste. From a presumed derivative of apollumi; ruin or loss (physical, spiritual or eternal) — damnable(-nation), destruction, die, perdition, X perish, pernicious ways, waste. (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance)
Paul informs us that “lawlessness” brings about “destruction”; he connects them together. The proponents of “grace is a license to sin” are all about lawlessness, which the Bible emphatically condemns, and this teaching is heresy.
In varying degrees, men have changed the meaning of the “grace of God” to insinuate that God overlooks sin; or that God’s laws have been done away; or even the utterly false doctrine that once someone is forgiven and has become a follower of Christ he cannot ever fall from the grace of God. This teaching is known as the “once saved, always saved” doctrine and is very much a foundational doctrine in many of the Protestant mainstream religions. This doctrine implies that; once a person has been justified and has come under the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, it is not possible for him to lose his salvation. This is just not true; the Bible clearly teaches that a person can fall from grace and lose out on salvation. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die….” Ezekiel 18:20.
These false teachings in regard to God’s grace is exactly what Jude warned would creep into the very Ekklesia of the called out; subtly changing the “grace of our God” into a license to continue in sin and lasciviousness (which is a license or permission to tolerate sin) rather than to exhort the brethren that they must stop sinning and strive to live by every Word of God.
All the doctrinal changes and heresies, begin with this gross heresy couched in terms like “a new understanding”: “that all you need is an emotional, sentimental, counterfeit love in the New Covenant.” Further, they teach that those who profess Christ and are baptized enter a state of grace where the law is no longer binding because the New Covenant does away with the Old Covenant.
What is Exactly is “Grace”?
What does the grace of God have to do with being called of God and living according to His purpose for us? And is it a license to keep sinning once we have received God’s grace?
It is vitally important that we understand the meaning of “grace” as it is used in the Epistle of Jude (and throughout the whole Bible). If we misinterpret what the Bible describes as “grace”, thinking that once we come under God’s grace we can never “fall from grace” and that we can live as we want to; we are deadly mistaken and we will lose out on what God has planned for His saints.
A good understanding of the term “grace” and what it really means according to God’s definition is foundational to our salvation.
Definition of “Grace”
The word “grace” can mean many things and does not mean all of its potential definitions in every context. The exact scriptural definition of “grace” is determined by the context of its use.
We will start with Strong’s definition of what the word “grace” means. The Greek word for “grace” as translated in Jude 4 is from charis (Strong’s #5485). Its definition is: grace, favor. From chairo; graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude) — acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace(- ious), joy, liberality, pleasure, thank(-s, -worthy). see GREEK chairo. (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance)
Cognate: 5485 xáris (another feminine noun from xar-, “favor, disposed to, inclined, favorable towards, leaning towards to share benefit”) – properly, grace. 5485 (xáris) is preeminently used of the Lord’s favor – freely extended to give Himself away to people (because He is “always leaning toward them”).
5485 /xáris (“grace”) answers directly to the Hebrew (OT) term 2580/Kaná (“grace, extension-toward”). Both refer to God freely extending Himself (His favor, grace), reaching (inclining) to people because He is disposed to bless (be near) them.
[5485 (xáris) is sometimes rendered “thanks” but the core-idea is “favor, grace” (“extension towards”).] (Helps Word-studies)
Most of us who know our Bibles can see that there is something lacking in these Greek definitions for we know from reading the apostles’ teachings that the grace of God is much more than what charis is as defined in Strong’s.
Here is the English definition of “grace” from Freedictionary.com
Definition of grace:
1. Seemingly effortless beauty or charm of movement, form, or proportion .
2. A characteristic or quality pleasing for its charm or refinement.
3. A sense of fitness or propriety.
4. A disposition to be generous or helpful; goodwill.
5. Mercy; clemency.
6. A favor rendered by one who need not do so; indulgence.
7. A temporary immunity or exemption; a reprieve.
a. Divine favor bestowed freely on people as in granting redemption from sin.
b. The state of having received such favor.
c. An excellence or power granted by God.
