"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!


Anonymous said...

I think that there is a mistake at the end of the 3rd paragraph, it should be 1Ti 1:2 or 2Ti 1:2 but not Tit 1:4 (NIV)

Lim Liat said...

Sorry, there is no mistake. I was taking from KJV Tit 1:4 To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.

mrswhalen said...

Thanks for the wisdom and knowledge of God...the truth shall surely make us free!!

Mrs. N. Beal said...

Thank you for the spiritual insight on Grace. I was truly freed from the deception of the word Grace & the phrase unmerited favor. It has been misinterpreted far too long. I Thank God for you.

Anonymous said...

The only Greek word that should have been translated into the English word Grace is Charis. The first time we see the word Charis in the NT is in Lk 2:40. The Father's "unmerited favor" was never upon His Perfect, Holy and Righteous Son! The Father's favor was alway merited! So, yes, all who think Grace is unmerited favor are false Christians because all true Christians, who have our anointing from the Holy One that teaches us, will know the Truth that sets us free, not stumble on the letter that kills, Jn 8; 2Co 3; 1Jn 2. In Eph 2, Scripture that false Christians love to quote, you will never find the Greek word Charis because it isn't there. Instead, we have the Greek words Chariti and Charitos, words that should never have been translated into Grace. So, what are the multitudes going to do who have falsely interpreted this Scripture along with many others? And, in plain sight, we have God's definition of Grace in 2Co 12:9, why haven't they seen it? Here is why:

Multitudes, who call themselves Christians, have never obeyed the real Lord Jesus Christ's command in Mt 6:33a and, therefore, multitudes of so-called Christians have never gone through the narrow Gate to travel on the narrow Road to eternal Life in God's Glory. Multitudes of so-called Christians think they worship the real Lord Jesus Christ but they will hear Him say, to their horror when it is too late, that He never knew them, Mt 7:21-23. The false Christians, heretics, anti-Christs will most certainly hear these Words from the real Lord Jesus Christ. Who are the false Christians, heretics, anti-Christs? The following reveals who they are.

Well, due to space limitations, i cannot add what i wanted to. So, just request it from me at canawedding at aol dot com, anne robare.

Anonymous said...

Until you experience the POWER OF GOD you will never know that it is HIS GRACE

Anonymous said...

This is awesome! John Bevere also had an entire series on this if you want to learn more on how to apply this in your daily life!

Anonymous said...

It is not to say that we are false christian in believeing the definition of unmerited favour. Some interpretation can be given wrong or said wrong, but until God has someone to reveil it the conrrect way, some may not know. That why we must continue to study God's word and let the spirit give us his true meaning.

richey said...

Gods grace is unmerited favor! if a person believes and loves the lord then he should know that, it is totally unmerited. We all fall short and if a person sees unmerited favor as a licsense to sin then he misses the mark. God bless

Kit said...

My father has always defined grace as "God's power in me to overcome." So nice to find that others have also reached that same wisdom.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry but I don't accept your definition it is distorted. Grace is defined in Christianity as God's Riches At Christ Expense. The only thing we are entitled to is eternal hell and damnation as a result of our sins. Christ paid that price with Grace on the cross to save a believer from that fate. So yes unmerited favor is defined as being given something anyway that you were undeserving of in the first place. The two terms are totally in line with God's word. His Grace is sufficient for everyone.

Restful increase said...

There is no doubt that Grace is power. The nature of Grace always unmerited which means that it is something that happens that is not caused by human effort. Salvation is by Grace. Overcoming sin is by Grace. Living a victorious life is by Grace. Anointing is by Grace. Healing is by Grace. This is a gift of God. Jesus is Grace.

Alex Matthews, Esq. said...

Thanks for a better understanding of GRACE.. Alex Matthews, Esq.

Anonymous said...

Grace has meant "Divine influence upon the heart" for me; basically what you and others have said. thank you for sharing!

Doug Webber said...

