"Grace is Unmerited Favor" - This Common Definition is Wrong

There are a few keywords in the Bible that are given wrong definitions even though the definitions are widely accepted. Such wrong definitions created much confusion and a weak church. Grace is commonly defined as "God's unmerited favor to man". We even go into greater length to differentiate grace from mercy. Grace is defined as the getting the blessings/favors that we do not deserve and Mercy as NOT getting the punishments that we deserved.

With such fine definitions, we deceived ourselves that we have a good and deep understanding of the terms of Grace and Mercy.

However, the definition of Grace as an unmerited favor is wrong. I used to define grace as made up of two parts - unmerited and power. But after hearing James Ryle (Truthworks.org) preaching in Grace Chapel (gracechapel.net) on 23 Jul 2006 "Living a Legacy Part 4", I have to drop the unmerited part and just keep the power part. The unmerited part comes from God's mercy and need not be repeated in grace. In Tit 1:4, the benediction from Paul is "Grace, Mercy, and Peace". (which matches well with 2Tim1:7 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control).

How to Judge the Correctness of a Definition?
1, Substitute the definition for the term in the sentence/verse where the term is found.
2. Do it for all occurrences of the term in all the verses.
Let's try it for Jam 4:6... God resists the proud but gives [grace] to the humble.
Unmerited favor does not make sense here. If it is an unmerited favor, then the proud should have it too. In fact, the proud is more unmerited to receive it.
This is exactly like what Paul says in Rom 6:1b Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  

Try another word "Peace" - Peace - Biblical View

Defining Grace as "unmerited favor" causes grace to be misunderstood as a license to sin!
Other verses cited by James:
  • Gal 5:4b ye are fallen from [grace]. How can one fall from unmerited favor? 
  • John 1:14b Jesus was full of [grace]. Is Jesus unmerited to have full of grace? Or is Jesus so bad that he needs to be full of grace?

The Right Definition
Ps John of Petra Church defines grace as: "Grace is not a license to sin but an empowerment of God to enable us to be what we should".

James Ryle defines it as, "Grace is the empowering Presence of God enabling you to be who He created you to be, and to do what He has called you to do."

In shortest possible form, Grace is "God's presence" or God's power", for victorious, abundant, Christ-like, God glorifying living. Wherever that is the presence of God, there is power. God's power comes from His presence in us.

If we take grace as God's power, then it fits well in the above 3 verses cited. James 4:6, proud people don't see they need God's power. The humble people know the truth of their weakness and ask God for power. In Gal 5:4, if we rely on our own ability (our flesh) to be righteous, we do not need God's power and has indeed fallen, or depart from God's power (Grace). In John 1:14, Jesus is full of God's power and presence.

The Weak/Carnal Paul to Victorious Paul
What is the difference between the weak Paul, the Christian, of Rom 7:14-24 and the victorious Paul of 2 Cor 12:9-10 and Phi 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. The answer is the Grace of God as defined as God's presence and power. 

Salvation for all is God's mercy of unmerited favor. Christian growth (becoming like Christ) is depending on us to be full of grace (God's presence and power) through crucifying our flesh (self-will, self-confidence, self-capability, self-pride) and follow after the Spirit. It is about abiding in Christ, living from the Vine of God's presence and power and then be fruitful.

The Verses Coming Alive
Heb 4:16 Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace(God's presence), that we may obtain mercy(unmerited favor), and find grace(God's power) to help in time of need.  

