BABINC offers this marvelous treatment on the topic of GRACE knowing that you will receive a tremendous spiritual blessing as you carefully review the truths contained within the following chapters. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Founder/President of Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas; Professor of Systematic Biblical Theology; Editor, Bibliotheca Sacra
(C) Copyright, 1922, by LEWIS SPERRY CHAFER
THIS BOOK IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED TO THE LATE CYRUS INGERSON SCOFIELD, D. D., FOR MANY YEARS MY FRIEND, COUNSELOR, TEACHER, WHO IN HIS GENERATION EXCELLED AS CHAMPION AND EXPONENT OF GRACE
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Part I | Part II | Part IIICHAPTER ONE. THE THEME
THROUGH false emphasis by many religious leaders, Christianity has become in the estimation of a large part of the public no more than an ethical system. The revealed fact, however, is that the supreme feature of the Christian faith is that supernatural, saving, transforming work of God, which is made possible through the infinite sacrifice of Christ and which, in sovereign grace, is freely bestowed on all who believe. God has given instruction to those who are saved, it is true, as to the manner of life which is consistent with their new heavenly calling, and standing in Christ; but in its spiritual blindness, the world, led by its blind leaders, sees in Christianity only the rule of life which is secondary. The blindness of the world at this point, with the consequent neglect of all that is vital in the Christian faith, is both anticipated and explained in the Word of God.
The two foundation truths which determine all spiritual perception are that, by divine arrangement, (1) the Spirit is given only to those who are saved, and (2) spiritual understanding is made to depend exclusively on the presence of the Spirit of God in the heart.
The precise body of truth which may be understood only through the ministry of the indwelling Spirit is described as, "things" related to the Father, "things" related to the Son, "things" related to the Spirit, "things" to come, and "the kingdom of God." We read:
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually [by the Spirit] discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14).
"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).
"Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him" (John 14:17).
"But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ ... should shine unto them" (2 Cor. 4:3, 4).
"The world by wisdom knew not God" (1 Cor. 1:21).
"He that is spiritual judgeth [discerneth] all things, yet he himself is judged of no man" (1 Cor. 2:15).
"Now we have received ... the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God" (1 Cor. 2:12).
"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16:13-15).
"But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him" (1 John 2:27).
"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (I Cor. 2:9, 10).
"Through faith we understand" (Heb. 11:3). Spiritual understanding is not, therefore, dependent upon human sagacity or learning; it depends only on the teaching of the indwelling Spirit. Possessing this Biblical testimony, misunderstanding at this point is without excuse.
Likewise, the terms upon which men may now be saved and thus receive the Spirit are as clearly defined in the Scripture. Salvation is by grace through faith. It is the result of the transforming work of God for man, and not the result of the work of man for God. It is that which God does for the one who trusts the Saviourhood of Christ. By that trust, Christ is personally received as the divine, Redeemer who shed His blood as a sufficient ransom for the guilt and penalty of sin, as the One who reconciles by having taken away the sin of the world, and as the divine Propitiation who, as Substitute, met every indictment brought against the sinner under the holy government of God.
Since the Spirit is given only to those who are saved through faith in Christ, they alone are able to receive the particular body of truth which the Spirit teaches. Neglect of this fundamental, unalterable fact is the key-error of all modernism.
It is assumed by the modernist that any person whose education has qualified him to be an authority in matters of human learning, regardless of the new birth and the indwelling Spirit, is also qualified, because of that learning, to speak with authority concerning the things of God.
That the leaders of modernism are unregenerate men and therefore themselves spiritually blind is self-revealed by their attitude toward that truth which forms the only basis upon which, according to the Scriptures, a soul may be saved. When men avowedly disbelieve that the death of Christ was vicarious and substitutionary, they have rejected the only grounds upon which, according to the Word of God, the saving work of God righteously can be wrought for the sinner. Rejecting the saving truth of the Gospel, these men could not be saved upon any promise or provision of God. Though educated, religious, and sympathetic to the ethical ideals of the Bible, such men, being unregenerate, are of necessity totally blind to all that body of truth which is said to be imparted by the indwelling Spirit. Preaching and teaching under these limitations, Christianity is represented by these men as a system of ethics only.
The first step in spiritual understanding is the knowledge of God as Father. "Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him" (Mt. 11:27). "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).
Until God becomes real to the heart by the direct ministry of Christ as Saviour, all His ways and works are unreal. Not knowing God, the unregenerate mind is not satisfied with the explanation of the origin of things which declares that God directly created things as they are. To such a mind, it is actually easier to believe in a supposed natural development from nothing to something, and to hide all attending problems resulting from this theory behind the mists of a measureless past. If God is not real, there could be no inerrant Book; the Bible must be fallible as man; nor could God be manifest in the flesh; the Son of God must be of illegitimate birth, and though the greatest of all teachers, to them, He is really no more divine than ordinary mortals. These blind guides are forced to give some explanation to the meaning of the death of Christ. They therefore contend that He died as an heroic martyr, a loyal patriot, as a wonderful moral example of fortitude, or to show the wickedness of sin. They utterly reject the only reason given in the Word of God for the death of Christ -- He died that others might not die. They brand this saving truth as "immoral," and "unworthy of the goodness of God." They understand little of the resurrection of Christ, His present ministry in heaven, and nothing of the revelation that He is coming again. To these religious leaders, there is no supernatural; for God is not real. There could be no immediate salvation through the Spirit. The salvation in which they believe is assumed to be the result of a self-created character, and the life to be lived is represented only as an heroic struggle of the flesh. If unregenerate men could understand anything better than this, the Word of God would be proven untrue.
It is equally true, that, those who are spiritually blind are unconscious of their blindness until they are saved by the grace and power of God through Christ. Coming thus into the light, they testify, as all who have ever been saved have testified: "Whereas I was blind, now I see." They, like all the unsaved, could be aware of their blindness if they would receive the testimony of God concerning their own limitations; but this is precisely what they will not do. Therefore, a notable neglect of the most vital truths of Scripture and the denial of the essential glories of divine grace is to be expected from these religious leaders who reject the only grounds of salvation through the substitutionary death of Christ.
Modernists content themselves with borrowing some ideals from the Bible while reserving the right to reject whatever is not desired. Those portions which are acceptable to the unregenerate mind are received and taught as being authorative on the basis of the fact that these ideals are in the Bible. Here, indeed, is strange inconsistency on the part of men who pride themselves on their scientific reasonings.
The unsaved preacher or teacher, being able to comprehend only the ethical teachings of the Scriptures, is a living proof of the truthfulness of the divine Testimony. He cannot see the kingdom of God. He sees nothing of the glories of divine grace -- the things of the Father, the things of Christ, the things of the Spirit, and things to come. He blindly ignores every dispensational division of the Word of God and is, therefore, free within himself to draw material from the kingdom teachings of Christ and from the law of Moses while constructing his world-improvement, sociological theories which he imposes on a Christ-rejecting world.
Men of this character are sufficiently numerous in this day of apostasy to be responsible for the present day impression that the sole objective of Christianity is the improvement of human conduct. Being blind to the real principles and purposes of saving grace, they teach that it makes little difference what is believed, it is the life that counts. Against this is the overwhelming testimony of the Word of God that every aspect of salvation and every blessing of divine grace in time and eternity is conditioned only on what is believed.
Influenced by these misunderstandings concerning the Truth, few serious-minded young men will choose to enter the ministerial profession; for it would mean the assumption of the role of a mere moralist. Common modesty generally precludes such an assumption. On the other hand, when the essential message of Christianity is seen to be the measureless, transforming grace of God with all of its eternal glories in the new creation in Christ, it is a challenge to the deepest impulses of the heart, and offers a ministry for which one may well sacrifice all.
Christians are ambassadors for Christ and are commissioned to preach the Gospel to every creature. This ministry does not consist in either the education or the moral improvement of lost men while they are on their way to hell; it is the proclamation of the mighty, redeeming, transforming grace of God which offers eternal life and eternal glory to all who will believe.
If it shall please God to use this exposition in any measure
to the unfolding of the riches of His grace, the labor expended
in its preparation will not have been in vain. This very
inadequate treatment concerning the grace of God is committed to
Him that He may in some way use its message to the glory of the
Lord Jesus Christ.
-- Lewis Sperry Chafer. March, 1922.
The kind reception accorded to the first edition of this book is cause for thanksgiving to God. Appreciation has been general and far exceeding the merit. If there has been any blessing gained from the reading of these pages, praise should be given to Him to whom it alone belongs. As in the days of the Apostle Paul, the great issues of pure grace are sure to call out sincere question from those who, perchance, through a legalistic training do not comprehend its infinite glories. Such has been the kindly criticism of a very few out of the many.
After reviewing the book more carefully, could I recast it at all, I should perhaps give still greater emphasis to the exposition of the second of the two fundamental facts concerning the life under grace. The first being that, under grace, a separate, complete, and wholly independent rule of life is purposed for the child of God. Of that enough has been written. The second truth which might profitably be more fully developed is that of the new manner of life which is first wrought as a purpose in the heart by the Spirit and is then lived out in the power of the same Spirit, accompanied by that heavenly joy which always attends the realization of heavenly desires. Everything in the walk under grace contemplates an overflowing, Spirit-filled life, and there is no provision for any other. The carnal Christian is not urged to try to live a spiritual life; he is rather besought to yield himself to God, apart from which there can be no Spirit-filling with its realization of power.
The divine provision and plan for a life under grace is a perfect system in itself and rightfully cannot be combined or even compared with any other. The successive steps in this system are: (1) The age-characterizing fact of the Spirit indwelling every believer; (2) The filling with the Spirit resulting in a joyous, abounding delight in the whole will of God; And, (3), the imparted, enabling power of the Spirit which is sufficient for a complete realization of that will.
Is this grace-system a success? Is it really practical? Does the impelling love of a mother's heart provide a better care for her child than would be provided by a heartless obedience to a statute of the State requiring such care? The true answer is obvious. If it is practical and if it be true that the power of inwrought grace is the one and only divine program for the life of the children of God in this age, how important is this body of truth! Under this relationship all human responsibility centers in that adjustment of heart by which alone the divine power may be realized.
If this great theme is new its careful and prayerful study with an open mind may lead to the discovery of the only way by which the divine glory may be realized through a human life.
May the blessing of God rest increasingly upon this
testimony to His infinite grace.
-- Lewis Sperry Chafer. December 1922
THE exact and discriminate meaning of the word grace should be crystal clear to every child of God. With such insight only can he feed his own soul on the inexhaustible riches which it unfolds, and with such understanding only can he be enabled clearly to pass on to others its marvelous, transforming theme. Here is a striking illustration of the fact that very much may be represented by one word. When used in the Bible to set forth the grace of God in the salvation of sinners, the word grace discloses not only the boundless goodness and kindness of God toward man, but reaches far beyond and indicates the supreme motive which actuated God in the creation, preservation and consummation of the universe. What greater fact could be expressed by one word?
The meaning of the word grace, as used in the New Testament, is not unlike its meaning as employed in common speech, -- but for one important exception, namely, in the Bible the word often represents that which is limitless, since it represents realities which are infinite and eternal. It is nothing less than the unlimited love of God expressing itself in measureless grace.
The word favor is the nearest Biblical synonym for the word grace. In this connection it may be observed that the one thought which is almost exclusively expressed in the New Testament by the word grace, is, in the Old Testament, almost exclusively expressed by the word favor. Grace is favor, and favor is grace. Thus, in considering the Bible teaching on this great theme, equal attention should be given to all passages wherein either the word grace is used or favor is found. Grace means pure unrecompensed kindness and favor. What is done in grace is done graciously. From this exact meaning there can be no departure; otherwise grace ceases to be grace. To arrive at the scope and force of the Bible doctrine of salvation by grace alone we need to follow consistently the path indicated by the exact meaning of the word.
First. Grace is not Withheld Because of Demerit.
This fact about grace is more evident, perhaps, than any other. It is the sense of demerit more than anything else which impels a soul to cry out for the kindness and benefits of grace. So, also, grace finds its greatest triumph and glory in the sphere of human helplessness. Grace ceases to be grace if God is compelled to withdraw it in the presence of human failure and sin. In fact, grace cannot be exercised where there is the slightest degree of human merit to be recognized. On the other hand the issue of human sin must be disposed of forever. Christ the Lamb of God, having taken away the sin of the world, has by His cross forever disposed of the condemnation of sin. He has by the cross created an entirely new relation between God and man. Consequently, men are now either accepting or rejecting Christ who has borne their sins. "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18). There is no middle ground. All questions of demerit have been banished. Thus God is righteously free to exercise grace in every case. Salvation is by grace alone.
Second. Grace Cannot be Lessened Because of Demerit.
God cannot propose to do less in grace for one who is sinful than He would have done had that one been less sinful. Grace is never exercised by Him in making up what may be lacking in the life and character of a sinner. In such a case, much sinfulness would call for much grace, and little sinfulness would call for little grace. The sin question has been set aside forever, and equal exercise of grace is extended to all who believe. It never falls short of being the measureless saving grace of God. Thus grace could not be increased; for it is the expression of His infinite love: it could not be diminished; for every limitation that human sin might impose on the action of a righteous God has, through the propitiation of the cross, been dismissed forever.
God does not ignore or slight the fact of human guilt and sin; for He has met these issues perfectly and finally for all men in the death of His Son. There remains no demerit, nor degrees of demerit, to be considered or recognized. By grace there is now offered alike to all men all the infinite resources of the saving power of God. The grace of God is, therefore, exercised in perfect independence of human sin, or any degree of human sin.
Third. Grace Cannot Incur a Debt.