9. A short prayer of blessing or thanksgiving said before or after a meal.
From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online:
The Word “Charis”: In the English New Testament the word “grace” is always a translation of (charis), a word that occurs in the Greek text something over 170 times (the reading is uncertain in places). In secular Greek of all periods it is also a very common word, and in both Biblical and secular Greek it is used with far more meanings than can be represented by any one term in English. Primarily (a) the word seems to denote pleasant external appearance, “gracefulness” “loveliness”; compare the personificaion in the Graces.” Such a use is found in Lu 4:22, where `wondered at the charm of his words’ is a good translation; and similarly in Col 4:6. (b) Objectively, charis may denote the impression produced by “gracefulness,” as in 3Jo 1:4 `greater gratification have I none than this’ (but many manuscripts read chara, “joy,” here). (c) As a mental attribute charis may be translated by “graciousness,” or, when directed toward a particular person or persons, by “favor.” So in Lu 2:52, “Jesus advanced …. in favor with God and men.” (d) As the complement to this, charis denotes the emotion awakened in the recipient of such favor, i.e. “gratitude.” So Lu 17:9 reads literally, `Has he gratitude to that servant?’ In a slightly transferred sense charis designates the words or emotion in which gratitude is expressed, and so becomes “thanks” (some 10 t, Ro 6:17, etc.)’. (e) Concretely, charis may mean the act by which graciousness is expressed, as in 1Co 16:3, where the King James Version translates by “liberality,” and the Revised Version (British and American) by “bounty.” These various meanings naturally tend to blend into each other, and in certain cases it is difficult to fix the precise meaning that the writer meant the word to convey, a confusion that is common to both New Testament and secular Greek And in secular Greek the word has a still larger variety of meanings that scarcely concern theologian. (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online)
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives the origin and etymology of the word “grace” and we find that this word is actually derived from the Latin word “gratia” which means favor, charm, thanks, pleasing, grateful.
Origin and Etymology of grace: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin gratia favor, charm, thanks, from gratus – pleasing, grateful; akin to Sanskritgṛṇāti he praises”. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
Notice that this is similar to the definition in Strong’s Concordance of the Greek word “charis“.
To “say grace” before a meal means to say a short prayer of giving thanks for the food that we are about to partake and to ask God to bless it. While the main focus is on the food that God provides, the person praying (saying grace) may also give thanks and praise for other blessings as well in their prayer.
I bring this out for this kind of prayer (saying grace) is indicative of the main definition of what the word grace is about as derived from the Latin word gratia.
Even though the translators translated the word charis to mean “grace”; when we see the word “grace” we must look at the context and how it was used to reflect the intent of the writers.
As we can see from these definitions there is so much contained in this one word “charis” and grace can mean so many things. We must always look at the context in which it is being used. The word grace occurs almost 170 times in the New Testament and in each case we have to look at the context for which it is used to determine what the author means by “grace”.
The first occurrence of the Greek word charis in the New Testament is in Luke 1:30 “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour [charis] with God.”
The same word that is translated as “grace” in Jude 1:4, (charis #5485) is translated as “favor” here in Luke 1:30.
As we saw earlier, English dictionaries state that the English word “grace” is directly derived from the Latin term gratia, which means “pleasing, thanks, or praise”.
But in the verses we quoted, the Greek word for grace clearly does not always mean these things. So sometimes the word charis can mean these things, but other times it clearly means much more than merely “pleasing, thanks, or praise”; or “acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace(- ious), joy, liberality, pleasure, thank” as defined by Strong’s Concordance. For example, are any of these things included in the meaning of the grace of God that Jude mentions in Jude 1:4? From the context we sense that Jude is referring to a much deeper spiritual meaning than what charis means in the Greek.
Apparently, it seemed fitting to the King James translators to make use of the Latin term “gratia” from which we get the English word “grace” to interpret the meaning of charis (translated as grace) in Scripture for the meanings are somewhat similar.
This gets complicated for there was not an exact word in English for the deeper spiritual meaning of grace (charis), therefore the translators apparently settled for a derivative from “gratia” to mean at least partiality what grace (charis) is all about.
The King James translators must have felt that this term was the best equivalent to the English word for “grace” so they attached the meaning of gratia to the meaning of charis which is not quite right, it does not give the complete meaning as used in the Bible when speaking about the grace of God.