2Pe 3:18 But grow in grace(God's presence & power), and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Let's compare, which definition gives better emphasis
  • Rom 11:6 And if by grace[unmerited favor of God], then is it no more of works: otherwise grace[favor] is no more grace[favor]. But if it be of works, then is it no more [God’s favor]: otherwise work is no more work.
  • Rom 11:6 And if by grace[Power of God], then is it no more of [men’s] works: otherwise grace[God’s Power] is no more [of God]. But if it be of [men’s] works, then is it no more [God’s power]: otherwise work is no more work. 
  • Eph 2:8 For by grace[unmerited favor] are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
  • Eph 2:8 For by grace[God's power] are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
    • Grace is the God's power that comes from God and not of ourselves. The grace power is a gift, the unmerited, for us from God. Paul had already doubly emphasized that Grace was not from us (1st) and it was a gift (2nd) from God. There is no need to triple emphasis by saying grace is an unmerited favor. Grace is the favor, the Power of God. Please note that grace, as presented above, while it was made available for all, it is only given if we asked for it (James 4:6,8).
Incorrect popular definition of key Christian words gives rise to much confusion and a weak church. Defining grace as an unmerited favor is wrong and creates the confusion that grace is a license to sin. To live a victorious Christian life, we need to understand God's Word correctly and we must define grace as the power of God's presence and power in us to enable us to Christ-like lives.

See part 2 Grace - God's Loving Power for You to become Your Very Best

See also the impact of the right or wrong definitions:  

Update 21 March 2013
Recently, I found a definition of Grace from John Bevere that is very similar to my definition of grace as God's presence and power to enable us to live out Christ-likeness.
John Bevere’s definition for Grace: “God’s empowerment that gives us the ability to go beyond our natural ability.” John's message on grace can be found on YouTube as well.
Note: John Bevere's definition was also pointed out in one of the comment. Sorry that I missed that.

The Right Meaning of Grace used by the famous Actor Andy Griffith
"I firmly believe that in every situation, no matter how difficult, God extends grace greater than the hardship, and strength and peace of mind that can lead us to a place higher than where we were before."

Grace is God's power given to those who ask for it especially those called by God to accomplish His will.

Watch out for the Abuse of Grace and here is the explanation:

Why Grace is often Abused as a License to Sin? Salvation!


The Secret of Receiving the Spirit - Brokenness

Christians are well aware of the need to live a Spirit-filled life. We are taught to be filled with the Spirit. We prayed very hard to be filled and yet we did not see the full power of the Spirit in our life. Why? The answer is very simple - we did not know how to receive it.
The secret of receiving the Spirit is to come to end of oneself. If we do not comes to end of oneself, our carnal flesh is still in charge and our prayers are means to get things done our ways. Only when we fully give-up on ourselves do we then desire help from the Spirit. We are then ready to receive the grace (empowerment of the presence of God) to live the Spirit filled life. We must come to realize "I must be full of the Holy Spirit if I am to be a whole-hearted Christian."
The greatest turning point of Peter life is in "And Peter went out and wept bitterly.” - Luk_22:62.
He came to realize his inadequacy. A broken heart that give up all his self-confidence and self-will. When we came to realize that we can't, don't be disappointed and don't stop there. It is then we that can through Christ who strengthen me.
We must be prepared properly in order to receive. The way of preparation is coming to end of oneself and desiring a higher force, the Spirit. The path to being filled fully with the Holy Spirit is the path of brokenness. Do not be despair but rejoice when that happen in ourselves. For it is the beginning of life depending on the Holy Spirit to abundant life.


Does Pre-Believer Have a Spirit?

Many Christians were taught that pre-believers do not has a spirit ... Man's spirit dies when he sins and it results in physical death eventually. This is not so as we know that man is spirit, soul and body. When a man dies, his spirit remains and goes either to heaven if he has accepted Christ's salvation and goes to hell if he hasn't. If pre-believer does not has a spirit, then he just disappears after physical death. This is against Bible's teaching... Heb 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: . There is not need for judgement is he has gone.

Death, is better , or originally, defined as separation. Before Adam sinned, his spirit was connected to God. After he sinned, his spirit was disconnected from God and consequently lost the glory of God's presence and found himself naked.

In Mat 26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Here are the disciples who were not yet born again by the Holy Spirit. Their spirit is very much alive.

For man as making of spirit, soul and body see the Tripartite Man


Submitting to a Bad Boss!

