Let’s clarify something right from the start, grace includes “unmerited“ (undeserved) favor, but the Bible does not define grace as “unmerited favor.“ It defines grace as “unworked-for favor.“ Let’s explain.
It has become very popular in the church to say “Oh, there’s nothing I could do to ever deserve God’s love, grace, or power.“ But that talk is really cheap, when the same teachers say, “You need to tithe as a sign of trust before you’re blessed financially” or “God can’t protect you unless you’re in His will,“ or “Your purity (which is righteousness) is based on your past sexual activity.“
You see, it’s very common for the church to condition certain blessings or privileges from God based on a work or an action from us. Many things we teach today is conditional on you doing something first. Now, the church will say “Oh no, I’m not trying to earn God’s blessings, there are just certain actions that we have to do to allow God’s blessings to flow!”
So, you see, the church doesn’t believe that their actions could ever deserve God’s blessings, but out of principle, they believe an action is required on our end before God’s blessings can flow in our life. So, they believe God‘s favor is “unmerited“ (undeserved), but they continue to condition God‘s grace on a particular work of ours.
That’s why it’s important to know that grace is not “unmerited favor. “Grace is defined in the Bible as “unworked-for favor.“ There’s a big difference there!
Romans 11:6 (NKJV) And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.
The church says, “I could never deserve God’s blessings, but there are certain things you still have to do on your end for God to work through you.” But that is simply not true! God‘s grace is “unworked-for. “There’s no work on our end to enact any of God’s blessings! Just faith in Jesus.
You may not believe you’re trying to “earn“ God‘s favor, but if you believe that there is ANY work necessary to enact God’s blessings, then you’re not receiving by grace! Because grace is “unworked-for favor.“ That means that your receiving from God is never conditioned on anything that you do! In fact, if you do a work to receive from God, you are actually hindering your receiving (Gal. 5:2)!
Here’s a great analogy for this: Let’s say I’m selling you a car. I sell you a brand new car for just one penny! That’s a great deal! Is your one penny deserving (meritorious) of that car? Of course not! That car was unmerited. One penny could never deserve that car. But here’s the clincher… You STILL gave me a penny! And that is not Biblical grace! Not at all.
Biblical grace would be if I gave you the car for free — if you had to do no work AT ALL for that car. If you give me even a penny, then it is no longer grace. I understand that you got a good deal. And I understand that your penny is not deserving of that car, but if you give me a penny it’s no longer grace, because you did some work in exchange for your receiving. If you do anything in exchange for your receiving from God (even as underserving as a penny) IT IS NO LONGER GRACE!
We may not think that our meagerly actions could ever “deserve“ God’s grace, but if you do anything as a prerequisite to receiving from God (like that penny) then it is no longer grace. You have destroyed the grace of God and you should not expect to receive anything from God (Gal 5:2).
Being a good steward of what you have, giving at church, and living in God’s will are all great things, but none of those things have any affect whatsoever on your receiving from God. We receive from God through Jesus, by faith in Him (Rom. 5:1-2). Period. The same way you got saved.
This is why it’s so important to know how the Bible defines grace. When we say that grace is merely “unmerited favor “we leave room for people to say that actions (though undeserving) are still needed before receiving. But when we accurately say that grace is “unworked-for“ favor, then that leaves no room for anyone to say that any work is necessary before receiving from God — any work! Even undeserving work!
God has given you a car (figuratively) absolutely free! Jesus paid for the whole car Himself! You don’t have to even give your penny (your undeserving works). No penny is required before receiving that car! You receive it completely free by trusting in the finished work of Jesus which has paid enough! Receive for free — without any work at all.