Usually the concept of grace is typically thought of as a quality, i.e. not in relational terms; a quality that ‘we’ are given by God, whether that be framed through the Calvinist or Arminian lens, which we then use to appropriate salvation. But this is not the way the New Testament thinks of ‘grace’; instead it identifies grace as a relational reality, finding its personification in the person of Jesus Christ and God’s trinitarian life. Here is how T. F. Torrance states this:

Thus in its special New Testament sense charis refers to the being and action of God as revealed and actualised in Jesus Christ, for He is in His person and work self-giving of God to men. Later theology thought of charis as a divine attribute, but it would be truer to the New Testament to speak of it less abstractly as the divine love in redemptive action. Grace is in fact identical with Jesus Christ in person and word and deed. Here the Greek word charis seems to pass from the aspect of disposition or goodwill which bestows blessing to the action itself and to the actual gift, but in the New Testament neither the action nor the gift is separable from the person of the giver, God in Christ. Even apart from the other characteristics of the word in the New Testament, this basic fact means that the Christian charis completely outdistances its etymological roots. There is doubtless a linguistic but no theological point of contact with charis in classical and hellenistic Greek. (Thomas F. Torrance, “The Doctrine of Grace in the Apostolic Fathers,” 21)

It is important to hone in, as Torrance does, on thinking of ‘Grace’ as relational versus an quality or attribute. First of all, because this is how the New Testament presents it; and secondly because if we think of grace as a ‘substance’ (or inanimate thing) instead of a Person, we end up making salvation a ‘quality’ or characteristic and not the center of God’s life (which in fact salvation is).

I’ll try to unpack more of this later.

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