An act is in no sense gracious if under any conditions a debt is incurred. Grace, being unrecompensed favor, is necessarily unrecompensed as to obligations which are past, unrecompensed as to obligations which are present, and unrecompensed as to obligations which are future. Grace must always remain unadulterated in its generosity and benefit. How emphatically this is true of the grace of God towards sinners! Yet how often this aspect of divine salvation is perverted! Infinite and eternal transformations are wrought by the power of God when He exercises His grace. He is thereby glorified and sinners are saved. Such far-reaching results cannot fail to satisfy and delight Him eternally; but He remains unrecompensed for His salvation through grace. What He does He bestows as a gift. Rightfully a benefit cannot be called a gift if it is paid for before, at the time, or after. This is a fundamental truth of the Word of God, and it is imperative that it be kept free from all confusing complications.
When a recompense for the gift of God is proposed, every element of salvation is obscured, and the true motive for Christian service is sacrificed as well. The Scriptures everywhere guard these two truths from such perversion; for, in the Bible, salvation is always presented as a gift, an unrecompensed favor, a pure benefit from God (John 10:28; Rom. 6:23). And, in like manner, no service is to be wrought, and no offering is to be given, with a view to repaying God for His gift. Any attempt to compensate God for His gift is an act so utterly out of harmony with the revealed Truth, and exhibits such a lack of appreciation of His loving bounty, that it cannot be other than distressing to the Giver. All attempts to repay His gift, be they ever so sincere, serve only to frustrate His grace and to lower the marvelous kindness of God to the sordid level of barter and trade. How faithfully we should serve Him, but never to repay Him! Service is the Christian's means of expressing his love and devotion to God, as God has expressed His love to those whom He saves by the gracious thing He has done. Christian service for God should be equally gracious.
It therefore becomes those who have received His gifts in grace to be jealous for the purity of their motives in service for Him. Unwittingly the grace of God is too often denied by well-meaning attempts to compensate God for His benefits. No semblance of the most vital facts about divine grace can be retained unless salvation is, in its every aspect, treated as a gift from God, and Christian service and faithfulness is deemed to be only the expression of love and gratitude to God.
According to the Scriptures, salvation is never conditioned on human faithfulness, or on the promise of human faithfulness. There is no payment required, past, present, or future. God saves unmeriting sinners in unrelated, unrecompensed, unconditioned, sovereign grace. Good works should follow; but with no thought of compensation. Christians are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Eph. 2:10); they are to be a "peculiar people, zealous of good works" (Tit. 2:14); and "they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works" (Tit. 3:8). Thus, and only thus, are "good works" related to the gracious salvation from God through Christ Jesus. Grace is out of question when recompense is in question.
Fourth. Grace is not Exercised in the Just Payment of a Debt.
The fact is self-evident that the payment of an honest debt could never be an act of grace. In no circumstances, however, is the recognition of this truth more important than when grace is declared to be the present divine plan for the salvation of sinners. If God should discover the least degree of merit in the sinner, this, in strict righteousness, He must recognize and duly acknowledge. By such a recognition of human merit, He would be discharging an obligation toward the sinner and the discharge of that obligation toward the sinner would be the payment, or recognition, of a debt. "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt" (Rom. 4:4).
It is therefore imperative that every vestige of human merit shall be set aside completely if an opportunity is provided whereby pure grace may be exercised in the salvation of men. For the sole purpose that pure grace might be exercised toward men, the human family has been placed under the divine judicial sentence of sin. It is obviously true that all men are sinners both by nature and by practice; but the present divine decree goes far beyond this evident state of sinfulness wherein one man might be deemed to be more, or less, sinful than another; for God, in this dispensation, which began with the cross, has pronounced an equal and absolute sentence of judgment against all, both Jew and Gentile. Men are now "already condemned" (John 3:18); they are "children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2); not on the ground of their own sinfulness, but on the ground of their federal headship in fallen Adam. Men are now judicially reckoned to be "in unbelief" (Rom. 11:32); they are "under sin" (Rom. 3:9; Gal. 3:22); and they are "guilty" (Rom. 3:19). Thus all human merit has been disposed of absolutely and forever, and there is no longer the slightest possibility that, because of personal merit, a divine obligation may now exist toward any individual. The sole divine object in thus universally and judicially disposing of all human merit is clearly revealed: "For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all" (Rom. 11:32). Also, "But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe" (Gal. 3:22).
That God now saves sinners by grace alone and apart from every human merit is the teaching of His Word: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:8-10).
In this passage the only order which can exist between divine grace and human merit is made clear. Man is permitted to do nothing until God has done all that His grace designs. "Good works" grow out of, and are made possible by, the gracious work of God. To this exact order all revelation concerning divine grace is in agreement.
A striking emphasis is given to the fact that God now saves by grace alone when the Biblical doctrines of salvation by grace and the believer's rewards for service are contrasted. Salvation, being always and only a work of God for man, is always and only by grace alone, while rewards, being always and only that which is merited by the faithful service of the Christian, are always and only based on works. Human merit is always in view in the divine bestowment of rewards; and the grace of God is never mentioned in connection with His bestowment of rewards (1 Cor. 3:9-15; 9:18-27; 2 Cor. 5:10). So, also, human works are never included as forming any part of the divine plan of salvation by grace.
An act ceases to be gracious, therefore, when it is a recognition of merit, or the payment of a just debt. "Being justified freely [without cause] by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24).
Fifth. Grace is Never the Over-payment of a Debt.
Grace is no longer grace if it is complicated in the slightest degree with the payment of a just debt. It can never be that which is added to, or a part of, a righteous transaction. A bounty may be added to the payment of a debt, -- an extra amount above the full measure due; but in no case should this extra amount be considered a matter of pure grace. The character of the bounty thus added would, of necessity, be qualified to some extent by the relation of the bounty to the debt. The bounty will be either more, or less, than it would have been had it stood alone. Inevitably it will be affected to some degree by the righteous transaction with which it is combined. In the Word of God, as in common usage, the word grace, in its exact meaning, precludes any complications with other acts or issues however righteous and just. Grace speaks of a gift, not of barter or trade however unequal. It is pure kindness, not the fulfilling of an obligation. An act in order to be gracious must stand disassociated and alone. Divine salvation is, therefore, the kindness of God toward sinners. It is not less than it would be had they sinned less. It is not more than it would be had they sinned more. It is wholly unrelated to every question of human merit. Grace is neither treating a person as he deserves, nor treating a person better than he deserves. It is treating a person graciously without the slightest reference to his deserts. Grace is infinite love expressing itself in infinite goodness.
Through the death of Christ by which He took away the sin of the world, and through the divine decree which has constituted all to be "under sin," grace is free to save in every case, and only grace can save in any case. Divine grace is never decreased or increased. It offers a standardized, unvarying, blessing to every individual alike. The blessing is measureless since it represents in every case no less than all that God, being actuated by infinite love, can do.
Sixth. Grace does not Appear in the Immediate Divine Dealings with the Sins of the Unsaved.
It is probable that no point in the Gospel of God's saving grace is so misunderstood, and, consequently, so misstated as the revealed truth concerning the immediate divine dealings with the sins of the unsaved. It seems most difficult for the mind to grasp the fact that, as revealed in God's Word, God does not deal with any sin in mercy, or leniency. The sinner is never forgiven because God is big-hearted enough to remit the penalty, or to waive the righteous judgments. Any presentation of divine forgiveness which represents God as directly exercising clemency toward a sinner is a fatal detraction from the meaning of the cross of Christ, and is a disastrous misrepresentation of the truth contained in the Gospel of His saving grace. Those who dare to preach the Gospel should give to the cross its true place of vital importance as given to it in the Word of God. How can God utter a more alarming warning on this point than is disclosed in the revelation of the unrevoked anathema upon all who pervert the Gospel of grace? "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8, 9).
Turning from human speculation to the Scriptures of Truth, we discover one basic fact: The Lamb of God has already "taken away" the sin of the world (John 1:29). The fact that Christ, as Substitute, has already borne the undiminished righteous judgments of God against sin, is the sole ground upon which divine forgiveness is now exercised. The forgiveness of God toward sinners, therefore, is not an immediate act of grace; it is rather a judicial pardon of a debtor in view of the fact that his debt has been fully paid by Another. We could not know how much He paid; yet, though unable to measure redemption, we may rejoice in the fact that all, even to the measure of the righteous reckoning of God, is absolutely and eternally paid by Christ. It is not a question of the relative benefits which might possibly accrue to the sinner under one form of forgiveness or another, -- were he forgiven graciously, or in strict justice; it is a question of the basis upon which any divine forgiveness can be extended righteously. This righteous basis has been provided in the cross. By Gospel preaching, sinners are to be told that they may now stand forever pardoned before God: not because God is gracious enough to excuse their sins; but because there is plentiful redemption through the blood that has been shed (Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:7). Being free to forgive at all, God is free to forgive perfectly. On no other ground can the marvelous statement, -- "having forgiven you all trespasses" (Col. 2:13), be understood. This Scripture is addressed to Christians and it exactly defines the scope of divine forgiveness which is theirs. It likewise indicates the measure of forgiveness which is offered to the unsaved.
When God thus forgives, absolutely and eternally, through the cross of Christ He is acting as Judge. By this judicial decree, He sets aside forever all condemnation. Such judicial forgiveness, which guarantees an unchangeable standing and position in sonship, should not be confused with the Father's forgiveness toward His sinning child, which is wholly within the family relationship, and which restores lost fellowship and joy to the child of God.
Every unsaved person is under the three-fold sentence of sin. He is a sinner by practice, a sinner by nature, and a sinner by divine decree. God deals with this three-fold aspect of sin by a three-fold achievement in grace. There is forgiveness for man in view of the fact that he is a sinner by practice; there is imputed righteousness for man in view of the fact that he is a sinner by nature; and there is the divine decree of justification for man in view of the fact that he is a sinner who, by divine decree, is "under sin."
Judicial forgiveness itself is not an act of grace, nor is judicial forgiveness a mere act of divine clemency for some particular sins of present moment to the sinner: judicial forgiveness covers all sin, and by it the sinner is, as to possible condemnation, pardoned forever. This pardon covers all sins past, present, or future. God the Righteous Father will, in infinite faithfulness, correct and chasten His sinning child, and the sinning child will need to confess his sin in order to be restored into fellowship with his Father; but the Father will never condemn His child (John 3:18; 5:24; Rom. 8:1 R. V.; 1 Cor. 11:31, 32). The forgiveness of God toward the sinner is, then, made possible only through the cross and is never an act of immediate grace, and, when it is free to be extended at all, it is boundless. It contemplates and includes all sin. It forever absolves and acquits the sinner.
Though divine forgiveness results in a position for the sinner wherein there is no condemnation, this fact should in no wise be confused with the deeper aspect of God's saving grace wherein He justifies the sinner. Forgiveness cancels every debt before God, but justification declares the sinner to be forever judicially righteous in the eyes of God. One is subtraction, the other is addition; and both are righteously made possible through the cross.
Of the various divine undertakings in the salvation of a sinner, some are acts of divine justice, and some are acts of the immediate, super-abounding grace of God. Those acts which deal with human unworthiness and sin are acts of justice. These include forgiveness, justification, death to the law, freedom from the law, and the whole new creation. All this is made possible through the cross of Christ and, therefore, is not accomplished by an act of immediate grace. On the other hand, those aspects of salvation wherein God is revealed as imparting and bestowing His benefits are said to be immediate acts of grace. These include the gift of eternal life, the imputed righteousness of God, and every spiritual blessing. Limitless grace is seen in the love of God which provided the cross; but when that cross is provided, every saving act that is based upon it becomes an act of justice, rather than an act of immediate grace. "That he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26).
(Under grace, the salvation of a sinner is declared in about 115 passages to depend only on believing, and in about 35 passages to depend on faith, which is but a synonym of believing. The Scripture everywhere harmonizes with this overwhelming body of truth. Without due consideration of the precise bearing of this revelation on the doctrine of grace, zealous workers have proposed to add certain conditions to the plan of salvation other than believing. (1) It is not, "believe and pray." In view of His grace, it is in no wise necessary, or fitting, to implore God to save. (2) It is not "believe and confess sin." Confession of sin, which is the one condition upon which a saint may be restored to fellowship, is never imposed on the unsaved. Confession is foreign to the ground on which they stand. (3) It is not "believe and confess Christ before men." This condition, though imposed in the kingdom teachings of Christ (Mt. 10:32), is not, and could not be, a condition of salvation under grace. Romans 10:9 is given its final order and force in verse 10. There confession is seen to be the expression of salvation which has been received by believing. It is primarily the voice of the new-born babe in Christ speaking to its Father, -- "Abba Father." Multitudes have been saved who were deprived of any opportunity of a public confession. (4) It is not "believe and be baptized." Mark 16:16 is the one instance in Scripture where these two conditions are linked together. Not only is the context -- mark 16:9-20 -- omitted in the oldest manuscripts, the omission of the word baptized from the negative statement, "he that believeth not shall be damned," is evidence that baptism is not the essential condition in the positive statement. (5) It is not "believe and repent." About six times these two conditions are thus joined in the Scriptures which are addressed to the unsaved in this dispensation, and for obvious reasons. Over against this, it should be considered that believe, or faith, is used, apart from the word repentance, no less than 150 times; the Gospel by John which was written that men might be saved, does not use repentance in any form of the word; and the Book of Romans, which was written to unfold the whole doctrine of salvation, like the Gospel by John, does not once condition salvation on repentance, or anything other than believing. Repentance, which means "a change of mind," is never excluded from the terms of salvation; it is included as an essential part of believing. There is no Scriptural warrant for the grace-confusing practice of some who insist that repentance and believing are separate obligations to be imposed on the unsaved. It is impossible for a person to believe who does not repent. In believing, he will experience that change of mind which turns from all else unto Christ as the Object of trust. Measureless harm has been done to souls when it has been taught that a self-imposed repentance must precede faith in Christ. Such insistence ignores every vital aspect of saving grace.
