When you ask most people their definition of “grace”, their answer is “unmerited favor”. Some people think this was the definition in the Old Testament. According to Strong’s Concordance, the word for “grace” in the Old Testament was “chen” and has a reference number of 2580. It means “kindness” or “favor”. It is from a root word “chawan” (reference number 2603) meaning “to stoop in kindness to an inferior.” The definition “unmerited favor” does not come from the Old Testament.” We will see it is based on tradition.
Grace: The divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life. (Charis 5485)
There are two steps to grace! First we have to intentionally let God influence our heart. We have to focus on strengthening our ability to hear God and our ability to let God influence our heart. These are actions that are in our control and can be improved with experience.
Further, these are actions that are consistently mentioned in the Bible so they can be better understood through knowledge. Also, these are actions we could be condemned for not doing. Finally, notice this divine influence occurs individually on our hearts. Grace is a process that occurs between God and the individual…there are no other participants.
This first part of grace could be described as “unmerited favor”. God’s influence is definitely “favor”. Also, it is “unmerited” in that we did nothing to deserve this influence. Actually, God is speaking to everyone whether they are a Christian or not. God’s grace extends to everyone. It is our fault if we don’t listen to God.
However, if we stop here, we miss the real impact of grace. Unfortunately, tradition has stripped Christianity of its full power by recognizing only half of the definition of “grace”.
The second part of grace concerns our actions. We have to intentionally choose to let this influence come out in our actions; otherwise it didn’t really influence our heart. Grace is consistent with faith in that it doesn’t exist unless it comes out in actions. So grace, like faith, is the cause and the actions are the result. Also, grace, like faith, is a result that can be increased with knowledge and experience.
Allowing God to influence our heart and having it reflected in our lives are actions we can control. These are attributes we can increase intentionally. These are actions on which we can be judged objectively. All of this is consistently written about in the Bible. In fact, we are told we will be rewarded for these actions because of Justice.
It would seem that grace is actually the best way to improve our relationship with God. What could be better than listening to God and intentionally choosing to let God direct your actions? Yet, while people tell us to “Have faith”, you don’t hear them say, “Have grace”. Why? That’s because when most people speak of grace, they are talking about “unmerited favor”. It wouldn’t make sense to tell people to “have unmerited favor”.
Further, that definition puts the responsibility on God instead of us. Since grace is half of salvation, that would mean we don’t have control over our salvation. This contradicts free will.
Notice the only way for us to “do the right thing” is for God to do it through us, which is “grace”. Grace is the ultimate way for us to become righteous because it is God who is working through us. We can act apart from our unholy nature by choosing to let God work through us. Our free will allows us to become holy by choosing to let God work through us instead of walking in the flesh.
Consider the following questions:
Can we give grace to others?
Can we frustrate grace?
Can we understand grace?
If “grace” is “unmerited favor from God”, the answer to all of these questions is “no”.
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)
“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)
There are several scriptures describing how we are supposed to understand grace and grow in knowledge and grace. A few are: 2 Peter 1:2, 2 Peter 3:18, Colossians 1:5-10 and Colossians 4:6.