Grace 101


About the Study

It would be an understatement to say that the word grace is used frequently in Christian families and churches. After all, it is God’s grace that sits at the center of our relationship with Him. We use this word often in our hymns and songs in church, and we hear this word used in some of the clearest Scripture passages concerning our salvation. You may have heard that our salvation from God is “all of grace,” or that we are saved by “grace alone” – this was a battle cry of the Reformation based largely on Ephesians 2:8. The promise of the gospel of Christ to humanity, encompassing all of redemptive history from Gen. 3:15 onwards, is called the Covenant of Grace. We sing about “grace, grace, God’s grace” in the hymn written by Julia Johnston; or, even older, the memorable and enduring song “Amazing Grace” by John Newton. To “say grace” before a meal has even become a shorthand for blessing the food in prayer.

This word is used so often without a definition because we assume that we all know what we’re talking about. Sometimes a short, vague definition is attached, but that simply doesn’t do justice to the centrality and vitality of this little word. In a twist of irony, like so many other important words or ideas that become commonplace in a culture, we actually don’t have a precise grasp on what grace is anymore. Is it a spiritual substance that God pours out, like invisible pixie dust? You may have heard someone say, “it was by God’s grace that X happened.” In other words, some situation resolved or worked out in the end. But does that mean grace is just when good things happen? Is grace simply a catch-all term for any and every blessing from God? Or is grace only about going to heaven when you die?

The first step in this study will be to define grace. Much has been written and said concerning what the biblical writers mean by the term grace. As will be seen in the footnotes, we’ll attempt to draw on various resources God has given to His church. But this series is not exhaustive in its scope, nor definitive in its conclusions. The modest aims of this series are to explore the Scriptures, offer basic interpretations, and provide some level of nuance so that you are better equipped to grapple with the tougher questions. If salvation is by grace, then why should we pursue good works? How do works and grace fit together? Is there grace for everyone? After defining grace from Scripture, we’ll need to apply this understanding to two primary distortions of biblical grace that have plagued Christians throughout church history. Some key theological terms will be underlined, but the definitions given will be brief. I hope you are encouraged and built up by God through this series.
I hope you enjoy and grow in the Lord from your time in this study!

John Revell, Author