But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ, (by grace you are saved;) Ephesians 2:4-5
The two are ultimately inseparable. But grace forms the greatest expression of God’s love because of what it encompasses. Grace brings love into the story of the Gospel while properly accounting for justice. God is equal parts love and justice, which is why sin so separates us from him. To speak only of, or even to solely introduce God as, love, is to facilitate an ego-Christianity that sees God only for the benefits He brings us.
Without the proper understanding of grace, John 3:16 holds no real meaning to us. Or, it holds a weakened meaning. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” is not only nonsensical to the thinking non-believer, it’s a bad plan altogether. Why would an all-powerful God allow such a situation in the first place? Why is “sending his son” such evidence of love? Why not simply forgive and forget? These are question met with dismal answers without mention of grace.
Love, on its own, left undefined, is not powerful enough to change the heart. Because love is one of those slippery words that we bring our suppositions to when we define it. It’s not right, mind you that we do, but we do anyway. For example, we tend to not see much of a difference in these two phrases: love is God, and God is love. But the first allows us to bring our own views and experiences into the definition of love, while the other remains solely within God himself.
But grace, amazing grace, takes the powerful nature of love to the next level. Grace is the width, and depth, and breadth of love reaching out, rippling across the ponds of time to reach into the hearts of the lost and searching. Grace is the freeing element of love, it’s God’s best play. It’s the complete character of God on full display, in all its justice and mercy (two opposing ideas, mind you).
It’s the grace of God that fuels my love for him, and fuels my service for him. Grace is the way to introduce God to the world, because grace frames love in such a fashion that it reveals God’s character more fully to all who are willing to hear it.