A standard, but accurate, definition of "Grace" is "unmerited favour." Let's examine the use of the term in the Old and New Testaments
GRACE in the Old Testament
The word Grace is first used in Genesis 6:8
Genesis 6:8 But Noah found grace<02580> in the eyes of the LORD.
From Strong’s Concordance: Grace <02580> chen (from 02603 chanan - mercy, gracious, show favour, pity);
It is translated in the AV as follows: -grace 38 times, favour 26 times, gracious 2 times, pleasant 1 time, precious 1 time, wellfavoured + 02896 1 time.
It is used of Joseph and Potiphar:
Genesis 39:4 And Joseph found grace <02580> in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.
Grace is different from mercy and the difference may be defined as follows:
Mercy is the withholding of punishment earned or due.
Grace is the giving of something good which is unearned and undeserved.
In Noah’s case God gave him instruction, that he might escape the flood.
In Joseph’s case Potiphar made him overseer over all that he had.
Being gracious is an attribute of God.
Exodus 33:19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious <02603> to whom I will be gracious<02603>, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
Proverbs 3:34 Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace <02580> unto the lowly.
James quotes this proverb giving us the Greek equivalent <5485> ‘charis’ for the Hebrew ‘chen’
James 4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth graceunto the humble.
GRACE In the New Testament
From Strong’s Concordance: Grace 5485 charis (from 5463 chairo –rejoice);
It is translated in the AV as follows: -grace 130 times, favour 6 times, thanks 4 times, thank 4 times, thank + 2192 3 times, pleasure 2 times, misc 7 times;
The Greek word translated ‘grace’ is sometimes translated ‘favour’. The first three times the word appears should suffice.
Luke 1:30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour <5485> with God.
Luke 2:40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace<5485> of God was upon him.
Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour <5485> with God and man.
The New Testament Doctrine is that we are saved by Grace working through faith.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
From the reformation through Luther and Calvin, the doctrine has been wrested by some denominations to mean being ‘saved by Grace alone’ and extrapolated to exclude baptism and any kind of works. Grace is promulgated as a mystical presence within the believer which somehow enables him to do God’s will without conscious effort on his part. The doctrine of ‘once saved always saved’ comes from this.
This doctrine is contrary both to scripture and common sense.
The scripture says ‘by grace are ye saved through faith’ and James explains that ‘faith without works is dead’:
James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
And Paul says salvation has to be worked out in fear and trembling.
Philippians 2:12... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
Grace is extended to us because we cannot keep the Law given through Moses. Transgression of the Law is sin. The Law given through Moses serves to convict us of sin. The works that cannot save us are the works of the Law of Moses, because one failure, just once in the whole of our lives condemns us to death.
Grace is that favour of God extended to believers to cover and expunge sin forever from their record.
Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, gracedid much more abound: 21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
Grace will not save those that are without faith.
Grace, then, is the undeserved favour given to us by God in providing Jesus Christ to fulfil the Law of Moses and die for us. By this, if we believe Him and respond, He will save us from eternal death, freely forgiving our sins. At the appointed time, He will raise us from the dead to eternal life.
Does God’s grace require some response from us?
Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
This agrees with what Christ had commanded them.
Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;
After belief and baptism we are to walk in a newness of life, reducing the need to fall back on God’s grace to a minimum.
Romans 5:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
In summary, God’s grace is extended to those that:
Grace is available for forgiveness of sins to make up that wherein they fail.
1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Or as the writer to the Hebrews puts it:
Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
I hope you have found this helpful.