Excellent article. I just wrote a blog on the same subject: The False Theological Definition of the word "Grace" http://dream-prophecy.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-false-theological-definition-of.html

It originates from a false theology: see The Fundamental Error of the Protestant Faith http://dream-prophecy.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-fundamental-error-of-protestant.html

Anonymous said...


MaBear said...

Grace grace and more grace is what i pray when i want to act out my carnal desires....it saves me everytime and lines my mind back to God centered desires n wants , when it goes astray. Thanks for addressing a very important element in ones journey with God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit!

Anonymous said...

This is a case of over-analyzing things that are supposed to be simple: If you can earn grace, then it simply means you can 'work' your way to heaven.

Stephanie Lynn said...

Thank you

Anonymous said...

Thank you!

Unknown said...

I was asking myself what really is God's Grace?Now I got better understanding of Grace! Thanks!! but I also believe in the unmerited but yeah not to be used as license to sin!

Roscoe said...

From Roscoe

What part of unmerited favor do you not understand? God incourages us to walk in your kind of love out of our appreciation for your grace. We don't need a license to sin. We we already sin without a licence.


Tim A said...

Very good discussion, God bless us all in Jesus name amen.
Permit me to say that
this "confusion"... which by implication has transformed into misapplication was simply a wrong use of language. (in my opinion )
The phrase "unmerited favor" is semantically wrong English...
Favor is unmerited, by meaning that is "what is not deserved"
So why say then "unmerited unmerited"? That is what the phrase...
"unmerited favor will mean or attempted to do.And that has a serious negation effect. Its like saying a common mud used phrase like...
"short kneeker" wrong. A short is short and A kneeker is A kneeker! ( pardon my spelling of kneeker)
or another common phrase like "still yet".... wrong. still is still and yet is yet. Why use them together to modify themselves ? When we use repetitive words to modify another similar word, the effect is NEGATION.
That is, the meaning of that word is lost or reduced to zero (0)!.
So God Grace is a FAVOR! ( unmerited, undeserved act from God to man)
It's free but it cost something... it isint costless as the phrase
"unmerited favor" would mean. Is like saying "gift of giff"
"unmerited unmerited"
"costless costless" this is not merely repetitive it Negates! The true meaning and it renders null or void.
The result of this is that one will see Grace as act to which you have no responsibility!...
But Grace is an act of God to which we have no responsibility as to how it came about but we do have a responsibility to apply it to our lives
Otherwise we will be guilty of what the bible said... "receive the grace of God in vain"
So Grace is God's favor
or unmerited act(or power) of God on our behalf.
It strengthens us to overcome the power of sin not endorses it.

Anonymous said...

The Holy Spirit have me this-Grace- GOD'S Covering Of Unmerited Favor that we don't deserve.Grace isn't a license to sin ,it comes from GOD ,we fall short we confess,we repent ,We show others grace in our daily walk,someone may treat us like the scum of the earth ,we don't treat them as they deserve but we pray and show GOD'S love we can do that Grace stepped in .

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

I totally agree I won't call the Christians who think that grace is unmerited favor false Christians. I think that they are just unlearned ignorant to the truth. But as they continue to study and received Truth and lay down tradition they will grow they just didn't know. My people perish for lack of knowledge is what the scriptures say so we seek the knowledge and wisdom of God with the open hard of a teachable spirit. And as we grow we know more about who God really is and what his word really says. And in these last days the world would be full of the wisdom and knowledge of God take hold of it my fellow Christians be not deceived god is not mocked. I pray that we be not stubborn as God reveals his true received truth and have no fear to share the truth as many of you have. Thank you so much for being willing to share the truth we must do this openly. And as the Bible says some of us will be kicked out of many churches because of the truth being spoken through us that's when you will know for sure that you are doing what we have been called to do. Jesus was not favored among many because they did not want to hear the truth or see the truth. Thanks for listening

Anonymous said...

I think your understanding is closest to what i believe than i have ever seen. It amazes me how many preachers teach the phrase "unmerited favor" as the definition of grace. For as many preachers who study Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, I've yet to hear anyone preach on the Greek definition of "grace." The Spirit opened my eyes years ago to this. I kept asking people, what is grace? It was always the same phrase as above. When i began to learn how to study, i simply looked up the word in Strong's: The divine influence upon the heart and the reflection in the life; including gratitude. What is the Divine influence upon the heart? the Holy Spirit, our power!

