Grace is one of those words that mature Christians use a lot, but one that new Christians may find hard to understand.
An alternate meaning of the word grace is an ability to move in a smooth, rhythmic and elegant way. So, it is no wonder that new believers are somewhat baffled when they hear others talking about grace. It is clear that the grace in the Bible is not a matter of walking or dancing in a particular way but something completely different.
It is said to be the cornerstone of the Christian faith, so it is important that all believers understand what Grace is. Grace is amazing, according to the song written by John Newton, but why? In this guide to understanding grace, we’ll look at the essentials of grace, some common misconceptions, and some key Bible verses that explain what grace means.
What Does Grace Mean in Christianity?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives several definitions for the word ‘grace’. The following three related definitions refer to what the word means in Christianity:
a: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
b: a virtue coming from God
c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance
Source: “Grace.” Merriam-Webster.com.
The word ‘unmerited’ in definition a refers to how grace is something we don’t deserve, but God gives us anyway.
When Jesus died on the cross, he took the unforgivable and made it forgivable.
Even though the world didn’t deserve to be forgiven, God created a way for us to be redeemed through Jesus. This doesn’t mean grace is a get-out-of-jail-free card; we should be humbled by and grateful for grace rather than taking it for granted.
Grace, by definition, is undeserved favor (approval, kindness, forgiveness), which is exactly what God has done for us in sending Jesus to die on the cross as payment for our sins. We don’t deserve not being punished for our sins, but God knew the price was just too steep for us to pay, so He and Jesus paid it for us.
Knowing grace is undeserved and that without it we would be forever lost should make us humble. Very, very humble. And out of that humility should come unrelenting gratitude expressed by a faithful, obedient life.
Let’s re-read those last two statements, okay? Knowing grace is undeserved and that without it we would be forever lost should make us humble. Very, very humble. And out of that humility should come unrelenting gratitude expressed by a faithful, obedient life.
What is a life of gratitude?
A life of gratitude is a life that seeks to do God’s will. Galatians 2:20 says, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (NIV) It is recognizing that our bodies are now inhabited by the Holy Spirt. We are no longer flying solo, but rather we are the co-pilot—as in second in command instead of first.
When it comes to extending grace the first thing you need to remember is that everyone is equally in need of God’s grace AND equally undeserving (Romans 3:23). This also means that no matter what a person has done in the past or where they are in the present, God’s grace is there for them.
God’s grace is for everyone.
So no matter who comes through the doors of the church God’s grace is for them. God has no problem extending His grace, so we shouldn’t either. None of us has the right to decide someone isn’t welcome or that they are unreachable. None of us has the right to decide God’s grace isn’t powerful enough to change a life.
Living under the umbrella of God’s grace
Once a person has accepted the grace of God, however, that person has a responsibility to treat that grace with the TLC it deserves. Remember: accepting God’s grace requires you to live a life of gratitude.
To illustrate that point, think about it like this: You wouldn’t accept a dinner invitation to a friend’s house then refuse to come to the table or complain about the meal set before you. Would you? Of course not! You express your gratitude by eating and enjoying the meal and the fellowship that goes along with it.
When you accept God’s grace you let it change you.
When you accept God’s grace you let it change you. Accepting God’s grace is the same as accepting the gift of salvation, and that involves confessing your sins and repenting of them—turning away from them.
As a church we have a responsibility to extend and minister grace as well as uphold the truth of what grace really is. In other words, we aren’t to continue living in sin and claim to be under God’s grace. Neither are we to condone those who do.
As Christians and evangelists seeking and saving the lost, we need to remember that: Grace isn’t an excuse to sin. Grace is undeserved forgiveness of sin—sin as defined by God in His Word—not society. So as you serve together as brothers and sisters in Christ in the local congregation, remember that all are welcome to come as they are (just as you did), but we cannot stay where we are at in our sin. We must be in a constant state of spiritual growth and maturity; moving ever forward toward living in Jesus.
5 Keys to Understanding Grace
Here are five keys to understanding grace that will help both novice and mature Christian alike grow in their understanding.
1. Grace is power
In 2 Corinthians 12:9 the Bible tells us that “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Grace is God’s power given to us, especially when we are weak. In fact, His power works best when we are weak because then we have to rely on Him and not on our own strength. This aspect of grace may be overlooked by many Christians, but it is an important one.
