The Meaning of Grace

Christians who believe grace is unmerited favour have only part of the answer and Christians who believe in “common” grace, that God in the gospel offers it to all men are very mistaken as definition 4 below shows. Only God’s elect are the objects of his saving, particular grace.

The word grace in Scripture has a variety of meanings:

1. Grace as an attribute of God has the fundamental meaning of pleasantness, attractiveness, and gracefulness. God is the perfection of all beauty and attractiveness and gracefulness, because He is the implication of all infinite perfection of goodness in the ethical sense. God is perfectly lovely and beautiful.

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A  graceful dancer

2. Grace in Scripture denotes the attitude of graciousness or pleasantness, the gracious disposition of God to the creature. This is undoubtedly the meaning of the phrase, “to find grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8; Gen. 19:19).

3. In close connection with the preceding, the word grace has the meaning of undeserved or forfeited favor. In this case, the favorable attitude of God is accentuated and enhanced by the condition of the subjects who receive the grace of God. The word of God uses the term grace as standing opposed to obligation and, therefore, as being opposed to works.

4. The word grace frequently is used in Scripture to denote the power of God whereby the sinner is actually saved and delivered from the bondage of sin and corruption, whereby he is regenerated and sanctified, and thus is made pleasant in the sight of God. It also includes all the spiritual blessings and virtues that are bestowed upon the objects of God’s favor.

5. Grace is used in the sense of thanks, as we read in the original of 1 Corinthians 15:57: “Grace be to God, who giveth us the victory.” The meaning is most probably that grace is ascribed to God by those who are the objects and recipients of the power of God’s grace, in order that He may receive praise and adoration as the only God of all grace.

Herman Hoeksema

(Reformed Dogmatics [Grandville, MI: RFPA, 2014], vol. 2, pp. 280-281)

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