Ephesians 2:5 - "Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)"
Whenever I am invited into a new group of people in the context of Bible, whether online or in person, I always begin with a single question. What is Grace? Almost without fail the response is: "Grace is unmerited favor." (or sometimes "Grace is an unearned gift from God.")
While this is the definition of the word, this is not the question I am asking. What is the unearned gift that God gave that saves? I'm asking about its identity. If you stop and think about it for a moment, it's really very simple. The problem is, that so many people have made it complicated that misunderstanding what God's Grace is has become the foundation for most of the error taught concerning salvation.
I. Some basic statistics.
- "grace" is found in the KJV:- 171 times in 160 verses.
- 40 times in 38 verses in the Old Testament.
- 131 times in 122 verses in the New Testament.
- Hebrew -> khane and tekh-in-naw'
- Greek - > khares (or charis)
II. What Grace Is NOT:
1. Grace is not indefinable or some nebulous SOMETHING. If Grace is what saves us from sin (Eph. 2:5) and we can know what sets us free from sin because Jesus said that we will know the truth and the truth will set us free from sin (John 8:32), then we can know what Grace is. Below is an analogous equation based on Ephesians 2:8. For by grace are you saved through faith. If Grace equals flour and faith equals water then saved equals bread.
- Grace + Faith = Saved (Eph. 2:8)
- Flour + Water = Bread
Below we use mathematical substitution to show what would happen if Grace were the things that it is sometimes said to be.
2. Grace is not salvation: Eph. 2:8 (Titus 2:11) Substituting Salvation for Grace in the equation we get:
- Salvation + Faith = Saved
- Bread + Water = Soggy Bread (watered down salvation?)
3. Grace is not individual faith: Eph. 2:8 Substituting individual faith for Grace in the equation we get:
- Faith + Faith = Saved
- Water + Water = Water
4. Grace alone can't save us
- Grace != Saved
- Flour != Bread
Grace alone means a lack of faith. But Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith we can not please God.
5. Grace is not the Old Law Grace is a contrast to the Old Testament in many of Paul's letters as well as the letter of Hebrews. Rom. 6:14; John 1:17; Gal. 2:21; 5:4
- Old Testament + Faith = Saved
- Not Flour + Water = Soggy something
6. Note that in Ephesians 2:8 that Grace is the gift of God in this passage. "It" is a pronoun referring back to a noun, specifically the subject of the previous phrase which is the word "Grace". The word "saved" is a verb so the gift of God is not "saved" (which doesn't make sense gramatically) but "saved" is a result of God's gift (grace) and man's (obedient) faith. The noun form of the word "saved", "salvation" is not in Ephesians 2:8.
I would even go so far, though I'm still studying this thoroughly, as to state that salvation itself is not a gift at all, but a result. I can't find a verse where salvation is ever spoken of as a gift. Eternal life is a gift, but eternal life is not the same concept as salvation although they are closely related. If someone can show me a passage where salvation IS spoken of as a gift, I would greatly appreciate it!
III. Properties of Grace:
- A. A look at the properties of Grace according to Scripture.