We know we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us because the Bible tells us this in Philippians 4:13. So when we are confronted with what seems impossible, God can help us through it. His grace is power for us to do His will.
2. Grace is a gift
The Greek word often translated as grace is the word charis. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, it means a gift, benefit, or favour, and generosity. This is the grace that seasoned believers are often referring to when they talk about the grace of God.
What is this gift? It is the gift of salvation, freely given by Jesus dying on the cross. As a gift, grace is free; there is no price we need to pay for it. God is a loving father who waits to give us this gift of salvation; we need only ask. Ask and you will receive.
3. Grace is forgiveness
We have all sinned and fallen short of the good behavior that God looks for. No matter how we try to walk in perfection, we always fall short; once we have sinned, how do we get rid of it?
Only God can cleanse us of our sins, and only God can make a way for us to be forgiven and be made pure again.
This is the gift of God: being forgiven and made clean so that one day we can be with Him in heaven. His gift of grace is forgiveness for our sins and cleansing so that we can walk the world, free from the weight of guilt for the bad things we have done.
4. Grace is healing
One of the manifestations of grace in our lives is healing. God heals our body, mind and spirit as we grow in faith. His divine favor over our lives can be shown by the healing of many sicknesses and injuries. He also helps to heal the emotional wounds from our past and helps us grow and heal spiritually.
Grace helps us to leave behind our old sinful nature and behaviours and instead take on the nature of Jesus.
1 John 4:17 says, “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.” What this means is that grace allows us to have Jesus’ nature live in us and we are made able to walk in His power and ability. It is the strength we need to walk through a difficult world with hope, love, and peace.
5. Grace is unconditional love
Long before we loved God, He loved us. He loves us whether or not we love him back. He loves us when we are unlovable. Though we are stained by sin and far from perfect and holy, He still loves us. We don’t deserve that love, but He gives it anyway.
Unlike worldly notions of Karma and getting what you deserve, God wants to give us blessings that we haven’t earned and don’t deserve, and that is because He loves us. God loved us so much that he sent His son Jesus to earth to show us how to be saved. Jesus took the punishment for all our sins so that we didn’t have to. Jesus didn’t have to die on that cross, but out of love he chose to. Can you imagine such love?
Grace is the pillar that the whole Bible stands on. It is a gift of unearned favour. It is power and strength to face all things, the power to walk the world in white. It gives us a way to escape sin and be cleansed and forgiven.
We can’t do it ourselves. Our own efforts are not good enough, but God made a way for us to be free. It costs us nothing, but it cost God everything. His unconditional love for all of us is shown by his astonishing sacrifice.
So the next time you hear the song Amazing Grace, think about how amazing it really is. The God of the universe loves you enough to die for you. That is love indeed.
3 Common Misconceptions About Grace
Shelley couldn’t believe this was happening to her. Why was this happening again? Wasn’t she covered by God’s grace? She had been taught that God’s grace was big enough to cover all her sins and that she could do what she wanted because God will always protect her.
The sadness in her heart was overwhelming as she looked down at the test result. She couldn’t take care of the two children she already had, and now she was pregnant with a third.
“God why did you do this to me?” she prayed. “You promised you would take care of me and now here I am pregnant again. What am I going to do? I can’t tell the father because he will deny it is his. A Christian man in his position and married would never own up to having an affair.
Maybe, I should just take care of ‘it’. There’s a place downtown that will help me and no one ever have to know. God will forgive me; God will understand.”
Shelley quickly made the appointment for the next day and took care of ‘it’. What she didn’t realize is how it would affect her life forever…
Unfortunately, in today’s world we have these big misconceptions about what God’s grace is, and instead of setting people free, it is trapping them in a life of sin and its consequences. People are being taught things that are not true as churches want to be seeker-friendly and not upset their parishioners, but it is not the truth, and it is hurting people instead of helping them.
In John 8:32 Jesus says, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Knowing the truth about grace will allow you to live a full, happy life that is free from guilt and shame. So let’s look at the three main things that confuse people about grace.
1. Grace costs nothing
It is true that that grace costs you and me nothing; it is a gift that God so graciously gives us, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t cost anything!
Jesus paid for it all with every last drop of blood in His body. He was beaten and whipped so that the flesh was torn from His body. Isaiah 52:14 (NIV) says, “His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being, and his form marred beyond human likeness.” He was treated so badly that He no longer looked like a human being and He did that all for you.
