As an idiom, “saving grace” refers to a “redeeming quality” that makes a person or a thing acceptable. But that is not the biblical meaning. The word grace in the Bible means “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification” or “God’s benevolence to the undeserving.” Biblically, “saving grace” is the grace of God that saves a person.
Scripture says that grace, the unearned favor of the Lord, is necessary “because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Romans 3:20 NASB). The only way to receive God’s saving grace is through faith in Christ: “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested . . . the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe” (Romans 3:21-22 NASB).
Saving grace results in our sanctification, the process by which God conforms us to the image of Christ. At the moment of salvation, by grace through faith, God makes us new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). And He promises to never forsake His children: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
We have nothing in ourselves that will commend us to God (Romans 3:10-11)—we have no “saving grace” on our own. Being fundamentally unacceptable to God, we ask, along with Jesus’ disciples, “How can we be saved?” Jesus’ answer is reassuring: “What is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18:26-27). Salvation is God’s work. He gives the grace we need. Our “saving grace” is Christ Himself. His work on the cross is what saves us, not our own merit.
It is easy to think that, by our faith, we contribute in some small way to our salvation. After all, Christ’s merit must be applied to us by faith, and it seems our faith is coming from us. But Romans 3:10-12 says that none of us seek after God. And Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that [faith] not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. God’s saving grace is completely His gift. Even our ability to accept His saving grace is just another gift from God.