- Grace saves us: (Eph. 2:8), justifies us: (Romans 3:24; Titus 3:7)
- Grace can be continued in: (Acts 13:43)
- Grace can be given (1 Cor. 1:4)
- Grace can be received (2 Cor. 6:1)
- Grace can be followed like a plan (1 Cor. 3:10)
- Grace can be fallen from: (Gal. 5:4)
- Grace can make us free from sin: (Eph 2:5)
- Grace can be given for the purpose of preaching: (Eph. 3:8)
- Grace can be ministered unto hearers: (Eph. 4:29)
- Grace teaches us: (Titus 2:11-12)
- Grace can be sung: (Col. 3:16)
- Grace can be in our hearts: (Col. 3:16)
- Grace is the opponent of sin: (Romans 5:21)
- Grace is in Christ: (1 Tim. 1:14)
- Grace calls us: (2 Tim. 1:9)
- Grace was prophecied: (1 Peter 1:10)
- Grace is brought by revelation: (1 Peter 1:13)
- Grace calls men to Christ: (Gal. 1:15)
- Grace is in contrast with the Law of Moses: (Rom. 6:14; John 1:17; Gal. 2:21; 5:4)
- B. Another look at the same properties but called something other than Grace. Two things equal to the same thing are equal to each other. Two things with identical properties are the same two things. Properties of this other thing include:
- It saves us, justifies us: James 1:21; Gal. 2:16
- Can be continued in: John 8:31-32
- Can be given: John 17:14
- Can be received: James 1:21
- Can be followed like a plan: Romans 6:17
- Can be fallen from: 1 John 3:4
- Can make us free from sin: John 8:32; John 17:17
- Can be given for the purpose of preaching: 2 Timothy 4:2
- Can be ministered unto hearers: Romans 10:17
- Teaches us (doctrine): 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Col. 3:16
- Can be sung: 1 Cor. 14:15, Col. 3:16 (understand, teach)
- Can be in our hearts: Matt. 13:19; Heb. 8:10
- The opponent of sin: 1 John 3:4
- Is in Christ: Acts 24:24 (THE faith)
- Calls us: 2 Thess. 2:14
- Was prophecied: Jer. 31:33
- Is brought by revelation: Romans 1:16-17; Gal. 3:23
- Calls men to Christ 2 Thess. 2:14
- Is in contrast with the Law of Moses: (John 1:17; Heb. 8:8, 13; 12:24)
IV. By now it should be coming clear what Grace is.
- Grace, that unearned gift from God that saves us is The Plan of Salvation, which includes:
- Christ's perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection. (Heb. 2:9)
The New Testament/gospel/New Covenant/Law of Liberty/etc.a. Compare Eph. 2:8 with 1 Peter 1:5 then Romans 1:6.b. Grace and the plan of salvation share all properties or have all properties in common. I've only listed these as the easiest to understand and to make the point.
- If I were to say “I am amazed that you have been so soon removed from the church of Christ unto another denomination…” you would look at me funny because you would hear me to be implying that the church of Christ is a denomination, right? Look then at Galatians 1:6 - I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: "...the grace of Christ unto another gospel..." This phrase logically implies that the grace of Christ is the gospel. They were removed from the calling of the gospel (Gal. 1:15; 2 Thes. 2:14) unto another gospel (another message) which verse 7 says is not a gospel at all but a perversion. If no other passage has been clear up until now, Galatians 1:6 must convince the reasonable person that the plan of salvation is God’s divine gift that saves us.
- The gospel is meaningless without Christ and Christ is ineffective in the hearts of men without the gospel (Romans 10:17; James 1:21; etc.). Grace must be the plan of salvation and only that plan. It is that which causes salvation (see my article on Cause and Conduit).
V. What do we do with this?
- We must grow in grace: (2 Pet. 3:18)
- We must be strong in grace: (2 Tim. 2:1)
- Serve according to grace: (Heb. 12:28)
- Minister that grace to others: (1 Peter 4:10-11)
VI. If you are not under Grace, under that contract that God has with man through faith to save us, then you must:
- Hear the Word – Romans 10:17; Romans 1:16
- Believe the Word – Mark 16:15-16
- Change your heart away from sin towards God – Luke 13:3
- Confess that Jesus is the Son of God – Romans 10:9-10; Acts 8:37
- Be immersed in water into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins – Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21; Romans 6; Gal. 3:26-27
- This is a commitment to remain faithful to God and requires sacrifice, faithful living (Rev. 2:10). If there are those who have not lived up to this commitment, repent and be saved from death (James 5:19-20).
I will continue to add notes on this topic as I come across them.
John 4:10-15 - "10Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. 11The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? 12Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 15The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw."
The living water here is the gospel (if I need to prove this to you, ask in the comments and I will). Yet Jesus begins by speaking about the gift of God. He said "If you knew the gift of God" and who she was talking to, she would have asked Him for a drink and He would have given her living water. If she knew the gift of God, why would she have asked Jesus for a drink? Because the living water, the doctrine of Jesus, is the gift of God! Here again is incontrovertible evidence that the grace of God that saves is the plan of salvation.