What does the word “grace” mean in the Bible?

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The word “grace” is mentioned about 150 times in the NT. Paul used this word more than any other NT author, for it shows some 100 times in his letters. Luke, his assistant used the word about 25 times in his gospel and the book of Acts. Thus, the word grace used by these two writers constituted five sixths of all the NT references.

Giving joy

Mainly, the word “grace” means “that which gives joy or pleasure,” giving the meaning of beauty or loveliness (Psalms 45:2; Proverbs 1:9; 3:22). We see this in the New Testament, when Jesus spoke in Nazareth. For His hearers “wondered at the gracious words (the words of grace) which proceeded out of his mouth” (Luke 4:22). Likewise, Paul counseled the believers at Colossae that their speech should “be alway with grace” (Colossians 4:6).

Pleasant feeling

Also, “grace” gives the meaning of a beautiful or pleasant feeling expressed toward a person, such as sympathy, gentleness, or kindness. Joseph found “favor,” literally, “grace,” in the sight of Pharaoh (Acts 7:10; v. 46). And we read that when Jesus was a boy “the grace of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40).  Also, when the disciples spoke the truth they had “favor,” literally, “grace,” with all the people (Acts 2:47).

Thankfulness

And grace was used of thankfulness, as an expression of good will. “Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him?” (Luke 17:9). “Grace” is often used in this sense in the expression “thanks be to God,” which means literally, “grace be to God” (1 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Corinthians 8:16). Certainly, God the Creator deserves the praise of his created beings.

Gift of love

In Addition, grace means a gift, a favor or a help, as an expression of good will. The Jews came to Festus and asked for a “favor,” literally, “grace,” for Paul (Acts 25:3). And the apostle Paul wrote of the gift that the churches had collected for the poor at Jerusalem as, literally, “the grace” (1 Corinthians 16:3; 2 Corinthians 8:4, 6, 7, 19).

The distinctive meaning tied to the term “grace” in the NT, and especially in the writings of Paul, is that of the infinite saving love of Father toward sinners as seen in His Son. Noticeably, since all men have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), such favor and loving-kindness on God’s part are absolutely unwarranted by sinful humans.

Sadly, people have lived in enmity against God (Romans 1:21, 30, 32), corrupted His truth (v. 18, 25), worshiped his creation (v. 23), marred His image in their own bodies (v. 24–27), blasphemed His name (Romans 2:24), and shunned His patience (v. 4). Finally, they killed His Son (Acts 7:52). Yet, God has continued to deal lovingly with them. And it is this lovingkindness that leads people to repentance (Romans 2:4).

God’s grace

God’s grace fills a person (John 1:14; Romans 12:3, 6), is all-sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9; Romans 5:20), rules (Romans 5:21), instructs (Titus 2:11, 12), and establishes the heart (Hebrews 13:9). In some references “grace” is almost equal to “gospel” (Colossians 1:6) and to the acts of God (Acts 11:23; 1 Peter 5:12). God’s grace is His saving power. For Christ gave His life to make it possible for man to be restored to the image of God. And it is the power of His grace that attracts people to the obedience to the truth.

Thus, the grace of God that is revealed in the New Testament shows favor toward sinner that doesn’t merit His approval. It is His unlimited love toward sinful men and women. And the good news of this transforming grace is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). Thus, it is not merely God’s compassion and desire to forgive, but it is also His vigorous, converting power to the sinner (2 Corinthians 3:18).

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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