Unknown said...

We see where Paul was writing to Titus giving definition on what grace mean to deny ungodliness.
Where did Paul get this from?
Go to genesis 6:7-8 we see during those days the type of person that found grace in the eyesight of God

Anonymous said...

Grace is getting something good that you DON'T deserve.... mercy is NOT getting a punishment that you DO deserve..

Unknown said...

Grace means merited favour. That is all. To say God's grace is not merited is to say that God is lawless, unfair and unjust.

Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Gen 6;8). He did not find God's power, he found merited favour.

Most people want to say grace is an unmerited favour because they want to seem humble. They do that because they are proud. If you take the Bible and exclude your desires to seem humble you can accept that God's grace is a merited favour. Humility qualifies a person for God's grace (James 4;6, 1Peter 5;5), thus, grace is a merited favour.

I have doctrine videos on YouTube. The channel is called WE OBEY JESUS.

Brmicke said...

God gives grace to the humble, so humble yourselves. If you have to do something to recieve something it is not unmerited.

Titus 2:11¶For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
12Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

Gee said...

Found your blog while I was searching the web for someone who also does not agree to the mainstream meaning of grace as unmerited undeserved favour or gift.

Unknown said...

It is unmerited favor of God toward mankind..Eph. 2:7-10..unmerited favor because we are unworthy but bcoz of God's grace we are saved through our faith..now 2 tim 1:9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life(so we ere not licence to sin)not bcoz of anything we have done but bcoz of His own purpose and grace.This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.

Pastor Mike said...

χάρις cháris, khar'-ece; from G5463; graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude):—acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace(- ious), joy, liberality, pleasure, thank(-s, -worthy).

Anonymous said...

As a new believer, I was perplexed by evangelists’ use of the word “Repent”. As it is typically used only in a religious context, just what is being demanded by those that preach the word may just seem unclear to the lost, as it was unclear to me. The plea I’ve heard most from evangelists is basically “You’re a sinner so stop sinning, receive Christ Jesus, then God will forgive you ?”
It seems me that there is often a glaring lack of instruction in the evangelistic plea. Often their message is that sinners cannot change their condition, but then pleas for them to change their condition. A correct evangelistic call will emphasize man’s lost condition, need for a savior, and need to repent. But, when ‘the empowerment to repent’ is not part of the evangelist’s message, then the message is an incomplete and confusing one. Both forgiveness and the grace that changes man’s condition is provided when you make Jesus Lord. Without preaching of both God’s forgiveness and Influence, sinners will think you are asking that they muster up enough ability in ones self to clean up their act, to stop their sinful deeds, so that afterwards they can receive forgiveness in Christ.

Unknown said...

Grace can't be defined as undeserving, otherwise you would have to think Jesus the man didn't deserve it.
Surely Jesus never sinned. He did have to have the power of the holy spirit (Grace) to carry out His ministry. So, Grace can only be defined as power. Jesus is our faith, Grace is our power to walk in the light.

Disciple said...

I found this to be quite helpful. It is very difficult to reconcile the law and grace. Thank you for helping me.

Unknown said...

Salvation is by God’s Mecy, which is the unmerited Favour, it’s because of tour distorted understanding f grace that’s why you say salvation is by grace

DruJohnson said...

I don’t mean to sound too simplistic but there are several biblical usages of Charis… No less than four.
I would suggest a simple explanation of the one you’re using when you use it. One would know which charis meaning is being used according to the context of the person speaking.
Charis = 1. Favor 2. Power 3. Thanks 4. That which affords joy, pleasure, delight.

I take notice to how many preachers take an “I’m right and you’re wrong” approach. Which I totally understand that there must be passion and conviction behind your tone but why not try an approach as Jesus did, many times…. He would merely pose a question. Which would invite a person to ponder and not feel violated with what often sounds like rebuke. Ijs …He that winneth souls is wise.