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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Grace

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GRACE (from Lat. gratia [= favour , either received from or shown to another], through the Fr. grace ). Of the three meanings assigned to this word in the Eng. Dict . (1) ‘pleasingness,’ (2) ‘favour,’ (3) ‘thanks’ (the sense of favour received) (1) and (2) belong to the Eng. Bible; (3) attaches to the equivalent Gr. charis , where it is rendered ‘thank(s)’ or ‘thankfulness’ ( Hebrews 12:28 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] .). The specific Biblical use of ‘grace’ comes under the second of the above significations; it is prominent in the NT. The OT usage requires no separate treatment. (2) is the primary meaning of the Hebrew original, rendered ‘favour’ almost as often as ‘grace’; but (1) of the Greek charis , which at its root signified the gladdening, joy-bringing . Hence the correspondence between the common Greek salutation chaire ( te ) or chairein (‘Joy to you!’) and the Christian charis (‘Grace to you!’) is more than a verbal coincidence.

1. Of the sense charm, winsomeness (of person, bearing, speech, etc.) a usage conspicuous in common Greek, and personified in the Charites , the three Graces of mythology the prominent instances in the OT are Psalms 45:2 (‘Grace is poured on thy lips’) and probably Zechariah 4:7 ; add to these Proverbs 1:9 ; Proverbs 3:22 ; Proverbs 4:9 ; Proverbs 22:11 ; Proverbs 31:30 (‘favour’). The same noun occurs in the Heb. of Proverbs 5:10 ; Proverbs 11:16 , and Ecclesiastes 10:12 , Proverbs 17:8 , under the adjectival renderings ‘pleasant,’ ‘gracious,’ ‘precious,’ and in Nahum 3:4 (‘well-favoured’). For the NT, ‘grace’ is charm in Luke 4:22 , Colossians 4:8 ; in Ephesians 4:28 there may be a play on the double sense of the word. Charm of speech is designated by charis in Sir 20:18 ; Sir 21:10 ; Sir 37:21 , in the Apocrypha. in James 1:11 ‘grace of the fashion’ renders a single Greek word signifying ‘fair-seemingness,’ quite distinct from charis .

2. The OT passages coming under (2) above, employ ‘grace’ chiefly in the idiom ‘to find grace ( or favour),’ which is used indifferently of favour in the eyes of J″ [Note: Jahweh.] ( Genesis 6:8 ) or of one’s fellow-men ( Genesis 39:4 ), and whether the finder bring good ( Genesis 39:4 ) or ill ( Genesis 19:19 ) desert to the quest. With this broad application, ‘grace’ means good-will, favourable inclination towards another of the superior (king, benefactor, etc.) or one treated as such by courtesy, to the inferior shown on whatever ground. In the Eng. NT, ‘favour’ is reserved for this wide sense of charis ; see Luke 1:30 ; Luke 2:52 , Acts 2:47 ; Acts 7:10 ; Acts 7:46 ; Acts 25:3 : ‘grace’ has the same meaning in Luke 2:40 , Acts 4:33 , Zechariah 12:10 is the one instance in which ‘grace’ in the OT approximates to its prevalent NT import; but the Heb. adj. for gracious , and the equivalent vb., are together used of J″ [Note: Jahweh.] , in His attitude towards the sinful, more than twenty times, associated often with ‘merciful,’ etc.; see. e.g. , Exodus 33:19 ; Exodus 34:6 , Psalms 77:9 ; Psalms 103:8 , Joel 2:13 , Jonah 4:2 . The character in God which the OT prefers to express by mercy , signifying His pitiful disposition towards man as weak and wretched, the NT in effect translates into ‘grace,’ as signifying His forgiving disposition towards man as guilty and lost.