Saving faith is more than a belief in historical facts concerning Christ; it is to rely on Christ, to depend on His saving grace, and to receive Him; it is to believe the record God has given concerning His Son. In preaching the Gospel, emphasis should not fall on the mere human act of believing; it should fall, rather, on the precise message which is to be believed.)
Seventh. Grace does not Appear in the Immediate Divine Dealings with the Sins of the Saved.
The divine dealings with the sins of the saved are similar to the divine dealings with the sins of the unsaved in one particular, namely, what God does in either case is done on the ground of the cross of Christ. By that cross all sin, whether it be that of saint or sinner, has been righteously judged, and the ransom price, which satisfies every demand of infinite holiness, has been paid. By His death, Christ provided the sufficient ground for both the salvation of the unsaved, and the restoration of the saved. It is because of what has already been accomplished in the cross concerning the sin of the world, that the unregenerate are freely forgiven and justified. This is a part of God's saving grace, and is wrought on the sole condition that they believe; while the regenerate are forgiven and cleansed on the sole condition that they confess. These two requirements indicated by these two words, it will be noted, are wholly different. The human obligation as represented by each word is exactly adapted in each case to the precise relationships which, on the one hand, exist between God and the unsaved, and, on the other hand, exist between God and the saved. The salvation of the sinner is unto union with God: the restoration of the saint is unto communion with God. Believing and confessing are two widely differing human conditions, or obligations, and should never be confused or interchanged. The lost are never saved by confessing, and the saved are never restored by believing.
That there is no greater demand imposed upon the unsaved than that he believe, and no greater demand imposed upon the saved than that he confess, is due to that which Christ accomplished on the cross. He wrought in behalf of sinner and saint in bearing the sin of the world, and every requirement of infinite justice is met for all in the finished work of Christ. In the one case, there is nothing left to be done but to believe; while in the other case, there is nothing left to be done but to confess.
The revealed attitude of God toward all men is that of grace alone. Therefore He does not need to be coaxed or persuaded. With His hand outstretched to bestow all that His grace can offer, it is highly inconsistent to plead with Him to be gracious, or to coax Him to be good. By the unvarying teaching of God's Word, and by the inexorable logic of the accomplished value of the cross, the forgiveness and blessing of God to the unsaved is conditioned upon believing, and to the saved it is conditioned upon confessing.
1 John 1:1 to 2:2 is the central passage in the Bible wherein the divine method of dealing with the sins of Christians is stated. A portion of this most important passage is as follows: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.... My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not [be not sinning]. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."
According to this Scripture, four vital elements enter into that divine forgiving and cleansing which constitutes the restoration of a sinning saint: (1) Confession is the one and only condition on the human side; (2) Absolute forgiveness and cleansing is promised on the divine side; (3) The Christian, while sinning, has been safe as to divine condemnation, because of his Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and (4) Divine forgiveness and cleansing is exercised toward the believer in unchallenged faithfulness and justice because Christ is "the propitiation for our sins."
In this transaction, as it is thus disclosed, the believer makes no disposition of his own sin; that has been made for him. So, also, the Advocate makes no excuses for the sinning Christian, nor does He plead for the clemency of the Father in behalf of the believer who has sinned. The Advocate presents the sufficiency of His own blood to meet the condemnation of every sin. The Father does not act in gracious kindness when forgiving and cleansing the believer: He acts in strict faithfulness to His covenant and promise of eternal keeping, and in strict justice because of the shed-blood. Such is the unchanging value of the propitiation which Christ made in His blood.
It should also be noted that, according to this revelation, the sinning saint is never before any tribunal other than that of his own Father. The eternal relationship between the Father and His child can never be set aside. The Father may correct and chasten His erring child (1 Cor. 11:31, 32; Heb. 12:3-15), and through confession the child may be restored to the place of fellowship; but all of this is wholly within the inner circle of the family and household of God. Condemnation, which would expel the child from the place of a son, is forever past. Nor does the sinning Christian draw on the mercy and favor of God when he is restored to fellowship in the household of God. How easily mercy and favor might be exhausted and overdrawn! On the contrary, the Christian, sheltered under the blood of propitiation, and standing in the merit of his Advocate, is on a basis where no past offences have accumulated against him; for he is cleansed and forgiven under the legal justice of the Father. The justice of God is made possible and is righteously demanded in view of the shed-blood of His own Son.
Let it not be supposed that this divine plan of restoration of the child of God to the Father's fellowship will react in an attitude of carelessness on the part of the Christian. The sufficient answer to this challenge is three-fold: (1) True confession is the expression of a very real repentance, or change of mind, which turns from the sin. This is the exact opposite of becoming accustomed to the sin, or becoming careless with regard to it. (2) This very revelation is given, we are told, not to encourage, or license us to sin; but rather that "ye sin not" (be not sinning). According to the Scriptures and according to human experience, the believer's safety in the faithfulness and justice of the Father and the advocacy and propitiation of the Son, is the greatest incentive for a holy life. It is clearly revealed that God has, by other and sufficient means, guarded against all careless sinning on the part of those whom He has eternally saved through the merit of His Son. And (3) God can righteously deal with sin in no other way than through the absolute value of the blood of His Son; but when sin has been laid on the Substitute, it can never be laid back on the sinner, or on any other. In the cross of Christ, the question of a possible condemnation because of sin is adjusted forever. Mercy and grace can never be co-mingled with divine justice. Boundless grace is disclosed in the provision of a perfect propitiation for the sins of the believer; but the application of the propitiation is never gracious; it is none other than the faithfulness and justice of the Father. Therefore grace does not appear in the forgiving and cleansing of the Christian's sins.
It may be concluded that the word grace, as used in the Bible in relation to divine salvation, represents the uncompromised, unrestricted, unrecompensed, loving favor of God toward sinners. It is an unearned blessing. It is a gratuity. God is absolutely untrammeled and unshackled in expressing His infinite love by His infinite grace (1) through the death of His Lamb by whom every limitation which human sin could impose has been dispelled, (2) through the provision which offers salvation as a gift by which human obligation has been forever dismissed, and (3) through the divine decree by which human merit has been forever deposed. Grace is the limitless, unrestrained love of God for the lost, acting in full compliance with the exact and unchangeable demands of His own righteousness through the sacrificial death of Christ. Grace is more than love; it is love set absolutely free and made to be a triumphant victor over the righteous judgment of God against the sinner.
Having examined into the meaning of the word grace, the three-fold divine ministry and undertaking in grace should be considered. It will be observed that:
I. God saves sinners by grace,
II. God keeps through grace those who are saved, and,
III. God teaches in grace those who are saved and kept how they should live, and how they may live, to His eternal glory.
SCRIPTURE discloses the fact that the power and resources of God are more taxed by all that enters into the salvation of the soul than His power and resources were taxed in the creation of the material universe. In salvation God has wrought to the extreme limit of His might. He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all. He could do no more.
Four aspects of His saving grace are now to be examined: (1) Three divine motives in grace, (2) Three principles which cannot co-exist with grace, (3) The gracious work of God for man, and (4) Saving grace is sovereign grace.
I. THREE DIVINE MOTIVES IN GRACE.
In the Bible, three motives are assigned to God for the salvation of sinners. These motives are to be considered in what seems to be the order of their importance; beginning with that which seems to be the least and moving on to that which seems to be the greatest.
First. Men are Said to be Saved that "Good Works" may Result.
A statement of this truth is found in Eph. 2:10: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Few portions of the Scriptures present more of the essentials of salvation than this passage. It should be considered in its various revelations:
"We are his workmanship."
Whatever enters into the transformation of the individual at the time he is saved is wholly a work of God for man. It is in no wise related to any work which man might do for God. According to the Scriptures, God alone can save, and God alone can keep. All that will have been done when God's saving work is completed, will be seen to be "his workmanship."
"Created in Christ Jesus."
The divine work in behalf of a saved person is nothing less than a new creation. He has passed through the creative hand of God a second time and has become a new creature. The result is a new birth, -- a regeneration by the Spirit. This new creation is organically related to Christ as a branch is in the vine, and as a member is in the human body. So the believer is in Christ. He is "created in Christ Jesus."
"Unto good works."
Never is the sinner created in Christ Jesus by good works. The divine purpose is here revealed. Good works are possible only to those who are "created in Christ Jesus." This truth is twice stated in the Epistle to Titus: "Who gave himself for us, that he, might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works"; "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men" (2:14; 3:8). So, also, this is the order of truth in the great doctrinal Epistles. The work of God for man is first stated. After this, and growing out of this, is a new obligation which is the appeal for the faithful work of man for God. It is the reasonable demand for a life corresponding to the transformation which God hath already wrought in the believer through His saving grace.
"Which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
This phrase limits and qualifies the exact scope of the "good works" which form the new obligation of the one who is "created in Christ Jesus." These works are particular and definite. They are none other than those good works which have been before ordained for each believer. Such "good works" can be discovered and realized only as the life is wholly yielded to the will of God.
Three revelations concerning the place and value of human works in relation to salvation should be distinguished:
1. Works as required under the Law.
In all this body of Truth, human works are set forth as being meritorious. It was because of human works that divine blessings were bestowed. This was an essential characteristic of law-relationships to God, and it is the exact opposite of grace-relationships. Under grace, it is because of divine blessings that human works are wrought. The law was exactly and appropriately applied by Christ to the lawyer when He said: "This do and thou shalt live" (Lk. 10:28. Cf Mt. 22:34-40; Mk. 12:28-34. See, also Mt. 19:16-26; Mk. 10:17-30; Lk. 18:18-30).
2. Works as the proper test of saving faith.
This aspect of truth is taught by James (2:14-26). In this Scripture it is declared that true salvation will be manifested outwardly by good works. This should be expected when salvation is said to be "unto good works." Such good works will serve to justify the saved one in the eyes of the world. This is but the counterpart of the more fundamental doctrine that justification before God is by faith alone (Rom. 5:1). An important exception to all this is the fact that a saint may, for a time, be walking "in darkness." At such a time there will be abnormal results in his life before God and before the world.
3. Works as indicative of the attitude of heart toward the grace of God.
Works which are impelled by the consciousness of a right relation to God through His grace, are treated as works of obedience and unto life eternal; while works of any character which are wrought apart from saving faith are treated as works of disobedience unto indignation and wrath (Rom. 2:1-16). One manner of life represents the obedience of faith; the other manner of life represents the disobedience of unbelief.
The first purpose of God in saving men to be mentioned, and which seems to be least, is, then, the good works which are made possible only through the salvation that is wrought by His power and grace. If this revelation concerning our salvation "unto good works" stood alone, -- which, alas, it too often is supposed to do, -- the work of God for man would be greatly limited and misrepresented. Under a solitary emphasis on this aspect of the divine purpose in the salvation of men, God is made to appear as a heartless taskmaster directing infinite undertakings and interested in humanity only to the extent of the service that He can derive from man. And, should their productiveness cease through age or weakness, they inevitably must be thrown into the refuse. Happily this divine motive in the salvation of men does not stand alone.
Second. Men are Said to be Saved Because of the Benefits which Accrue to Them.
This motive is stated in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." By this Scripture, God is said to be moved in man's salvation because of two priceless blessings which will thus be bestowed on the one who believes: (1) That he "should -not perish" and (2) that he should "have everlasting life."
This divine motive would seem all-sufficient, and it is, again, and too often, the only motive which is considered by many. Individual salvation with its personal benefits is now challenged by some writers and teachers as being selfish and narrow. This challenge is both unwarranted and wicked. Salvation must be individual by its very nature, and the eternal benefits to the individual who receives the gift and grace of God are beyond comprehension. These personal benefits are the expression of the very essence of the love and favor of God. To challenge them is no less a sin than to discredit the wisdom and goodness of God. The Scriptural safeguard against an over-emphasis on the human advantage and benefit in salvation does not consist in discrediting the tremendous revelations regarding individual salvation; it consists rather, in the exposition of the just balance of truth which is gained from the added revelation concerning the third and far greater motive in the salvation of men, to wit:
Third. Men are Said to be Saved for the Manifestation of Divine, Grace.
The final and supreme motive of God in the salvation of men is declared in Eph. 2:7: "That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
Accompanying this declaration of the supreme purpose of God, a statement is made concerning the saving work of God for the individual. By this saving work, men are "made alive" who were "dead in trespasses and sins," and are "raised" and made to "sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus," who were "without Christ ... having no hope, and without God in the world." By these two revelations regarding the present estate of the saved, two essential aspects of the divine undertaking in man's salvation are disclosed: (1) That which is wrought in man, -- represented by the gift of eternal life, and (2) that which is wrought for man, even the eternal positions in Christ, -- represented by the fact that an individual being saved, is now seated in the heavenly in Christ Jesus.
What, then, is the supreme motive in the salvation of men? The answer is clear: "That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [by means of] his kindness [that gracious, saving thing he does] toward us through Christ Jesus." God's supreme motive is nothing less than His purpose to demonstrate before all intelligences, -- principalities and powers, celestial beings, and terrestrial beings, -- the exceeding riches of His grace. This God will do by means of that gracious thing which He does through Christ Jesus. All intelligences will know the depth of sin and the hopeless estate of the lost. They will, in turn, behold men redeemed and saved from that estate appearing in the highest glory, -- like Christ. This transformation will measure and demonstrate the "exceeding riches of his grace."
