Forgiveness, according to the Scriptures, is a release of debt. You owe me $5. I say don't worry about it. Debt forgiven. You didn't pay it off over 30 years at 5%. You didn't negotiate it down to $2.50. I forgave the debt. So it is with God as He forgives our debt. He does so because Jesus has paid it, not because He has swept sin under a cosmic rug and not because it wasn't a significant offense (more on that tomorrow).
Grace, on the other hand, is something much larger. Grace is help. The best definition I know: it is God at work on our behalf. It's fuel to do what God desires. Now certainly forgiveness is a part of this. When we need help with forgiveness, grace is available and expresses itself as forgiving grace. But the two aren't the same. Grace is a broader category.
So consider the following notes from a sermon I preached from Colossians about the broad-ranging nature of grace. It's more or less a NT survey of where "grace" (Gr. charis) is used. And what an amazing list it is...
Electing Grace – 2 Timothy 1.9
- God at work to purpose our salvation in Christ from eternity.
Proclaimed Grace – Colossians 1.5-6
- God at work to let the entire world know of the Truth of the Gospel.
Calling Grace – Galatians 1.6, 15
- God at work to reveal Himself to us through the Gospel.
Regenerating Grace – Ephesians 2.1-5
- God at work to make the spiritually dead alive in Christ.
Repenting Grace – 2 Timothy 2.25
- God at work to turn people from sin to Him.
Believing Grace – Acts 18.27
- God at work to create trust in Christ.
Justifying Grace – Romans 3.24
- God at work to justly punish sin and declare the sinner not guilty.
Redeeming Grace – Ephesians 1.7
- God at work to purchase forgiveness for His people.
Adoptive Grace – Ephesians 1.5-6
- God at work to make rebels into His children.
Sanctifying Grace – Romans 6.14
- God at work to make us more like Jesus.
Gifting Grace – Romans 12.6
- God at work to grant us with divine enablements to build up His Body.
Ministry Grace – 1 Corinthians 3.10
- God at work to accomplish His purposes through us.
Energizing Grace – 1 Corinthians 15.10
- God at work to fulfill the calling He has given us.
Miraculous Grace – Acts 6.8
- God at work to do the unexplainable.
Relational Grace – 2 Corinthians 1.12
- God at work to restore authentic relationships between us.
Verbal Grace – Ephesians 4.29
- God at work to edify others through spoken words.
Marital Grace – 1 Peter 3.1-7
- God at work to create intimate marriages.
Strengthening Grace – 2 Timothy 2.1
- God at work to fortify the oppressed.
Sustaining Grace – 2 Corinthians 12.9
- God at work to support the weakened.
Suffering Grace – Philippians 1.29
- God at work to identify us with Christ through suffering.
Comforting Grace – 2 Thessalonians 2.16
- God at work to bring hope to the discouraged.
Vocational Grace – Ephesians 3.7
- God at work to employ us in meaningful, helpful roles.
Financial Grace – 2 Corinthians 8.1, 6-7
- God at work to provide for the needs of His people.
Everything Else Grace – Romans 8.32
- God at work to meet every need.
Persevering Grace – Philippians 1.6-7
- God at work to keep His people in right relationship to Him.
Glorifying Grace – Ephesians 2.7
- God at work to put on display His goodness to us for all eternity.
The thing we must do in light of this truly amazing grace is lean into Christ for all of it. We need God's help in having full, fulfilling marriages. We need God's help in doing our work with purpose and ability. We need God's help in dying well. We need God's help in using our words to make other people better people.
You see, the mature Christian is the one who uses the most grace. The more you lean into Him, the more grace you get. Grace would certainly be amazing if it were only forgiveness. But it's not. And that makes it even more amazing.
But that's just me thinking thoughts...