“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” (1 John 3:1)
Grace, as we see it developed in the New Testament, was unknown in the Old Testament. Certainly God’s grace was showered on objects of His favor, but His loving kindness, mercy, and mighty hand could hardly be compared to His unmerited salvation, justification, faith, and spiritual gifts.
The New Testament word for grace, charis, had a classical meaning. Aristotle defined it as “conferring freely with no expectation of return, and finding its only motive in the bounty and free heartedness of the giver.” The recipient of this act was always a friend, but New Testament usage gave fuller, richer, extended meaning to the word. Note the following “gracious” response of even Christian servants to their unkind masters: “For this is thankworthy |i.e., charis|, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. . . . if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable |charis| with God” (1 Peter 2:19-20).
But Christ went even further. When He extended His grace, it was not just to friends, nor even to unjust slave owners, but to bitter enemies. He left heaven with a cruel cross in sight for such filthy worms as us, saturated with sin, ungrateful, rebellious, with nothing of worth. The sins of the objects of His grace would nail Him to the tree, and yet He came. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us,” our text states. Literally, the phrase reads, “What foreign kind of love.” This kind of love and grace is not human; it could only come from the heart of a gracious God. Man could never imagine a scheme of salvation such as substitutionary atonement, where God Himself would die for sinners, where no worth or works on the part of man were involved. This is true grace, a foreign kind of love.