What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
To say that grace is simply "a gift" is to fall woefully short of exhausting its meaning. In fact, the English word "grace" is not even derived from charis, the Greek word used in the Bible. Instead, it comes from the Latin gratia, which in turn comes from gratus, meaning "beloved" or "pleasing." Grace, according Webster's New World Dictionary closely follows the Latin definition. It means "beauty or charm of form, composition, movement or expression; an attractive quality, feature or manner; goodwill, favor."
Each of these usages shows "grace" to have a fairly close relationship to the secular use of charis. In secular Greek, a good wine and a fine choice of words are examples of charis. People have charis when they are delicate, tactful, or artful. In this way, people or things win the charis (favor) of others by having charis (charm). Another use of charis was as thanks for favors bestowed; this has survived in English as the term used of the prayer of thanksgiving before a meal: grace.
Charis was basically used in secular Greek in an aesthetic sense, but it also had an ethical side. The New Testament writers drew upon this usage to formulate part of the biblical grace to which we are accustomed. In secular Greek charis could also, but not as frequently, be used to indicate kindness, generosity, and helpfulness. Thus, even in secular usage, charis connotes a benevolence that shows favor to inferiors.
Charis needed one more sense to be ready for biblical use. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia makes this interesting comment:
It may be added that in later Greek charis also had the sense of force or power. It could be a spell, or demonic force, affecting human life with supernatural influences. In Euripides, it was a power from the underworld that could convey the virtues of a dead hero to his living family or followers. This sense, too, though set in a new context, was used in the NT: grace became the power of God to enable Christians to live the new life in Christ. ("Grace," vol. 2, p. 548)
It is easy to see why charis took on the implication of power. Charming people of beautiful form, people of tact and artful speech, people with kind, generous, benevolent, and helpful personalities are people of influence—and influence is power. Such a power can extend even beyond the grave. But even so, biblical grace is much more because its foundation and source are in God.
It would be incorrect to say that the biblical grace has no connection to its secular usage. However, it takes on a vastly greater dimension in two areas: 1) It is the single most important aspect of our spiritual and eternal salvation, and 2) God's giving of it to us is completely and totally unmerited. Even though the grace of God is the foundation for good works, the good works, by themselves, do not and cannot earn us grace.
While most of the New Testament writers use "grace" at some point, Paul makes the greatest use of it. It can almost be said to be his word. The seven other writers together use the word fifty-one times, but Paul alone uses it 101 times. Essentially, his usage of grace has given us its unique biblical application.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The apostles took an ordinary Greek word, charis—and that word has been translated into English as grace—but they turned it into a word of very profound theological and spiritual significance.
The word all by itself, as it would be used in secular Greek, is "gratifying in manner," or we might say, "that which causes delight." It is the causing of it that gives the word its distinctive usage. The emphasis of the word is on the causes. It has the delight that we receive.
The apostles used this word to indicate unearned or unmerited favor. It always has the idea of something completely undeserved, something that we could never have achieved by ourselves. For example, John 1:14 teaches us that God came to earth to live and to die, and that is not something which humanity could manipulate or deserve because we earned it.
It was something that He freely did. He gave of Himself. Men did not have this in mind, that God would come here and demand that this occur because we are so good and we need to be saved. God, on His own, decided that He would use this means to introduce Himself into the flow of life on earth and provide man with a Savior.
In addition to this, the word also has the idea of beauty contained within it. Its opposite, its antonym, in the Greek is erga, which is translated into the English "work." Now "work" or erga carries the connotation of something deserved because it has been earned by conduct or activity.
So you have these two opposites, these two contrasts. Grace on the one side, something that is given and provides delight, favor that is unearned. On the other side, we have erga—work—something that is earned. It is merited because of things that we have done.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace
This is the sole scriptural reference that even remotely suggests that Mary might be worthy of worship. While the angel gives Mary a number of high compliments, nothing indicates that she is worthy of worship, let alone being an intercessor between Jesus Christ and His followers, a Co-Redemptrix, sinless for her entire life, or given any other honor aside from being God's chosen vessel for the purpose of the Son of God being made flesh and blood. This is not to denigrate that role in the least, because truly it is a great honor, but God has throughout the ages chosen various people to fill different roles according to His will and purpose—and none of them are shown to be worthy of worship.
In verse 28, Gabriel tells Mary in his salutation that she is "highly favored," and in verse 30, that she "has found favor with God." The Greek word translated highly favored means "to grace," "to endue with special honor," or "to be accepted." The only other place it is used is Ephesians 1:6, where Paul says to the church at Ephesus and to the body of Christ generally, ". . . to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved." From this example, we can see that being "highly favored" is not synonymous with being worthy of worship. Everyone in the body of Christ is highly favored because God has accepted us through the justification brought about by Christ's sacrifice.
In verse 30, Gabriel tells Mary that she has found favor with God. "Favor" is the Greek word charis, which means "graciousness of manner or action." It indicates favor on the part of the giver and thankfulness on the part of the receiver. It is most often translated "grace" in the New Testament. Gabriel tells Mary that she is the recipient of charis, of grace and favor by God—the emphasis is on what God is doing. The type of grace bestowed on Mary is implied to be sweetness, charm, loveliness, joy, and delight. Again, we see nothing in this verse to give any indication that Mary should be worshipped. She simply received God's favor by being chosen to fulfill this role.
