What exactly does this word mean when it's quoted in the bible? Especially in the context of the new testament. (Charis)
Before looking at the meaning of grace it would be worthwhile noting the emphasis that is put upon it in the New Testament. The Greek word for grace, (charis) occurs 154 times. It can have meanings such as graciousness, favour, goodwill, gracious deed or gift, thanks or gratitude. However, 127 times it is used of the grace of God, 89 of these occurring in the letters of Paul.
To wish for grace to those to whom they are writing is the most common form of greeting in the letters of the New Testament, and a further wish for grace is the most common form of signing off of his letters...
As Philip Yancey explains in his popular book What’s So Amazing About Grace?, "Knocked flat on the ground on the way to Damascus, Paul never recovered from the impact of grace:"
Its interesting to note the word "grace" appears no later than the second sentence in every one of his letters.” So grace was obviously very high on the list of Paul's priorities.
When we stop for a moment and think about it... Grace is the best thing he can wish for his readers; as grace is the best he himself ever received!"
So What's the difference between mercy and grace?
A woman was speeding and got pulled over by a police officer. When the officer got ready to write the ticket the woman said, "Please officer let me just have a warning this time. I've learned my lesson and won't do it again." If the officer agreed and just gave her a warning it would be an example of MERCY.
However, if the officer said, "I'm a man of the law and must uphold it, you were speeding and must get a ticket." That would be an example of justice.
However, if the officer said, "I am a man of law and must write this ticket but what I'm going to do is take it and pay it myself." That would be an example of grace.
The meaning of grace as we know it is that Jesus Christ has taken our place. Every punishment and curse that should come upon us because of our sin, he has taken upon himself so that instead of judgement we may receive blessings.
Isaiah prophesied about the grace of Jesus Christ perfectly in Isaiah 53:4-5:
“Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5 NKJV
What I find amazing is that this passage in the bible was written some 700 years before Christ was even born and yet describes what Jesus did on the cross perfectly! He, through His selfless act on that cross... Offered us the ultimate in Grace by taking our sins... Past - Present - Future and paying the price for them so that we can once again be reconciled to Him!
So let's have a closer look now at just a couple of Paul's letters that are clearly about the redemption of Christ to us... In other words Christ applying His grace to us.
Lets look at the book of Romans... So lets paint a bit of a background here. Paul is actually in prison in chains and shackles when writing this amazing letter to the church in Rome...
So what better place to write from right? I know if that were me I don't know if I could pen the words that Paul did from the wet and smelly prison cell surrounded probably by some of the most notorious criminals anywhere in the land...
Okay, so Paul is writing this letter and wants to convey what The Lord has given him... You see word had got around that the God that Paul served was a God of Grace. He was able to offer more and more grace... The more we sinned the more grace we received!
So lets look at Romans chapter 5... From verse 12.
So here Paul is talking about the death in Adam and then the Life in Christ...
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:12-21 NKJV
So lets just back track a bit... Paul is laying a foundation here. He knows that in the church in Rome there is this weird thing going on. This weird teaching that the more sin we have the more Grace we will receive! Well I guess in affect that is kind of right... However, Paul understood that the Roman church were misinterpreting this somewhat! So Paul sets about trying to clear this up! He starts in Romans chapter 6 with this...
“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? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:1-4 NKJV
So then just a little further along in verse 7 Paul goes on...
“For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:7-11 NKJV
So Paul is giving a very clear instruction here... We are no longer bound to sin! If we believe that Christ died for us then we must also believe that we have died with Him! Then we were also raised with Him!
So here we go... This is the good part! Paul I believe then makes this monumental discovery and shares it in chapter 7... Lets have a look at what he discovers.
So for the first 12 verses of chapter 7 Paul is talking about the fact that we are no longer alive to sin... But dead to it! It no longer has hold of us because of the blood shed by The Lord Jesus Christ!
Then from verse 13 Paul explodes with this... Are you ready?
Has then what is good become death to me? (Here Paul is talking about the law) Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. (Highlighting just what the law actually did... it highlighted sin by its very nature!) For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.
(Now just listen and imagine what Paul himself is discovering whilst writing this)
For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. (When I first got this passage I thought, hang on that's me! )
If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.
(Did you see that? Paul has discovered that there is something going on within himself that he just doesn't know what to do)
For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
(Now watch this... Paul now illustrates this whole duality of nature he has just described vividly)
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
(Now before we go on let's just understand what picture Paul is painting here... You see in Roman times there was a number of ways that someone could be put to death for their crimes. We all know about the horrendous crucifixion, the way our Lord was put to death. Another form of execution was that... let's say you murdered someone and were found guilty and sentenced to death. What would happen is that the Roman soldiers would get the body of the person you murdered and physically tie it face to face with you the murderer! That's right they would bind you hand a foot face to face with the body of the victim. They would then throw you on the back of a cart, still attached to the dead body, face to face and drag you out into the burning Mediterranean sun drop you off in the desert and leave you there! So the death of the murdered person would then become the death of the murderer! You! And this is exactly the picture Paul is making here! He's saying who is going to separate me from this old stinking carcass! He then goes on with this.)
I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7:13-25 NKJV)
Phew! Thank God for that hey!
So lets just go on a little further because we can't just stop there now, because the very next verse which is chapter 8 says...
There is Therefore (and you know in scripture that when the word therefore is written the following is referring to what was previously written)
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4 NKJV)
No condemnation! None nada, nothing! We have no right to condemn each other or ourselves! Because this is why Christ died for us so that we can have the Grace to live!
So what are we to do with this Grace that God has given us?
1 Peter 4:10 says... As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
We are to share it! Yes that's it! Share the same grace with all whom we come into contact with! Have a listen to what Jesus said to His disciples not long before he departed this earth... He gave them a new commandment... It wasn't a "thou shalt not" either... His new commandment was a do!
"Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:33-35 NKJV)
Now go and enjoy the Grace our Lord Jesus Christ has given you and share it with as many people as you can!