We see that the word charis can mean many different things but to fully understand what the meaning of the word “grace” as intended by the writer in a particular verse or passage, we must first look at the context and then discern the intention of what the writer meant when he used the word “grace”. In many cases the writers intended a much more spiritual significance to the word “grace” than the meaning that is derived from the Latin word “gracia“.
When trying to teach about the grace of God we must be aware that there is so much more to what “charis” can mean than as defined in most Bible concordances (including Strong’s) and dictionaries, and that there can be a far more spiritual significance to this one word as portrayed in the Scriptures and as taught by the apostles. In other words, the spiritual meaning of grace is somewhat lacking in the Greek language, for the apostles interpreted this word to mean much more than just thanks, praise, pleasure, acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace(- ious), joy, liberality, pleasure, thank, and so forth.
It is important to understand the difference between the secular usage of the Greek term charis and the meaning that evolved in its spiritual usage because the apostles gave the term spiritual significance far beyond how most people today think of “grace”.
In other words, the meaning of charis has taken on a much deeper spiritual significance as used in the Holy Scriptures than it did when used in the secular Greek language and that is why there can be so much confusion when trying to define what grace means in its spiritual ramifications.
Brethren, there is so much more to what this word GRACE entails according to the meaning that was intended by the writers of Scripture and especially by the apostle Paul who used this word more than any other writer in the New Testament.
The Deeper Spiritual Meaning of Grace
From the English definition of grace derived from secular Greek, besides the things that we mentioned above, it can also mean elegance, effortless charm and beauty, of being gifted, and by extension having a pleasing effect on others because of these qualities.
Again from the Freedictionary.com:
“Seemingly effortless beauty or charm of movement, form, or proportion. A characteristic or quality pleasing for its charm or refinement. It indicates sense of fitness or propriety. A disposition to be generous or helpful; goodwill.”
And then there is this from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:
“The first, and perhaps the original sense is the quality of anything that brings delight or pleasure, or that wins favor. A good wine and fine choice of words are examples of charis. Persons have charis when they are delicate, tactful, or artful. . . . Kindness, generosity and helpfulness are also graces. One shows charis by displaying benevolence to inferiors. . . . In later Greek charis also had the sense of force or power.” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)
We often think of “charismatic” people as gifted and powerful because they are able to persuade and influence others due to their appeal and attractiveness.
Advertisers knowingly use actors and actresses with charisma because they exude beauty and charm and this in turn helps to convince potential customers to buy their products.
But these character traits can also be applied in a positive spiritual sense, such things as a quality that wins favor; kindness, generosity, helpfulness and are all qualities that can be attributed to God.
The definition of charis as “a quality of benevolence that gives favor to inferiors” could have possibly inspired the apostles to use charis to indicate the benevolence of God toward sinners. Thus the writers of Scripture took this multifaceted Greek term and meant it to mean a much deeper spiritual significance by using it in contexts where it clearly indicates unearned favor and gifts bestowed upon believers by their Great Benevolent Creator God.
From Wikipedia: “In Western Christian theology, grace has been defined, not as a created substance of any kind, but as “the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not necessarily because of anything we have done to earn it”, “the condescension or benevolence shown by God toward the human race”. It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to people “generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved” – that takes the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life of God.” (Wikipedia)
As we saw earlier, “Grace” is also defined in biblical terms as: “the unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.” ( Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
These are the meanings that are most often inferred when the writers speak of God’s grace both in the Old and the New Testaments. Grace is an unmerited gift given by God to His children and cannot ever be earned. But it also does not give permission to keep sinning after being granted God’s grace and mercy. Paul emphatically stresses this:
Romans 6:15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
Following is what Paul had to say about the grace of God that saves us; he also states that it is a gift of God:
Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 2:7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Because of the grace of God we are to come out of our past sins and walk in faith doing those things that God wills for us as part of our sanctification in becoming in the image of Christ, for like Paul says, “we are His workmanship”.
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the proper understanding of the true grace of God is vitally important for it will determine the path we take on our way to the Kingdom of God and whether we will even be in God’s Kingdom.
If we believe that grace is a license to keep sinning and do nothing to stay in God’s grace, we will forfeit our very calling and will not be chosen to be in the resurrection of the just.