David C. Grabbe
Is Mary Worthy of Worship?
Notice in verse 14 that Jesus is described as "full of grace"—suggesting lovingkindness and benevolent gifts—"and truth." Then, verse 16 says that from that fullness of grace we receive grace. In other words, it is from our relationship with Him that we receive many beneficent gifts toward salvation.
Other Bibles translate the phrase "grace for grace" as "grace on grace" or "grace upon grace." In a paraphrase, it may be rendered as "blessing after blessing." The phrase pictures grace as if it were objects being stacked one on top of another or endlessly linked as if side by side.
Our calling is an act of God's grace, a gifting completely apart from any merit on our part. We tend to think of grace primarily in regard to justification and the forgiveness of sin, but that is far, far too limiting. John is showing us that our relationship with God through Jesus Christ is a connection that supplies us with a continuous flow of grace, blessings, gifts, favor, powers, forgiveness, knowledge, understanding, wisdom, healings, protection, and more through God's loving concern.
He is not supplying our every desire but our every need as His spiritual creation of each of us moves toward His conclusion. Again, remember that, for this truth to be more fully appreciated, it must be understood that He does not owe us one tiny jot or tittle of it. Just as surely as the manna physically appeared to the unconverted Israelites every morning in the wilderness and the cloud was in the sky by day and a pillar of fire by night, God is supplying our every need in relation to His salvation and purpose.
It is all freely given toward His glorification and His purpose of creating us to fill a position, a place in His Kingdom. The apostles used charis ("grace") in many other situations, but they applied it most especially to mean the powers given by God to meet our spiritual needs.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and God's Grace
These verses confront us with a list of spiritual-sounding words: grace, saved, faith, gift, works. Even those who have been in God's church for many years and who may clearly understand each of these words individually are slowed down in comprehension when faced with such terms presented one after the other.
So, let us take a very brief Greek lesson. Here are the key terms contained in this scripture in English and Greek, the Strong's Concordance reference number, and, to make the meanings clearer, other English terms translated in the New Testament from the same Greek words:
- Grace (#5485): charis (khar'-ece). Also translated as favor, thanks, thank, pleasure.
- Saved (#4982): sozo (sode'-zo). Also translated as make whole, heal, be whole.
- Faith (#4102): pistis. Also translated as assurance, believe, belief, those who believe, fidelity.
- Gift (#1435): doron. Also translated as present, offering.
- Works (#2041): ergon. Also translated as deed, doing, labor.
Ergon is the original Greek for the English word "works." It does not appear to be a very difficult, ambiguous, or confusing term. But what do the many people and churches who claim that works are not required perceive "works" to be?
Opinions vary. One group perceives works to mean the whole law in general. A second group perceives works as specific portions of God's law, which they look upon as being "Jewish" or"Old Covenant," or that they are just not willing to keep and teach. A third group, amazingly enough in their rejection of it, perceives this term as meaning works of charity in general!
Individuals or groups who choose to substitute the word "law" for the word "works" in Ephesians 2:8-9, and who thus say that New Testament Christians do not have to keep God's law, do not appear to mean it totally and literally. Instead, most of them reserve the right to choose which parts of the law they wish to keep ("You shall not kill," "You shall not steal," etc.) and those that they do not wish to keep ("Remember the Sabbath," holy days, tithing, clean and unclean meats, etc.). God has nowhere given authority to His people to be selective in these matters, thus this stance toward the law is inconsistent and even hypocritical.
The church of God has always agreed one hundred percent with those who say that salvation is a gift, and that a Christian cannot earn salvation by charitable works or by obedience to God's law. However, obedience is a condition we must meet before God will give us His free gift of salvation. New Testament evidence is overwhelming on the matter. Here are just a few verses:
» And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit, which God has given to those who obey him. (Acts 5:32)
» He who says, "I know him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (I John 2:4)
» So He said to [the rich young ruler], "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." (Matthew 19:17)
» If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15)
The apostle Paul, in Ephesians 2:8-9, does not say that works are not required at all. The purpose of his statement is to show that works do not save us, but that grace and faith do! In fact, the very next verse, verse 10, shows that God calls members of His church for the very purpose of performing good works: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).
The apostle's language is very clear. God desires us to walk in good works, and He has prepared our spiritual educational process so that we will learn to do them. Doing good works in the name of Jesus Christ is a major part of the purpose for the life of each true Christian. We cannot truly be Christians without them!
Faith Without Works
He is speaking specifically of answering those in the world, but should we not be even more gracious to those in our family?
The Greek word Paul uses, translated "grace," is charis, which means "graciousness, of manner or act, especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life." Matthew Henry's commentary says, "Grace is the salt which seasons our discourse, makes it savory and keeps it from corrupting."
The words that come from our mouths reflect upon us more than any other facet of our lives. When we gossip, are those words seasoned? Are they "savory" to the ears of others? When we speak in a hurtful manner to our family, both physical and spiritual, are those words "seasoned"?
Think of it this way: If we are living sacrifices, and if the altar is God's table, what kind of dinner-table conversation would be appropriate while sharing a meal with God? Revelation 3:20 tells us that we will have the chance to dine with Christ. If we live our lives as living sacrifices, then we are always before the altar of God. Our actions, especially our speech, should always be done as if we are carrying on conversations at the table with Christ.
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