He chose to pay this price so that we can be forgiven and that He could extend His grace to us.
Don’t ever take God’s grace lightly because it cost Him everything so that we could have everything He is!
2. Everyone is covered by grace
There is a philosophy going around that everyone is covered by grace, and that is just not true. If you have not accepted God’s gift of salvation you are not covered by grace and you will go to hell at the end of your life. People often believe that because God loves everyone, He could never send anyone to hell and in a sense that is true, but what they don’t tell you is that it is not God who sends you to hell, but your choices send you there.
God gives everyone free will to choose Him and go to heaven or not chose Him and go to hell. We are the ones who make that choice. God has set laws in place and consequences for breaking them. He also set forgiveness and grace in place for those who choose it.
If you have never asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins and come into your heart to stay, then NOW is the time. If you don’t know what to say, you can go to a Christian friend or pastor and ask them, or you can say this little prayer:
Jesus, I recognize that you are the Son of God and that you sacrificed Your life on the cross, so that I may be forgiven of my sins, live a life holy to you and one day go to heaven. I ask you to forgive me of my sins and cleanse my heart. I choose to live for you, and I love you with all my heart, please come in and stay with me forever. Amen
3. We can sin and sin and sin some more without consequences
That is just not true. God’s grace is not for covering up your sin and taking all consequences away. It is there to help you overcome sin and get rid of it in your life. It is God’s power within you to give you the strength you need to be free of it.
Yes, when we sin, and we sincerely ask for forgiveness, God’s grace is available, and our sins will be forgiven, but that doesn’t give us free reign to do whatever we want because God will forgive us anyway. In Romans 6:1–2, the Apostle Paul says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”
When we are saved, we are a new creation in Christ that is dead to sin. Our sinful nature has been replaced with God’s nature, and our desire should be NOT to sin. As we get closer and closer to Christ, sin should be getting farther and farther away. Yes, we will still sin from time to time, but our life’s focus is on becoming more like Jesus.
It’s Your Choice
You don’t have to live a sinful life. You can choose to walk in grace and freedom from sin. If you are not sure how, then pray and listen to God. He will tell what to do and when He does, be obedient and do it and you will be so surprised at the result. In the beginning, it may be difficult, but the more you get to know God and the power of His grace within you the easier it will be.
His grace leads to so many other things in life like peace, joy, and happiness. I guarantee you; you will never regret getting God’s grace into your life. It is worth it!
Does Grace Mean We Can Sin?
Grace is a popular topic in churches today. In fact, many churches even have it in their names. But what is grace exactly? And if we have God’s grace, does that mean that Christians can just live however they want to because they’re covered by grace? Not exactly.
Grace Didn’t Start at the Cross
In order to understand where the idea of grace came from, we need to look at ancient Rome, before the crucifixion of Jesus. In those days, there were basically 2 classes of people: those who were powerful, influential and rich (patrons) and those who were not (clients). Patrons would give grace to less fortunate clients (in the form of money, help, status, education, job, etc.) empowering them to do and be what they couldn’t accomplish on their own. The patrons would invest in and help clients, and in return, the clients would honor and serve the patrons forever.
THIS is grace: empowering and enabling others to do or be what they ordinarily could not do or be on their own.
Grace is Not an Eraser
Some teach that “God’s grace” is what covers our sins. So if we sin, it’s OK because God’s grace covers it. They act like grace is an eraser that wipes away sins – that God’s grace is always there, so there’s no problem if they sin.
Paul encountered some of the same thinking in his day. He says in Romans 6:1, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” Of course God’s grace is abundant no matter the sin, but Paul didn’t want people to think that they could sin more in order to get more grace from God. Clearly, grace isn’t a get-to-sin-all-you-want card.
First century Christians were thrilled that they didn’t have to earn their salvation by what they did anymore. Before Christ, the Law required people to follow specific rules and traditions in order to be made right with God. But Jesus was the final blood sacrifice for all of mankind, making anyone who accepted Him in right standing with the Father; He was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” once and for all (John 1:29).
Paul asks another rhetorical question: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” (Romans 6:15) In chapters 5 and 6 of Romans, Paul explains over and over again that we who call ourselves Christians shouldn’t continue in sin, even though the grace of God is available to us.
