The Basics of Grace

The Greek word χάρις charis appears 155 times in the New Testament[1] and most often refers to the undeserved favor or kindness that one person shows to another. The favor or kindness can be from God to undeserving persons, or it can be from one person to another. Grace derives from the bounty and open-handedness of the giver, can be very costly to the donor, but is always free to the beneficiary. Here are four uses of Grace in the New Testament:

  1. Grace (χάρις charis) can refer to “a winning quality or attractiveness that invites a favorable reaction, graciousness, attractiveness, charm.”[2] Grace is here presented as that quality about a thing or person that makes it beautiful or attractive to others (see Luke 4:22; Eph 4:29; Col 4:6).

And all were speaking well of Him [Jesus], and wondering at the gracious [χάρις charis] words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22)

Let your speech always be with grace [χάρις charis], as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Col. 4:6).

  1. Grace (χάρις charis) also refers to “a beneficent disposition toward someone, favor, grace, gracious care/help, goodwill.”[3] Here, a gracious benefactor freely confers a blessing upon another without thought of merit or worthiness (Matt 4:44-45; Rom 11:6; Eph 1:6; 2:1-9; 2 Tim 1:9; Tit 3:5-7; Heb 4:16). The kindness here is by no means obligatory, but rather, finds its source in the goodness, abundance, and free-heartedness of the giver. 

“If you love those who love you, what credit [χάρις charis] is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. “If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit [χάρις charis] is that to you? For even sinners do the same. “If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit [χάρις charis] is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:32-36)

  1. Grace (χάρις charis) also refers to the “exceptional effect produced by generosity.”[4] Grace here is the divine enablement God gives to people that they might do His will.  (Rom 15:5; 15:15; 1 Cor 3:10; 2 Cor 12:9).

And He has said to me, “My grace [χάρις charis] is sufficient for you [to bear this difficulty], for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Cor 12:9)

  1. Grace (χάρις charis) was also used as a “response to generosity or beneficence, thanks, gratitude.”[5] Grace means giving thanks (1 Cor 15:57; 2 Tim 1:3; Heb 12:28).

But thanks [χάρις charis] be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:57)

Facts about grace:

  1. Because Christ voluntarily went to the cross and paid the penalty for our sin (1 Cor 15:3-4), God saves us by grace (Eph 2:8-9), and freely bestows on us wonderful blessings associated with salvation (Eph 1:3). Grace is sometimes referred to as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.[6]
  2. Grace must be learned. The Christian does not automatically think in terms of grace and must learn it through the regular study of God’s word. The ignorant believer—being devoid of God’s word—gravitates either toward legalism or lawlessness. Either activity stems from pride. God is “opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet 5:5). 
  3. Grace eliminates pride (Rom 3:27). Some people have great difficulty accepting God’s kindness toward them, or even the kindness shown by others. Pride dissipates when one learns to accept the gracious acts of others.
  4. Grace is given to the undeserving (e.g. Barabbas; Matt 27:15-26; cf. Rom 5:6-8). We bring to God our helplessness (Rom 5:6), sin (Rom 5:8), and death (Eph 2:5), and in return He gives us forgiveness (Col 1:13-14), righteousness (2 Cor 5:21; Phil. 3:9), and eternal life (John 10:28). Faith is non-meritorious and the only way to receive God’s grace (Rom 3:28; Eph 2:8-9).
  5. It is by grace that we are able to draw near to the throne of God (Heb. 4:16) and never by works (Dan. 9:18-19). The person who rejects the gospel rejects the “Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:29).
  6. Grace is not a license to sin (Rom 6:1-2); rather, the grace of God instructs us “to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” (Tit 2:11-14; cf. Jude 1:4).

Steven R. Cook, D.Min.

Related Articles:

  1. Spiritual Blessings in Christ
  2. God’s Great Grace   
  3. God’s Grace to Save  
  4. Believe in Jesus for Salvation  


[1] The apostle Paul is the foremost proponent of grace and uses the word 130 times in his writings. 

[2] William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 1079.

[3] Ibid., 1079.

[4] Ibid., 1080.

[5] Ibid., 1080.

[6] I heard this phrase originated with John Stott. 

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