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Girdlestone's Synonyms of the Old Testament


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The Bible is pre-eminently occupied in setting forth the gracious feelings with which God regards the children of men; it depicts them not in the abstract, but as manifested in action. It also teaches that those who have tasted of God's grace and love and mercy are bound to exercise the same dispositions towards their fellow-men. They thus become in reality children of God, and are conformed to the nature of Him from whom their new life is drawn.

Grace is the free bestowal of kindness on one who has neither claim up on our bounty, nor adequate compensation to make for it. Throughout the O.T., with the exception of Hosea 14:2, where the word rendered 'graciously' signifies 'goodness' (טוב ), it stands for some form of Chanan (חנן ), to show favour. [Hence the name Jo-hanan (John), and its inverted form, Hanan-iah.] It is often coupled with racham (רחם ), a word which signifies a tender feeling of pity. These three words answer to the Assyrian thabu, annu, rêmu. The adjectival form, chanun (חנון ), gracious, is used only of God, and denotes the action which springs from his free and unmerited love to his creatures. The verb is rendered 'pity' in Proverbs 19:17, 'He that hath pity up on the po or lendeth unto the Lord;' where the writer is not speaking of commiseration, but rather of the kindly dealing of one who 'hopes for nothing again.' It is also used in Job 19:21, and Proverbs 28:8, where it might be rendered 'deal graciously.' Other renderings for this word in the A. V. are 'to be favourable,' and 'to be merciful,' and (in the causative form) to beseech, supplicate, and pray. The LXX has ἐλεήμων for the adjective, but χάρις for the noun. The Greek χάρις, and the English 'grace' or 'favour,' well represent the word, only we have to be on our guard against the supposition that grace is an abstract quality; it is an active personal principle, showing itself in our dealings with those by whom we are surrounded.

The adverb 'graciously' is usually rendered δωρεὰν in the LXX; and this word reappears in the N.T., as in Matthew 10:8, 'Freely ye have received, freely give;' Romans 3:24, 'Being justified freely by his grace;' Revelation 22:17, 'Let him take the water of life freely.' A secondary meaning which the Greek adverb has received is 'without a cause.' in this sense we meet with it in John 15:25, 'They hated me without a cause,' words quoted from Psalms 69:4; also Galatians 2:21, 'Then Christ died in vain, or causelessly.' We occasionally use the English word gratuitous in this sense, as when we speak of 'a gratuitous insult.'

The verbal form is rendered χαρίζομαι in the LXX; and this word occurs several times in the N.T. to indicate an exhibition of free grace, whether in the form of healing (Luke 7:21), or of remitting a debt (Luke 7:42), or of the loosing of a prisoner (Acts 3:14), of making a gift (Romans 8:32, 1 Corinthians 2:12), or of pardon (2 Corinthians 2:10, Ephesians 4:32). Χαριτόω, to deal graciously, is not an O.T. word, except in the Apocrypha, but occurs in Luke 1:28 and Ephesians 1:6.

An act done with any expectation of a return from the object on which it is wrought, or one which is meted out as a matter of justice, recompense, or reward, is not an act of grace. this is specially noted in Romans 11:6; compare also the words of our Lord, 'If ye love them that love you, what grace (A. V. reward, R. V. thank) have you?' (Luke 6:32-34). So St. Peter says, 'This is grace (A. V. thankworthy, R. V. acceptable), if a man through consciousness of God endure pains, suffering unjustly' (1 Peter 2:19).

In the great proportion of passages in which the word grace is found in the N.T., it signifies the unmerited operation of God in the heart of man, effected through the agency of the Holy Spirit. We have gradually come to speak of grace as an inherent quality in man, just as we talk of gifts; where as it is in reality the communication of Divine goodness by the inworking of the Spirit, and through the medium of Him who is 'full of grace and truth.'

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Bibliography Information
Girdlestone, Robert Baker. Entry for 'Grace'. Synonyms of the Old Testament.

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Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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