What is the definition of grace?

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What does the word grace mean in the Bible? Is it merely the fact that God likes us?

Many church people talk about grace and even sing songs about it. They know that it came through Jesus Christ (John 1:14, 17), but few know its true definition! Is it the freedom, according to the Bible, to do as we wish?

When Paul wrote the words ". . . for you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14) he used the Greek word charis (Strong's Concordance #G5485). God saves us by this charis. Since this is the mode of a Christian's salvation, it is of paramount importance and something the devil is trying his best to confuse the true meaning of grace!

The scriptures say Jesus grew in charis (Luke 2:52), which is translated as "favor" in the KJV. Many marginal notes show "grace" as the alternate translation.

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If charis means unmerited pardon in Luke 2, as opposed to favor or grace, how could Jesus, who never sinned, grow in unmerited pardon? The translation here of "favor" is obviously the correct one. It is easy to understand how Christ grew in favor with his Father and man.

God the Father on throne
God the Father
Pierre Mignard, after 1664

In Luke 4:22 the people were amazed at the words of grace (favorable to men) which proceeded out of his mouth. Here the Greek word is also charis.

In Acts 2:46 - 47 we find the disciples "having charis with all the people." In Acts 7:10 we find it given to Joseph in the sight of Pharaoh. The KJV has translated charis as "favor" here, as opposed to grace, as in other places (Acts 25:3, Luke 1:30, Acts 7:46). It is not clear why some do not like this translation. It does imply that it does not matter what you do once you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior. However, many believers know that it does matter what Christians do! We are told we must keep the commandments (Acts 5:32).

Man receives favor for two different reasons. First, Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). Most all of Christendom would agree that this is the grace of God in action (see John 3:16).

The clearing of the death penalty over us is the first part of the salvation process. A Christian is justified (past sins paid for) by Christ's death. Christians can do nothing about their sins except accept this sacrifice. The question is why man receives this awesome favor in the first place.

Our heavenly Father did not favor with salvation the angels who sinned nor is he offering them the ability to become sons (Hebrews 1:5, 2:6 - 10). God favored man because we are in his image. The offspring of any being looks like the father in kind (Acts 17:26, 28 - 29, 1John 3:1). Those who do not believe that man is in the image of his Creator cannot even understand why we receive charis or grace to justification.

The other reason we receive favor is that it solves the grace versus works argument. How does one grow in favor with any boss? He keeps his directives or commands!

Once we have believed in Jesus' sacrifice to pay for our sins (breaking the law), repented (keeping the commandments), and are baptized, we receive the Holy Spirit. We are now the children of the Eternal by the indwelling of his spirit. We have His seed in us (see 1John 3:1 - 2, 9). Now we have grown in favor (grace) in His eyes!

True Christians are under the great favor or grace of God and are to be perfect. He watches over us as any good father watches over his children and favors them (1Peter 3:12, 5:10 - 12; Matthew 5:48; 1John 3:10). He even favors them with chastening when needed (Hebrews 12:6, Revelation 3:19). Let us therefore keep his commandments in the Bible and stay in his favor. Please see our series on the definition of Christian terms for info on other Biblical words.

Additional Study Materials
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Why did the disciples train in pairs?
What is the Lord's Prayer?
Were Mary and Joseph Christians?

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