“Grace” is a special word that conveys hope and comfort to the Christian. Paul loved to use the word “grace”; every epistle that he wrote (with the possible exception of Hebrews) begins and ends with the mention of this word. 

But let’s consider what “grace” actually means. How is it used in the New Testament? What can we learn as we study the depths of the concept of grace?

In this message, we shall spend a few moments focusing our attention on the sublime concept of God’s grace and its relationship to the Christian life. Let’s begin with general definitions of the word “grace.”


Grace is that which gives joy, pleasure, and delight. This is the original idea of the Greek word charis. It is used in this way in the New Testament in reference to speech. The words of Jesus were spoken with grace (Luke 4:22). The words of the Christian are to impart grace to the hearers (Eph. 4:29; Col. 4:6).

Grace is defined as goodwill, lovingkindness, and favor. Used in this way, it means the kindness of a master toward his inferiors or servants, and especially of God toward men. Charis contains the idea of kindness which bestows upon a person what he or she does not deserve. New Testament writers use charis primarily to speak of that kindness by which God bestows favors even upon the undeserving and grants sinners pardon for their offenses, bidding them to accept eternal salvation through Christ (Eph. 2:5). It is this particular definition of grace that prompts us to think of it as “unmerited favor.”

Grace is also the spiritual state or condition in which one enjoys God’s favor. When one accepts God’s grace, he or she is described as being in a “state of grace” (Rom. 5:1-2; 1 Peter 5:12).

Grace is an expression of gratitude for favor bestowed. Read 1 Timothy 1:12. The word here is “thank.” This is what is meant when people “say grace” before a meal. 

Such are the main ways the word “grace” is used in the New Testament. As Christians, we study God’s grace, seeking to catch at least a glimpse of the depths of His gracious kindness to us. Let us explore together some important aspects of grace.


We are saved by grace. Salvation is first, foremost, and always a matter of grace (Eph. 2:5-8). God doesn’t owe us anything. Because we are sinners, we deserve damnation (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). Salvation is a gift which God in His loving-kindness offers to man (Titus 3:3-7). When we respond to God’s loving invitation, when we follow certain steps— believe, repent, confess Jesus, and are baptized—we do not do this to earn or merit salvation. We are still “unworthy servants” (Luke 17:10). We must forever remember that salvation is possible only by God’s grace!

God’s grace requires holy living. Some people reason that since we are saved by grace, we are free to do whatever we wish. Yet Paul wrote that the “grace of God . . . teaches us” to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts; to live soberly, righteously, and in godliness; and to look for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11-13).

Paul explains that Jesus in grace gave Himself for us so that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and that He might purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). The unmerited favor of God is no excuse to go on sinning!

Holy living requires God’s grace. To live soberly, righteously, and in godliness requires the grace of God. We cannot do it on our own, but with God’s help, victory is ours! He works in us to do His will (Phil. 2:12-13). By His strength we can do all the things He desires of us (Phil. 4:13). 

We must grow in grace. This is especially true if we are going to live holy lives. Peter reminds us that we are to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). It is not enough just to experience God’s grace in forgiving our sins. God has so much more to share with us, both in this life and in the life to come (Eph. 2:7). This explains Paul’s salutations and benedictions (1 Thes. 1:1; 5:28). We can grow in grace by heeding the Word of God (Acts 20:32) and by drawing near to God in prayer (Heb. 4:16). 

It is possible to receive God’s grace in vain. Paul pleaded with the Corinthians that they might not receive God’s grace in vain (2 Cor. 6:1). Receiving God’s grace may be in vain if one seeks justification for sin elsewhere (Gal. 5:4). In this context, Paul makes reference to the Law of Moses. But if we seek to be justified by any system of salvation by works alone, we will fall from grace!

By using God’s grace as an excuse for immorality (Jude 4), some were using grace as an excuse for shameless behavior. And yet we have seen that God’s grace requires holy living. By willful and impenitent sinning, some were despising the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:26-31). For such persons there no longer remains a sacrifice, an abandonment of sin; only a fearful expectation of judgment remains. Why? Because through such willful and impenitent sin, one tramples the Son of God underfoot; counts Jesus’ blood of the covenant by which He was sanctified a common thing; and insults the Spirit of grace.


What a terrible thing it would be to receive God’s grace in vain, to have received God’s grace at one time but then to have thrown it away. But it is just as terrible not to receive His gift of grace at all! Or, having received it, to fail to grow in His grace! So I encourage you, in the words of the writer of Hebrews, “look[ing] diligently lest anyone fall short of the grace of God . . . let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:15, 28). “For it is good that the heart be established by grace” (Heb. 13:9). “Grace be with you all. Amen” (Heb. 13:25). 

Have you received God’s wonderful grace in your life?

General Conference Ministerial Association