This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.
All commentary notes adapted from the ESV Study Bible.
1. Ephesians 2:8–9
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Read More
By grace refers to God’s favor upon those who have transgressed his law and sinned against him. But grace may also be understood as a “power” in these verses. God’s grace not only offers salvation but also secures it. Saved refers to deliverance from God’s wrath at the final judgment (Rom. 5:9); “by grace you have been saved” is repeated from Eph. 2:5 for emphasis. The verb form for “have been saved” (Gk. sesōsmenoi, perfect tense) communicates that the Christian’s salvation is fully secured. through faith. Faith is a confident trust and reliance upon Christ Jesus and is the only means by which one can obtain salvation. this. The Greek pronoun is neuter, while “grace” and “faith” are feminine. Accordingly, “this” points to the whole process of “salvation by grace through faith” as being the gift of God and not something that we can accomplish ourselves. This use of the neuter pronoun to take in the whole of a complex idea is quite common in Greek (e.g., 6:1); its use here makes it clear that faith, no less than grace, is a gift of God. Salvation, therefore, in every respect, is not your own doing.
2. Romans 5:20–21
Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Read More
The typical Jewish view in Paul’s day was that God gave the law to counteract the sinful human impulse. In Judaism there was the proverb, “The more Torah the more life” (Mishnah, Aboth 2.7). But Paul points out that the law came in to increase the trespass, probably in the sense that once people had written laws from God, they committed not just “sins” against God’s law in their conscience, but, even more seriously, willful “trespasses” (Gk. paraptōma), like Adam’s first “trespass” against a clear spoken command directly from God. Hence, the surpassing excellence of Christ’s salvation is shown in that grace abounded even more than these increasing sins.
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3. 2 Corinthians 12:9–10
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Read More
My grace is sufficient. Paul says that God’s grace “is sufficient” (in the present tense), underscoring the ever-present availability and sufficiency of God’s grace, for Paul and for every believer, regardless of how critical one’s circumstances may be (cf. Rom. 8:31–39). my power is made perfect in weakness. Paul was not allowed to speak about his heavenly revelations (2 Cor. 12:4, 6) but he quotes Christ’s declaration (“My grace is sufficient”) to underscore that his earthly weaknesses (not his revelations) would be the platform for perfecting and demonstrating the Lord’s power . This is the main point of vv. 1–13 and the foundation of Paul’s self-defense throughout 2 Corinthians.
4. Hebrews 4:15–16
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Read More
sympathize. Jesus is able to identify with his people (cf. Heb.10:34) because of his human experience and the sufferings he endured while being tempted (Heb.2:10–18, esp. Heb. 2:17–18). tempted. The Greek (peirazō) can refer either to temptation intended to bring one down or to testing designed to build one up; both connotations probably apply here (cf. Matt. 4:1–11; Luke 22:28). without sin*. Though Jesus was tempted in every respect, that is, in every area of personal life, he (unlike every other human) remained sinless, and thus he is truly the holy high priest (Heb. 7:26–28; cf. 5:2–3). In their temptations, Christians can be comforted with the truth that nothing that entices them is foreign to their Lord. He too has felt the tug of sin, and yet he never gave in to such temptations.
5. John 1:16–17
For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Read More
Grace indicates God’s (unmerited) favor that brings blessing and joy. Grace and truth most likely recalls the Hebrew behind the phrase “steadfast love [Hb. hesed] and faithfulness [Hb. ’emet]” in Ex. 34:6 (cf. Ex. 33:18–19), where the expression refers to God’s covenant faithfulness to his people Israel. According to John, God’s covenant faithfulness found ultimate expression in his sending of his one-of-a-kind Son, Jesus Christ. The contrast is not that the Mosaic law was bad and Jesus is good. Rather, both the giving of the law and the coming of Jesus Christ mark decisive events in the history of salvation. In the law, God graciously revealed his character and righteous requirements to the nation of Israel. Jesus, however, marked the final, definitive revelation of God’s grace and truth. He was superior to Abraham (John 8:53), Jacob (John 4:12), and Moses (John 5:46–47; cf. John 9:28).
