The Greek word for grace is charis. It means favor. Acceptance. Giving. Grace is free in the sense that something done or given in grace is done so truly without expecting to receive anything in return. That means the origin of grace isn’t the object receiving it; the origin is entirely found in the giver’s goodness, love, and care. And this is our experience in Christ.
We didn’t earn this. We don’t deserve this. Nothing in our sinful and rebellious selves warrants this. Grace finds its root in the generosity of God who gives freely to us.
J.I. Packer wrote, “God is good to all in some ways but good to some in all ways.”
We’re the “some.” Every other religion in the world boils down to a sort of cosmic barter system. People bring their good stuff to their god, whether it’s good actions, good money, or good sacrifices, and in exchange their god gives them some of his good stuff. Christianity stands apart from this system as a grace-based belief system that is built squarely on the extravagant goodness of God. Nothing in us is motivational, and nothing we can do can pay him back. The only part we have in grace is the receiving of it.
If you wondered about the importance of “grace” in biblical theology, it’s pretty revelatory to see the word appearing 116 times in the New Testament. But in particular, here are three verses that help us see the truth about grace:
1. “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:2).
“Grace and peace.” That two-word salutation is how Paul began his letter to the Ephesian church. But not only that letter—much of the correspondence that’s recorded in the New Testament begins the same way. Much in the same way that we might write “Dear…” or “To Whom It May Concern,” “grace and peace” is Paul’s greeting to his audience. Why is that? Were they just convenient and poetic words, a way to say “Hey there!” with a little more class? Or is there something more?
I would suggest that these two words—grace and peace—are a two-word summation of the gospel.
If that’s true, with his very first sentence Paul is conjuring up a vivid reminder for his audience of what it is that they all, as hopelessly lost sinners and subsequently found children of God, have in common. Grace and peace. “Grace” is God’s ongoing posture toward us as his children. How wonderful to remember even in times of difficulty that God’s grace does not run dry.
2. “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-10).
This verse reminds us that our relationship with God, in Christ, is based on his grace and his grace alone. We didn’t manufacture it; we didn’t create it; we didn’t initiate it and we don’t even maintain it in our own strength.
Our rightness with God, past, present, and future, is not based on our own effort and conduct but rather on his grace.
This is important for us to remember because of our tendency to drift from grace. The longer we are Christians, the more tempted we are to rely on our own spiritual resume. We can trick ourselves into thinking that we don’t need God and his grace as badly as we once did; that we are pretty good people after all. But this verse reminds us that we still are held in right standing with God not because of our own effort but by his grace alone.