What is the true meaning of grace? How do you define it in the Bible using the Greek and Hebrew translations? Our series Defined is about discovering the true meaning of words we use everyday as Christians that define our faith. We will look into the true meaning. Then, how it applies to our lives, and how God’s grace is different from our own. So let’s get started in our journey to define this common word, Biblically.
Define Grace in the Bible: English
The English language has a list of definitions, according to Webster’s dictionary, to define the word grace. These include unmerited assistance, approval, adornment, favor, mercy, privilege, beauty, charm, sense of propriety. It can even be a short prayer before a meal. If you have heard this word growing up in church you probably associate many of these definitions.
Most Christians know this word today as the unmerited favor of God. This is a great starting point on how to see it; however, it does not stop there. Even in English, grace has a massive spectrum of meanings and often has to be read in context to truly understand its intent. But first, let’s look at the original Biblical translations from the New and Old Testament to see the Christian significance of this word and what it meant in a society we can only read about today.
Define Grace in the Bible: Greek and Hebrew
To better understand and define, let’s look deeper into the Biblical context.
The Greek word for grace is “charis” and was used in the New Testament to portray someone’s kindness or favor toward another; almost always with it benefiting the other person. According to Strong’s Concordance, it can also be the divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life. This includes gratitude, favor, gift, joy, liberality, pleasure, and thanks. The Hebrew word for grace is chen (pronounced khane) and, very similar to the Greek “charis,” “chen” means kindness, favor, beauty, precious.
In context, Greeks would associate God’s grace with favor that brought them joy, freedom, and happiness. Looking at the parent roots of chen, Hebrews would have seen it as a beautiful and precious refuge they could always rely on. The beauty of these languages is we can break down their root words and see how the word grace was created, deepening our understanding of how cultures living close to God experienced and defined Him.
So, now that we have defined the word, what can we take away from these meanings and apply them to God’s grace in the Old and New Testaments for our lives?
John 1:14 "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace (charis) and truth." Psalms 45:2 "You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace (chen), since God has blessed you forever."
As a follower of Jesus, you have the favor of God on your life. This does not mean you will not suffer or struggle; but it does guarantee that God grants you His divine, unmerited favor and kindness. We cannot earn grace because it is who God is, it is His character. It would be like asking how to make a happy person, happy, or how to earn love from a loving parent. It is not a result of our upright and godly lives, it is a result of God’s love.
God shows grace to us because we are His. The beauty and preciousness of God’s favor is tied into the very meaning of grace to the Hebrew people. Because it is so beautiful and precious, we should accept it humbly; graciously. As we grow closer to our Father, His character begins to influence our lives and we start showing grace toward others as defined by the Greeks. What does that look like? Being understanding, considerate, kind, patient, loving; living self controlled and upright. God is limitless, so we must model ourselves after Him and give others the benefit of the doubt, see the human being beyond the sin and work in their lives so they may also experience God’s favor.
The real take away in defining grace is that it is not earned. You cannot earn God’s grace any more than those around you can earn yours. It is given, freely, to everyone. We then model ourselves after Christ and show it to others as it becomes a part of our own character. God knows we struggle with ungodliness and worldly passions. We will fail and we will succeed in displaying grace to others, but that is because it does not come naturally to us as it does to God.
No matter what, we can rest assured that we have God’s grace on our lives. His precious and beautiful favor surrounds us, protecting our fragile souls from the evil that lurks around every corner.
Next time you go through a hardship and feel like God is not there for you, instead of crying out His name to blame, praise Him for the battles He has already won for you. A lifetime of suffering on Earth is nothing compared to the enemy’s plans for your life. God’s grace is your precious shelter that keeps the enemy at bay. Although we cannot see it, God is protecting us from dangers that we cannot fathom. So, have faith and take comfort that God covers all.