The grace of God is something that will never fully be grasped and understood by human beings, but God shares with us throughout His Word what it is and how we receive it. There are some important factors to consider, several of which are defined by Easton’s Bible Dictionary.
What is Grace?
One of the most important facts we must come to accept in this life is that each and every one of us are sinners who deserve punishment for our sins. We were created by God, for God, and we constantly dishonor and disobey Him. While this is most certainly true, God still loves us so much that He sent His Son to take our punishment and die for our sins so that we could be forgiven and be free of the power of sin and eternal separation from Him. He literally sent His Son to die in our place so we can be restored to Him, through His resurrection. This is the grace of God.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:1-11 ESV
who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 2 Timothy 1:9 ESV
Favor, kindness and friendship from God
Because of His grace, we are offered salvation, through which we can rest in the favor of God and be counted as His friends and children. His grace is not because of anything we could do or earn, but purely because of the works done by Christ because of the mighty grace of God. God favors us with His kindness and friendship, and in so doing gives us grace to reconcile us to Him.
“O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Genesis 18:3 ESV
Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. Genesis 19:19 ESV
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15 ESV
Forgiving mercy of God
God’s grace is also His forgiving mercy. This speaks to His loving-kindness which steps in on our behalf through the sacrifice and fulfillment of the Law in Jesus, and awards us salvation through His blood. God exerts His holy influence on us to turn us to Christ and increase our faith, love, knowledge and Christian virtues. Through His forgiving mercy we receive grace. We do not receive His grace by our own works, but the works of Christ.
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. Romans 11:6 ESV
Strong's G5485 - charis - of 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
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:4-10 ESV
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 ESV
The gospel versus the law
In Galatians we see that believers were under immense pressure from legalistic Jews who rejected the gospel of grace and clung to the Mosaic Law for their salvation. Paul then took the opportunity to explain to the Galatians the differences between grace and the Law of Moses, and their approaches to God.
We receive grace through the works of Christ, and also through His works He fulfilled the Law of Moses. This does not mean that the Law is no longer relevant, but instead that the way it applies to us has evolved as we receive salvation through Christ and grace from God.
'yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. Galatians 2:16 ESV
There are specific Mosaic Laws that were very specific in detail to specific people in a specific time, and while the specific intentions are not relevant to us now because of the sacrifice of Christ, those Laws still provide wisdom for the current-day Christian life.
Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. Galatians 5:2-6 ESV
Paul is telling us, as well as the original audience of Professing Jewish Christians, that if you remain under the Law and sever yourselves from Christ, then you are rejecting or “falling away” from grace. In other words, if you reject Christ to remain in the Law of Moses, you also reject Christ and the grace that comes from accepting His works and salvation. For more on how Christ’s works fulfilled and changed the Law, see this study.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. Romans 3:21-31 ESV
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17 ESV
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. John 1:14,16-18 ESV
Strong's G4637 - skēnoō -to fix one's tabernacle, have one's tabernacle, abide (or live) in a tabernacle (or tent), tabernacle
And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exodus 25:8 ESV
Strong's H4720 - miqdash - sanctuary: of the tabernacle
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14 ESV
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:6-11 ESV
Gifts from God
As we have covered thus far, grace is a gift from God through the acceptance of the salvation offered to us in Christ. Through this gift of grace, God also provides each of us with special gifts in order to further His mission and plan while we remain in this life. Each individual is responsible for their overall call as a Christian as well as the unique individual callings God blesses them with.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8 ESV
God provides us with different gifts to use within those responsibilities in order to help us fulfill the callings we’ve been given. Some of the primary gifts an individual can receive are classified as the gifts of divine wisdom, exhortation, special teaching abilities, extraordinary faith, and even the ability to give liberally. All Christians are called to have faith, mercy and discernment, live generously, as well as help, teach and exhort one another.
But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; Romans 15:15-19 ESV
While God gives us these gifts out of His grace we must remember again that we could never earn them, we don’t deserve them, and we are called to use them for Him. Not everyone will share all the same gifts, or be called to use them all in the same ways. We must lean into His grace to discern how God calls us individually to use the blessings and gifts He’s given to each of us.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6-8 ESV
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10 ESV
Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, Ephesians 3:7-8 ESV
Through the grace of God and salvation of Christ we are transformed by the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and begin to live more like Christ and less like the world. We are then set apart, different, and begin to display and grow in Christian virtues, also known more simply as the fruits of the Spirit. As we grow in faith we grow more fruits. (Learn more here, here and here.)
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you — see that you excel in this act of grace also. 2 Corinthians 8:7 ESV
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 ESV
The glory that is coming
From the grace of God also comes the hope of what is to come. Once we accept Christ and receive God’s grace, we receive a promise of the hope of eternity with God. This is the glory that is coming - that on the day of ultimate salvation, when we are face-to-face with our Savior, we will be glorified in His coming Kingdom. (Learn more here.)
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:13-16 ESV
The grace of God is a gift that none of us can earn, none of us deserve, and that we receive once we’ve accepted Christ and His works, as well as the salvation His works provide for us. His grace is a mark of His favor, kindness and friendship toward us, as well as a display of His forgiving mercy. Through His grace we are able to grow in faith and wisdom, begin to live out His callings for us using the gracious gifts we are given, and prepare for His coming glory. His grace is sufficient for all of our needs, and we are called to lean in and rely on His grace above all else.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV