What Grace Means

Justin Johnson

One thing you should realize about different religions and churches is that everyone uses the same words, but they define them differently.

Grace is one of those words that people describe very differently in various traditions.

What does grace really mean? Here is what we teach our children:

Grace is what someone else does to benefit you that you do not deserve.

Grace consists of three simple elements: 1) you did not do the work; 2) you benefit from it; 3) and you do not deserve it.

1. You did not do the work

It is not grace if you perform the work to provide it.

“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” – Romans 11:6

If you build your own house, you did not receive it by grace. If you throw your own party, it is not a gift.

If you pay for your lunch, even though you did not cook it, you traded money of equal value for it. It is not received by grace. This is a trade. Men boast in what they buy, because it was by the work of their hands that they earned enough money to purchase it.

This means religion and all its sacraments are not grace. In religion you must perform sacraments of grace. True grace requires you not perform or work to provide it.

2. You benefit from it

You may not have worked or deserved a punch in the face, but it most definitely does not benefit you. It is not grace. Wrath is not God’s grace.

You say, who would think such a thing? Many traditions redefine the doctrines of grace to refer to God’s unconditional election or reprobation. In these traditions the election or reprobation is unconditional (you did not work for it), but it doesn’t mean it benefits you.

You could be chosen to go to hell by no choice of your own (unconditional).

Not only is this a wrong idea of election, but it is a wrong idea about God’s grace. Grace is not about God’s election of who will and won’t be saved. Grace is a benefit! It is a blessing! It brings salvation!

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” – Titus 2:11

3. You do not deserve it

There are cases where people deserve someone else to work for their benefit.

Consider Paul’s instruction to “obey your parents” in Eph 6:1, Col 3:20, or for the younger to bear the burden of the widows in their family.

“But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.” – 1 Timothy 5:4

Why does Paul tell the younger to work for their benefit? The widows are not working for it, but they are benefiting from it. Is this a grace?

No this is not grace, this is a responsibility: a duty. Your parents are deserving of honor by virtue of the position they hold.

The Bible says to honor your father and mother, and that you should honor someone if it is their “due” (Rom 14:7).

Wise men brought Christ gifts, not because of grace, but because he deserved it. Consider guests of honor, rulers, dignitaries, or other great men of distinction. If a person merits the honor, then it is not a grace but an obligation.

Grace is given only to those who do not deserve it. Such is the case of sinners before a righteous God (Rom 3:10).


Grace is simple. Grace must have these three elements or it is no longer grace.

The greatest example of grace in human history is found in the preaching of the cross, which is the gospel of the grace of God.

By Christ’s death, shed blood, burial, and resurrection, he performed all that you could not. What’s more is that he did it all for your salvation, your eternal benefit.

This precious gift is offered freely without condition to every ungodly sinner in the world who doesn’t deserve it, if you believe in Him (Rom 3:23-26; Rom 4:5).

Salvation is by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-9). This means salvation today is to the benefit of all the undeserving men who do not do enough good works, which includes both you and I, if you believe.

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Published: January 7, 2017
Last Modified: September 5, 2019
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