by Mike Ratliff
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John *testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. John 1:14-17 (NASB)
Grace is our theology. In a sense the word grace sums up all biblical theology. Of all the theological words we could discuss–redemption, reconciliation, justification, sanctification, election, and many more–none cuts to the heart of our theology like grace.
However, as many of you know, few words are more misunderstood, misused, or misapplied than grace. For instance, more and more today we hear so-called Christian teachers say things like, “Yes, salvation is by grace but good works supplement it,” or, “Yes, grace is necessary, but so are works.” No statement on earth could be more contradictory. Such “teachers” know absolutely nothing about grace.
In the passage I placed at the top of this post, in v14 the word grace translates the Greek noun χάριτος (charitos) the genitive, singular, feminine case of χάρις (charis), grace, favor, gift, gratitude. In Classical Greek the word charis meant “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight,” and from there several meanings developed: grace, favor, thankfulness, gratitude, delight, kindness, etc. Originally, then, the word didn’t carry the idea of something “unmerited” because Greek philosophy (which is at the root of our western culture) believed in human merit and self-sufficiency. Even then, however, the Greeks thought they needed “a little help,” so they prayed to their gods for favors and gifts.
It was, therefore, in the New Testament that charis was transformed. While some of the meanings from the Classical Greek are found, the New Testament usage is unique because New Testament grace is coupled with the person and work of Jesus Christ. If you remove Christ, and therefore grace, all you have left is another religion. You know, mainline Christianity. You have ten practical commandments, many ethical principles for living, but all you have is mere religion.
John 1:17 declares, “grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” Does that say grace and and truth came by religion or works? No, for the ultimate manifestation of God’s grace is Jesus Christ. Throughout the New Testament, in fact, grace is coupled with Christ, for He is the ultimate manifestation of the grace of God. Grace can, therefore be defined:
Grace is the unmerited favor of God toward man manifested primarily through the person and work of Jesus Christ, apart from any merit or works of man.
If anyone defines grace differently than that, let them be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9). Anyone who does not preach that doctrine of grace is a false teacher.
Soli Deo Gloria!