Grace...Unmerited Favor, Power of God, or Both?
God's law was given so that all people could see how
sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more,
God's wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin
ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God's
wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 5:20-21 NLT
I grew up being taught that grace is the unmerited favor of God meaning He gives us what we don't deserve out of His love and kindness. I still believe this. Recently I have been reading and hearing either it doesn't mean unmerited favor or it means both unmerited favor and power of God. Where does this come from?
Bill Johnson is one such leader that teaches grace is the power of God only. (What is the Grace of God). He says to teach that grace is unmerited favor is false teaching; another gospel and only false prophets say this so they can live in sin and still be counted righteous before God. I don't think this definition was given in my church for that reason. I think it was taught because the word grace in the Greek is charis and means "grace, the state of kindness towards someone, often with a focus on a benefit given to the object; by extension: gift, benefit, credit; words of kindness and benefit: thanks, blessing;--grace, favor, thanks" There is more along the same lines, but you get the idea.
Bill then uses many Scriptures (Eph. 2:8; Tit. 2:11-12; Jn. 1:14,17; Gal. 1:6; 2 Cor. 12:9; and Acts 20:24) with the word grace in it and says it means the power of God in every case. But the Greek word used is charis every time. He cites Romans 1:16 that talks about the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes and tells you that you can substitute the word grace where it says power. But the Greek word for power in this verse is dynamis, and it means "power; ability; miracle; ruler; an extended meaning of a person or supernatural being who has administrative power:--power, mighty works, miracles, strength, powers, might, virtue, mighty, ability, abundance, miracle, violence, wonderful works, workers of miracles"
Why does Bill say grace means power? I can't be sure, but it almost sounds like he is teaching that at salvation, you receive the gift of God's power, not eternal life. It is now your responsibility to live a life without sin through this power you have received at salvation. And by living a life without sin, you will gain eternal life. He says the gift is unmerited favor, but in Ephesians 2:8, the Greek word for gift is doron and it means "gift,offering:--gift, gifts, offerings" and says nothing about unmerited favor.
I came across another article that explains grace is the power of God (The Divine Power of Grace). This author makes it perfectly clear why he is teaching this. I won't go into his teaching because if you look at the article, you will probably agree this is false teaching. But is it really so different from Bill's?
Could grace be both unmerited favor and the power of God? Well, I don't know if grace needs to be defined as the power of God because isn't God's power in everything He does, whether it showing us grace or giving us wisdom or helping us say "NO" to sin? God's grace and power go hand in hand, but they mean different things.
Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.