Grace is Found FIRST in the Old Testament
Genesis 6:8 (KJV)
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
My mother and I were having a conversation the other day about one of my previous blog entries and the subject of grace in the Old Testament came up. I agreed with my mother that many Christians (and especially non-Christians) have a misunderstanding of God’s orchestration of grace, as represented in the Bible. To further clarity what I am talking about, I am going to include some excerpts from (the majority of) an article on FaithAlone.org. In the article, entitled “Grace in the Old Testament“, Art Farstad writes:
( url: https://faithalone.org/magazine/y1991/91oct1.html )
Many people have the erroneous notion that the OT is all law and the NT is all grace. Some… even maintain that the God of the OT is harsh and vindictive but the God of the NT is tender and forgiving. Some people (…misinformed) think that OT believers were saved by keeping the law and NT believers are saved by grace through faith!
Of course these misapprehensions are not totally made up; there is much more of a gracious framework to the NT than to the OT. But God never changes; only His dealings change as conditions and times change. In both Testaments people are saved by grace through faith. “Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness” is way back in the first book of the Bible (Gen 15:6). It is an important verse and it is quoted three times in the NT.
The word grace occurs 20 times in the NKJV OT, usually in the sense of “favor.” The first usage, as so often is the case in the God’s Word, is illuminating:
“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen 6:8).
Both the meaning “favor” and the NT idea of undeserving kindness to needy man fit this context.
The two occurrences of grace in Psalms are very encouraging:
“Grace is poured upon Your lips” (the speech of the Messianic King is full of grace and kindness [Ps45:2]).
“The Lord will give grace and glory” (the Lord gives believers grace all along the way, culminating in glory at the end of life’s road [Ps 84:11]).
The passage in Esther (2:17) is especially interesting because it usesgrace (Heb. hen ) and also the fa mous word hesed:
“She obtained grace (hen ) and favor (hesed) . . .”
This is the one text in the Greek translation of the OT, the Septuagint (LXX), that employs the well known NT word for grace, charis, to translate hesed.
This last word is usually translated lovingkindness” or “mercy” in the KJV/NKJV. A popular modern translation is “loyal love,” tying the word in with God’s covenant obligations. R. Laird Harris maintains that this word goes deeper than covenant obligations, and that the old KJV “lovingkindness” is “not far from the fullness of meaning of the word” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol. 1, p. 307).
Personally, I feel that the word charis–“grace” to us–would have been a good translation in many more passage in the Greek version of the OT than just Esther 2:17! For example:
“Surely goodness and grace will pursue me [the Hebrew has a stronger word than just “follow”] all the days of my life, and I will return [lit. Heb.] to the house of the Lord forever” (Ps 23:6).
Other related words widely used are gracious and graciously.
…When God fully forgives sinners such as the Ninevites,…the sullen prophet Jonah,
“I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness (hesed)” (Jonah 4:2; Jonah was griping, not praising!)
Art discussed how grace is not just a New Testament installment, but may be seen throughout the Old Testament, as well. The passages he shared from the Old Testament where God’s grace is on display demonstrate this truth.
A site that I have come to really appreciate, GotQuestions.org, seeks to clarify the term “Age of Grace” in its article answering the question, “What is the Age of Grace?” ( url: https://www.gotquestions.org/Age-of-Grace.html ):
The Age of Grace, also called the Dispensation of Grace or the Church Age, is the sixth divinely apportioned dispensation of world history, according to dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is a system theologians use to divide and categorize historical events in the Bible. Most agree that there are seven dispensations, though some believe there are nine or three. The Age of Grace is the dispensation that is occurring right now in history. It began with the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and is made possible by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, His resurrection, and His ascension:
…Salvation has always been by the grace of God, received by faith (Genesis 15:6)… The term “Age of Grace” could be misleading to some—it is not meant to imply that the people in the Old Testament, before Jesus’ death and resurrection, were denied God’s grace… The grace of God has been available throughout all the dispensations (Psalm 116:5).… His grace is offered to all.
The common thread?
Grace has ALWAYS been a part of who God really is.