What Grace Is, and What Grace Is Not
by Kenny Batson
With the various teachings today in Christendom, there is no other option that Christians have than to base every conclusion, for life and theology, from the Bible, and the Bible alone. This short summary is being put together for people who desire to serve God with their whole hearts. Only those who desire to love and honor Jesus Christ more than family, friends, loved ones, and even life itself, will be able to receive the truth of this short summary on what grace is and what grace is not.
You will be given Scripture and explanation for the following points. If you desire to understand truth, then God will reveal to you His truth from His Word. Merely reading this paper is not sufficient for understanding grace, you must be willing to humble yourself to God, get into the Bible, pray, and study for yourself to receive the full measure of the heart of God.
*What Grace Is Not*
There are many misunderstandings in the Church today concerning various fundamental truths of the Scriptures. The reason for this is that Christians in Church today refuse to read or study their Bibles. One of the biggest misunderstandings is what grace is and what grace is not. Here are some points for you to meditate on.
1. Grace is not God’s forgiveness.
By grace we receive forgiveness, but mercy more accurately describes the forgiveness of God.
Mercy and grace are different things.
This can be seen in Hebrews 4:16; “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
In other words, we need to come to God to find mercy (forgiveness/overlooking what we really deserve/God’s choosing to not look at our sin) and grace to help when we need it.
Here we see that grace is something that “helps”, not God’s forgiveness alone.
2. Grace is not merely unmerited favor from God.
If grace were unmerited favor alone, then Jesus did not need grace, however, we see that He was full of grace in John chapter 1:14; “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth”.
We also see that it was by grace that Jesus lived an obedient life to His Father in this world in Hebrews 2:9; “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”
Grace cannot be the unmerited favor of God alone because Jesus merited everything being the sinless, blameless Son of God.
3. Grace is not a free license to live in sin.
Hebrews 12 says that grace keeps us from sin: “14. Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15. looking diligently lest anyone fall short of the grace of God;”. Also, “28. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29. For our God is a consuming fire.”
Jude shows us that it is a false understanding of grace to think that grace is the “unconditional covering” of sins.
Jude speaks of false teachers in verse 4; “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
Many think that grace is some type of unconditional forgiveness because Jesus “loves” us.
Jesus loves us, but grace is not forgiveness alone, nor is it unconditional salvation.
Grace is what God gives us to overcome sin (which we do not deserve/is unmerited).
To live in sin is to live outside of God’s grace.
4. Grace is not meted out to everyone equally by God.
God only gives actual grace to the humble, on the other hand, He has mercy on everyone.
The only person who never had mercy on Him was Jesus…He did not need mercy.
God chooses to overlook sin for the time being (mercy) to call all people to salvation (which only comes by grace), but…actual grace/salvation only comes to those who will humble themselves to God.
James 4:6; “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'”
Grace is not given to all men equally, because all men are not equally humble before God.
On the other hand, God has great mercy on all in hopes that they will be saved by His grace.
5. Grace is the New Covenant.
Ephesians 2:8a. “For by grace you have been saved through faith…”
The same grace that gave Jesus victory over sin here, is the same grace that gives all New Covenant Christians victory over sin.
Old Covenant saints did not experience the same “victory/grace” as do New Covenant believers because they were under the Law, but New Covenant Christians are under grace:
Romans 6:14; “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”
John chapter 1 says, “17. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
6. Grace is predominantly a New Covenant/Testament theme.
Grace is mentioned 128 times in the New Testament (NKJV).
Grace is mentioned 23 times in the Old Testament (NKJV).
Not only this, but the idea of grace was not the same under the Old Covenant.
*What Grace Is*
It is no small matter to misunderstand grace. The New Testament forewarns us that in the last days there will be false teachers who will teach falsehoods about grace. This is said specifically in the book of Jude verse 4: “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ”. The New International Version translates it this way: “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” Lastly, the Living Bible paraphrase puts the same verse this way: “I say this because some godless teachers have wormed their way in among you, saying that after we become Christians we can do just as we like without fear of God's punishment. The fate of such people was written long ago, for they have turned against our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” It is clear that you and I need to understand the truth about grace.