God’s grace is bestowed upon those who are called and who then sincerely repent of their sins and commit to “go and sin no more”.
This grace of God is not earned, but is freely given to those whom God chooses to call at this time by offering them salvation by means of His divine kindness. That kindness includes the fact that He was willing to die for them so that they could be saved. God is not obligated, compelled, forced, or duty-bound to give this privilege to anyone because of their goodness or by their qualifying for it, for there is no one that is good; we are all sinners and the only thing we truly qualify for is the death penalty because of our many sins.
Romans 3:3 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 3:26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
From the time we are first called until the end of our lives (if we have remained faithful and attained to the resurrection to spirit), our salvation is by means of God’s gift of grace. Everything we receive is given to us to help us to fulfill God’s purpose for us. God gives grace because He loves us and wants us to be in His Kingdom and He is all about grace.
It is because we are undeserving of all of His marvelous gifts, and yet He freely gives them to us, that we can never become puffed up in pride thinking that we are entitled to anything that God has to offer. This serves to keep His children humble and appreciative of all that God does and is going to do for them.
The writers of Scripture took the secular meaning of grace and ran with it in applying some of its meaning to profound spiritual applications.
Our understanding of grace means something much more spiritually significant and deeper than just “favor” or “praise” or “thankfulness” etc.
From how the word charis is used by the apostles in describing the grace of God we come to see that it is through God’s grace that we are saved and given eternal life as a member of God’s own family and that His giving of it to us is completely and totally unmerited, (it is not an entitlement in any way or form) it is something that we do not deserve nor can we give anything in return for it.
It is critical that we get a firm grasp of this truth for then we will have no reason for pride and this realization will tend to keep us humble, for we must see ourselves for what we are; that we were sinners who did not deserve the goodness of God and that God does not owe us anything. And yet He generously gives us all things that make it possible to become one of His and to eventually become a son or daughter.
If we are chosen to be part of the resurrection we will live throughout eternity knowing all the time that it was because of all of God’s gifts that we are able to live with Him and all the other saints as members of His spiritual Family.
This realization causes us to be profusely grateful and to set in our hearts that we never want to return to the place we were at before we were given grace; therefore rather than grace giving Christians the license to keep sinning, in actuality, it motivates us to want to live by every Word of God and to stay forever in His favor and never be separated from him as we were when we were living in sin.
Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
We have all sinned and all of our sins are against God and yet He gives His called-out of His precious grace [pardon, forgiveness] which makes it possible to live for Him. Not only does Christ save us by the application of His sacrificial death to our sins, but by His grace He empowers us to live righteously before Him day by day.
Without God’s grace none of this would be possible and we would die in our sins to never live again. Without grace, there would be no salvation and mankind would cease to exist.
Romans 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 5:7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 2:7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
During the last Passover that Jesus kept with His disciples, He described how they would be given help to fulfill their mission and to keep God’s commandments.
John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 14:17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 14:18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
In these verses is God’ promise that He would give the disciples the power through means of the Holy Spirit and gifting them, enabling them to fulfill the great commission. The Holy Spirit would also empower them to meet their responsibilities in submitting themselves to God’s will for them in fashioning them into the image of Christ and internalizing the divine nature of God.
It is by the grace [mercy] of God that we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit which empowers us to do His works.
Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
An Old Testament Grace Expressed by God’s Steadfast Lovingkindness
The New Testament is not the only place in which grace is taught. In fact the apostles expanded upon the Old Testament concept of grace which is found in the Hebrew word Chesed.
The Greek word charis (the word for grace) is a Greek word, therefore it is never used in the Old Testament which was written in the Hebrew language. But when the apostles spoke of grace they adapted the Greek word for grace to define what was already a major Old Testament concept.
The Hebrew word that is translated in the English to speak of God’s mercy, kindness, lovingkindness, goodness, and His steadfast love is “chesed“. This word is not exactly the same definition as charis but it is a word that expresses God’s love and faithfulness toward His people. Chesed is used to describe God’s patient steadfastness and absolute faithfulness to the children of Israel which was freely given (a type of grace) and was a token of God’s commitment to His Covenant.
When Moses requested of God to see Him in His glory, God came down and passed before Moses and at the same time declared His name along with the attributes contained in His name, indicating the kind of God that He was.
