As it is eminently desirable to have clear views upon every subject which we attempt to consider in the momentous things of God, and this from the very outset, that we may make straight paths for our feet, let us first examine the Scriptural meaning of the word "grace".
I need not tell you how again and again it meets our eye in every page of the New Testament. By "grace," then, as a New Testament term, is meant the pure favour of God. This is its distinct and peculiar meaning. In whatever way then that grace may be manifested, through whatever channel it may flow, to whomsoever it may come, whatever effects it may produce, the pure favour of God is intended thereby.
It may be thus compared to the "pure river of water of life, clear as crystal," seen by John in vision as "proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Revelation 22:1).
It is, therefore, opposed to human merit of every shape and shade, of every form, hue and colour. Thus it stands in contradistinction to works - in such contradistinction that the one, so to speak, would destroy and annihilate the other.
Is not this the apostle's argument: "And if by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work"? (Romans 11:6)
Nothing can be more plain, according to the apostle's reasoning, than that these two things are so diametrically opposed to each other that if a man were to be saved by works, grace could have no part; and if saved by grace, then works could have no part. If this, at least, be not his meaning, words can have no clear or positive signification.
We lay this down, then, at the very outset as a foundation which cannot be moved, that grace signifies the pure favour of God, without any regard to human merit, without any intermixture of anything in the creature, be it little or much, be it good or bad according to human view or intention.
By J.C. Philpot