By Charles H. Welch

Grace. The dispensation of the Mystery, entrusted to Paul, is called "the dispensation of the grace of God" (Eph. 3:2). The gospel which accompanies this dispensation is called "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). Grace therefore is a word of fundamental importance both in dispensational and doctrinal truth. The Greek word so translated is charis, the only exception being in James 1:11 where a word meaning beauty of outward appearance is used. The Greek word is derived from chairo "to rejoice", and in the classics charis does not rise much above the idea of a favour, but like many another Greek word it has taken on deeper and richer values by its employment in the Scriptures. The word charis is employed in the LXX version to translate the Hebrew chen, and it will be profitable to consider this word before analysing the Greek N.T. Chanan, the root, means "to deal graciously" (Gen. 33:11) and the fact that in a number of passages the A.V. translates the word "have mercy" (Psa. 4:1) and "have pity" (Prov. 19:17) and "to beseech" or "make supplication" (Deut. 3:23, 1 Kings 8:33) shows something of its depth of meaning. The substantive chen is often combined with the verb "to find", as "Noah found grace" (Gen. 6:8) or "found favour" (Gen. 30:27), especially to find grace and favour "in thy sight" (Gen. 39:4) and "in thine eyes" (Gen. 30:27). While this O.T. usage has an effect upon the meaning of charis, it remains for the N.T. in view of the finished work of Christ, to give this term its richest meaning.


"The import of this word has been in a peculiar manner determined and defined by the peculiar use of it in the N.T. and especially in the Pauline epistles . . . so that we may say it depended upon Christianity to realize the full import, and to elevate it to its rightful sphere" (Cremer).

While charis is used in the N.T. to indicate a kindly disposition, it is especially used to indicate that attitude of God to man "which, as a free act, excludes merit, and is not hindered by guilt, but forgives sin; it thus stands out in contrast with works, law and sin" (Cremer).

We may leam something of the distinctive meaning of "grace" by observing the terms with which it is contrasted.

Grace is contrasted with opheilema "debt" (Rom. 4:4).
Grace is contrasted with erga "works" (Rom. 11:6, Eph. 2:8,9).
Grace is contrasted with nomos "law" (Gal. 5:4).

Grace has not only a place in doctrine and gospel, but permeates the truth of the Mystery. This can be shown by examining the way in which "grace" is used in Ephesians.

Grace in Ephesians

A 1:2 Grace to you - Salutation
           B 1:6 Grace exhibited in Salvation
  a 1:7 Riches in Redemption
        b 2:5 Saved
  a 2:7 Riches in ages to come
        b 2:8 Saved
                    C 3:2 The Dispensation of the grace of God
           B 3:7-4:29 Grace Manifested in Service
  a 3:7 Acc. to gift of Grace
        b 3:8 Grace to preach
  a 4:7 Acc. to gift of Christ
        b 4:29 Grace to minister
A 6:24 Grace be with you - Benediction.

"How truly does the divine arrangement of this word emphasize its place and importance. No salutation is complete without it, and the parting benediction is enriched by it. It runs through the whole fabric of redemption, covering the ages past and to come with its unction. It gives its name to the special dispensation committed to the apostle Paul, marking it offr as pre-eminently one of grace. It vitalizes the outcome of redemption, namely service, being as necessary for the inspired and gifted Apostle while preaching the Word, as for the individual believer in his every-day conversation. To realize grace is to realize God's purpose" (The Berean Expositor, Vol. vi, pp. 18,19).

Charisma is used only by Paul, except for the one reference in 1 Peter 4:10, and is unknown in profane Greek. Philo used it to indicate something freely given, and it is with this peculiar emphasis that it is used by Paul.

  1. A free gift (Rom. 5:15,16. 6:23, 11:29).
  2. Gifts, in the sense of miraculous gifts (Rom. 12:6, 1 Cor. 12:4, 2 Tim. 1:6).

Charitoo. This word occurs but twice, once in the salutation of the angel to Mary, "Hail (thou that art), highly favoured among women" (Luke 1:28), and once in Ephesians, "wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved" (Eph. 1:6). The church of the Mystery is indeed "highly favoured", and occupies as unique a place among the companies of the redeemed as does Mary among women.

Charizomai has two related meanings:

  1. To freely give (Rom. 8:32, 1 Cor. 2:12, Phil. 2:9).
  2. To freely forgive (Luke 7:42, Eph. 4:32, Col. 2:13).

Charin. The accusative case, is used as a preposition and is translated "because", "for this cause", and while we must now recognize that the word can be employed with no specific reference to "grace", the conception "on behalf of" which underlies "because" etc. shows its gracious origin.

Chairo "to rejoice" (Phil. 1:18).

Chara "joy" (Phil. 1:4).

In addition to these seven aspects of Grace, we must mention Eucharisteo "I give thanks", a word preserved in the English Eucharist (Matt. 15:36,26:27, Eph. 1:16).

The doctrinal foundation of grace is laid by the Apostle in the Epistle to the Romans, and upon the doctrines there revealed, the superstructure of Ephesians is erected. The dispensation of the Mystery is therefore one of pure "joy", it is characterized by the "freeness" of its gifts, and allows neither the sinfulness of its subjects nor their alienation as Gentiles in any measure to limit the exceeding abundance of the riches that is poured out upon them. Let us who rejoice in this truth see to it that all approach to legalism, merit, self-assertion or self-denunciation, be eliminated from our presentation of the "terms and texts, used in making known dispensational truth."

An Alphabetical Analysis

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