Exodus 34:5 And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 34:6 And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
The Hebrew word for “goodness” in this verse is chesed which is translated as “kindness; by implication (towards God) piety: rarely (by opposition) reproof, or (subject.) beauty” ( KJV Lexicon)
NASB Translation defines chesed as: deeds of devotion (2), devotion (1), devout (1), faithfulness (1), favor (2), good (1), kindly (7), kindness (32), kindnesses (1), loveliness (1), lovingkindness (176), lovingkindnesses (7), loyal deeds (1), loyalty (6), mercies (1), merciful (2), mercy (1), righteousness (1), unchanging love (2). (NASB Translation)
According to Strong’s, the Hebrew word chesed is defined as “mercy,” “kindness,” “lovingkindness,” “goodness,” and even “pity,” but in some of the modern translations it may appear as “steadfast love.”
It can also be rendered as patient steadfastness, and the kind of love that expresses God’s faithfulness toward His people. Regardless of how it is translated in the English language, chesed is an expression of God’s commitment to His faithful covenant love and kindness which cannot be bought or earned; like grace, it is freely given. This is what associates the Hebrew word chesed with the Greek word chalis.
The English rendering of chesed is often “mercy” but it more adequately means “steadfast love” therefore chesed suggests most often God’s freely given commitment to love. It is what God is all about and this quality is evident within the covenant He freely made with Israel.
In Genesis God made promises to Abraham and to his descendants; not because of any inherent goodness or greatness on their part but because He chose them to be His people and because He loved them. They did not earn God’s love or His choice of them to be His people, in fact, God said they were the least of all peoples.
In the following verses God is describing His steadfast love for Israel. Chesed, as used in verse 9 and translated as “mercy”, indicates strong, steadfast love that never fails and is part of God’s covenant with Israel.
Deuteronomy 7:7 The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 7:8 But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 7:9 Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy [lovingkindness] with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;
Genesis 28:15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
Numbers 14:18 The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy [lovingkindness, steadfast love] forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
Paul conveyed this concept of the steadfastness of God in his letter to Timothy: that God remains faithful to Himself and who He is regardless of what we do or what we believe.
2 Timothys 2:11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: 2:12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: 2:13 If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.
God’s loving-kindness extends to the children of Abraham through faith who are the Israel of God.
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 3:29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
God freely entered into a marriage covenant with the children of Israel and the kind of love He showed toward them was expressed as chesed: steadfast loving-kindness and patient forbearance. This brings to mind the kind of grace and unmerited favor that is translated from the Greek word charis.
Therefore the apostles could see that both chesed and charis express God’s character and faithfulness in the covenant relationship, first with the children of Israel in the Old Covenant, and now toward the called-out ones who are part of the New Covenant.
The apostles married the meaning of charis, (with its aspects of grace, unmerited favor, power and benevolence), with the characteristics of loving-kindness, patient, forbearing faithfulness of God and therefore the meaning of “grace” (which originated from a secular word gracia) took on the deep spiritual ramifications that we find in the apostles’ teachings in regard to the grace of God. Within His covenant God abounds in chesed (Psalm 86:15, Exodus 34:) and Psalm 23 tells us that “goodness and steadfast love” will follow His beloved ones all the days of their lives (Psalm 23).
No matter how faithless the children of Israel became, God remained faithful and stayed true to His covenant love of mercy, kindness, goodness, steadfast love.
This does not mean that He overlooked their sins or winked at their faithlessness; we all know the story of Israel and how they failed to live up to their covenant with God. But whenever they did repent, God showed them mercy; and even for those who remained unfaithful there is still hope, for if they repent at a future time and return to Him in the Main Fall Harvest, they can still be in God’s overall plan which is a token of God’s great mercy and grace. (See Romans 10:1 and Romans 11).
God is LOVE and a component of that love is mercy. Everything that God does and all that He has done for mankind is because of His mercy and lovingkindness. Even when He has to correct sinful men and women, it is an act of mercy and kindness for it is giving them a chance to repent and a chance to turn from their wickedness and live rather then die in the eternal death.
God will not allow them the people that stubbornly refuse to repent to live forever for they will only make it miserable for themselves and for others. The lake of fire may seem to be a very harsh judgment to some, but not allowing the incorrigible wicked to live in eternity with His Family is an act of mercy as well.
