Grace – Demerited Favor

Yesterday I defined the grace of God as ‘God giving us what we don’t deserve’ because that’s what we see in the Bible.

The Hebrew word ‘hen’ in the KJV is translates it into the English ‘grace’ while the ESV translates it into the English ‘favor.’ When it comes to God’s grace in Scripture we must be reminded who we are. As fallen and cursed sinners any favor or grace shown to us by God is surprising. Gen. 6:5 says for no merit of his own, ‘Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.’ In Gen. 33:11 Jacob tells his brother Esau that God has dealt ‘graciously’ with him, and we know also that Jacob did nothing to merit this graciousness because his whole life he was a deceiver. Likewise, when Joseph saw Benjamin for the first time in many years in Gen. 43:29 he said, ‘God be gracious to you, my son!’ The next reference of ‘hen’ or the grace of God is in Exodus 33:12-17 when God tells Moses that he has ‘found favor’ with Him. Throughout those verses the word ‘hen’ or ‘favor’ is also found in v13, v16, and v17. You could say it’s a central theme in the relationship God has with Moses. Also, when God reveals His name to His people in Exodus 34:6 God speaks of His ‘hen’ or ‘grace’ saying, ‘The LORD the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.’ In all of these examples we see a pattern – God chooses His people to show them His favor. All of them are undeserving of such favor. Therefore God’s grace to men is in spite of man’s unrighteousness and by God’s sovereign decision.

Many people define God’s grace as God’s unmerited favor, and though this is good, I think we can do better. You see, we not only don’t merit God’s grace by anything we’ve ever done, when God’s grace interrupts us we are in active rebellion against God, so rather than saying grace is God’s unmerited favor, I prefer to say grace is God’s demerited favor.

When we come over into the New Testament we find the Greek word ‘charis’ translated into the English ‘grace’ and even ‘joy’ at times. John 1 quickly comes to mind when it says in 1:14-17, ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness about Him, and cried out, ‘This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because He was before me.’ For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.’ After many had believed in the gospel in Antioch Barnabas arrives and says he sees ‘the grace of God’ in Acts 11:23. In Acts 18:27 we see grace producing faith when it says that Apollos ‘greatly helped those who through grace had believed.’ Referring to the gospel itself Paul and Barnabas urged their hearers to ‘continue in the grace of God’ in Acts 13:43 and in Acts 14:3, 20:24 and 20:32 they refer to the gospel as the ‘gospel of the grace of God.’ Peter in the Acts 15 council says of the Gentiles, ‘We believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.’

So we’ve seen a change haven’t we? From this point on in the New Testament we see that grace is not only God’s favor, but that it is also God’s power to change hearts, and salvation itself. This is why Paul throughout his letters can speak of us being ‘justified by God’s grace.’ (Rom. 3:21-24, 4:4, 4:16, 11:6, Gal. 2:21) This is why Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9, ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.’ Similarly in 2 Tim. 1:9 he says, ‘God saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.’

Here we see another element to grace, that it also refers to our eternal election. When we see this it’s no surprise that we find Paul in Ephesians 1:6, 1:12, and 1:14 that our election before the world was made is for ‘the praise of His glorious grace.’ Clearly then we see that grace cannot be based on our works, rather it itself gives us the power to do good works and live the holy lives we’re called to. So Peter speaks in 1 Peter 5:5, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble and then goes on to call God the ‘Father of all grace’ in 5:10. This is why grace appears in many of the greetings and benedictions throughout the New Testament such as 1 Cor. 1:3, ‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ and 2 Cor. 13:14, ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.’

So there we have the sovereign grace of God. Without it we have noting, with it we have literally everything.

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