Published: 23 April 2016

What is Grace?


Grace is perhaps the most fundamental message of the bible and is one of the most frequently referenced concepts in Christian circles. Ironically, it is not well understood by many Christians. This lack of understanding can lead to all sorts of problems such as the extremes of legalism (strong emphasis on a system of rules to obtain salvation) and license (do as you please and God will look the other way). A poor understanding of grace has resulted in many Christians living in misery constantly doubting that God has really forgiven them of their sins.

Ask most Christians to define grace and they’ll respond, “unmerited favor”. This is a correct answer and a good one, but many people are unable to elaborate in a meaningful way beyond this memorized answer.

So what is grace exactly?

The English word “grace” is translated from the Greek word “charis” (the New Testament was originally written in Greek). The definition of “charis” is:

  • goodwill
  • loving-kindness
  • favor
  • acceptance

As you can see from the definition, grace is really not mysterious at all and is quite a simple word to understand.

There is another word that is closely related to the concept of grace. It is a Greek word that has made its way into the English language: charisma. In Greek, the word charisma simply means “a free gift” – any kind of a gift. In English the word still retains the idea of a gift. Its second English definition is “a divinely conferred power or talent”.

As you can see “charis” is the root word of “charisma” The “ma” at the end of charis expands the root into a related concept. A free gift (charisma) is often the result when someone expresses their goodwill or loving kindness (charis) toward others.

Therefore, grace (charis) is a character trait or quality which causes a person to want to give good things to others. Can you think of a single word which describes the trait of a person who likes to give? How about the word generosity?

When a word is correctly defined, we can substitute the definition for the word itself without changing the meaning of the sentence where it is used. Let’s try that with a few bible verses that use the word grace.

Gal 5:4 ESV You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace favor.

Rom 3:23-24 ESV for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) and are justified by his grace goodwill as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

Rom 5:2 ESV Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace acceptance in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Rom 6:1 ESV What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace generosity may abound?

Rom 11:6 ESV But if it is by grace generosity, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace generosity would no longer be grace generosity.

Grace, in simplest terms, is the generosity of God. Grace is a fancy church word which means being generous!