The supreme purpose of God is to be realized through the salvation of men by grace alone. So fully does that supreme purpose now dominate the divine undertakings in the universe that everything in heaven and in the earth is contributing solely to the one end. To gain the realization of this supreme purpose, this age, which continues from the death of Christ to His coming again, was ushered in. These long centuries of human struggle were decreed for this one purpose. No vision which is less than this will prove sufficient. Men with blinded eyes do not see afar off. To such the world is moving on by mere chance, or to the supposed consummation of some human glory in the earth. Eyes thus blinded see naught of the glory of heaven; minds thus darkened understand nothing of the supreme purpose of God in the demonstration of the exceeding riches of His grace. But, when this age is consummated it will be clearly seen by all beings in heaven and in the earth that these centuries of the on-moving universe have been designed for no other reason than the realization of the supreme purpose of God in the salvation of men by grace alone. The out-calling of the "church which is his body" from both Jews and Gentiles is the out-working of God's purpose to gather into one heavenly company all the redeemed of this age. The supreme purpose is realized in their salvation and this design was the "mystery," or sacred secret, which was hid in other ages, but which is now revealed to "holy apostles and prophets" of this dispensation. The ministry entrusted to the Apostle Paul was, "To make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph. 3:9-11). Israel must remain blinded until this purpose is realized (Rom. 11:25), and the mystery of iniquity must work until this heavenly company is saved and taken away with the removal of the restraining Spirit of God (2 Thes. 2:7).
It may be added, as well, that the other divine motives in the salvation of men, already mentioned, only contribute to the realization of the one supreme motive. The "good works" of those who are saved are the "effectual working" of every part of the body making "increase of the body" (Eph. 4:16), and the results of that saving grace which is exercised toward the sinner -- that he should not perish but have everlasting life -- are only to the end that all of the saved ones together may demonstrate in the ages to come the exceeding riches of His grace.
And, again, the purpose of God, which is to shew the exceeding riches of His grace, reaches beyond the boundaries of this age and is the supreme divine purpose in the whole creation, preservation, and consummation of the universe. Christ is declared to be the cause, center, purpose and benefactor of all creation. "All things are created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist" (Col. 1:16, 17), but the important aspect of all salvation centers in the fact that "through the blood of his cross" He is to reconcile all things unto Himself. "And you, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death" (Col. 1:21, 22). Of all the aspects of His eternal Person, the emphasis falls on the fact that, He was a Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Even those who are redeemed by His precious blood and who are the outshining manifestation of the grace of God, were chosen in Him "before the foundation of the world"; moreover, the "good works" of those who are saved, which are unto the proclamation of the Gospel of His saving grace, were "before ordained" that they should walk in them. So, likewise, sweeping on into the ages to come, we are told that of all the glories that will belong to the Lord of Glory, that glory which was given unto Him because of His redeeming love will be all-surpassing: "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:6-11). It is declared of Him that He is "appointed heir of all things"; by Him the ages were programmed; He is the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express Image of His Person; and he upholdeth all things by the word of His power. But to what purpose is this marvelous unfolding of His eternal Being if it is not to relate His Deity to His present saving grace; to accomplish which, it is stated, He, having "by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:2, 3)? Thus absolutely does the whole universe throughout the program of the ages center about the sacrificial death of the Son of God, by whom that heavenly company are to be redeemed, purified, transformed, and translated into the eternal manifestation of the riches of grace.
The complete manifestation of divine grace which is to be revealed in the glory will be by means of all that combines in Christ -- the Glorious Head, together with His redeemed Body, every member of which will have been transformed into His very image. What a spectacle for angels and archangels, principalities and powers, mankind and demons! Yea, what a spectacle for God Himself; for He will then gaze on that surpassing manifestation of His grace to His own "exceeding joy" (Jude 24)!
Divine grace could have had no place in this universe until sin had entered. Through creation, the wisdom and power of God had been disclosed; but there had been no unveiling of God's love for the undeserving, since there had been no occasion for its manifestation. This statement does not imply that we are to sin that grace may abound. There is a wide difference between the fact that God permitted sin to enter the world, and the thought that thereby God licenses man to sin. Whether there have been greater motives which have actuated God in permitting sin to enter the world than He has revealed, none can say. It is certain, however, that the greatest motive that He has been pleased to reveal is to be inferred from the fact that grace cannot be exercised where there is no demerit, and that He designs above all else that His saving grace shall have an actual and adequate demonstration in all the ages to come. How could it be otherwise? What poverty of experience would reign in a universe that had never dreamed of true heart-compassion, the incomparable joy of forgiving and being forgiven, or that never would have heard the victory song of the redeemed! A universe which otherwise would have been with all its magnificence of celestial glory, as cold, unyielding, and unapproachable as the law of infinite righteousness itself, has been colored and warmed by the penitent's tears, and by the unveiling of the unfathomable grace of God toward the sinful. Highest of all revealed glories, -- and who can measure its relative import? -- the boundless grace of God is being manifested through the salvation of sinners. Such is the spectacle concerning which angelic hosts and human throngs will marvel, and about which they will sing throughout the ages of the ages to come.
Returning to Eph. 3:8-11 we read that the Apostle Paul was sent to preach the "unsearchable riches of Christ." Such riches could be brought to light only by means of the fact of sin and its cure through the cross of Christ. The Apostle was also sent "to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery [sacred secret], which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ." This sacred secret is, according to the preceding context, the calling out and saving in this age of a company from both Jews and Gentiles, which company is the true "church which is his body." By the salvation of these, He purposes to unveil before all heavenly hosts His greatest display of wisdom as it is seen in the manifestation of His bosom of love through the coming of Christ into the world to redeem the lost. For we read: "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
At no point can tolerance be given to the theory that the Innocent Man in the Garden of Eden was God's first and highest ideal, that sin entered in spite of God, and that redemption is an after-thought -- the best available remedy in view of the wreckage of sin. It is a redeemed sinner who takes the highest place in glory. This redemption was in view before all creation. The finite mind is soon overwhelmed in the contemplation of the eternal facts and purposes of God; but there is much that we may understand when we read, first, concerning the coming of Christ into the world to redeem by His precious blood: "Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you" (1 Pet. 1:20); "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8); and, "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23). And, second, when we read concerning the eternal purpose of God in the saved: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" (1 Pet. 1:2), and, again, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:29, 30).
It is evident, therefore, that the supreme motive of God in the creation, preservation, and consummation of the universe, in the permission of evil to enter the world, and in the mighty undertakings of salvation as it is now offered to sinful men through the death and resurrection of Christ, is that His "riches of grace" may be disclosed to all intelligences within the whole scope of creation.
If the supreme motive of God is to reveal His grace, then salvation must be by grace alone, or the eternal purpose of God must fail. Hence we read: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:8-10); "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Rom. 4:4, 5); "And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work" (Rom. 11:6); "But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved" (Acts 15:11). On no other basis can grace be manifested than by salvation which is wholly unrelated to human merit or works.
II. THREE PRINCIPLES WHICH CANNOT CO-EXIST WITH GRACE
It has been shown that the three essential principles which antagonize and if permitted would frustrate the principle of pure grace are set aside in this age for the sole purpose that grace may prevail uncomplicated and uncompromised. The divine annulling of every opposing principle to pure grace is not only natural, but necessary, if the supreme divine purpose of this age is the manifestation of grace and that purpose is to be realized. The three essential principles already mentioned and which can never co-exist with pure grace are:
First. Any Recognition of Human Guilt.
God must be free to exercise grace without the slightest limitation because of human demerit and sin; for grace would no longer be grace if its benefits are withheld from the sinner in the least degree because of sin. Grace can only be exercised where every question of unworthiness has been banished forever. This God has accomplished in the cross, and for the purpose that His supreme manifestation of grace may be realized unto infinite perfection. The Lamb of God has taken away the sin of the world, and God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. By these and many other Scriptures it is revealed that the grace-opposing principle of sin and demerit has been removed from before the eyes of God for all men. Thus, and only thus, could divine grace be exercised toward all men. But since God through the death of Christ has, in the absolute sense, dealt with the sin of the whole world, He is now free by the exercise of grace, in the absolute sense, to lavish its riches upon the chief of sinners without reservation or diminution. Divine grace thus awaits on divine justice; for only as the last demand of infinite righteousness against sin has been paid can divine grace be exercised. There can be no admixture of these principles wherein divine justice is partly satisfied and to such an extent God is partly free to act in grace. Every vestige of demerit must be removed before God can exercise grace. This vital truth about grace cannot be too strongly emphasized. The operations of divine grace can never overlap or share in any aspect of the operations of divine justice; but when divine justice has finished its work and abandoned the field forever, divine grace is free to occupy the field alone in the full blaze of its infinite glory.
Thus grace now "reigns through righteousness"; but it is grace alone that reigns. A righteous throne of awful justice, wrath, and blasting judgments has become "a throne of grace." Such is the marvel of God's infinite favor. Such is the good news which is to be proclaimed to a ruined world; for it is grace alone that is now offered to hell-deserving sinners. Only by the absolute removal of the condemnation of all sin could the way be made clear for the absolute manifestation of the grace of God.
Second. Any Recognition of Human Obligation.
No more can grace remain grace, if by its benefits there is created and imposed the slightest obligation for payment or remuneration. Grace is unrecompensed favor. Its riches must be bestowed and received only on the ground that it is an uncomplicated gift. "I give unto them eternal life," and "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (John 10:28; Rom. 6:23).
In order that the field might be absolutely clear for the manifestation of uncomplicated divine grace, God has perfectly eliminated every work of man -- past, present, and future from the terms of salvation by grace: "not of works, lest any man should boast"; and, "if by grace, it is no more works"; "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted [reckoned] for righteousness"; "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us." Man must take salvation as a gift. He need only believe in order to be saved. The complete setting aside of human obligation as payment for divine blessings is the only ground upon which God can be free to act in unlimited divine grace toward sinners; but every human work and obligation is now set aside and pure grace is offered to all men in the Gospel of the grace of God.
Third. Any Recognition of Human Merit.
This third opposing principle to divine grace has been disannulled by the fact that humanity is now stripped of every conceivable merit before God. As has been stated, revelation concerning the present relation of fallen man to God goes far beyond a disclosure of the fact that man is a sinner both by nature and by practice. This of itself would be a sufficient cause for condemnation; but, beyond all this, God has now pronounced an all-inclusive, judicial, condemning sentence on the whole race, both Jew and Gentile. By this universal sentence every individual has been reduced to the lowest level, so far as human merit before God is concerned. In the affairs of men, there is a legitimate field in which they may compare themselves one with another as to relative moral character and action; but such comparison is now completely eliminated from all divine estimations of unregenerate men. This important fact is one of the characterizing features of this age and forms an essential factor in the present supreme purpose of God in which He purposes to manifest His grace. Apart from this judicial sentence against all men, the grace of God could never be manifested. The following Scriptures disclose this present universal decree of divine judgment against all men, and in considering them it is important to note that this universal judgment is not a mere estimation of the various degrees of human guilt; it is an arbitrary leveling of every human being to a basis which is absolutely without merit or standing before God.
"For we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin" (Rom. 3:9); "But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe" (Gal. 3:22); "For God hath concluded them all [Jew and Gentile] in unbelief [disobedience,] that he might have mercy upon all" (Rom. 11:32); "That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Rom. 3:19). It is true that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God," which indicates that man is a sinner by practice; but it is a far deeper revelation that all, by judicial sentence, are under "sin" and "unbelief" and are all now equally "guilty" before God.
In exact agreement with the present universal leveling of all humanity to the place of supreme and unconditioned condemnation is the equally important revelation that, through the substitutionary death of Christ for all men as Sin-Bearer (John 1:29; 2 Cor. 5:14, 19), the ground of universal divine condemnation is no longer the sins which men have committed and which Christ has borne; but rather the condemnation is now because of the personal rejection of the Saviour who bore the sin.
(Should question be raised at this point as to the fact that a vast portion of humanity have not actually rejected a Saviour since they have had no knowledge of the Gospel, it should be borne in mind that two divine provisions have been determined for this age, and they are interdependent: (1) God has commissioned that the Gospel of His grace shall be preached to every creature, and, (2) every creature will stand or fall, according to his personal attitude toward this Gospel of saving grace. The fact that the messengers have failed to bear the message to every creature has created a situation in the world about which the divine provisions are not revealed; nor could they be revealed reasonably. The essential age-characterizing fact must stand, -- God holds men as condemned, or not condemned, on the sole basis of a personal rejection, or acceptance, of all that is revealed in the Gospel of His grace.)
This is set forth in His Word: "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18); "But he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). In confirmation of the fact that men are now condemned because of unbelief, it should be noted that when the Spirit of God approaches the unsaved to convince them of sin, He does not shame them, or blame them, concerning the sins they have committed; He rather convicts them of one sin only: "Of sin, because they believe not on me" (John 16:9). So, also, Christians are said to be free from all condemnation on the sole ground that they have believed on the Saviour: "He that believeth on him is not condemned" (John 3:18. Cf 5:24; Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 11:32; 2 Cor. 5:19).
The conclusion to be derived from this investigation into the present standing of man before God is that he is universally "condemned," "under sin," and reckoned to be in "unbelief." This divine decree permits of no variations or gradations. It represents the very lowest level of standing before God to which it is possible for any human being to descend, and all unregenerate men are now placed on that level.
At this point God offers but one remedy. That remedy is GRACE. By the complete removal of all consideration of human merit, God is now unconditionally free to act in grace in behalf of man. On no other ground could grace be exercised. Hence all preaching of law-observance, or moral reform, to unregenerate men is unwarranted, misleading, and is contrary to the essential fact of divine grace; for no moral appeal, or appeal to human works, can be made apart from the assumption that, should unregenerate people comply with such appeals, they would not be discredited to the same extent before God as they would otherwise be.
(Let it be restated that there is, in the field of human government and social order, a legitimate recognition of varying degrees of moral fitness; but these find no place as a basis of divine grace, or as the ground of salvation.)
In this dispensation there is no middle ground for half-good people. Men are either utterly condemned under the universal decree of the Judge of all the earth, or they are perfectly saved and safe in the grace of God as it is in Jesus Christ.
It is either Christ or Hell.
