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The Grace, the Gift, and the Joy

Bible students can have great confidence that they have the authentic word of God when they use reliable, accurate English translations, but sometimes certain benefits of the original language are lost in translation.  For example, the similarity of the Greek words pater (father) and patria (family) demonstrate the natural connection between a father and a family, but this obvious linguistic link is lost in the translation of Ephesians 3:14-15 – “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father (Pater), from whom every family (patria) in heaven and on earth derives its name.”  This is an unfortunate but unavoidable consequence of using translations, but this disadvantage can be somewhat overcome by studying the original languages of the Scriptures.

Three Greek words that lose their natural connections when translated to English are charis, charisma, and chara, which are translated as “grace,” “gift,” and “joy” respectively.  All three of these words have their origins in the Greek word chairō, which means “to rejoice, to be glad.”  Whereas in Greek the connection of these three words to chairō is obvious from their similarity, in English there is no obvious connection.  Readers of English translations of the Bible do not automatically see how that all of these words are linked to one another and to the idea of rejoicing.

Therefore, let us now make the connections between the grace of God, the gift of God, and the joy that follows.  First, notice that grace (charis) has a broad definition and is used in many ways in the New Testament.  As it relates to one who possesses grace, grace is the attitude that affords joy, pleasure, and delight to others.  Grace is good-will, loving-kindness, and favor from one to another that brings joy and gladness.  In this way, God is full of grace toward us, for He saves us by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9).  We sometimes define grace as unmerited favor, for God has granted His favor toward us who are undeserving, and for this we rejoice.  In His likeness, we also can possess grace, for even our words can impart grace to others (Eph. 4:29).  For those who receive grace, grace on their part is gladness expressed in thanksgiving, for charis is translated many times in the Bible as “thanks,” such as in 1Corinthians 15:57 – “But thanks (charis) be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The New Testament definition for a gift (charisma) is a favor which one receives without any merit of his own.  The word charisma looks familiar to us because of the English word “charisma” that is used to describe a quality of a person that gives him great influence over others.  This English meaning has descended from the use of the Greek word charisma in the New Testament in connection with miraculous spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit (hence the modern-day “charismatic” churches that claim to possess miraculous gifts).  Of course, miraculous spiritual gifts have ceased (1Cor. 13:8-10), but God’s gift of salvation remains.  Notice Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift (charisma) of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  It is the gift of God’s grace that leads us to rejoice, for our sins are forgiven, and eternal life is made possible for us through Jesus Christ.

The Greek word chara appears fifty-nine times in the New Testament and is translated asjoy,” “gladness,” “joyful,” “joyous,” “joyfulness,” and “joyfully.”  Our greatest joy as Christians is the product of God’s wonderful grace and the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.  It is this overwhelming joy that supersedes all the sorrows, burdens, and sufferings of this world.  Despite these worldly troubles, we “greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1Pet. 1:8) because of our hope in Christ.

Now we can summarize the connections between these three Greek words – charis, charisma, and chara – so that we can better understand our own English words – grace, gift, and joy – and the message of the gospel.  Grace (charis) is God’s attitude of love and mercy that made our joyous salvation possible.  The gift (charisma) of God’s grace is salvation in Christ, for which we rejoice now and forever.  Our joy (chara) is the result of God’s grace and His gift of eternal life.  Taken altogether, we see that the gospel message is a joyous one indeed.

Stacey E. Durham



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