- “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:2)
- “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” (Romans 6:12)
- “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:14)
- “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:18)
God’s grace is not a license to sin now and ask for forgiveness later. Dead people don’t sin; through Jesus, we have died to our old way of living and have come alive to Christ. Now that we’re God’s people, we are no longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:19). That means that we dedicated to doing what’s right instead of doing what’s wrong.
Grace is a Power or Enablement
If you’re still wondering what you can get away with because of God’s grace, then you’re missing the point. Living sinfully only results in shame and death, but Jesus came that we would live holy, righteous lives. Romans 6:20-22 explains it like this:
“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.”
Grace isn’t about doing whatever you want and knowing that God will graciously forgive you (though He will). Remember what “grace” was in Jesus’s day? Grace is about receiving power and help from one who is more able than you so that you can do things you couldn’t do before without the help.
Jesus is our Patron, and we are His clients. We couldn’t make ourselves right with God, and we couldn’t free ourselves from sin — but God had the power to do that, so He sent Jesus to empower and free us. As our Patron, God makes sure that we have all we need so that we can do whatever we need to do, be whoever we need to be, and go wherever we need to go.
God takes the unable and makes them powerfully able! HOW could we even think of sinning in view of God’s incredible grace and mercy to us?! It’s ridiculous! Instead, as His clients, we return glory, honor, service, love, respect, and our very lives to Him to thank Him for enabling us through His ability. Did we deserve this? No. But that’s the beautiful thing about grace: it’s an undeserving gift, based on HIS goodness, mercy and love … and it’s all the more reason we should want to devote our entire lives to Him.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Tit 2:11-12)
Bible Verses on Grace
Among the definitions for the word ‘grace’ are: unmerited favor; an extension of time for payment due.
It’s the first one—the unmerited favor—we Christians like to focus on. And for good reason! We know that without God’s grace we would be hopelessly lost. God’s grace is also something don’t fully understand. We know we need it. We know we want it. But we don’t always act like we understand how it works.
I want to share with you what the Bible says about grace. I hope that by reading these Bible verses about grace you will be reminded of the following:
- Grace is a gift that cannot be earned
- Grace is a gift that is not deserved
- Grace is a gift that can be withdrawn
- Grace is the gift that makes heaven a possibility
Grace cannot be earned and is not deserved
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~Ephesians 2:8-9
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. ~Romans 11:6
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~Romans 5:8
And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. ~John 1:16
Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, ~2nd Timothy 1:9
Grace can be withdrawn
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~Titus 2:11-14
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. ~Romans 6:1-4
For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. ~Galatians 2:19-21
Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. ~Hebrews 13:19
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. ~Hebrews 10:26-27
Grace is the gift that provides the hope of heaven
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~Romans 5:8
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. ~2nd Peter 3:9
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ~John 3:16
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. ~John 1:17
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. ~Colossians 2:13-15
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. ~Romans 6:4
Grace…it is ours for the taking and our for the keeping.
Quotes About God’s Grace
Here are some quotes about God’s grace from non-Biblical sources.
“It’s not the law of religion nor the principles of morality that define our highways and pathways to God; only by the Grace of God are we led and drawn, to God. It is His grace that conquers a multitude of flaws and in that grace, there is only favor. Favor is not achieved; favor is received.”
― C. JoyBell C., author
“Without a heart transformed by the grace of Christ, we just continue to manage external and internal darkness.”
― Matt Chandler, pastor of teaching at The Village Church
“Grace isn’t just forgiveness, it is forgiveness fueled by surrender.”
― Amy E. Spiegel, author
“Give God quality time, quality love, and quality prayer, and H will be pleased with your faithfulness and cover you with His grace.”
― Gabriella Marigold Lindsay, author
“We believe in the unseen God. So we dare the impossible, which is possible by God’s grace.”
― Lailah Gifty Akita, author
“Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement, and death will be part of your journey, but the Kingdom of God will conquer all these horrors. No evil can resist grace forever.”
― Brennan Manning, author
“As heat is opposed to cold, and light to darkness, so grace is opposed to sin. Fire and water may as well agree in the same vessel, as grace and sin in the same heart.”
― Thomas Brooks, non-conformist Puritan preacher
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, Was blind but now I see.”
― John Newton, hymnist
Sermons on Grace
Here are some sermons given by Pastor Bill Arsenault on the subject of grace.