When we study God’s Word with spiritual eyes and with the overall big picture in mind, we can see that everything that God has planned and has done from the very beginning up until now, and what He plans for the future is all because of His bountiful grace and His steadfast love for us.
The Book of Lamentations which prophesies of God’s punishments because of His people’s unfaithfulness; also contains a wonderful promise which brings to mind the merciful loving-kindness and faithfulness of God:
Lamentations 3:22 It is of the Lord’s mercies [chased- lovingkindness] that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 3:23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
God, like the prodigal son’s father, is always waiting with open arms to take back His people if they would only repent and live by His every Word. This includes the Ekklesia who have gone astray in these end times.
Psalm 78:34 When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God. 78:35 And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer. 78:36 Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues.
78:37 For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant. 78:38 But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath. 78:39 For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again. (See all of Psalm 78)
Because of God’s tremendous grace and steadfast love we can have great hope. He will save us if we repent and turn to Him no matter how far we have strayed; it is because God the Father and His Son are full of grace and truth and they are faithful to their promises and to their covenant that we can be forgiven and go on to become their children.
Hebrews 13:8 reminds us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
The grace of God is like a stream or a fountain, His grace is continuously flowing and He generously pours it upon those He loves. God’s love and His grace are consistent; God does not change.
James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, [the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens], with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. [in whom there is no variation [no rising or setting] or shadow cast of turning [for He is perfect and never changes (AMP)].
The grace of God is a gift, it is a perfect gift that God gives to those who repent and turn to Him with all of their hearts.
From the Old Testament we learn about chesed and that it is a reflection of God’s steadfast covenant love. The apostles knew the meaning of this Hebrew word and combined it with their use of charis, which defines “grace”, this in turn helped them to more perfectly and adequately describe the kind of grace that God pours out on the people whom He calls and who have made a covenant with Him at baptism.
Chesed serves as an Old Testament word which gives specific meaning to the faithful character of God within the Old Covenant. The apostles could then make further use of this old Hebrew word in the meaning of charis thus depicting more fully the kind of “grace” that God extends to His people.
To be clear: the Greek word charis is not derived from the Hebrew word chesed; rather these two words complement each other and in this way chesed adds deep spiritual meaning to an otherwise secular meaning of what grace meant to the Greeks.
By adding the two together the apostles could then use charis in their writings to illustrate the steadfast love of God in giving of His Son to die for repentant sinners that we might have eternal life. The grace of God continues for us with the many other gifts that are bestowed on us from a benevolent God that loves us and wants us to be a part of His eternal Kingdom.
God’s character is magnificently expressed to us by His grace and by His faithful steadfast love for His children all of which comes to us freely and not by any kind of obligation on God’s part.
The kind of gracious generosity with which God responded to the Israelites of the Old Covenant is an example of the grace that is lavished upon His spiritual people in the New Covenant bringing salvation to all who are in Christ.
Grace is a gift freely given to those who please and seek God. There is no contradiction in God’s Word between the grace of God being free and the concept of obeying God in all things in order to stay in His grace.
We do not earn God’s grace in the sense that God owes us anything and He is not obligated to do anything for us. But when we do receive the gifts of God we are still obligated to keep all of God’s commandants, statutes, ordinances and judgments. Jesus tells us that we are to live by every word of God. There is no hint that we can keep on sinning just because we have been freely forgiven.
Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
God’s grace and all of His gifts, including God’s Holy Spirit and the gifts of His Spirit, are freely given to those who are seeking God and keeping His commandments.
Please be warned: The grace of God in no way means a type of sentimental, emotional love that overlooks sin because we do not want to hurt that person’s feelings by telling him that he is sinning.
If this is being taught in the assembly we fellowship with, we need to hear the alarm bells going off and quickly remove ourselves so as to avoid being influenced by this kind of teaching for it does not reflect the true grace of God. This false type of grace will take us out of God’s kingdom. Just as Jude says; we must always, always contend for the faith [truth of sound doctrine] which was once delivered unto the saints [in the Holy Scriptures].
The subject of “Grace” will be continued next week in “Understanding the Grace of Our God ~ Part 2”