The divine objective in reducing humanity to the lowest level of all conceivable grades of human standing before God is not merely to give adequate expression to His hatred of evil: it is the expression of His infinite goodness and love; for only thus could the riches of His grace be extended to them. He has reckoned them to be in unbelief "that he might have mercy [grace] upon all"; and "The scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." Only when human merit has thus been removed forever, can divine grace undertake its saving work.
The grace of God which is offered so freely to the sinner is not a variable quantity which might be adapted to the different degrees of human sinfulness; it is an unchangeable whole. It is standardized and cannot be increased or diminished. It is all that God can ever do for the sinner in time or eternity. It is as infinite as He is infinite. Such measureless grace is now freely offered to the sinner. He has but to receive Christ in whom all fulness dwells. Men are either "under sin," or "under grace." They are, in the most unequivocal sense, either lost or saved.
In order that grace might be measured in all its limitless riches and glory, the objects of that grace are lifted from the lowest level of human standing before God to the highest pinnacle of heavenly glory. Everything has been divinely arranged so that this transition may be a measurement of divine grace. To this end the widest extremes that are possible for God to decree in human positions have been determined. Such is the present low estate of the lost under the universal divine decree, and such will be the exalted estate of the saved in the highest glory when grace shall have completed its work. Of no archangel has the Lord prayed as He has prayed for the objects of His grace: "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me" (John 17:24). These two extremes, represented by the present estate of the lost, on the one hand, and the coming heavenly glory of the saved when finally transformed into the very image of Christ, on the other hand, are the boundaries which measure the infinite grace of God. The positional transference of man from the lowest level that divine judgment can decree to the highest altitude of heaven, the change from a death-doomed, hell-deserving sinner to a son of God and a partaker of the eternal glory, are demonstrations of the measurement of His own grace which God has decreed and with which He is to be forever satisfied.
Since God's grace is to be manifested in glory, it is required that every aspect of the saving transformation shall be wrought in grace alone. All human merit is of necessity excluded. So, also, since the ultimate estate of the saved in glory is to be such that they will then be "like Christ" and "conformed to the image" of God's Son, and "faultless before the presence of his glory," it is equally demanded that this divine transformation shall be free from every human touch. Such measureless results can be secured and guaranteed only as the work of God is uncombined with any human work. The best human work could but mar and spoil the divine ideal. Therefore it is by grace that ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:8, 9).
Having in the most absolute sense disposed of the three grace-opposing principles -- human sin, human obligation, and human merit, -- God, in the same absolute sense, is now free to lavish His undiminished grace upon whomsoever He will. He purposes thus to manifest His grace: not merely as a selfish gratification of display on His part; but rather as a satisfaction of His love which knows no bounds.
Only as grace is seen to be the realization of the supreme purpose of god, can the expressions used in the Scriptures concerning the outflow of that grace be understood. The resources of language have been exhausted in the attempt to indicate the infinite grace of God in terms of human speech. Probably these resources of language have been more exhausted at this point than concerning any other theme of the Word of God. How could it be otherwise? God through grace purposes the realization of the greatest undertaking and accomplishment in all the universe. The following Scriptures unfold the limitless character of His grace:
"And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for [added to, or heaped upon] grace" (John 1:16); "Abundance [superabundance] of grace" (Rom. 5:17); "But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (superabound, Rom. 5:20); "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" (superabound, Rom. 6:1); "And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding [above measure] grace of God in you" (2 Cor. 9:14); "The abundant [more than enough] grace" (2 Cor. 4:15).
Grace heaped upon grace, superabounding, and without measure, is the description given of the limitless outflow of divine favor. The grace of God belongs to the realm of the infinite. His measureless love and goodness are released from every restraint. They are unshackled and free. The supreme divine objective is then, that infinite love may manifest itself in superabounding grace. His love is knowledge-surpassing, infinite, and eternal. So, also, is His grace.
III. THE GRACIOUS WORK OF GOD FOR MAN
The uncomplicated work of God for man, which is to measure His grace, is presented in the Word of God in seven major aspects:
First. The Finished Work of Christ.
This is no less than the combined values of His redemption, reconciliation, and propitiation, as these aspects of His cross are related to the whole world lost in sin (1 Tim. 2:6; 2 Cor. 5:19, 20; 1 John 2:1, 2). This aspect of the divine work is forever "finished" for every soul, and its glorious achievement is the good news of the Gospel of saving grace.
Second. The Convicting Work of the Spirit.
By this work of God the Gospel of His saving grace is revealed to the mind and heart of the unsaved by the Spirit of God. He convinces of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:7-11). Only by this illuminating work of the Spirit can the Satan-blinded mind of the unsaved (2 Cor. 4:3, 4) understand the way of life in Christ Jesus.
Third. The Saving Work of God.
This divine undertaking includes every aspect of the work of God that is accomplished at the instant when the sinner believes on Christ. It is no less than many transforming miracles which are wrought instantaneously and simultaneously in the saving power of God.
Fourth. The Keeping Work of God.
The clear Biblical testimony is to the effect that the believer is kept always and only through the grace and power of God. Because of the work of Christ on the cross, God is presented as not only being free to save meritless sinners; but He is presented as being free to keep those whom He has saved. Under legal relationships men endured in order that they might be saved (Mt. 24:13). Under grace relationships men endure because they are saved (John 10:28). God alone is "able" to keep.
Fifth. The Delivering Work of God.
The Christian who is perfectly saved from the guilt and penalty of sin needs also to be saved from the reigning power of sin. God alone can save in any case, and therefore deliverance from sin, weakness and failure is provided, not by human effort, but by the power of the indwelling Spirit; and is secured, not on the principle of works, but on the principle of faith. "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). Deliverance, too, is always and only a work of God.
Sixth. The Work of God in Christian Growth.
Too often Christian growth is confused with spirituality, or deliverance from the power of sin. A very immature believer, as to growth, may be delivered and be in the full blessing of the Spirit. He has yet much to learn from experience and from the Word of God; but this need not limit his immediate blessing of heart and life. In fact only spiritual Christians grow. Carnality in life means perpetual babyhood in spirituality. "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18); "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18).
Seventh. The Final Presenting Work of God.
It is the final and consummating work of God to present the believer faultless before the presence of His glory to His own exceeding joy. It is promised that when we see Him we shall be "like him." We shall then be conformed to the image of the Son of God.
No one will persuade himself that he will assist in this final transformation and translation. No more can any believer assist in any of these aspects of the work of God. Salvation is the work of God alone. It is from Him, by Him, and unto Him. In every stage of the development it is the work of God alone which can avail, and that work is now provided and offered in marvelous grace. Particular emphasis is needed at this point. Salvation is of God; and man's responsibility is only that of being a recipient of it. Man is called upon to make only such personal adjustment to God as will place him in the normal position to receive the divine blessing. The undertaking is of such a character that man can contribute in no wise to its accomplishment. It aims to reproduce the very perfection of Christ Himself, which perfection would be ruined could man touch it. And it is all to the demonstration of the grace of God in the ages to come and hence, as certainly, precludes the thought of any complication with human merit, else the greatest motive of God which has been working from before the foundation of the world would be defeated, -- a contingency impossible in the light of revelation.
According to the Scriptures, the human element is never included beyond the essential adjustment of man to the work of God. This human responsibility is always expressed in terms which suggest that man is the recipient of the benefits of the work of God. Some of these Bible terms are: "Believe," "Receive," "Faith," "By me if any man enter in," "Come unto me," "Whosoever will may come," "Whosoever calleth," "Turned to God," being "Reconciled to God." Thus it is seen that man is saved from the guilt and penalty of sin, not by expiating his own sins, but by believing in the One who has suffered in his stead. After he is thus saved, he is delivered from the power of sin in his daily life, not by anxious striving, but by yielding and by relying on the all-sufficient, indwelling Spirit. He will be saved from the presence of sin into the coming glory and likeness of Christ, not by any effort or human device, but by the power which wrought in Christ to raise Him from the dead, and by which he will be translated instantly from the earth to heaven. In every instance the divine responsibility is seen to be within the sphere of the actual accomplishment of the mighty undertaking; but man's responsibility is in the sphere of the reception of that work. The whole transaction is free from every consideration of remuneration, barter, or trade. It is the love of God expressing itself in His gracious work for those who, within themselves, will ever be hopelessly undeserving and therefore eternally debtors to infinite grace.
Salvation is the work of God for man; it is not the work of man for God.
Salvation is the bestowal and actual impartation of eternal life; it is not the beauties and artificial imitations of ethical living.
Salvation is the imputed righteousness of God; it is not the imperfect righteousness of man.
Salvation is according to the faithful calling of God; it is not according to the fitful carefulness of man.
Salvation is a divine reconciliation; it is not a human regulation.
Salvation is the canceling of all sin, it is not the cessation from some sin.
Salvation is being delivered from, and dead to, the law; it is not delighting in, or doing, the law.
Salvation is divine regeneration; it is not human reformation.
Salvation is being acceptable to God; it is not becoming exceptionally good.
Salvation is completeness in Christ; it is not competency in character.
Salvation is possessing every spiritual blessing; it is not professing any special betterment.
Salvation is always and only of God. It is never of man. It is the unsearchable riches of Christ. It is unto good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
IV. THE GRACE OF GOD IS SOVEREIGN
Not every member of the human family will be included in the glorious, grace-revealing company of the redeemed in heaven. Nothing is more clearly taught in the Scriptures than this; but the salvation of those who are being gathered into that company, it is revealed, will be according to the sovereign purpose of God, and not according to any merit in the individual. There are two fields of divine undertaking wherein the work of God stands alone: (1) The creation of the universe and (2) the redemption of sinners. Certain aspects of work, however, are entrusted to men. They are appointed to preach the Gospel to the lost, to edify the saints by teaching, and to cooperate in the gathering and care of the assemblies of believers. Yet even this human service is impotent apart from the enabling power of the Spirit of God.
So, also, while God is sovereign in the salvation of men, He has allowed sufficient latitude within the larger circles of His unalterable purpose for the exercise of the human will. "Whosoever will may come." This is the invitation to the unsaved. Likewise He addresses the believer concerning the possible blessings of a Spirit-filled life by such words of human responsibility as "yield," "reckon," and "confess." It is equally revealed in the Scriptures that such action of the human will is never apart from the divine enablement. God must move the heart of the unsaved: "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44). He must move the heart of the saved as well: "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).
There is no Biblical ground for the theory that even the minutest detail of the eternal purpose of God will ever be uncertain because of a supposed unanticipated action of the human will. God cannot be disappointed, defeated, or surprised. The glorious company of the redeemed will, therefore, be gathered according to an "election of grace."
Two out-standing facts are disclosed in the Scriptures in regard to the attitude of God toward this world: (1) Back of the secondary question of the human choice for which man is held responsible, is the more important fact that God has permitted men to be born and live who He as certainly knows will reject His grace with all the woe that their choice entails. Thus there is no escape from the fundamental fact of the sovereignty of God by emphasizing the superficial issues of a human choice. And (2) God is under the compelling force of His own boundless love to be the Saviour of all men. He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Thus, if divine love for a lost -world can form any incentive in the heart of God, according to the Scriptures, there is formed an equal incentive toward all. These statements are seemingly contradictory one to the other, and the solution of the problem they present is never found in seeking to minimize the one in the hope of preserving the other. Theological systems have been developed, made their appeal, and failed at this very point. The solution of the problem is never found in the range of human reason; it is perfectly solved in the range of divine righteousness. Being unable to penetrate the infinite issues involved, man may rest on the absolute righteousness of God. The glorified saint, looking back over the steps of the divine accomplishment, will then see that all God did was right. Here faith alone can minister rest to the soul. The consummation of the age will be seen to be according to infinite wisdom, love, and power. It will be to the eternal satisfaction of God whose tender heartedness is boundless and whose justice can never be diminished. It will be all-satisfying to His saints; for it is declared that they will be "satisfied" when they awake in His likeness. The Gospel of the grace of God is to be preached to all men with an appeal to their will. The result will be a selection and election according to sovereign grace. It will be in absolute accord with infinite goodness, and the result will be to His own exceeding joy.
Every form of evangelism which tends to force the decision of the will beyond the sovereign movements of the Spirit on the hearts of men is fraught with infinite perils.
No emphasis on the importance of preaching the Gospel of grace in its purity can be too strong. Biblical preaching must present saving grace with no admixtures of limitations because of human sin, human obligation, or human merit. Only thus can there be the fullest cooperation of the Spirit of God, and only thus can the messenger be saved from the unrevoked anathema which is pronounced (Gal. 1:8, 9) on all those who pervert the Gospel of the grace of God.
NOT only is the believer said to be saved by grace, but he is said to "stand" in grace. The word stand, as used in the New Testament, gives expression to the thought of continuing and enduring, and to "stand" in grace is to abide unchanged, to endure, and to continue in grace. We read: "We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand" (Rom. 5:2), and, "This is the true grace of God wherein ye stand" (1 Pet. 5:12).
The continued exercise of divine grace toward the Christian is the one and only basis upon which he may hope to endure; for, as certainly as grace is the one and only basis upon which God can save a meritless sinner, so certainly grace alone is the basis upon which God can righteously keep him saved. Having begun in the Spirit, or wholly in the power and grace of God, there is no hope for continuance to be found in the flesh, or the resources of human strength. Human ability can no more maintain a right standing before God than it can attain such a standing.
Since the application of divine grace for the salvation of the sinner precedes, in point of time, the application of that grace for the keeping of the one who is saved, it is perhaps permissible to contemplate the operation of divine grace in a two-fold classification-the grace which saves, and the grace which keeps. But, on the other hand, an over-emphasis of this two-fold classification is misleading in the extreme; for in no sense are there two efforts, or operations, of divine grace. The keeping ministry of God in grace is but the realization of that which is purposed, programmed, and wholly provided for in His saving ministry in grace. In reality, God offers no saving ministry of grace which does not include and guarantee His keeping ministry of grace. The varied operations of divine grace in behalf of the sinner which contemplate his every need to the end of eternity are one indivisible purpose of God.
