GRACE (חֶסֶד, chesed; “grace, mercy, steadfast love, compassion”; חֵן, chen; “grace, graciousness, kindness”; χάρις, charis; “grace, favor, graciousness, goodwill”). Gracious or merciful behavior of a more powerful person toward another. Displayed by the Lord toward humankind and by people towards each other in the Old Testament. Used to describe God or Christ in their merciful character or actions toward humankind in the New Testament. Spiritual gifts are described as “graces.” A literary device used at the beginning or end of many New Testament letters.
Grace in the Old Testament
The Lord shows grace towards His people in the Old Testament. A common way of describing human graciousness toward another person is “to find favor in [their] eyes.”
Examples of God’s grace in the Old Testament:
• (Gen 6:8) Noah “found favor (חֵן, chen) in the eyes of the Lord” (HCSB).
• (Exod 33, 34) Moses found favor in the eyes of the Lord so that He did not judge the idolatrous children of Israel. As the Lord was preparing to rewrite His commandments on tablets of stone, He passed before Moses and said, “Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth” (Exod 34:6 HCSB).
• (Pss 86:15; 103:8; 111:4; 112:4; 116:5; 145:8) The Psalms are filled with praise of God’s grace and graciousness. Grace was a major theme in Israel’s worship.
• (Jer 31:2) The Lord looked back on His favor toward Israel in the wilderness after coming out of Egypt, implying He would do the same thing in graciously bringing His people out of Babylon.
• (Zech 12:10) Zechariah foretold of a time when the Lord would “pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David and the residents of Jerusalem, and they will look at Me whom they have pierced” (HCSB). This passage is cited in Rev 1:7 along with Dan 7:13.
Human Favor and Graciousness
In the Old Testament, many individuals’ primary hope was to find favor (i.e. grace) with a more powerful person:
• (Gen 33:8, 10) Jacob found favor with Esau.
• (Gen 39:4) Joseph found favor with Potiphar.
• (Gen 47:25) The people of Egypt found favor with Joseph, who saved their lives.
• (Ruth 2:10) Ruth found favor with Boaz as Naomi had prayed (Ruth 2:2). Ruth became the great-grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:21–22; Matt 1:5–6).
• (1 Sam 20:3) David found favor with Jonathan the son of Saul, who sought to kill David.
• (Esth 2:17) Esther found favor with King Ahasuerus, who made her queen of the Persian Empire.
Grace in the New Testament
In addition to the Old Testament aspects of grace, the New Testament focuses upon:
• Grace in relation to salvation.
• Spiritual gifts being referred to as “graces.”
• The literary use of grace in beginning or ending of many New Testament letters.
The Grace of God and of Christ
God and Christ are described in terms of their graciousness throughout the New Testament:
• (1 Pet 5:10) The Father is called “the God of all grace” (HCSB).
• (Eph 1:7) Speaks of “the riches of His grace,” the recognition of which should be to “the praise of His glorious grace” (HCSB).
• (John 1:14) Describes Jesus as “full of grace and truth” (HCSB).
• The majority of Paul’s letters end with “the grace of our Lord Jesus” (e.g., Rom 16:20; 1 Cor 16:23; Phlm 25).
• (2 Thess 1:12) God and Christ are linked in regard to their χάρις (charis), “the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (HCSB).
Salvation as an Act of Grace
For both Jews and Gentiles, salvation was a gracious act: “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8–9 HCSB).
• (Titus 2:11–13) Paul instructs young believers on the island of Crete: “For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (HCSB).
• (2 Cor 12:9) Paul says that the Lord taught him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (HCSB).
• (Acts 20:32) At Miletus, Paul told the Ephesian elders, “I commit you to God and to the message of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all who are sanctified” (HCSB).
• (2 Pet 3:18) Peter concludes his second letter with these words: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (HCSB).
The term χάρισμα (charisma)—meaning “graces” or “gifts of grace”—is often connected with “spiritual gifts” (πνευματικῶν, pneumatikōn; 1 Cor 12:1; 14:1). The term χάρισμα (charisma) is found in connection with the listings of spiritual gifts in Rom 12:6, 1 Cor 12:4, and 1 Pet 4:10. Salvation is also referred to as the χάρισμα (charisma) of God in Rom 6:23.
Divine and Human Favor, Giving, Gratitude, and Graciousness
Instances of individuals finding favor in the New Testament include:
• (Luke 1:30) Mary found favor (χάρις, charis) with God.
• (Luke 2:52) Jesus found favor with God and humanity.
• (Acts 2:47) In the days following Pentecost, the new church in Jerusalem found “favor with all the people” (HCSB).
• (Acts 7:10) In Stephen’s sermon, he refers to Joseph finding favor with Pharaoh.
• (Acts 24:27; 25:3, 9) Describes Festus’ desire to do a favor (χάρις, charis) for the Jews in the way he handled Paul’s case.
• (2 Cor 1:15) Paul refers to his previous intention to visit the Corinthian church, both when he went to and came from Macedonia as a “double grace” (δευτέραν χάριν, deuteran charin; HCSB).
• (2 Cor 8:4, 6, 7, 19) In parallel to the sacrificial response to God’s grace among the churches of Macedonia (2 Cor 8:1), Paul appeals to the Corinthians to give a gracious offering (χάρις, charis) to meet the pressing needs of the church in Jerusalem.
• (Col 4:6) Paul says that when someone speaks about Christ, their speech “should always be gracious (χάρις, charis), seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer every person” (HCSB).
• (Col 3:16) Singing with grace in your heart toward the Lord means appreciate all He has done.