“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4-5
When we refer to grace as “unmerited favor”, we are partially correct. The word translated into English as “grace” is also often translated “favor” – the Greek word is charis.
When we say the grace of God is not merited, we usually mean we are not the ones who have merited the favor. And this is the sense in which “unmerited” is true. When speaking of the free gift of being accepted by God into His family, we do not earn it. We do not deserve credit for it. It is gifted to us by a merciful God, who made us alive in Christ.
But Jesus paid dearly for our gift. He bought the gift with his life. Grace leans wholly on the merit of Jesus. His acceptance of us is the gift of his grace, given freely, earned by the only Worthy One.
The Bible tells us that when Jesus was growing up as a boy he “increased in stature, in favor (charis, grace) with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Jesus was being recognized, and approved, for his character. And the approval came from the people around him as well as from God.
Our new birth is the great gift of grace. But the rewards that come with our lives are connected to our choices. And God rewards us with His favor only when we make choices that are beneficial. (More on this tomorrow).
Grace is only partially about what we are getting. Remember the cost of grace. The merit of it. And let it be a cause of worship and obedience. For His acceptance of us is about His merit. But his approval of us is about ours.