The wholly artificial, two-fold classification of the ministries of grace into that which saves, and that which keeps, has been emphasized by certain theological systems. These systems, while professing to believe in the doctrine of salvation by grace, ignore or repudiate at the same time, the doctrine of the keeping power of God through grace. The promoters of these systems have contended that God in grace might save a sinner for the moment; but the endurance in that salvation would, of necessity, be conditioned on human merit and works. In other words, the saved one would remain saved only as long as he remained good. Such a conception of saving grace is so far removed from the fundamental ground upon which all grace must be based, that it must be concluded that the framers and supporters of these doctrines have in no sense discovered the true character of saving grace and are, therefore, unable to advance on the true lines of revelation which lead to the perfectly secured consummation of all saving grace. This consummation is no less than the keeping of the saved one throughout all time and eternity. Multitudes who have been trained in these false doctrines are saved, but they are saved in spite of their doctrines, and those who are saved have in every case been kept from the moment they were saved; not because they remained good, but because of the fact that unmerited favor is provided for every one who is saved by grace.
Since there is a difference as to time of application of the indivisible operations of divine grace and since certain theological systems have forced this division to the point of an avowed belief and confidence toward the grace which saves, and to the point of avowed disbelief and discredit toward the grace which keeps, grace will be treated throughout this and remaining chapters as though it were subject to this two-fold classification.
The fact that God keeps the saved one on a grace principle alone has been anticipated already in the preceding chapters; but turning to a more specific consideration of the fact and force of divine grace as related to the keeping power of God, the subject may be given a three-fold classification: (1) The keeping power of God through grace is included in every consideration of the principles of grace. (2) The keeping power of God through grace is implied in every revelation wherein is presented the truth that grace reaches into the coming ages for its consummation. (3) The keeping power of God through grace is seen in the manifold provisions and safeguards which He has made to that end. These three viewpoints of the keeping power of divine grace are essential.
I. THE KEEPING POWER OF GOD THROUGH GRACE IS INCLUDED IN EVERY CONSIDERATION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF GRACE
If God has found a way whereby He can righteously save hell-deserving, meritless sinners, apart from all complications with human resources or limitations, He has, by the continued application of those principles, found a way whereby, without reference to merit or demerit, the saved one can be kept saved to the ages of the ages. This, though most reasonable, is purely a question of divine revelation, and, therefore its consideration should not be influenced by rationalistic systems of thought. From observation of the natural workings of the human mind, it may be concluded that it is a greater test of faith for the individual to repose on the keeping power of God through grace, than it is to repose on the saving power of God through grace; yet, as has been stated, to have accepted the true grace principles in salvation is to be committed to those selfsame principles which, in turn, form the very basis of the keeping power of God through grace. To restate, -- The basis upon which God can exercise grace in the salvation of the sinner is three-fold: (1) There must be the disposal of every condemnation which divine righteousness could impose because of sin. This has been perfectly accomplished in the cross of Christ. (2) There must be a disposal of every human obligation. This has been provided in the offer of salvation to man as a gift from God. And, (3) there must be a disposal of all human merit. This has been supplied by the divine decree which places the whole world "under sin" before God. If these great principles of grace, which belong to salvation, shall be applied and continued to the believer after he is saved, there is formed thereby, the same righteous freedom for the infinite love of God to be exercised to its own satisfaction in the eternal keeping of the one who has been saved. With more specific reference to these three principles in grace, it may be observed:
First. There must be the Disposal of Every Condemnation which Divine Righteousness could Impose Because of Sin.
Since the problem of the keeping power of God is related only to the believer, the crucial question which is confronted at this point may be stated thus: Are the sins which Christians commit after they are saved divinely judged and disposed of in the cross equally with the sins of the unsaved? The Scripture is clear on this point: "And he is the propitiation for our [Christians] sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world"; "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us [Christians] from all sin" (1 John 1:7; 2:2). To these passages may be added all the Scripture which contemplates the universality of the efficacious death of Christ for sin; for sin is sin in any and every case, whether it be committed by the saved or the unsaved, and it can be cured only by the precious blood of the Son of God. All sin taken together formed the unmeasurable burden which was laid on Him. The supposition that the sins of Christians were excluded from the redeeming work of Christ, can be entertained only without serious thought. Equally erroneous is the supposition that God does not deal judicially with the Christian's sins until they are committed. Every sin that humanity -- saved or unsaved -- had committed, or ever would commit, was dealt with in perfect divine judgment by Christ at the cross. He was God's Lamb that "taketh away the sin of the world." Being universal, this divine judgment contemplated the sin of the saved as much as the sin of the unsaved.
As certainly, then, as grace may be extended to the unsaved on the basis of the fact that Christ has already borne the condemnation of his sin, so certainly grace may be extended and continued to the saved on the basis of the fact that Christ has already borne the condemnation of the Christian's sin. In this dispensation, the unsaved are not said to be condemned primarily because of their sins which Christ has borne; they are condemned because they do not believe on Christ who bore their sins. "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18). In like manner, the Christian will never be condemned because of the sin which Christ has borne. So, also, the Christian, having accepted Christ, can never be condemned for lack of saving faith. It is therefore said: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that hath sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1, R.V.). "He that believeth on him is not condemned" (John 3:18).
By this Scripture it is seen that the cross of Christ is the foundation of the Christian's eternal security and standing in grace; but it should never be disassociated from the supplementary, though wholly unrelated, truth that God, while never condemning either the saint or the sinner because of sin, since Christ has died, does undertake, upon an entirely different basis, to safeguard the Christian from every practice of sin, and He chastens, where there is need, as only a righteous Father can do.
Does sin unsave the Christian? This is a fair question, and if it be answered in the affirmative, there are but two possible positions in which the Christian might stand: he must, at a given time, be either sinlessly perfect, or a lost soul. There could be no intermediate ground. The true reply to this important question will be found (1) in the Scriptures and (2) in human experience.
1. Revelation not only infers, but directly states that Christians sin. It also presents the cure for such sin, which, it may be added, is wholly different from that which is provided for the cure of the sins of the unsaved. This body of truth, both directly and indirectly, constitutes a very large proportion of the Epistles of the New Testament; for the Epistles are written to believers only, and disclose both the believer's eternal standing and his present state before God. This message, while plainly declaring that Christians do sin, as plainly declares that Christians are not condemned. This seeming moral inconsistency is not adjusted by blindly supposing the Christian to be lost because of his sin; it is adjusted by that higher morality made possible through the death of Christ, which, alas, too few have comprehended or acknowledged, either for their salvation or keeping.
2. Human experience also testifies to the indisputable fact that Christians do remain saved in spite of their evident imperfections and sin. This fact must not be slighted. Christians are now standing, and the continuance of any Christian as such for an hour, or a moment, is a final proof that there is some divine provision for their keeping; for in no sense could it reasonably be supposed that they are standing in any goodness or perfection of their own. The fact that they are now standing, is final proof, also, that they are neither lost when they sin, nor sinless when they remain saved. They are, rather, "kept through the power of God," and that power is not only directly exercised in their behalf; but it has been made righteously free to act through the shed blood of the Lamb of God. Sin does not overcome the blood; it is blood that overcomes sin.
Thus grace is extended toward the believer for time and eternity, not on the ground of impossible perfection, nor by slighting the fact of sin; it is extended to him because it is the Father's good pleasure to keep His child, and the Father is unconditionally free to do this through the blood that has been shed.
Second. There Must be a Disposal of Every Human Obligation.
It is most evident from the Scriptures that every human work has been set aside and salvation is now offered to men, only as the gift of God. There are no payments to be made, past, present, or future; else grace is no longer grace. This fact is the second foundation principle of grace as grace is exercised toward the sinner. This aspect of divine favor is equally effective when grace is exercised toward the Christian. Do Christians pay their way, or do they, by their good lives and service, make it imperative for God to keep them saved? The answer is evident. There could be no peace of heart under such relations to God. Who could ever assure himself that he had accomplished all his Christian duty, or complied with all the demands found in the holy ideals of God? Who can repay God for the riches of His grace? To attempt to do so, is to place a sordid value on the priceless treasures of heaven's glory. God proposes to keep every believing soul, for He has said, "I will in no wise cast out." But His keeping will not be on a basis of exchange wherein Christian faithfulness, as important as it is, will be made the purchasing medium of the measureless goodness and blessing of God. He will keep by grace alone.
Third. There Must be a Disposal of Every Human Merit.
Through the divine decree, as has been seen, every human merit has been set aside in order that pure grace might reign unchallenged and uncomplicated. That salvation might be by grace alone, God has removed every possible conflicting issue which might arise because of human merit. The whole human family is now "under sin"; for only thus are they objects of pure grace. Such grace can be exercised only toward the meritless. Salvation is based on the loving goodness of God and never on the supposed worthiness of the sinner. In like manner, God is now equally free to continue the exercise of His boundless grace toward the Christian without reference to the Christian's merit. All that the love of God may prompt Him to do in grace, He is free to do. His unconditional covenant of eternal blessings is the guaranty of His abiding purpose. This leads to the consideration of the second classification:
II. THE KEEPING POWER OF GOD THROUGH GRACE IS IMPLIED IN EVERY REVELATION WHEREIN IS PRESENTED THE TRUTH THAT GRACE REACHES UNTO THE COMING AGES FOR ITS CONSUMMATION
Through the cross of Christ, which has dealt with sin, and through His decree against all human obligation and merit as related to salvation, God is righteously free to preserve His child forever. And since His supreme purpose in all the ages will not be realized until the sinner is saved, transformed into the image of Christ, and lifted up to the highest glory, He will continue the exercise of His grace toward every believer until the divine objective is consummated. How perfectly He has delivered Himself from every limitation! How absolutely gracious are all His ways with those whom He saves! And how irresistible in His purpose and power!
The great covenant promises of salvation are not limited to the moment when the sinner accepts the saving grace that is in Christ Jesus; they all reach on and guarantee every step of the way from the first moment of faith to the last moment of fruition. Even the word salvation, in its largest Biblical meaning, covers all that is past, all that is present, and all that is future, in the out-working of the grace of God for the one who believes. "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). In the great promises of grace there is no measurement as to time, nor any human condition imposed other than believing. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power [right] to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12). "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (John 3:36). "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). "And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). "That he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26). "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Rom. 10:4). Such is the unalterable and unconditional covenant of God in grace.
III. THE KEEPING POWER OF GOD THROUGH GRACE IS INDICATED BY THE MANIFOLD PROVISIONS AND SAFE-GUARDS WHICH HE HAS MADE TO THAT END
The eternal purposes of God in grace can never fail since He has anticipated and provided for every emergency that could arise. Some of these provisions are:
First. The Power of God.
His power, which is supreme, is ceaselessly engaged in the keeping of His own unto the realization of His eternal purpose. Able is the great New Testament word that is used to indicate the omnipotent power of God. By use of this word, God is said to be of sufficient power to do whatever is predicated of Him. "My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man [nothing] is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:29). "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature [created being], shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38, 39).1 (It should be observed that there is no reference in this list either to things past, or to sin, as having possible power to separate the believer from God. The past and all sin is under the blood and, therefore, not even to be considered.) "Who art thou that thou judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand" (Rom. 14:4).
And God "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20). "According to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Phil. 3:21). "For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (2 Tim. 1:12). "For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted" (Heb. 2:18). "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost [without end] that come unto God by him" (Heb. 7:25). "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24). "And being fully persuaded that, what he has promised, he was able to perform" (Rom. 4:21). "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31).
Second. The Love of God.
Not only is God able to do according to His eternal purpose, but His love as a supreme motive will never fail. "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end" (without end, John 13:1). "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (Rom. 5:8-11). As he loved the unsaved enough to give His Son to die for them, even when they were "yet without strength" and "enemies"; "Much more then, being now justified by his blood" and "reconciled," they shall be "saved from wrath through him," and "saved by his life." Such is the unchangeable love of God. "Much more" than His love for the "enemies," which drew out the unspeakable gift of His Son, is His love for His own who are now "justified" and "reconciled." So, also, there is a boundless assurance as to the future: "saved from wrath through him," which points to the unchangeable position of the believer "in Christ," and "saved by his life" which points to the living presence and ministry of Christ in glory. With such provisions, God's love can know no disappointment concerning those whom He has saved in grace.
Third. The Prayer of the Son of God.
Christ prayed while here on earth: "I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou bast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition." "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word" (John 17:9-12, 15, 20). It is wholly impossible that any prayer of the Son of God should be unanswered. Too much emphasis cannot be placed on this assuring fact. While the "son of perdition," who was never saved, was lost that, in his case, "the Scripture might be fulfilled," the Son of God could say of the saved ones: "And none of them is lost." Thus, since He has prayed, as well, for "them also which shall believe on me through their word," He will yet say, of all believers: "And none of them is lost," and in the same manner will the Scriptures be fulfilled in the presentation of every saved one in glory.
As Christ began to pray for his own while He was yet here in the world, so He has continued to pray for them, and will continue to pray for them, in heaven: "Seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25). Who can measure the security of the children of God when they are the objects of the ceaseless intercession of the Son of God, whose prayer can never be denied?
Fourth. The Substitutionary Death of the Son of God.
The death of the Son of God is the sufficient answer to the condemning power of sin; even as sin appears before the righteous throne of God. Not even the unsaved are now condemned because of sin which Christ has borne; how much more are the saved free from condemnation through the death of Christ! Thus the Holy Spirit boldly inquires: "Who is he that condemneth?" The answer He also gives: "It is Christ that died"; "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus"; "When I see the blood, I will pass over you." The eternal purpose of God in grace is assured through the death of the Son of God.
