For those of you who have dug into the scripture and looked at the Hebrew and Greek, you may have noticed there is quite an overlap between "favor" and "grace". Although we see that grace and favor are sometimes interchangeable in scriptural context, getting behind the spirit of them, I see they are definitely two separate forces. What is the difference? Favor, as mentioned before, seems to have some conditions. Those conditions have to do with alignment to God's ways and to His will. Sometimes we mistake favor resting on someones life, when it is really grace.
Grace of salvation
Most commonly we attribute the "Grace of God" primarily to our salvation. (Ephesians 2:8) However, the force of grace is even more than that "push" that crosses us from death into eternal life.
First, grace is not just something active in a believer's life. I have known unbelievers that seemed to have some protective shield over their life, if I can say, almost propelling them toward salvation. Now, sometimes, I've seen them "get off the train", completely by their own will and choice to do so. While others, continue to move forward with this supernatural covering over their life.
When I was a very young believer, really walking on the line of choosing Christ, I remember not fully understanding what Christianity was, but walking toward it. I have clear and vivid memories of feeling "unsaved" and distant from God, yet deeply desiring to know the truth. During those early months of seeking out churches there were many things I encountered that potentially could have led me astray, embittered me, or offended me causing me to 'detour' from the path I was on. Did God ordain I would be saved and so I couldn't fight the irresistible faith? Or was there the force of grace available to me on my journey as a seeker? (Any Calvinists, feel free to chime in ;)
Whatever the case may be, my heart and mind were protected as I genuinely sought the truth, and I believe this is the power of God at work, seeking to save the lost. He is a good, good, Father, who desires that all men are saved. (1 Timothy 2:4)
THE spirit behind grace
The Greek word "Charis", and the Hebrew word, "Chen", are the most common words behind "grace". In the Greek Interlinear it says this:
Even the very basic understanding that grace is for salvation, means God is giving a gift to an unbeliever. There is a force at work that is for the unbeliever. The spirit that is at work, of course is the Holy Spirit, and the tool, or the force, He is using, is grace.
The spirit of grace is absolutely irresistible. You actually have to work pretty hard to reject it, however, He is also so gentle, He will not force himself on us. This is the tension which remains mysterious.
GRACE IS FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS
Most believers are familiar with this passage in Romans 6:
In Romans 5 and 6 Paul addresses that though grace covers sin, grace is not for the sole purpose of 'keeping us saved'. In other words, yes, grace covers sin, but it's primary purpose is to work righteousness in us that we may overcome sin, not just continue to stumble and fall. Once you get out of spiritual survival mode, you see the force of grace is available for so, so much more. Let's take a look at this in Romans 8.
Here is where the force of grace leads us, or as I like to say, "the UNTO".
Grace keeps us aware of the exchange on the cross unto
Walking in humility
Giving us the ability to walk in the Spirit, rather than the flesh
Walking out the fulfillment of the law of righteousness
Grace enables us to do what we cannot do for ourselves, by the Spirit, to walk in righteousness. When we are walking in the Spirit, it is a lot harder to fall into areas of sin, because our mind is consumed with the things of God rather than the lusts of the flesh.
So here we see that the force of Grace enables us to walk in the Spirit, resulting in righteous living. I want to emphasize this by taking it one last step further. When you are on the "grace train", meaning when the force of grace is activated in your life, it not only becomes harder to sin, it becomes harder to love the world. (By this I mean worldliness, not people in the world) The longer and deeper I ride the grace train, the stronger the force pulls me toward the righteousness of God and away from the desire for temporal things.
If you ever saw the movie the Polar Express, the boy got on the train with unbelief in his heart. The longer he rode, the more connected to the dream, the idea, and the possibility that the North Pole and Santa Claus was real. He eventually stopped thinking about where he came from, and was fully fixed on where he was going. That's a good picture for the force of grace. Just, stay on the train.
The overlap of favor and grace
Lastly, I want to briefly address this overlap. Now in instances where the word "favor" in the scripture can be interchanged with "grace", like Genesis 6:8 for example, we have to look at the verses and see what force is underlying in the context. They can still seem interchangeable at times, but there are some differences, in my opinion. Here is a neat article from Bill Johnson on favor.
Can you picture a time in your life where you stepped onto the "grace train"?
If you answered yes, stop and think about times you may have stepped off, what went wrong? Did you stumble in unbelief?
Considering this analogy, think about how deep and long you've been walking in the Spirit and how this has effected your ability to walk in righteousness. Would you say you are growing more and more in righteousness? Or still struggling with things you thought you'd have overcome by now?
Take time to meditate on the force of grace. Find some other passages that speak to you on grace as well. Ask God to increase the measure of grace in your life to enable you to walk in the Spirit and fulfill your calling and purpose.