1. Grace is the unmerited power over sin for salvation.
The Apostles in the book of Acts showed us this:
Acts 4:33; “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.”
Notice the connection of Power from God and grace.
Remember that if grace was merely unmerited favor, this means that Jesus did not have grace.
Grace is the power over sin in our lives, which we sinners do not deserve.
In the book of Hebrews the Holy Spirit is called the “Spirit of Grace.”
Hebrews 10:29; “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?”
2. Grace keeps us from sin, not in sin with a “covering”.
Remember that Jesus endured the suffering of the cross by grace:
Hebrews 2:9; “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”
3. Grace is what enabled Jesus Christ to live a totally obedient life as a Man.
Luke 2:40 tells us: “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.”
God’s grace was not on Jesus to forgive Him for sin.
God’s grace was not on Jesus so that He could do what He wanted.
God’s grace was on Jesus to keep Him from sin as a Man…this is the beauty of the New Covenant which is available to every human being, total victory over sin and the devil.
Jesus came and lived as a genuine human being, even though He was God.
His life was lived to show us how to live the Godly life, by grace through faith!
Defining Different Types of Grace
Nelson's New Christian Dictionary
Grace- Unmerited and free favor and mercy shown to sinners by a sovereign God with a view to their salvation. It is most effectively demonstrated in certain aspects of God’s relationship with his creation, the Incarnation itself being an act of grace. Grace operates in the calling of believers to faith as well as in the individual calling of certain believers to the gifts of the ministry. In the Western Church, a theology of grace emerged in the controversies between Augustinianism and Pelagianism, the former holding that some human beings receive the grace of justification and salvation and that it is irresistible. Human will can neither of itself invoke divine grace nor defy it. Pelagianism took the exact contrary position. In New Testament theology, the Old Testament is considered the age of law and the New Testament as the age of grace. In Roman Catholic theology, grace is portrayed as a power conveyed through sacraments as well as by faith.
Grace- Usually, “his grace,” “your grace.” Title of address for bishops in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions.
Grace, actual- 1. Supernatural help given to avoid sin or accomplish good deeds. 2. Manifestation of divine grace by which a person is drawn toward God.
Grace at meals- Customary thanksgiving at meals, based on Christ’s example.
Grace, baptismal- Divine grace extended to the baptizee as part of baptismal regeneration.
Grace, cheap- Acceptance of God’s grace in salvation without a corresponding desire to repent of sin or live a life of obedience to the Lord. The term is especially associated with Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Grace, cooperating- Action of the Holy Spirit working together with human response to God’s operating grace.
Grace, efficacious- Power of God to effect salvation working through human will. Such a grace does not force the will and destroy freedom. Distinguished from sufficient grace.
Grace, habitual- Sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
Grace, illuminating- Work of the Holy Spirit illuminating the mind of the sinner and leading to understanding of the truth of God.
Grace, infused- Work of the Holy Spirit that makes an individual desire and then accept the gospel.
Grace, irresistible- Power of the Holy Spirit against which no human will can prevail.
Grace of office- Gift of the Holy Spirit bestowed on those called into the ministry and that enables them to exercise the functions they have been assigned.
Grace, operating- God’s initiative in offering salvation to human beings.
Grace, prevenient- God’s preparatory work in the heart of a sinner turning him or her toward conversion.
Grace, sacramental- Communication of divine grace through the celebration and reception of sacraments.
Grace, sanctifying- Divine grace that results in the sanctification and rebirth of the believer. The person ceases to be a sinner and becomes justified and righteous in the sight of God.
Grace, sufficient- In theology, grace that is adequate for its purpose if it meets with the necessary human response. Contrasted with efficacious grace which produces the intended result as a result of human cooperation.