WebDef: Grace

Grace /gras/ – Noun: seemingly effortless beauty of form and motion. In Christian contexts, an outpouring of loving-kindness, mercy, favor, and blessing unrelated to effort or merit.

Amazing grace is the stuff of many a Christian song. We may find the concept amazing simply because it bears no relationship with anything we've done for ourselves. It's entirely unmerited. It's a gift from God's generous heart, to us, motivated by love. That's so very unusual that when we do chance to experience it, it can change our lives.

Select Bible Passages on Grace

  • The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace – Numbers 6:24-26
  • For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God. – Ephesians 2:8-9
  • Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16
  • But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. – James 4:6

Concept: Costly Grace

As theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously made us aware in his The Cost of Discipleship, there is a difference between cheap grace and costly grace. To Bonhoeffer, cheap grace depends on the promise without a repentant heart, where costly grace compels us to follow Jesus. Bonhoeffer echoes the Apostle James, who asks what it profits us, when we say we have faith, but nothing to show for it:

If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? – James 2:8-20

Concept: Grace vs. Law

Consider the writings of Paul, who, in Romans 6:14, tells the church "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." He is offering what he sees as freedom from the outward trappings and an oppressive system of rules-based worship. Jesus made it plain that we need to have our hearts oriented in the right place, and not simply follow God outwardly (Matt 5:22). We are called to abide in a state of Grace, keeping fellowship and remaining in relationship with Jesus, which is what sometimes is meant by dwelling "in Him." It's a bit like the highest performing schools for the top achievers. They don't "teach to the test," because the outside signs – the exams (the law) will simply follow from the excellence of knowledge.

What are WebDefs?

WebDefs – simple definitions of key terms relating to ministry and healing arts – are a regular feature of NHM Ministrants. Offered (where applicable) in conjunction with select key scriptural passages and analysis, WebDefs can be a useful starting place for exploring a topic of interest.

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