God embodies and personifies love and grace – He is described as loving, forgiving, gracious, compassionate, merciful, as well as slow to anger and punishment (Neh 9:17, 31; Ps 86:15; 103:8; 111:4; 116:5; 145:8; Isa 30 18; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2)
God’s general grace is universally available in the creation in the form of life sustenance, provision, renewal, and special blessings for all creatures and people of all nations (Neh 9:6; Job 5:10; 24:5; 25:3; 36:31; 38:41; 65:9; Ps 147:9; Isa 55:10).
In addition to the above mentioned general grace of God’s provision and help (2 Cor 9:8; 12:9), the New Testament refers to a special grace brought by Jesus Christ (John 1:14-17) and given to those that the Father has drawn to become Jesus’ disciples (John 6:44). They have been called and chosen by grace – without any merit of their own. It is a free and undeserved gift (Rom 11:5-6) and involves unmerited pardon and a way to salvation through transformation by divine love, imparted through the Holy Spirit, which is free for the asking (Tit 3:4-7).
In the context of special grace, the Bible (Acts 11:23; 13:43; 15:11; 18:27; 20:24, 32; Rom 3:24; 5:2, 21; Eph 1:7; 2:5-8; 3:2-8; 4:7; 2 Tim 1:9; 1 Pet 4:10; 5:10) shows that grace includes:
The message of the gospel
God’s intervention in the lives of those who are being called to discipleship
Response to God’s call
God’s way of life
Means of justification, sanctification, salvation, and eternal life
The present saved state of believers
Personal spiritual gifts and responsibilities
The following scriptures show more specifically that saving grace is special, and occurs in addition to the general grace available to all humanity and in which “we live and move and have our being”(Acts 17:26-28).
Those so graced have the opportunity to be the firstfruits of salvation (Eph 1:3-14; Jas 1:18; Rev 14:4). They have been enlivened from being spiritually dead in sins and their eyes have been opened to God’s special revelation (Eph 2:4-10; Mt 13:11-17; 16:16-17, 20; 1 Cor 1:21-24). They have been drawn by the Father, shown their sinful and alienated state, and called to repentance, reconciliation, and ultimately oneness with God through the divine love of the Father imparted by the Holy Spirit (Jn 6:44, Acts 2:38-41; Rom 5:8-11; 2 Cor 5:18-20; Eph 2:12-20; Col 1:19-22).
Through the Holy Spirit (or Christ’s divine nature) in them, they have entered into the grace and become God’s children, born of the Spirit (Jn 1:9-13; 3:5-16; 1 Pet 1:1-5, 23). All this is entirely God’s doing and grace – without any human volition or merit except for faith and acceptance of the divine invitation (Rom 3:21-28; Eph 2:8-9; 2 Tim 1:8-10; Tit 3:5). The Holy Spirit is a guarantee of divine adoption as children of God and of future glory and immortality (Rom 8:9-17, 22-23; 1 Cor 15:50-57; Mt 24:30-31).
According to The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, in an article entitled “Grace” by Robert Haight (p. 452-464), grace is:
A gift of God
Love and favour
God’s initiative of salvation
God’s merciful response to sin and death
God’s personal self-communication to humans
God’s indwelling – that is, a person’s union with God
Fully gratuitous – free, unowed, unearned, and undeserved
© Eva Peck, 2009 (updated 2015)