What is Grace? Bible Meaning and Importance

Grace is the opposite of karma, which is all about getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.
Contributing Writer
Updated Jan 26, 2024
What is Grace? Bible Meaning and Importance

“The very center and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God.”  J. Gresham Machen

“Grace” is one of the most important concepts in the Bible, Christianity, and the world. It is most clearly expressed in the promises of God revealed in Scripture and embodied in Jesus Christ.

Grace is the love of God shown to the unlovely, the peace of God given to the restless, the unmerited favor of God.

Table of Contents

Definition of Grace

In Christian terms, grace can be defined as “God’s favor toward the unworthy” or “God’s benevolence on the undeserving.” In His grace, God is willing to forgive us and bless us, even though we fall short of living righteously. 

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). 

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:1-2)

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works." (Titus 2:11-14)

Modern, secular definitions of grace relate to a person's "elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action; or a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment."

Merriam-Webster's list of definitions for grace includes:

  1. "Unmerited divine assistance granted to humans for their regeneration or sanctification."
  2. "Approval, or Favor"
  3. "A charming or attractive trait or characteristic"
  4. "—used as a title of address or reference for a duke, a duchess, or an archbishop."
  5. "A short prayer at a meal asking a blessing or giving thanks."
  6. "A musical trill, turn, or appoggiatura"

"What is Grace?" Christian Quotes

“Grace is free sovereign favor to the ill-deserving.”(B.B. Warfield)

“Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.”(John Stott)

“[Grace] is God reaching downward to people who are in rebellion against Him.”(Jerry Bridges)

“Grace is unconditional love toward a person who does not deserve it.” (Paul Zahl)

"Grace is God's best idea. His decision to ravage a people by love, to rescue passionately, and to restore justly - what rivals it? Of all his wondrous works, grace, in my estimation, is the magnum opus." (Max Lucado)

"The five means of grace are prayer, searching the Scriptures, the Lord's Supper, fasting, and Christian [fellowship]." (Elaine A. Heath)

The Importance of Grace

Grace is most needed and best understood in the midst of sin, suffering, and brokenness. We live in a world of earning, deserving, and merit, which result in judgment. That is why everyone wants and needs grace. Judgment kills. Only grace makes us alive.

A shorthand for what grace is - “mercy, not merit.” Grace is the opposite of karma, which is about getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve and not getting what you do deserve. Christianity teaches that what we deserve is death as the price of sin, which separates us from God, Who is life.

While everyone desperately needs it, grace is not about us. Grace is a word about God: his un-coerced initiative and pervasive, extravagant demonstrations of care and favor. Michael Horton writes, “In grace, God gives nothing less than Himself. Grace, then, is not a third thing or substance mediating between God and sinners, but is Jesus Christ in redeeming action.”

Christians live every day by the grace of God. We receive forgiveness according to the riches of God’s grace, and grace drives our sanctification. Paul tells us, “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives” (Titus 2:11). Spiritual growth doesn’t happen overnight; we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 2:18). Grace transforms our desires, motivations, and behavior.

In fact, God’s grace grounds and empowers everything in the Christian life.

The Biblical Meaning of Grace

Grace is the basis for:

  • Our Christian identity: “By the grace of God I am what I am.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)
  • Our standing before God: “this grace in which we stand.” (Romans 5:2)
  • Our behavior: “We behaved in the world … by the grace of God.” (2 Corinthians 2:12)
  • Our living: those who receive “the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ,”(Romans 5:17) by the “grace of life.” (1 Peter 1:7)
  • Our holiness: God“called us to a holy calling … because of his own purpose and grace.” (2 Timothy 2:9)
  • Our strength for living: “Be strengthened by the grace that is in Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:1), for “it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace.” (Hebrews 13:9)
  • Our way of speaking: “Let your speech always be gracious.” (Colossians 4:6)
  • Our serving: “serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.” (1 Peter 1:10)
  • Our sufficiency: “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 2:9). “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 2:8)
  • Our response to difficulty and suffering: We get “grace to help in time of need,” (Hebrews 4:16) and when “you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace...will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 1:10)
  • Our participation in God’s mission: As recipients of grace, we are privileged to serve as agents of grace. Believers receive grace (Acts 11:23), are encouraged to continue in grace (Acts 13:43), and are called to testify to the grace of God (Acts 20:24). Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). God’s mission is to the entire world.
  • Our future: God and His grace, is everlasting. “Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13)
  • Our hope beyond death: “grace [reigns] through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:21)

Read more Bible verses about grace for an extensive list of scripture quotes.

Grace in the Bible

In the Bible, the concept of grace is a fundamental and significant theological concept that is central to Christian belief. Grace is often defined as the unmerited favor, kindness, and mercy of God. It is God's freely given, undeserved love and assistance to humanity, particularly in the context of salvation and forgiveness of sins.

  1. Salvation: Grace is often associated with God's act of providing salvation to humanity. In Christian theology, it is believed that salvation is not earned by human effort but is a gift from God through His grace. This is based on passages like Ephesians 2:8-9, which states, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."

  2. Forgiveness: Grace is also closely tied to the forgiveness of sins. In the Bible, grace is seen as God's willingness to forgive and cleanse individuals of their sins when they repent and turn to Him. An example can be found in 1 John 1:9, which says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

  3. Empowerment: Grace is not just about forgiveness; it also provides the strength and empowerment to live a righteous and Godly life. This concept is sometimes referred to as "sufficient grace" and is exemplified in 2 Corinthians 12:9, where God tells the apostle Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

  4. God's Love and Compassion: Grace demonstrates God's love, mercy, and compassion toward humanity. It shows His willingness to reach out to people despite their imperfections and failures.

  5. Means of Access: Grace is the means by which believers have access to God and are able to have a personal relationship with Him. Hebrews 4:16 encourages believers to "draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

Summary of God's Grace

The gospel is all about God’s grace through Jesus Christ. That’s why Paul calls it “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24) and “the word of his grace” (Acts 14:3).

The gospel of the grace of God is the message everyone needs. The word of grace is proclaimed from every page of the Bible and ultimately revealed in Jesus Christ. The last verse of the Bible summarizes the message from Genesis to Revelation: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all” (Revelation 22:21). Through Jesus, “we have all received grace upon grace” (John 1:16)—the gratuitous and undomesticated grace of God.

Here are 15 Bible Verses Every Christian Should Know By Heart for you to download or share with loved ones!

Short Prayer for Grace

O Lord Jesus, grant us your grace and give us time for repentance.

We want to keep your commandments and do your bidding, choose the better part, and no longer follow evil.

Give us your strength to do this, O loving Savior, for your name’s sake. Amen.

Source: Dan Jeremy, 12th Century

Justin Holcomb is an Episcopal priest and teaches theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. Justin wrote On the Grace of God and co-authored with his wife Lindsey Rid of My Disgrace and Save Me from Violence. He is also the editor of Christian Theologies of Scripture. You can find him on FacebookTwitter, and at JustinHolcomb.com.

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Peter Miranda


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