Learning to thrive in the new life Jesus offers us – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

The Power of God’s Grace

The Power of God's Grace

With thanks to Grahame Crossing who first pointed out to me the biblical principle of the power of grace.

“Grace” and “mercy” are wonderful themes of Christianity. The two words occasionally appear together in verses of the New Testament (especially in greetings),[1] and the concept of grace has sometimes become confused and conflated with the concept of mercy, but the two are not the same. “Grace” has been described as getting what we don’t deserve (e.g. favour and pardon), and “mercy” has been described as not getting what we do deserve (e.g. punishment and death). Yet grace is more than passively receiving divine favour and pardon.

The Greek word for grace (charis) is used 150+ times in the New Testament. Sometimes its meaning is of “favour” or of “a pleasing, attractive disposition” either of people or of Jesus and God. However, grace is frequently used in the context of power, strength, and ability.[2] For example, it is God’s grace alone that has the power to save (Eph. 2:5ff; Rom. 11:6; Tit. 2:11; 3:5-7).

God’s grace working within us also empowers and enables us to be effective agents of Jesus Christ (cf Acts 4:33; 6:8; Eph. 3:7-8, Heb 4:16; etc), even when we ourselves are weak (cf 2 Cor. 12:9-10). Paul knew first hand that followers of Jesus need grace (i.e. divine power) in order to be effective ministers (Rom. 1:5; 1 Cor. 3:10; 15:10; 2 Cor. 1:12; Gal 2:9; Eph. 3:7-8; Col. 4:6; 2 Tim. 2:1). Thankfully, grace has been made abundantly available to us through Jesus (John 1:16; Rom. 5.15; Eph. 1:6; 4:7; 1 Tim. 1:14).

The Holy Spirit is the one who helps us to carry on the ministry of Jesus in the present church age, and he is associated with grace, especially the “grace gifts”, or charismata. The Holy Spirit gives his divine gifts, abilities, and manifestations for each of us to use while ministering and serving others (Rom. 12:6ff; 1 Cor 12:1ff; 1 Pet. 4:10).

A faulty understanding of grace can lead to complacency and passivity. God’s grace, however, should motivate, energise, and empower us: it is active and dynamic.

With all this in mind, whenever you come across the word “grace” while reading from the New Testament, try replacing it with “divine power”; it may make better sense.

“The grace – the divine power – of our Lord Jesus be with you!”
(Rom. 16:20; 1 Cor. 16:23 cf 2 Cor. 13:14)


Endnotes

[1] Grace (charis) was used in the context of divine favour in the Greek world, and the usual greeting of the Greeks was charein: “to be blessed with divine favour and power.” The New Testament letter writers adapted this convention and typically used charis in their opening greetings. “Grace and peace” – “peace” being the equivalent of the Hebrew shalom – are found in numerous greetings (e.g. Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:2 1 Pet. 1:2; Rev 1:4; more here). Grace, peace, as well as mercy, appear together in greetings in 1 Tim. 1:2, 2 Tim. 1:2 and 2 John 1:3. Paul closes his letters to the Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon with the benediction, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Gal. 6:18; Phil. 4:23; Phm. 1:25 cf Rom. 16:20; 1 Cor. 16:23; 2 Cor 13:14; 2 Tim. 4:22).  Etc.

[2] Charis has a variety of meanings. Hans Conzelmann (TDNT Vol IX, pp.359-76) writes that charis basically means something that delights. However, he notes that “In Hellenism charis becomes a fixed term for the ‘favor’ shown by rulers.” He also notes that “Philosophy discusses the grace and the wrath of the gods”. Conzelmann goes on to say that “In a second development, Hellenism stresses the power in charis. This power, which comes from the world above, appears in the divine man and expresses itself in magic.” It seems that Paul, Luke, and other New Testament writers may have borrowed this last usage of charis (i.e. grace is power from above) and adapted it for their own use.


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Posted April 5th, 2014 . Categories/Tags: Christian Living, Christian Theology, ,

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12 comments on “The Power of God’s Grace

  1. I see grace just as a gift from God to share in his glory and in the gospel. Another great post.

  2. Marg says:

    Thanks Curious Thinker.

  3. […]  The Power of God’s Grace. I appreciated this post from Marg Mowczko. Also check out her newlife web site – many worthwhile articles. “But grace is more than passively receiving divine favor and pardon…A faulty understanding of grace can lead to complacency and passivity. God’s grace, however, should motivate and empower us. It is active and dynamic.” […]

  4. […] John 1:17 says that, “the Law was given through Moses, but Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ.” Jesus wants us to receive and experience the fullness of his grace (John 1:16). He does not want us to be weighed down with unnecessary, religious regulations that miss God’s grace and mercy. […]

  5. pst peter imokheme says:

    GODS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT

  6. […] Paul ends Philippians with a final benediction (blessing) which is identical to his benediction in Philemon 25, and very similar to the one in Galatians 6:18. Paul’s benediction highlights one of the most wonderful blessings that are at the heart of Christianity – the grace of our Lord Jesus. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.” […]

  7. […] The word “grace” (charis) is frequently used in the New Testament in the context of divine power, strength, and ability. It is God’s grace working within us, through the Holy Spirit, that equips us to be effective ministers in the church and effective agents of Jesus Christ in the wider world. The Holy Spirit (and not masculinity) is the source of empowerment in genuine ministry. […]

  8. […] And from the fullness of his grace, we have all received abundant grace, or as the NIV (1984) puts it, “one blessing after another” (John 1:16). […]

  9. […] The Power of God’s Grace […]

  10. […] A sound theology can help Christians to more fully access and utilise the power and grace of God that is available to us. It is important for someone involved in Christian mission to have a comprehensive understanding of who God is, not only biblically and theoretically, but also experientially. […]

  11. […] John often compares Moses and the Law with Jesus and Grace, showing that Jesus is superior to, and more powerful than, […]

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