What Is Grace

“Unmerited favor” is the knee-jerk definition most Christians spew when asked “What is grace?”

Grace simply means “favor.” The “unmerited” bit of the definition got stuck on over the years by over-zealous, and probably insecure, theologians trying to make a point.

Grace is not deserved, this is true, but “unmerited” is not an inherent part of the definition of the word. Sticking “unmerited” in front of “favor” makes it sound like there is nothing one does to get God’s favor, when indeed there are things you do to get God’s favor.

What the Bible says a person does to get God’s grace/favor is still not deserving the favor, but it is what you do to get it.

God gives grace to the humble” is one prime example of this. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. This makes sense, because I don’t think anyone would take anything that God offers apart from humility.

“For by grace are you saved through faith” is another example. A person needs faith in order to capitalize on the offer of grace God provides.

So, if “unmerited favor” means to you, “there’s nothing I do to get God’s grace,” then you have indeed out distanced yourself from biblical revelation.

If there’s nothing you do to get God’s grace, then there is no hope of you ever being saved apart from God shoving His grace down your throat. The universal offer of salvation becomes a giant lie and farce. Unless you are a hyper-Calvinist, this seems pretty obvious.

I do not know who the first person was to begin sticking “unmerited” into the definition of Grace, but I wish they hadn’t. “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth” works well here. Soon “unmerited favor” will be said to be “church tradition” if we continue to spread the misleading definition for too many more generations.

I would encourage you to go with the clear and concise definition of grace by just going with “favor.” That’s what it is. No need to confuse the issue.


4 thoughts on “What Is Grace”

  1. Grace is one of those words that seem to always have qualifying words tacked onto it.

    Calvinists have “Irresistible grace”
    Arminians have “Prevenient grace”
    And most well-known there is “Amazing Grace”.

    And yet in scripture grace is grace – the ONLY biblical descriptive word I’ve come across added to “grace” relates to the abundance of God’s grace, and from memory God’s grace is described as SUPER ABUNDANT.

  2. Nice point! It got me curious, so I looked up all usages of “Grace” from Acts to Revelation (in the KJV) to see what adjectives went before it. Here’s what I came up with:

    great grace
    abundant grace
    all grace
    exceeding grace
    manifold grace
    true grace

  3. Hi Jeff,

    Thank you for this! I have seen that definition of grace for years and never thought about it but from now on I will.

    The pastor I grew up with had a different definition of grace but when I provided it to another Christian, of a decidedly Reformed bent, he came close to calling me a heretic. I don’t use it anymore in public unless I am trying to irritate someone (I don’t think I should be doing that).


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