6. Acts 15:10–11
Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will. Read More
The rabbis often used the metaphor of a yoke with reference to the law, and Peter’s reference to “yoke” here refers not just to circumcision but to the whole of the Mosaic law. By speaking of the law as an unbearable yoke, Peter was not denying that the law was God’s gift to Israel. Rather, he was arguing that Israel was unable to fulfill it perfectly and that salvation could not be obtained through the law (cf. Rom. 2:17–24). Only one means of salvation exists for both Jew and Gentile: God’s “grace” (Acts 15:11) in Jesus Christ. Paul also refers to any requirement to keep the OT laws as “a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). By contrast, Jesus calls people to take his new “yoke” upon them, a yoke that is easy (see note on Matt. 11:29).
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7. James 4:6
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Read More
God’s grace will be extended to those who are humble before him; cf. Prov. 3:34 (cf. also James 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:5). God opposes means he resists and sends judgment, for the proud have chosen the praise and the methods of the world and are acting as God’s enemies (James 4:4).
8. Romans 6:14
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Read More
sin will have no dominion over you. This is not a command but a promise that sin will not triumph in the lives of Christians. Because they live in the new era of fulfillment, they are no longer under the old era of redemptive history; that is, they are no longer under law, where the Mosaic law and sin ruled over God’s people. By contrast, under grace means living under the new covenant in Christ, in an era characterized by grace (cf. Rom.3:24; Rom.4:16; Rom.5:2, 15–21).
9. 1 Corinthians 15:10
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Read More
grace of God. Paul considered his conversion from “persecutor” to “apostle to the Gentiles” to be a free and wholly undeserved gift of God (Rom. 15:15–16; Gal. 1:15; 2:9; Eph. 3:7–8; Phil. 1:9; 1 Tim. 1:14). God’s grace did not lead to passivity, however, for it prompted hard work on Paul’s part.
10. Titus 2:11–14
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Read More
Gospel Basis. Paul gives the theological basis for the lifestyles he has described in Titus 2:1–10. Christians should live this way because (“for”) the grace of God that saves also instructs its recipients to live in a new way. One cannot truly claim to be a recipient of saving grace without also being a pupil of “training grace.” This change in lifestyle is rooted in the atonement (Titus 2:14) and the expectation of Christ’s return (Titus 2:13).
Bringing salvation for all people is sometimes misunderstood as meaning that all people will be saved. However, such a reading is not necessary here and flatly contradicts other Scripture. It means, rather, that salvation has been offered to all people (including all ethnic groups), not just to some.
Saving grace teaches its recipients to say no to sin and yes to godliness. In the present age stresses that this godliness is to be lived out in the here and now. It also sets up the reference to the future return of Christ (Titus 2:13). Certainty about the future enables constancy in the present.
The Greek for waiting (prosdechomai) often carries a connotation of eagerness. Eagerly expecting the return of Christ is the way grace trains Christians to renounce sin and live in a godly way (Titus 2: 11–12). Setting one’s mind on the truth of Christ’s return impels a person to holiness (see 1 John 3:2–3). Our blessed hope means Christ’s second coming, which Paul calls the appearing of … our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. It may seem unclear whether Paul refers here to two persons of the Godhead (God the Father and Jesus Christ) or whether he describes Jesus as God and Savior. The Greek grammar, however, is well reflected in this translation and indicates that Jesus is being identified as “our great God and Savior” (cf. John 1:1; 20:28; etc.).
Paul anchors his call for godliness in the fact that one purpose of Jesus’ death was to make his people holy. To forsake godliness is to despise the sacrifice of Christ. Paul roots this in the OT with the phrase to redeem us from all lawlessness, which in Greek closely resembles the Septuagint of Ps. 130:8. A people for his own possession translates an unusual phrase (Gk. laon periousion) with intentional echoes from the OT (see esp. Ex. 19:5; Mal. 3:17). It has the sense of “prized, treasured possession.” These people are to be zealous for good works, so again redemption is tied specifically to living in a godly manner. There is no room for claiming to be redeemed while providing no evidence of practical transformation (see James 2:14–26).
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