By Oscar M. Baker
This is a simple little word of 5 letters. But what does it mean? In an ordinary dictionary, you will find this word treated under about 17 different headings, or meanings. So it is not so simple after all.
We first find it in Gen. 6:8, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Jehovah).”
The Theological meaning of grace, as ordinarily found in the lexicons, is undeserved favor. But try to fit this in with Gen.6:8, and we find difficulty. Noah found or obtained something. The reason is given in verse 9. He was a just man. This has to do with his state (never with standing), and so Noah found favor because of his works. He was a just man. But also he found favor because he had a perfect pedigree, perfect in all his generations. This is something he inherited. He was not of the false seed. So he obtained this favor because of what he had done and what he was.
“By grace are ye saved” (Eph. 2:5). There can be no question here about the meaning. It is undeserved favor, salvation being a free gift.
But in Eph.4:7, “But to every one of us is given grace,” has a slightly different meaning. In the 6 verses preceding it, there are things to do which cannot be done in the flesh. And even one in the spirit needs grace to do these things. So what is this grace? It is the moral fortitude that God gives to enable believers to do what is required, that is, to keep the unity of the Spirit. This same meaning can be attached to its use in 2 Cor. 12:9, for grace is given to Paul to bear the burden he had.
“Grace be unto you” is an expression used quite often. This is pretty hard to define. But possibly the underlying thought is similar to the way it is used of Noah. If we were to get right down to it, we will find that undeserved favor is bestowed for a reason, as with Noah. And no doubt faith is the underlying cause. But faith is not exactly a work. It cannot be a thing to be boasted of. It is simply an acceptance of what can be obtained or is offered. Faith is believing God and acting on it.
Many times God is said to be gracious. See 1 Peter 2:3. This means that He is disposed to show grace or favor, that He is kind and benevolent, as well as merciful and compassionate.
Some help may be gotten from Appendix 184 in the Companion Bible.
There is one usage which occurs twice in the Bible: in Luke 1:28 and Eph. 1:6. In the former Mary is highly favored, and in the latter we are made accepted (highly favored) in the Beloved. These bring us around to the original definition, free and undeserved favor. Now may we be given grace to keep the unity of the Spirit, to say grace before meals, to be overcomers in this walk of ours, and to be gracious to our fellow men. And we should be careful never to despise the grace of God.
[Reprinted from Truth For Today Vol. 29, No. 7]