Grace is a beautiful word, truly a great Bible truth is resident in this word. In fact, it is a word and concept without which man's salvation would be impossible. Grace is derived from the Greek charis. Thayer comments thus on charis: " the New Testament writers used charis pre-eminently of that kindness by which God bestows favors even upon the ill-deserving, and grants to sinners the pardon of their offences, and bids them accept of eternal salvation through Christ " (Greek-English Lexicon, pg. 666).
Some biblical facts regarding God's grace. The gospel (good news) is a result of God's grace (Gal. 1: 6-9). Grace is presented as sufficient and Christians are called by grace (2 Cor. 12: 7-10, Gal. 1: 15). Man is saved by grace, the heart is established by grace, and we are justified by grace (Eph. 2: 5, 8, Heb. 13: 9, Tit. 3: 7). Moreover, we render acceptable service by grace and grace imparts everlasting consolation (Heb. 12: 28, 29, 2 Thes. 2: 16). God's grace also makes us better people and helps us in time of need (I Cor. 15: 9, 10, Heb. 4: 16).
The origin of grace. Paul wrote, "Grace be unto you, and peace from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 1: 3). Grace is especially associated with Jesus in the New Testament (Jn. 1: 17, notice also the association of grace and truth). Hence, we read: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen" (2 Cor. 13: 14). James exclaimed, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above" (Jas. 1: 17).
Some recipients of God's grace. Noah "found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Gen. 6: 8). The lowly are said to be favored with grace (Prov. 3: 34, I Pet. 5: 5). Jesus and Paul are expressly said to have experienced God's grace (Lk. 2: 40, I Cor. 15: 10). Also, all who love the Lord have God's grace bestowed upon them (Eph. 6: 24). Beloved, a study of those who enjoyed God's grace consistently reveals a certain type of person: one who was implicitly obedient, trusting, submissive to God's requirements, and who had enduring fidelity (Noah, Gen. 6: 5-8, Jesus, Jn. 4: 34, those who love the Lord, I Jn. 5: 3, and Paul, I Cor. 9: 26, 27, 2 Tim. 4: 7, 8). A required personality type to enjoy God's grace explains why while God's grace is universal, still only a few are saved (Tit. 2: 11, Matt. 7: 13, 14).
God's grace can be abused. Some in the First Century turned "the grace of our God into lasciviousness " (Jude 4). One way in which this was done is seen in Paul's Epistle to the Romans. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" (Rom. 6: 1). Paul immediately answered his own question: "God forbid" (vs. 2). Alas, grace continues to be presented today in such a fashion as to actually encourage the commission of sin. Instead of teaching which stresses man's responsibility to live right we hear statements similar to: " the way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul " (Sam Morris, Baptist Preacher, A Discussion which Involves a Subject Pertinent to All Men, pgs. 1, 2).
God's grace is also terribly abused when it is presented by man in such a way that God is the only operative force and agent. Consider: "Salvation is a free gift from God to certain individuals. We exercise faith in order to be saved, but even our faith is also a gift of God " (William Cox, Amillennialism Today, pg. 33). "We believe that salvation of sinners is wholly of grace," one reads in the Baptist Manual (Art. 4, pg. 47).
Grace versus merit. The scriptures reveal that not only are grace and merit not coexistent, they are mutually excluding. Salvation cannot simultaneously be by grace and works (merit), Paul argues (Rom. 11: 6). If man could merit his salvation, God's grace would not be requisite (Rom. 4: 1 ff., Eph. 2: 8-18). However, the Bible truth that grace and merit are incompatible does not mean man is passive in the matter of enjoying God's grace (the scriptures, as seen, do not teach universal salvation - such would inevitably be the case if man were passive and God active because God is not willing that any perish, 2 Pet. 3: 9). "For by grace are ye saved through faith," explained Paul, "and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God " (Eph. 2: 8). Grace is God's part, faith is man's responsibility. However, faith or belief itself is a work (Jn. 6: 29). Faith is not meritorious but a "work of God." Faith, saving faith, is always active and obedient (Jas. 2: 19-26).
Grace reigns through righteousness. An excellent verse regarding God's grace and which also addresses man's role is Romans 5: 21: "That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." The expression "grace reign though righteousness" (charis basileuon dia dikaiosunes) reveals the climate in which grace is successful. "Righteousness" is an atmosphere of the presence of God's commandments and man's humble acquiescence to all that God had required of him (Ps. 119: 172, Acts 10: 34, 35).
In the vein just observed (God and man in the matter of grace), man's sins cancel out God's grace (Rom. 6: 1, 2-23). Grace can be received in vain (2 Cor. 6: 1), we can be removed from grace (Gal. 1: 6), and grace can be frustrated by man (Gal. 2: 21). We are to stand in grace, grow in grace, and be strong in grace (I Pet. 5: 12, 2 Pet. 3: 18, 2 Tim. 2: 1). Moreover, the Christian can "fall from grace" (Gal. 5: 4).
Beloved, we have seen the truth about God's grace as presented by God's word (see "word of his grace," Acts 20: 32). I, therefore, "recommend you to the grace of God" (Acts 14: 26). (For a more complete study of God's grace, click on "Grace Alone?")