This is a fundamental question for those who believe in Christ Jesus, but one for which an answer does not come readily. Perhaps it is because our concept of the grace of God has become confused due to misuse and overuse of the word "grace". We talk of sports people and performing artists who are graceful. We call judges, "Your Grace", and use Grace as a person's name. Indeed we describe many things in terms of their grace or lack of grace: graceful, disgrace, graceless, gracious, etc.
But in truth none of these truly describe the free grace of God, and in fact they cloud and disguise it so effectively one can only think this is a deliberate cover-up by the enemy.
Grace can be described as the "undeserved favour and kindness of God." There is nothing you can do to take it because it is given by God as a gift. Furthermore it is not a gift that anyone on earth has a right to as no-one is deserving of the free grace of God, yet He gives it to us freely in abundance.
So great a gift did the apostle Paul consider grace to be that he opened and closed all of his letters wishing that the recipients should have the Grace of God (eg. Rom 1:7, Rom 16:20). It is evident Paul felt this to be one of the greatest of gifts on offer. Let us now look at grace to understand why Paul felt this way and what Grace actually is and means to us today.
The scripture in Ephesians 2:8 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God." This scripture encapsulates grace in one sentence. We have been saved by grace through faith. It is not by works or doing good deeds or anything else, but only by God's gift through faith (2 Tim 1:9). He has shown us His undeserved favour and kindness by overlooking our sins and allowing us to enter life now, and later into eternity, simply because we believe and have faith in his son Jesus Christ.
The apostle John wrote that the law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). He draws a clear distinction between the law given under the old covenant and grace and truth given under the new covenant. The law brought judgement and bondage by showing the sinfulness of man. Grace and truth brought forgiveness, mercy and freedom, as through Jesus' gift of grace our sins are removed. The law is about consequences, but grace is about compassion. The law is black and white, right and wrong, but grace makes allowance for man's weaknesses when through humility man turns to God in times of need (James 4:6).
We are no longer under the kingdom of the law, but through Christ we are transferred into His kingdom of grace (Rom 6:14). However this does not mean we have licence to break the law (Rom 6:15), rather through grace we receive power to keep God's law.
Grace is a gift and is the basis by which we receive all the other gifts of God as they come through His grace, not our abilities. We are chosen by God through His grace and not by works of law (Rom 11:5-6), for if salvation could be earned, then grace and the free gift of righteousness would be unnecessary. In fact if we receive the law we fall away from grace and are separated from Christ (Gal 5:2-5). It is only through the free gift of grace in Christ Jesus that we are saved (Eph 2:5) and that we can stand before God.
All God's gifts are given through grace: man cannot take or earn them (Rom 12:6). It is through grace we receive God's comfort, hope and love (2 Thess 2:16). Stephen was, "full of grace and power," (Acts 6:8) and the power and signs he did were given by grace. In Acts 14:3 it shows the Lord provided evidence as he bore witness to the word of His grace through signs and wonders. Paul showed in various places that his gift to be a minister of God was given by grace alone (Rom 15:15, 1 Cor 3:10, Eph 3:2,7).
God's grace is unlimited and there are no bounds to his wondrous grace! (Eph 1:7, Eph 2:7). Paul shows in his own testimony (1 Cor 15:9-10, Gal 1:15, Eph 3:8, 1 Tim 1:13-14) that even he who persecuted the church and consented to the death of Stephen, was able to receive the gift of God's grace. So if a person such as Paul who vehemently opposed and ravaged the early church is able to be saved by God's grace, then anyone who comes to God is capable of receiving His grace.
It is also important not to accept God's grace in vain (2 Cor 6:1, Gal 2:21, Gal 1:6). It is possible to receive a gift and then not employ it and be rejected. Consider the men identified in the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:12-27). At their master's return they were to give account of what they had done with the monetary gift entrusted to them. The man who did not use the gift but hid it away was condemned along with the enemies of the master. It is important that no-one fail to receive God's gift of grace and that no root of bitterness springs up preventing us receiving His grace (Heb 12:15). Thankfully God gives us the Holy Spirit as a gift to help us, and we should aim to do what is right and not outrage His Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29).
As God gives grace to us, so too we are to show grace to those around us. Christ gave us an example to follow (2 Cor 8:9) in which He emptied himself of His power to become a man so that we may have the chance of life.
There is a fellowship amongst those who have received God's grace (Php 1:7) and we should also show grace to others both in our behaviour (2 Cor 1:12, 2 Cor 8:1)and through praying for them (2 Cor 9:14). Jesus Christ is glorified in us and we are glorified in Him when we receive grace (2 Thess 1:11-12). We are called to impart grace to others when we speak to them (Eph 4:29) and this is no easy task, recognising that the tongue is the hardest thing to be tamed (James 3:1-12).
We are encouraged to be strong in the grace of God (2 Tim 2:1), which has appeared to provide our salvation, to train us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions and to live sober and upright lives (Titus 2:11-12). God helps us in times of need when we draw near to His throne of grace (Heb 4:16).
God's grace is freely given to the humble for it is through humility we receive His grace (Jas 4:6, 1 Pet 5:5). The proud rely on themselves, but the humble rely on God. Nowhere is this better shown than in the parable of the Prodigal Son who, when he repented in humility, received the undeserved favour of his father (Luke 15:11-32). So we too should set our hopes on the grace of God and live accordingly. It is only by His grace we are saved (1 Pet 1:13). We should stand fast in the true grace of God, being careful to find it, to grow in knowledge of His grace (2 Pet 1:2, 2 Pet 3:18), and to hold on to it firmly (1 Pet 5:12).
I hope that you found something here to help you or add to your own knowledge. If you have any questions, then please feel free to contact me.