3. Christianity first made grace a leading term in the vocabulary of religion. The prominence and emphasis of its use are due to St. Paul, in whose Epp. the word figures twice as often as in all the NT besides. ‘Grace’ is the first word of greeting and the last of farewell in St. Paul’s letters; for him it includes the sum of all blessing that comes from God through Christ: ‘grace’ the source, ‘peace’ the stream. In the Gospels, the Johannine Prologue (vv. 14 17: contrasted with ‘law,’ and co-extensive with ‘truth’) supplies the only example of ‘grace’ used with the Pauline fulness of meaning. This passage, and the Lukan examples in Acts ( Acts 6:3 ; Acts 11:23 ; Acts 13:43 ; Acts 14:8 ; Acts 15:11 ; Acts 20:24 ; Acts 20:32 ), with the kindred uses in Hebrews 1:1-14 , Hebrews 1:2 Peter., Jude, 2 Jn., Rev., may be set down to the influence of Paulinism on Apostolic speech. There is little in earlier phraseology to explain the supremacy in the NT of this specific term; a new experience demanded a new name. ‘Grace’ designates the principle in God of man’s salvation through Jesus Christ . It is God’s unmerited, unconstrained love towards sinners, revealed and operative in Christ. Titus 2:11-14 , interpreted by Romans 5:1 to Romans 6:23 , is the text which approaches nearest to a definition; this passage shows how St. Paul derived from God’s grace not only the soul’s reconciliation and new hopes in Christ ( Romans 5:1-11 ), but the whole moral uplifting and rehabilitation of human life through Christianity. St. Paul’s experience in conversion gave him this watchword; the Divine goodness revealed itself to the ‘chief of sinners’ under the aspect of ‘grace’ ( 1 Corinthians 15:9 f., 1 Timothy 1:13-16 ). The spontaneity and generosity of God’s love felt in the act of his salvation, the complete setting aside therein of everything legal and conventional (with, possibly, the added connotation of charm of which charis is redolent), marked out this word as describing what St. Paul had proved of Christ’s redemption; under this name he could commend it to the world of sinful men; his ministry ‘testifies the gospel of the grace of God’ ( Acts 20:24 ). Essentially, grace stands opposed to sin ; it is God’s way of meeting and conquering man’s sin ( Romans 5:20 f., Romans 6:1 ff., Romans 6:15 ff.): He thus effects ‘the impossible task of the Law’ ( Romans 7:7 to Romans 8:4 ). The legal discipline had taught St. Paul to understand, by contrast, the value and the operation of the principle of grace; he was able to handle it with effect in the legalist controversy. Grace supplies, in his theology, the one and sufficient means of deliverance from sin, holding objectively the place which faith holds subjectively in man’s salvation ( Ephesians 2:8 , Titus 2:11 ). Formally, and in point of method, grace stands opposed to ‘ the law ,’ ‘which worketh wrath’ ( Romans 3:19-26 ; Romans 4:15 , Galatians 2:15-21 ; Galatians 5:4 ); it supersedes the futile ‘works’ by which the Jew had hoped, in fulfilling the Law, to merit salvation ( Romans 4:2-8 ; Romans 11:6 , Galatians 2:16-20 , Ephesians 2:8 f.). Grace excludes, therefore, all notion of ‘debt’ as owing from God to men, all thought of earning the Messianic blessings ( Romans 4:4 ) by establishing ‘a righteousness of one’s own’ ( Romans 10:3 ); through it men are ‘justified gratis ’ ( Romans 3:24 ) and ‘receive the gift of righteousness’ ( Romans 5:17 ). In twenty-two instances St. Paul writes of ‘the grace of God ’ (or ‘his grace’); In fifteen, of ‘the grace of Christ ’ (‘the Lord Jesus Christ,’ etc.). Ten of the latter examples belong to salutation-formulæ (so in Revelation 22:21 ), the fullest of these being 2 Corinthians 13:14 , where ‘the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ’ is referred to ‘the love of God’ as its fountain-head; In the remaining five detached instances the context dictates the combination ‘grace of Christ’ (‘our Lord,’ etc.), Rom 5:15 , 2 Corinthians 8:9 ; 2 Corinthians 12:9 , Galatians 1:6 , 1 Timothy 1:14 (also in 2 Peter 3:16 ). In other NT writings the complement is predominantly ‘of God’; 1 Peter 5:10 inverts the expression ‘the God of all grace.’ Once in 2 Thessalonians 1:12 grace is referred conjointly to God and Christ . Christ is the expression and vehicle of the grace of the Father, and is completely identified with it (see John 1:14 ; John 1:17 ), so that God’s grace can equally be called Christ’s ; but its reference to the latter is strictly personal in such a passage as 2 Corinthians 8:9 . A real distinction is implied in the remarkable language of Romans 5:15 , where, after positing ‘the grace of God’ as the fundamental ground of redemption, St. Paul adds to this ‘the gift in grace, viz. the grace of the one man Jesus Christ ,’ who is the counterpart of the sinful and baleful Adam: the generous bounty of the Man towards men , shown by Jesus Christ, served an essential part in human redemption.

Cognate to charis , and charged in various ways with its meaning, is the vb. rendered (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) to grant in Acts 27:24 , Galatians 3:18 , Philippians 1:29 , Philippians 1:22 , give in Philippians 2:9 , freely give in Romans 8:32 , 1 Corinthians 2:12 , and (with ‘wrong’ or ‘debt’ for object, expressed or implied) forgive in Luke 7:42 f., 2 Corinthians 2:7 ; 2Co 2:10 ; 2 Corinthians 12:13 , Ephesians 4:32 , Colossians 2:13 ; Colossians 3:18 .

There are two occasional secondary uses of ‘grace,’ derived from the above, in the Pauline Epp.: it may denote ( a ) a gracious endowment or bestowment , God’s grace to men taking shape in some concrete ministry (so Ephesians 4:7 , in view of the following context, and perhaps Galatians 2:9 ; cf. Acts 7:10 ) for charis in this sense charisma ( charism ) is St. Paul’s regular term, as in 1 Corinthians 12:4 etc.; and ( b ) a state of grace , God’s grace realized by the recipient ( Romans 5:2 , 2 Timothy 2:1 ).

G. G. Findlay.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Grace'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/g/grace.html. 1909.

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