What is Grace?
Another Vague Term
Grace is another Christian term that gets used a lot but is not fully understood by many of the people who use it. Perhaps the most used "grace" verse in the Bible is Eph 2:8 "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God"
But what is this grace? Is it a gift? Is it some predetermined favor that God bestows only on certain people? Or maybe its really just another name for God's mercy.
Well my friends, in this issue of "Theology Made Easy" we'll take a look at various Biblical and scholarly sources to truly answer the question, "what is grace?".
Early Linguistic Roots
Chen--The Hebrew word for "Grace" is "Chen" ( חֵן, pronounced Khan), and appears 69 times in the Old Testament. It can also be translated as favor or charm.
Charis--The Greek word for "Grace" is "Charis" (χάρις), and appears 156 times in the New Testament. It has equivalent meanings of thanks, good-will, or favor.
Gratia--The Latin word for "Grace" is "Gratia" which can mean good-will or favor.
Key Biblical Verses
Gen 6:8--"But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord"
Est 2:17--"And the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti."
Luke 1:28--"And the angel being come in, said unto [Mary]: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women."
Eph 2:8-- "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God"
From these verses we get a few ideas about what grace is. First, it is some sort of "favor" that the Lord looks upon us with. Many of the Old Testament uses of grace mention "having grace in the sight (or eyes) of God". Secondly, it is a gift--in the Christian sense it is not something that is given to us as a reward, per se, but out of the love and favor that God has for us. Finally, this grace is "efficacious", in that in gives us something in return for receiving it. In the Christian sense that effect is salvation.
What is Grace
1) Grace is Favor--because we are created in the image and likeness of God, we are given favor by him. This favor can be defined as "a privilege, or advantage, bestowed upon someone". The rest of nature is not given this privilege, 1) because they are not the crowning of God's creation, and 2) they do not need this "privilege" or "advantage" because they have not sinned! It is for this very reason that humans need this favor from God, and yet is the reason why we do not deserve it! It is this grace alone which allows us to choose good, love God, and "keep the law", according to Aquinas.
2) Grace is a Gift--Because of sin we are not worthy of this favor in which God looks upon us, and thus it is by His will alone that it is given to us. There is debate about whether it is given to all freely, or an elect few, but that may be for the purpose of another hub. Rather, it is important to realize that, while certain actions may merit grace from God, God gives it to us even when we fail to live up to his expectations--we need only to properly receive it. It is this very state of unworthiness that makes grace a complete gift, and not a reward. It is also something completely separate from us, not part of our nature, and not something owed to us, but rather a gift bestowed on us out of love.
3) Grace Grants Salvation--"By Grace you have been saved...". This is pretty cut and dry--it is God's grace, his gift of favor to us, that gives us salvation. Yes, we are saved through faith , but that faith is both a manifestation of and a means by which we receive God's grace to us. Without the grace of God, we would not be able to have faith. It is this favor, this privilege, that God shows us that caused Christ to be crucified for our sins, which justifies us, and by which we are able to repent and be made holy. It brings us into union with God, into heaven, as the fulfillment of our life in him and as a result of us being made in His image.
Bringing it all Together
Grace is a gift of favor given to us by God in order that we may receive salvation. Though we cannot be "rewarded" with grace (for it is continually given), we must actively seek to receive it. Through acts/professions of Faith, Sacrament, and Contrition we receive this grace, are justified by it, and receive the power to continually live faithful lives.
How have you received grace today?
© 2010 rdlang05