Grace is the attitude of God whereby first he loves himself and desires his own glory, which is then shown in his speech and actions toward his people. Grace is never general or common. Rather, God grants his sovereign particular grace only to his elect according to his own sovereign will. God's grace is revealed as undeserved favor in the salvation of his people, so that they may become like him and find favor with him. Grace is never conditioned by faith, but is always sovereign, powerful, irresistible, and effective to the salvation of God's people in Christ. (Romans 8:28-39, Ephesians 1:3-14)
We may not know as well as we think we do what grace is. Do we know that grace is an attribute of God? Do we know that God is gracious in himself and would be gracious even if we had never been created, even if no one had ever been saved? Even the grace would be an attribute of God, one of his beauties. He would still be gracious even if we were not the objects and recipients of his grace.
This is what we mean when we say that grace is an attribute of God. Grace does not only characterize God's dealings with us. It belongs to what he is, and he can no more be without grace that he can cease to be God Almighty...
The word grace also has the meaning of loveliness or beauty, especially in inner loveliness or beauty that is evident in all of a person's conduct and speech. Thus we speak of persons being gracious, or of their speech or conduct being gracious (Proverbs 11:16, Colossians 4:6). Scripture itself speaks of certain persons finding grace or favor (being beautiful) in the eyes of God (Genesis 6:8, Luke 1:30).
When we say that God is gracious, we mean that in all of his glory, he is beautiful and lovely beyond all else, and that the beauty of his own inner purity and glory shines out in all his actions and speech. Thus he finds favor in his own eyes. As three persons in one God, he loves himself and his own works about all and considers his own work incomparably lovely. This is what grace is as an attribute of God...
Following on from the idea that grace is an inner beauty or loveliness that shines out in all a person is or does and that causes others to look upon him with favor, we may say that God's grace as it is revealed in our salvation is the gift of his own beauty to us, so that we become like him and thus find favor in his sight. That loveliness of God, which he grants to his people when he saves them, becomes evident in all their conduct and speech. It is impossible for one who has received grace not to reflect something of the loveliness of God.
This is one of the reasons that the teaching of common grace should be rejected. It is a repulsive thought that the wicked and unbelieving should find favor in God's sight or have anything of his own loveliness. Nor could it ever be, then, that God would judge them and send them to hell, for he would be sending someone who has received something of his own beauty to the place of eternal darkness.
There are several characteristics of God's saving grace that need to be mentioned. They, too, show why grace cannot be common:
First: Grace is not only an attitude of God, but a gift. This implied in what we have already said, but it needs emphasis. Scripture speaks often of God giving grace (Psalms 84:11, Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5). We speak of grace as a gift of God when we want to emphasize the freeness and undeserved character of grace, but we must not forget that it is something actually given when God shows it to us, and not only an attitude on his part.
Second: Grace is a power. That is really the same thing as saying that it is the grace of God. God's thoughts, God's attributes, and God's Words are not like ours—powerless—but always full of the power of the Almighty. That is another reason God cannot possibly be gracious to all. His grace cannot fail. To suggest that it can is to deny God is God.
Third: Grace is saving. Never once does Scripture speak of any other kind of grace to men. Just as election is particular and atonement is particular, so the grace predetermined and purchased by Christ must also be particular, shown saving only to some.
That we should find grace in the sight of God is amazing, especially when we take this to mean that he finds us lovely and beautiful. This can only happen because he sees us in Christ, and through the work of Christ. Christ is beautiful as God's own only begotten Son, the fairest of then thousand in his perfect obedience and devotion to God, and in him alone do we find favor with God.