Fifth. The Resurrection of the Son of God.
When he is saved, every believer partakes of the resurrection life of the Son of God. He receives a new life from God. It is the gift of God which is eternal life, and it is "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Speaking of this imparted life, Christ said: "I am come that they might have life," and, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." So, again, "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish" (John 3:36; 10:10, 28). It is the imperishable life of the eternal Son of God which is imparted to every believer. God never gave this gift in blindness, not knowing what might be the future character of the one He thus saved. He knew the end from the beginning. He anticipated every failure and sin; yet, through Christ, He can assure us that, having received the gift of eternal life, we shall never perish. According to the unalterable gift of eternal life, made possible through the death and resurrection of the Son of God, the purposes of God in grace are secured.
Sixth. The Present Advocacy of the Son of God.
The Lord Jesus Christ is now "appearing" in the presence of the Father as Advocate for every one who is saved by grace. As Advocate, He is concerned with the actual sins of the Christian. He is not there before the Father making excuses for their sins, nor is He imploring the Father to be merciful; He is rather presenting His own blood before that throne as the answer to the condemnation of every sin. "If any man sin, we [Christians] have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). In Rom. 8:34, assurance is given by four great facts that the child of God will never be condemned. One of these is that Christ "is even at the right hand of God." To the same purpose it is declared in Heb. 9:24, that "Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." In view of the presence of the Advocate before the Father's throne, meeting the force of every sin, even meeting the challenge of Satan who is there to accuse the brethren night and day before God (Rev. 12:10), there can be no doubt remaining as to the realization of the eternal purposes of God in grace.
Seventh. The Intercession, or Shepherdhood, of the Son of God.
The intercession of Christ extends beyond His present ministry of prayer for the saved, which has just been considered, and includes, as well, His shepherd-care over them. As Shepherd, He is guarding their path against the snares of the evil one, and guiding their feet in the ways of His blessing and peace. Peter knew nothing of the fact that Satan had designs against him, or that Christ had anticipated those designs and had prayed for him. All this was revealed to him when Christ said: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you [obtained thee by asking], that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not" (Lk. 22:31, 32). Peter's ignorance of that which had transpired in heaven concerning him did not change the fact that he was, nevertheless, under the shepherd-care of Christ the Lord. So it is at every moment concerning the child of God.
As Shepherd and Intercessor, Christ is now the High Priest in heaven for His own. The priesthood ministry of the old dispensation was continually interrupted by the dying of the priests; but this Priest -- Christ -- hath an "unchangeable priesthood," and that is assured because "he continueth ever" -- Christ will never die again. His priesthood will never cease. Because of this it is also said: "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost [without end] that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:23-25). He will save them as long as He lives, which is forever.
David, too, had learned of the shepherd-care of his Lord: for he said, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." His confidence concerning the future which is expressed by the words, "I shall not want," is that which is even more to be expected in the believer of this dispensation, who has all the added revelation regarding the present ministry of Christ in heaven. The instructed believer is thus made certain that the eternal purposes of God in grace will never fail.
Eighth. The Regenerating Work of the Spirit.
By the regenerating work of the Spirit the believer is made a legitimate child of God. God being actually his Father, he is impelled by the Spirit to say, "Abba, Father." Being born of God, he has partaken of the "divine nature," and, on the ground of that birth, he is an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ (John 1:13; 3:3-6; Tit. 3:4-6; 1 Pet. 1:23; 2 Pet. 1:4; 1 John 3:9).
The impartation of a nature is an operation so deep that the nature thus imparted is never said to be removed for any cause whatsoever. This statement may be verified from the Scriptures. The vital fact of relationship through birth is never said to be disannulled. Thus, again, the fulfillment of the eternal purpose of God in grace is to be anticipated with unwavering confidence.
Ninth. The Spirit's Indwelling.
The fact that the Spirit of God now indwells every believer may also be verified from the Word of God (John 7:37-39; Rom. 5:5; 8:9; 1 Cor. 2:12; 6:19; 1 John 3:24). It is also clearly revealed that the Spirit has come to "abide" in the heart He has once entered. This abiding presence of the Spirit is in answer to the prayer of the Son of God, which prayer cannot be unanswered. "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever" (John 14:16). The Christian may "grieve," and "quench" (resist) the Spirit; but there is no Scripture which teaches that the Spirit will be grieved away, or quenched away. So long as the Spirit indwells, the eternal purposes of God in grace are sure, and He must abide forever.
Tenth. The Baptism with the Spirit.
The Christian has been so vitally united to Christ by the baptism with the Spirit that he is said to be "in Christ," and Christ is said to be "in" the believer. According to the Scriptures, there is no other meaning to the baptism with the Spirit than this (1 Cor. 12:13). Thus, being placed by the Spirit in organic union with Christ, the believer is related to Christ as the branch is to the vine, or as a member of the human body is to its living head. Because of this most vital union to Christ through the baptism with the Spirit, the believer is said to be a partaker in all that Christ is, all that Christ has done, and all that Christ will ever do. This is a limitless theme since it opens before one the eternal realities of an unchangeable identification with Christ. One of these eternal realities is "the imputed righteousness of God." This garment in which every believer is now clothed. and because of which he is now, and will be forever, accepted before God, is reckoned unto him because he is "in Christ": "That we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21); "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us ... righteousness" (1 Cor. 1:30); "That I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, ... but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Phil. 3:8, 9). "In him" we are made nigh through the blood of Christ, and we are "made accepted in the beloved." There is a righteousness from God which is unto all and upon all who believe (Rom. 3:22). This is the imputed righteousness of God. It covers the Christian, because he is "in Christ," and God sees him only as Christ is seen. Being "in Christ" he is in God's sight what Christ is. This position is that of being accepted as a living member in the body, of which Christ is the living Head. God sees the member only in the body of His Son. As long, then, as Christ abides and is Himself what He is-the very righteousness of God-, so long the member of His body will abide under the imputed righteousness of God. Thus the eternal purposes of God in grace are certain through the baptism with the Spirit.
Eleventh. The Sealing with the Spirit.
Likewise, every believer is now sealed with the Spirit. The immediate value of this accomplishment seems to be more for the sake of God, than for the sake of the believer. This particular ministry is mentioned only three times in the New Testament; but it is of vital import: "Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts" (2 Cor. 1:22); "Having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph. 1:13, R.V.) "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30). It is also said of Christ that He was sealed of the Father (John 6:27. Cf Isa. 42:1). The sealing of the believer with the Spirit is "unto the day of redemption." It is the very presence of the Spirit in the heart. He is the Seal. The thing accomplished by His sealing is so vital and enduring that it precludes the possibility of interruption or deflection. Thus, as for reasons given above, the eternal purposes of God in grace are to be received without distrust, because of the sealing with the Spirit.
Twelfth. The New Covenant made in His Blood.
The several great covenants into which God has been pleased to enter with men are either conditional covenants, or unconditional covenants. A covenant is conditional whenever it is made to depend at any point on the faithfulness of man. The law as given by Moses was a conditional covenant. Its terms might be stated in the words, "If ye will do good, I will bless you." On the other hand, a covenant is unconditional when it stands as a simple declaration from God as to what He purposes to do, and without relation to the faithfulness, or unfaithfulness, of man. The Abrahamic, Covenant (Gen. 12:1-4; 13:14-17; 15:1-7; 17:1-8) is an unconditional covenant. It will be seen that God relied at no point on the character or conduct of Abraham. He simply declared to Abraham what He purposed to do. This was based on Abraham's faith; but not on Abraham's faithfulness. The covenant was, and is, assured through the faithfulness of God alone. In like manner, the New Covenant made in His blood, by which every Christian is now related to God, is an unconditional covenant. It is God's declaration of what He proposes to do for the one who places his faith in Christ. Belief in Christ, it should be noted, is not a condition within the covenant; it is the one condition of entrance into the covenant. Turning to the great promises of the keeping of God through grace, it will be discovered that they are always unconditional. These promises are made to depend only on the goodness and faithfulness of God. As a fruitage of the saved life, good works are closely related to the Christian's life under God, and are the ground of all future rewards; but human works, as important as they are, do not enter as a condition into either the divine plan of salvation by grace, or of divine keeping through grace. This, too, may be verified from the Word of God. Three very brief and unconditional promises of eternal security are here given: "I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37); "They shall never perish" (John 10:28); and, "shall not come into condemnation" (John 5:24). Under such unconditional promises the eternal purposes of God in grace may be received with unwavering confidence.
Certain passages, it should be noted, have been interpreted by some writers to teach that, in spite of this overwhelming body of revelation concerning the purpose and power of God in grace, the Christian who is truly saved might be lost again. The passages are worthy of careful consideration but such consideration cannot be entered into here. (See author's book Salvation for extended analysis of these passages.) Scripture does not present a contradiction, and, as must be concluded from what has gone before, it will be found upon careful examination of these Scriptures, considering their context and dispensational character, that there is no Scripture which lessens the force, or discredits the revelation, concerning the eternal purposes of God in grace.
Salvation by grace is, then, the indivisible whole of God's redeeming purpose in Christ and that which rescues a sinner from the lowest depths of human standing, and transforms, preserves, and presents that sinner in the highest eternal glory. At infinite cost, God has made Himself free to do all of this. His unmeasured love will suffer Him to do no less in behalf of every one who comes to Him through His Son. Divine grace is God's all. It is the expression of the last degree of His love. In no sense could He exercise a part of His grace. It must be all or none. He must save perfectly for all time and eternity, or not at all. There is no other salvation offered in the Word of God.
Failure to trust in Christ alone is disclosed when salvation is supposed to depend on anything other than believing in Christ, and when security is made to depend at any point whatsoever on human faithfulness. Men are saved and kept in sovereign grace through simple faith in Christ alone. This is the heart of the Gospel of divine grace. If any other Gospel than his be preached, it must fall under the unrevoked anathema of God (Gal. 1:8, 9).
The zeal engendered by modern religious movements which are even accompanied with signs and wonders is no guaranty of sound doctrine. The enthusiasts responsible for these movements almost universally deny that salvation is by simple faith in Christ, and that the grace of God will keep those who are saved as His own forever. Those who discredit the absolute reign of grace in the salvation and keeping of a soul, should ponder well the fact that there is no other way of salvation.
We have thus complete evidence that the eternal purposes of God in grace are unalterable, since His keeping power through grace is included in every consideration of the principles of grace, His keeping power is implied in every revelation in which is presented the truth that grace reaches into the coming ages for its consummation, and His keeping power is indicated by the manifold provisions and safeguards which He has made to that end. Should His eternal purpose fail by the slightest degree, the object of salvation, the object of the death and resurrection of Christ, and the object of creation itself, will have failed. It shall not fail; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.
The salvation in grace which God accomplishes for those who believe includes, among other things, the placing of the saved one in position as a son of God, a citizen of heaven, and a member of the family and household of God; and, since every position demands a corresponding manner of life, it is to be expected that a rule of conduct as exalted as heaven itself will be committed to the believer. This is precisely what we find; for grace not only provides a perfect salvation and eternal keeping for the one who believes on Christ; but grace provides, as well, the instruction for the daily life of the one who is saved, while he is being kept through the power of God. This instruction for the daily life, it will be found, is a particular revelation from God to Christians only. As it is wholly gracious in character, it is entirely separate from, and independent of, any other rule of life which is found in the Word of God. The Bible, being the one Book from God for all people of all the ages, contains the detailed expression of the will of God concerning the manner of life of various dispensational classes of people as they are related to God in different periods of time, and under the several corresponding covenants. Among these revelations, is the rule of conduct regarding the daily life of those who are saved by grace in this dispensation which occupies the time between the cross and the second coming of Christ. This gracious rule of life is complete in itself and stands alone in the Scriptures, disassociated from any other and uncomplicated. It is the teachings of grace.
The remainder of this discussion will be occupied, in the main, with the identification and application of the extended body of Scripture relative to the teachings of grace. The value of knowing this revelation cannot be estimated, (1) because no Christian may hope to live well-pleasing to God who does not know the facts of the revealed will of God for his daily life, and (2) because appalling ignorance exists on every hand concerning these vital truths and distinctions of the Word of God.
No careful reader of the New Testament can fail to observe the fact that doctrinal strife obtained at the very opening of the Christian dispensation. This controversy was concerned mainly with the question of whether law or grace furnishes the governing principle for Christian conduct. Although the New Testament contains specific and lengthy warnings against both the legalizers and their teachings, and their systems are therein proven to be opposed to the doctrines of pure grace, their successors from generation to generation to the present time have ever sought to discredit the grace of God. Their messages, though steeped in error, have often exhibited great zeal and sincerity; but zeal and sincerity, greatly to be desired when well directed, fail utterly in God's sight as substitutes for a consistent presentation of the truth. The only hope of deliverance from the false doctrines of legalizing teachers is through unprejudiced consideration of the exact revelations of Scripture. This examination of the Scriptures should be free from a blind following of the teachings of men, and should be made with a heart willing to receive "reproof" and "correction" from the Word of God as well as "instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). Only the one to whom these teachings are crystal clear can appreciate the transcendent value of understanding the teachings of grace.
In presenting this introductory consideration of the extensive theme of the teachings of grace, it is necessary in some instances to assume conclusions the fuller proof of which are taken up in subsequent treatments of the discussion. Likewise, in completing the various lines of argument, repetition at certain points is unavoidable.
In chapter 2 of the Epistle by Paul to Titus, beginning at verse 11, we read: "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world [age]; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
Two widely different ministries of grace are set forth in this passage:
First, the grace of God which bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men. This, it is clear, refers to the saving grace of God which has come into the world by Christ Jesus, and is now to be proclaimed to all men. It is a message for all men, since its provisions are universal and its invitation is to "whosoever will." Grace upon grace is bestowed both now and unto the consummation of the ages upon those who believe.
