Good God! Is God's Grace Unmerited Favor?
Updated: Jul 5
God's grace is one. There is one sky. However, just as the sky is differentiated in various ways, so much more so can theologians differentiate the free gift of God's abundant grace. God's grace can easily be differentiated into common and special grace. Common grace refers to God’s general favor, by which he restrains sin and its consequences, maintains human life and culture, and bestows gifts and blessings to all indiscriminately. Special grace refers to the special favor of God, by which he redeems and renews, saving sinners and restoring creation by the work of Christ through the power of the Spirit. Common grace restrains and compels, but special grace redeems and renews. Common grace is given to all; special grace is limited to the elect.
All of Paul’s letters begin and end with a reference to grace(Gk charis), God’s unsought and undeserved favor, his free and unmerited saving action. Salvation and all its associated blessings were brought by Christ (2Co 8:9; 12:9). Although in Paul’s benedictions Christ is the sole source of charis,in his salutations (as in Phm 3) God the Father and Christ are generally mentioned as the joint and unified source of charis.1
The following further delineates grace into the multiple ways and purposes of God's benevolent grace.
Grace, Descriptive of:
Grace by God's Favor
When God saw the great wickedness of the human race, when the sons of God (from the godly line of Seth) were intermarrying into the curse laden-line of Cain, the daughters of man, He regretted making human beings and decided to wipe them from the face of the earth with a great flood, an act of re-creation. But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord and the Lord saved Noah, as He saves us, as a free, unconditional gift. Noah is the righteous remnant in his day, but his integrity could not earn God's acceptance for eternal salvation. In Romans chapter 3 we learn that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin and that there is no one righteous, not even one.
Grace by God's Forgiving Mercy
In Romans 11 when Israel rejected the gospel, Paul rhetorically asks whether God has rejected His people. Paul himself was not rejected and just as a believing remnant could be found in Israel in Elijah's day, so there continues to be a remnant formed by God's grace. Remember in 1 Kings 2, while Jezebel was killing off all the Lord prophets, Elijah was the only one left and he feared he was next to be killed. God answered the He had reserved a remnant of seven thousand, chosen by grace, not by works because then it could no longer be called grace.
Grace by the Gospel
John the Apostle uses "grace for grace" in his writings in John 1:16, and twice in Revelations as "grace and peace" and in the last verse, "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen" (Rev 1:4 and 22:21). It emphasizes that salvation is a gift from God. There is a contrast and comparison: the law was given to Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). The law imparted to Moses was a gift of God's grace that was succeeded by the fuller grace revealed in Jesus. Grace and truth truly existed in Moses' day, but they were fully revealed in the coming of Christ.