Grace is often defined as "God's unmerited favor" or by the acronym, GRACE (God's Riches At Christ's Expense). However, these are somewhat incomplete definitions.
First of all, grace is often confused with mercy. Mercy is deliverance from judgment regardless of what we deserve but grace is deliverance from judgment which we deserve. According to the Bible, we have all sinned (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8). As a result of that sin, we all deserve death (Romans 6:23) and eternal judgment in hell/the lake of fire (Psalm 9:15-18; 55:15; Proverbs 5:3-5; 9:13-18; Matthew 5:22; 10:28; 25:41-46; Mark 3:29; 12:40; Luke 16:23-25; John 5:29; 2 Peter 2-3; Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 12-15; 21:8).
In theology, there are different types of grace. It is widely believed that there is a measure of grace that God gives every person so that they can exercise their free will to accept Christ's atoning sacrifice for their sins and enter into a relationship with God. This is called "prevenient grace." It has also been called "resistible grace" or "pre-regenerating grace." By definition, every theological system which affirms the necessity of God's grace prior to a sinner's conversion has a type of prevenient ("to come before") grace. The Reformed doctrine of "irresistible grace" is a type of prevenient grace, as is "common grace."
If you wish to understand these different types of grace, I encourage you to go to gotquestions.org or do an Internet search. There are also many books on this difficult topic. I also wrote an article on prevenient grace which discusses this more.
There are said to be 161 references to grace in the Bible, 38 in the Old Testament and 123 in the New Testament, depending on which version you use. In the Bible, grace is "a gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). A verse often used to characterize grace is Romans 5:8 - "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Instead of justice for our sins, we recieve God's grace through Christ's death for us.
It wasn't until the beginning of 2011 that God has begun to really deal with me in the area of grace toward others. I have largely lived ungraceful. God has been extremely patient with me, yet I remain a largely impatient person. However, God is trying to change all of that. Sometimes I think that people are so foolish sometimes because God wants to teach us grace. Yet, even that thought is ungraceful.
Grace is a fascinating subject, one that you can never fully learn, and one that I will inevitably be learning a lot about. I recognize grace is not in my nature and I need a lot of help from God to extend grace to those around me. In light of God's grace toward us, it is unthinkable that we cannot be the same way toward others in this short life. Perhaps a humble perspective is a good start. I definitely know I need Christ to help me.
© Todd Tyszka
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