“…by grace ye are saved” (Ephesians 2:5)
Let us then inquire what is meant by “grace” here. In verse 4 of this chapter the mercy and love of God were stated to be the cause of salvation. But here in verse 5 he brings grace in as a cause distinct in some way from mercy and love. In Exodus 34:6 we read, “The LORD God, merciful and gracious.” Grace is a distinct thing from mercy. Grace is the same thing for substance with love and mercy, yet it holds forth something more eminently than both; this expression “grace” is more than mercy and love, it superadds to them.
Grace denotes not simply love but the love of a sovereign, transcendently superior, one that may do what He will, that may wholly choose whether He will love or not. There may be love between equals, and an inferior may love a superior; but love in a superior, and so superior as He may do what He will, in such a one love is called grace: and therefore grace is attributed to princes. Princes are said to be gracious to their subjects, whereas subjects cannot be gracious to princes. Now God, who is an infinite sovereign, who might have chosen whether ever He would love us or not, for Him to love us, this is grace…
Grace notes the greatest freeness. God is not necessitated to love any, and when He loves, He loves freely-that is, His love is not caused or motivated by anything in the creature. Therefore where the apostle uses the word “grace” or “graciously,” our translators often render the word, to “give us freely.”