Second, the passage reveals, as well, that it is the same grace which has brought salvation to all men, that teaches "us." The word us, it should be observed, does not refer to the wider class of all men mentioned before; but it refers only to the company of those who are saved. The importance of this distinction is evident; for whatever grace proposes to teach, its teachings are addressed only to those who are saved by grace. This qualifying aspect of the teachings of grace is not limited to this one passage, though that would suffice; it is an out-standing characteristic of the whole body of grace teachings as they appear throughout the New Testament. These teachings, being addressed to Christians only, are never intended to be imposed on the Christ-rejecting individual, or the Christ-rejecting world. This fact cannot be emphasized too forcibly. The word of God makes no appeal to the unsaved for a betterment of life. There is but one issue in this dispensation between God and the unregenerate man, and that is neither character nor conduct; it is the personal appeal of the Gospel of the grace of God. Until the unsaved receive Christ, who is God's gift in grace, no other issue can be raised. Men may moralize among themselves, and establish their self-governments on principles of right conduct; but God is never presented in the unfoldings of grace as seeking to reform sinners. Every word regarding the quality of life is reserved for those who are already rightly related to Him on the greater issues of salvation.
Could it be demonstrated that God has made the slightest moral appeal to the unregenerate other than that which is implied in the Gospel invitation, then it must be admitted that, should that moral appeal be complied with by any individual, that individual would have moved nearer to God. The works of man would become meritorious, and thereby a third classification of humanity would be created, standing somewhere between those who are "under sin" and those who are "in Christ," or "under grace." In this age, no such intermediate group of people is possible. If such a class existed, they could not be saved; for they would no longer be fit objects of grace. Men are either lost and condemned "under sin," or wholly and eternally saved by grace in Christ Jesus. The common practice of presenting the great standards of Christian living indiscriminately to mixed congregations by preaching, and to people in general through public print, is a tragedy of infinite proportions. If the unsaved are present when the teachings of grace are discussed, there should be a Gospel appeal made by which the unsaved are classified and excluded from any share in those teachings. Apart from this appeal, it is impossible to save the unregenerate from receiving the impression that God is now seeking their reformation before He seeks their regeneration. Nothing is more wholesome for the unsaved than lovingly to be reminded that they, according to the Word of God, have no part in the Christian life, and that they are shut up to the acceptance of Christ. Saving results are sure to follow the continued, clean-cut, discriminating preaching of the Word in its right application to both the saved and the unsaved. It is alarming to the unsaved to be warned that they are lost until they receive Christ, and such faithful preaching, being the Truth of God, is owned and used of the Spirit of God.
Nothing need be said here of the crime against high heaven which is committed by men who are purposely urging moral betterment on the unsaved in lieu of the Gospel of grace. The unrevoked anathema of God rests upon them; "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8, 9). There is a possibility, however, that, through carelessness or ignorance, some, whose intentions are good, may make the same fatal error in presenting God's Truth. As certainly as the exercise of pure grace is the supreme divine purpose unto the eternal glory, so certainly to hinder an understanding of that grace, or to mislead one soul by a misstatement, is the supreme blunder. How momentous is the practice of preaching and of personal work, both for those who hear and for those who speak! Well might the high crime of dealing damnation to the souls of men in the name of Christian preaching be treated, from a mere humanitarian view-point, with a thousand-fold greater penalty than the crime of dealing deadly poison to the bodies of men. Sinners are to be saved by grace. It is Satan's device to complicate this simple fact with the lesser issues of Christian living.
The teachings of grace, it will be found, comprise all of the teachings of the Epistles, the Acts, and also certain portions of the Gospels apart from their mere historical features. Returning to the passage already quoted from Titus, we discover that only a portion of the whole appeal of the teachings of grace are mentioned in this Scripture; but here the believer is taught that he is to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, godly, and looking for the personal return of his Lord from heaven. This describes a life of peculiar devotion and sweetness. Thus would God "purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
According to the Scriptures, Christians are confronted with a two-fold danger: On the one hand, they may go in the way of the irresponsible, careless sin of the Gentiles, or, on the other hand, they may go into the legality of the Jews. They may "walk as do the Gentiles," or they may "fall from grace." They are warned as much against the one mistake as against the other. The doctrines of grace may be so perverted that, while there is a holy horror of slipping into careless sin, it is deemed most pious to assume the cursing burden of law. The teachings of grace give equal warning against the sin of turning either in the way of Gentiles or in the way of the Jews.
In discovering the fact and scope of the teachings of grace, it will be noted that, (1) The Christian's daily life is to be directed only by the teachings of grace, (2) The law is excluded from the grace teachings of Christ, (3) The law is excluded from the teachings of the Apostles, and (4) The life and service of the Apostle Paul is an illustration of a life which is lived under grace.
I. THE CHRISTIAN'S DAILY LIFE IS TO BE DIRECTED ONLY BY THE TEACHINGS OF GRACE
In exact accord with the fact that Christians are to be governed only by the teachings of grace, the Biblical appeal in grace never contemplates an observance of the law. Through the death of Christ, the law is not only disannulled; but, as a rule of life) it is never mentioned, or included in the teachings of grace. It is rather excluded. The believer is to walk by a "rule," but that rule, it will be seen, is never an adaptation of the law (Cf Gal. 6:16; Phil. 3:16). This important fact should be carefully verified by the reading of all the Epistles. It is impossible to refer here to this extensive body of Scripture beyond a very few illustrative passages. In the following Scriptures, as in all grace teachings, the law, it will be found, is not once applied to believers:
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).
"For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another" (Rom. 14:17-19).
"And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God" (Phil. 1:9-11).
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you" (Phil. 4:8, 9).
"But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature [creation]. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God" (Gal. 6:14-16).
"For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision but faith which worketh by love" (Gal. 5:5, 6).
"But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets" (Rom. 3:21).
"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Rom. 10:4).
"But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof" (Rom. 13:14).
"False brethren, ... who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you" (Gal. 2:4, 5.)
"For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well" (Acts. 15:28, 29).
"As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such things" (issues of the law. Acts 21:25).
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Gal. 5:1).
By these passages, selected from the whole body of New Testament teaching concerning the believer's walk in grace, it is seen that the teachings of grace do not include the precepts of the law as such; but that they exclude those precepts. However, no vital principle contained in the law is abandoned. It will be observed that these principles of the law are carried forward and are restated in the teachings of grace; not as law, but as principles which are revised, adapted, and newly incorporated in the issues of pure grace.
II. THE LAW IS EXCLUDED FROM THE GRACE TEACHINGS OF CHRIST
Concerning the admixture of the principles of law and grace, it will be seen that these principles are wholly separated in the teachings of Christ. Are Christians to keep the law as the rule of their conduct either because of a command from Christ, or because of the example of Christ? No light will be gained on these questions until the two-fold aspect of the ministry of Christ is distinguished. According to Rom. 15:8, 9, Christ was, first, "a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers"; and, second, "that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy." This two-fold distinction obtains at every point in the Gospels and Epistles. So, also, it obtains in the Old Testament types and prophecies relating to Christ. Christ sustained a particular and unique relation to the nation Israel as the One who fulfilled the great Messianic covenants given to that people. At the opening of His ministry He said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mt. 15:24); and when, at the same time, sending His disciples out with the Jewish message of "the kingdom of heaven," He instructed them, saying, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mt. 10:5-7). As a Jew, and as the Consolation and Hope of Israel, He personally acknowledged, kept, taught, and enforced the law. As the Saviour and Hope of the world, He established the new manner of life and relationship which belongs to the believer under grace. Speaking to the Jewish ruler, Christ said: "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" (Mt. 19:17).
(In the Synoptic Gospels, life, it should be noted, is sometimes that aspect of divine blessing which is provided for those who enter the kingdom of heaven (Note Mt. 18:1-10; 25:31-46), and being somewhat different, should not be confused with the present gift of God, which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. One was offered, and is yet to be granted, on the basis of faithful, law-keeping works: the other is gained only through the grace which is by Jesus Christ our Lord. One is provided for the age to come (Lk. 15:30). The other is a present possession; for He has said: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (John 3:36).(
True to the Jewish dispensation, He said with reference to the law of Moses: "This do and thou shalt live"; but when contemplating the cross and Himself as the bread come down from heaven to give His life for the world, He said: "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he [God] hath sent" (John 6:29). These opposing principles are not to be reconciled. They indicate that fundamental distinction which must exist between those principles that obtain in an age of law, on the one hand, and an age of grace, on the other hand.
What interpretation should be given, then, to the word commandments as used by Christ or as related to Christ, according to the following passages: "If ye love me, keep my commandments"; "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me"; "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love"; "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments"; "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight"; "He that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him"; "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments"; "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you"; and, "Blessed are they that do his commandments" (John 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 John 2:3; 3:22, 24; 5:2; Mt. 28:20; Rev. 22:14)? Is Christ here requiring the commandments as given by Moses?
In considering this crucial question, it should be noted that, when dealing with Jews as such, He gave no "commandments" of His own relative to the rule of their lives. He recognized only the law of Moses and the law of the kingdom. In matters of life-relation ship to God He said, "What readest thou in the law?"; but when He began to instruct those who were saved by grace through His cross, He began to announce what He was pleased to term "my commandments." This term is not found in all the Gospels until the record is given of His farewell words in the upper room on the night before His death (John, chapters 13-17). (Mt. 28:20 not only follows the cross, in point of time; but also follows the forty-days post-resurrection teaching concerning the kingdom of God as recorded in Acts 1:3.) This is most significant; for it is evident that the upper-room discourse was addressed, not to Israelites, but to those who were "clean" through the word He had spoken to them. In this portion of the Scriptures, the cross is treated as an accomplished fact (John 16:11, Cf 12:31); the whole body of teaching is dated by Christ beyond the cross by the words, "And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe" (14:29); and, finally, the only reference to the law in this great message of the upper room is so stated as to place those Jews to whom He was speaking outside its authority: "But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their [not your] law" (John 15:25).
The upper-room discourse is the genesis of the Epistles of the New Testament; for in it, in germ form, the great doctrines of grace are announced. The phrase my commandments is reserved until this grace-revelation, because this term refers to the teachings of grace, rather than to the law.
Added proof that the term, my commandments, refers to the teachings of grace may be seen when the passages which indicate the character of His commandments are considered. Some of these are: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you"; "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you"; "And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave commandments"; "And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also"; "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous"; --
(This could not be said of the law of Moses; for of that law it is written: "Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" (Acts 15:10). Reference is here made to the law of Moses, and to place it on the children of grace is to "tempt God." It is an unbearable "yoke"; but Christ said, when anticipating the relationships of grace, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Mt. 11:30). Christians are not to be "entangled" with the "yoke of bondage" (Gal. 5:1). So, also, the "old commandment" of 1 John 2:7, is, in 3:11, seen to be the same message of grace.)
"I rejoice greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father. And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another." To this the Apostle Paul has added a testimony concerning the commandments of the Lord. By the testimony of Paul, the whole teaching of grace, as set forth by himself, is related to the commandments of the Lord: "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord"; "For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus"; "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (John 13:34, 15:12; 1 John 3:23; 4:21; 5:3; 2 John 4, 5; 1 Cor. 14:37; 1 Thes. 4:2; Gal. 6:2).
The "commandments" of Christ are not, therefore, the law, or any aspect of the law; they rather constitute "the law of love," and "the perfect law of liberty." They enter into the teachings of grace as those teachings are set forth by Christ, and by those to whom He gave authority and commandment (Mt. 28:18; Acts 1:3; Lk. 24:46-48; Heb. 2:3, 4). III. THE LAW IS EXCLUDED FROM THE TEACHINGS OF THE APOSTLES
From the teaching of the Apostles it will be seen that the principles of law and grace are not to be mixed. There can be no question but that their teachings are exactly according to Christ's message concerning grace. As an example, and in harmony with the teaching of all the Apostles, it may be observed that the Apostle Paul spoke by the authority of Christ (1 Tim. 1:1; Tit. 1:3; 1 Thes. 4:15; 1 Cor. 15:3; Gal. 1:11, 12; Eph. 3:1-11). It is equally evident that he contended only for the blessings of pure grace. At no point would he suffer the principle of law to intrude. The Jewish element in the early church was slow to abandon the law, and there is evidence that, by the provisions of men, a double-standard was suffered to exist for a time -- one, a legality for the Jews, and the other, pure grace for the Gentiles. This fact of a double standard is revealed in connection with the first council of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:19-21. Cf 21:18-26); but the Apostle Paul never countenanced this double standard (Rom. 1:16, 17). The change from law to grace was revolutionary, and the age-long covenant of works did not readily yield to the new teachings of grace, nor has it wholly yielded to this day. There are some who, ignorant of the dispensational divisions of God's Word, and seeking to qualify the clear grace teachings of the Apostle Paul, are encouraging themselves in legalism on the strength of the fact that Christ kept and vindicated the law in the days of His particular ministry to Israel. The teaching of these legalists is a circumvention of the whole revelation of divine grace.
IV. THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF THE APOSTLE PAUL IS AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE TEACHINGS OF GRACE
The personal position and practice of the Apostle Paul is evidence that the principles of law and grace should not be mixed. The Spirit has prompted the Apostle to make a six-fold exhortation to believers to be followers of himself (1 Cor. 4:6; 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 1 Thes. 1:6; 2 Thes. 3:7, 9). This appeal was warranted because his doctrine was revealed to him from Christ (Gal. 1:11, 12; Eph. 3:1-10), and was in fact, therefore, the very teachings of Christ; because he was an Apostle; and because his own attitude toward Judaism and his own experience was a living illustration of the power of a life in grace.
The Epistles of Paul are an uncompromising protest against the intrusion of law, or any phase of law, into the reign of grace. Among very many Scriptures, there is one passage in particular which reveals the Apostle's own position. