Thoughts On Grace: Part 1 (Definitions)

“what is grace?”

most people (especially those raised in church) when asked that question will answer with one of two replies:

grace is “unmerited favor”
grace is “God’s riches at Christ’s expense” (G.R.A.C.E)

sadly, neither of those answers are complete. these answers are treated as though they are direct quotes from scripture and yet the Bible gives a greater definition of grace. when the word “grace” is used in the new testament, the original greek word is translated:

the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

the root word it comes from literally means “to rejoice exceedingly”. this is much different than the definition of grace that most people give. a simpler definition of grace that i use is:

the divine power and ability given by our loving God to achieve a certain task.

i had a friend explain “grace” a couple weeks ago with this story:

pretend you were speeding down the highway. all of a sudden, you get pulled over. the officer tells you that you have to go to court. you go to court and the judge tells you that because of your actions, you have to go to jail. then all of a sudden a man that you don’t know walks up to the judge and purchases your innocence (how wasn’t quite clear in the story) and you are freed of all charges. that is grace.

the problem (one of many) with that story is that being “freed of all charges” is not grace. it’s called mercy. mercy is all about forgiveness and our debts being paid. one of the things that Jesus accomplished with His death on the cross is the forgiveness of our sins. He gave us mercy…a freedom from all the charges of sin (thank God!) but that’s not all the cross did. while mercy gave us a clean slate…it did NOT change the inward being of a person.

i think about the times that i have received mercy (from government, parents, boss, etc) and i realize that the majority of the time mercy alone did not change the evilness of my heart. i was thankful for the mercy but not thankful enough to deny and change what i enjoyed being…evil. i kept breaking the law when it came to speeding cause i liked speeding and i didn’t like submitting to the government’s demands concerning speed limits (and etc for all the other physical issues).

the same applies to God. most people are grateful for the mercy that Christ gave/gives, but they enjoy sinning too much to change their lives. in fact, for many people, sin is rooted too deep in their lives for them to change. they need help. i would say we ALL need help. none of us can save ourselves or free ourselves from sin.

thank God for grace! God not only gives us mercy (freedom from the punishment of sin) but also gives us grace (freedom from sin itself).

i will talk in the next part about grace’s part in our freedom and what else grace does in our lives.

what definitions of “grace” did you grow up learning? why is it so easy to confuse “mercy” and “grace”? what else does grace do in our lives?


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