We might be helped by remembering the categories of God’s common grace and His saving grace. Common grace refers to those general blessings of God upon all people. Thus Jesus said, “[God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45). There may be gifts of God’s grace that apply to specific individuals but that grace is still not the same as saving grace. For example, Stephen, a mere man, was said to be “a man full of God’s grace and power” (Acts 6:8).
But the topic of grace reaches its apex as God’s unique saving grace through the Messiah. The majority of references to grace in the New Testament are by Paul and elaborate on the grace of the gospel. One of Paul’s fullest expressions of this saving grace is in Romans 3:21–24:
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
One helpful distinction can be seen when grace is referred to as “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is certainly not saying that Jesus was a gracious person when He was here on earth (although He most definitely was). Or that He did some nice things that could be described as grace (such as feeding 5,000 hungry people or healing people of diseases that had crippled them for many years). “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” is used to refer to the gift of salvation based on Jesus’s unique, sin-pardoning, wrath-satisfying, salvation-purchasing, once-for-all-atoning death on the cross and His resurrection that followed. It’s gospel-grace unlike any and every other kind of grace.
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