For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)
Grace (Grk. charis) is the underserved kindness or favor one person shows to another. It is “that which one grants to another, the action of one who volunteers to do something not otherwise obligatory.” God was in no way forced to provide salvation for sinners, though He was motivated by His great love to do so (John 3:16). For God, “being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph. 2:4-5).
Speaking first of His mercy, it is defined as that compassion in God which moved Him to provide a Savior for the lost. If He had been able to save even one soul on the basis of His sovereign mercy alone, He could have saved every person on that basis and the death of Christ would have been rendered unnecessary. As for divine love, it is an emotion of infinite character, the motivating purpose back of all that God does in saving a soul. But since God is holy and righteous too and the sinner’s sins are an offense to Him, He might perfectly desire to save a soul and still be utterly helpless to do so in the light of the claims which divine righteousness make against the sinner. Not until those claims are met can God’s infinite love realize its desire.
God loves sinners, but He can only be gracious to them because His righteous demands against sin have forever been satisfied by the cross of Christ (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8). Theologically, it can be said that “grace is what God may be free to do and indeed what He does accordingly for the lost after Christ has died on behalf of them.” Because Christ has borne all sin and paid the penalty that was due to the sinner, God is now free to show infinite grace to the worst of sinners and offer them not only eternal salvation, but also bestow the greatest spiritual blessings of time and eternity (Eph. 1:3). The wondrous cross of Christ has made it possible for the worst of sinners to be “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).
We must be careful that we do not see God acting graciously toward sinners independently of the cross, for that would be dishonoring to Him and all He did for us through the death of His Son. The perfect satisfaction of His righteous demands against sin had to occur before the display of His infinite grace toward sinners could be manifest. For “since God is holy and righteous, and sin is a complete offense to Him, His love or mercy cannot operate in grace until there is provided a sufficient satisfaction for sin.” Christ’s death on the cross satisfied God’s righteous demands toward sin; therefore, grace can be shown towards sinners who do not deserve it.
Having met the demands of God’s perfect righteousness for sin, the cross of Christ has opened the floodgates of God’s grace! Because Christ paid our sin debt, we can come to God and receive the free gift of salvation apart from any human works. Jesus Christ paid the price for my salvation in full. He paid it all at the cross. He bore every sin. He was judged in my place and bore the wrath of God that belonged to me, and now I can receive the free gift of salvation because God is satisfied with His death. There is nothing I can do to earn my salvation.
Grace is the limitless, unrestrained love of God for the lost, acting in full compliance with the exact and unchangeable demands of His own righteousness through the sacrificial death of Christ.
Concerning our salvation, Scripture declares, “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Salvation is always a gift. If a person has to pay a price for something, it ceases to be a gift. A gift means that someone else paid the price, and we receive it freely without cost. Salvation is a free gift to us, from God, paid in full by Jesus Christ. What a wonderful gift!
Steven R. Cook, M.Div.
 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 1079.
 Lewis S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. 7 (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Kregel Publications, 1993), 178.
 Ibid., 178.
 Merrill F. Unger, “Grace,” in The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago, Ill., Moody Press, 1988), 504.
 Lewis S. Chafer, Grace (Philadelphia, PA: Sunday School Times Company, 1922), 22.