It is easy to submit to a boss who is intelligent, caring and better than us. But how about submitting to a boss who is self-centered, abrasive, crude, and don't see things as you. Your ideas are not accepted and he just doesn't think much of you ? Is there a Bible verse to cover situation like this ?
In church, we also have similar situations. Many leaders left their church because they felt their opinions were not accepted. If we only serve when our views are accepted, and not to stay and work through, perhaps we all should start our own church.... no wonder there are so many independent churches? Reversing the situation, how about us accepting the other party view ? What does the Bible say ?
1) Is he really as bad as we think or is it just us ?
Often, the boss' expectation of us and our expectation and valuation of ourselves differ. It is common for people to blame their lack of performance on an over demanding boss or "he just dislikes me".
2) Is he trying to test us out ?
Our perceived "over-demanding" boss might be trying us out to see if we can handle greater responsibility. If we pass the test, the promotion could come. We should not jump into early conclusion about the boss.
Heb 13:17  Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
3) Even so...We are called to do our best irrespective....
Even if our boss is an overbearing, demanding, and unreasonable boss, the Bible does not allow that as an excuse for our lack of performance. Except the Boss ask us to do things against the Bible (not to believe in Jesus, do illegal things, ...) we have to still give of our best to the work assigned because we do things unto Christ and not to men. Our reward is not from our boss but from God even if the reward is not now (eternal perspective)  Eph 6:5-8.
We have a good testimony to keep. 1Pe 2:12-19.
Here is another "Submit No Matter What"...2 Pet 2:13-21
Here is the very obvious one..._to those who are unreasonable (18)  Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, _not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. _ (19)  _For this finds favor_,
4) How can we ? Submit to the Lordship of Jesus first.Jam 4:7  Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
5) Then what ....
Give of our best, pray for God's wisdom and grace to enable us to do the best. Pray for our Boss that he may come to see God's view in the matter, especially when he is a Christian.
6) Examples in the Bible.
a. Story of Joseph.
b. Story of Daniel.
c. The parable of the unjust judge?


The Wise Woman with Faith

Mat 15:22-28 The Story of the Canaanite woman.
Most people thought that Jesus was being rude to the woman. Some think that Jesus said those things to trigger faith in her.
I think that Jesus was just telling the truth. He was sent at that time to the lost of Israel and he could do nothing for the outsiders (called dogs by the Jews then ). The woman was smart and persistent enough to extend the promise of God so that she could benefit from it. Her faith and reasoning were so good that the demon has no ground to accuse God of being unfair.
Here we have a person who is outside the blessings of God, not suppose to have the rights, and yet gain her blessings. Many of us have so much promises from God and yet we fail to enjoy those blessings and rights that Jesus Christ has obtained for us.


The Tripartite Man

Knowing that man is made up of Spirit, Soul and Body helps us understand many things.

Spirit is Rebirth
Firstly, it is our spirit that is rebirth. In our spirit dwells God's Holy Spirit. We are 100% righteous, complete in Christ. Col 2:10; 2Pet 1:3, Eph 3:20. Within us, we have God's faith, grace, power, wisdom, etc... everything we need for life and godliness. Then what is missing? Why do some Christians still live a defeated life ? The answer lies in the following.

Mind to be Renewed with the Word.
Secondly, and however, our mind remains the same - before and after our salvation. Our defective thinking that causes us to have so much problems remain unchanged. Unless we change our thinking and thought patterns, we will remain in our failures even though we are saved. Our mind therefore needs to be renewed with the Word of God. Rom 12:2. We need to know the new identity and resources that we have in Christ. These are told in the Bible.

Body to be Under Controlled of Spirit through the Mind
Thirdly, our body remains the same. We may feel better because of the joy of salvation. But unless we get our mind renewed and then exert influence on our body, our body remains the same... weak or sick as before.
Until we know the New Life and commit to live accordingly we cannot experience the abundant life for which Jesus Christ died to give us.

No Need to Ask for More but to Live it Out in Faith.
We are to live out this new life in our spirit Phi 2:12-13 letting our soul be motivated from the inside and controlling the body to work out the glory of God. Christian growth is about knowing our identity in Christ and working out our soul and body to conform to the image of Christ. People in the world do not see our spirit or read our mind except through our body - what we say and how we act.


For salvation of man, see Salvation of Tripartite Man - The Details.