THE CIRCLE OF GRACE
Have you ever thought that it would be degrading to God to say that the word "grace" means "unmerited" favor? Please consider with me the expression "saying grace" on Thanksgiving Day.
Over the years I remember someone, at a get-to-gether such as a reunion, before eating, would say, "Let's bow our heads and say grace."
Perhaps your family always would call saying a prayer before a meal "saying grace." I wondered about the history of such a custom for calling "giving thanks" as "grace." So I looked it up. Or I should say, "I tried to." It seems that "saying grace" by Google search engine is understood as saying a prayer before or after a meal. Of course, I knew that. However,at least I learned that "saying grace" is practiced universally as giving thanks to any deity or to "mother earth." -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_(prayer).
I did run upon an article that gave the history of Bible "grace" (chen in Hebrew and charis in Greek). I enjoyed the article because it supported points that I had made in my book on "Grace". However, the writer departs from my conclusion that "grace" is just "favor" (just as I expected he would do). Then he "shocks" me. This is his shocking summary statement based on Ephesians 2:8: "This favourable attitude [grace] is a gift and cannot be earned by anything we do, except one thing... we do have to have faith!" (His emphasis). This last statement agrees with my premise. Now, let's see why saying the word grace means "unmerited" would be degrading to God.
Biblical grace (charis) is favor or "favourable attitude." We are interested of course in God's favor towards us. Noah found grace (favor, charis, Genesis 6:8) from God. God gave Moses grace (favor, charis) in the sight of Pharaoh (Acts 7:10). Jesus who had taken the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7) while a growing child had God's grace (favor, charis, Luke 2:40). We in turn have salvation by the grace (favor, charis) of God offered through the Faith (Ephesians 2:8-10). The original Greek has "the" Faith. It's not just any faith but the Faith "which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17) which is the Faith that has been delivered.
Now Jesus who had the favor of God gave us an example to follow. Before He fed the 5000 in John 6:11, "He took the loaves, and when He had given thanks (charis, grace), he distributed to the disciples"... and He did the same with the fishes. Not only do we have this as an example, but Jesus gives us a command through Paul, "For every creature of God [is] good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving (eu -charis, good-grace) : For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer" (1 Timothy 4:4,5). God wants us to give Him the glory through thanksgiving to Him. Whether we eat herbs or meat, we are expected to give God thanks ("good charis", Romans 14:6). We may "till" the soil, but God provides us the soil, the water, the harvest. Incidentally, before meals, Spanish-speakers say "gracias" just as we say “grace.”
Recent discoveries have indicated that the word grace (charis) was also used in the first century in trading by giving favors on account with an expectation of one returning a favor if and when needed. This is called "reciprocity of grace."
First, we can be gracious to God by being grateful and giving Him thanks. He wants that from us. Jesus shows us that and Paul commands it.
Second, we can be gracious to others. He wants us to do that. He created us (by grace) to do that. "By grace are you saved through the Faith... For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
In 2 Corinthians 8:7 the apostle calls the good work of helping others in need as "this grace (favor, charis)." Our good works are God's grace to others through us, His new creation. Now notice in 2 Corinthians 9:12, "only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings (eu-charis, good-thanks) to God".
God gives us grace by the gift of salvation through the Faith, His Word. We appropriate that grace as a saved new creation by giving "good-grace" ourselves to God and doing good works that receivers may give God the "good-grace" that He deserves. Notice that I am emphasizing that God deserves that grace. That's why I think it's degrading to say grace means "unmerited" favor when God merits our "grace".
It is my prayer that all will appreciate this week and in the following years that all "good and perfect gifts" come from the Father above and will grace Him with thanksgivings.
from "Grace: A Free Ride to Heaven?" by Gaylon West