Don’t worry. This will not be another post about music.
The manner in which the subject of God’s grace has been taught to most of us here at Wascana Fellowship in the past has left a great deal of confusion in its wake. Sometimes it seemed that everything God does is tied back to the idea of “grace.” At other times “grace” seemed to be defined as a requirement to refrain from doing anything that might give people the impression that you might be Jewish. So what, exactly, is the meaning of this term?
A couple of online resources have helped with understanding the concept. Eston’s Bible Dictionary’ article about grace shows the seven basic ways the idea of grace is used in the Bible. The article about grace in Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology talks about the two basic words used in the Old and New Testaments and how they outline God’s graceful interactions with humanity throughout the Bible. However, by the time you read all four pages of the “definition” in Baker’s you are so overloaded with information that you forgot what the original question was.
The closest to a simple definition that occurs early on in Baker’s says, “An accurate, common definition describes grace as the unmerited favor of God toward man.” In other words, grace is the act of looking favorably upon another person. God does so to Noah in Genesis 6 and preserves Noah’s family from the worldwide flood. God does so with Abram and elevates him to be patriarch of the family that will save the world in Genesis 18.
In the New Testament, the main word translated as grace is charis, which is, not surprisingly, the root of our English word charity. While its main meaning is “favor” it can also mean “gift”. In other words, the statement “grace is a gift” is redundant. The “gifts” of the Holy Spirit are literally “graces” from God.
Grace is the root of every truly kind act and every real attempt to redeem someone else from dire or bad circumstances. No wonder the Apostle Peter wants us to “grow in grace.” (2 Pet. 3:18)
God’s favor is behind His drive to create us in the first place. He did not have to. He certainly did not have to save us. He chose to, for no better reason than that He desires to redeem us. God’s acts of giving in order to complete redemption are in themselves part of God’s grace. That is why James can so emphatically state that faith without works is dead (Jas. 2:15-17). Divine favor is favor that assists in real need. If there is no help when there is need, there is no grace.
God is favorably disposed toward His creation, and humanity in particular. He has done everything needful to redeem us back to Himself through the life, ministry, death, resurrection and glorification of Jesus Christ. It is His strong desire to bring back every human being. He will do everything it takes, short of actually forcing us against our wills to accept His aid.
Once having accepted His aid, let us not shrink from favoring one another as He has favored us.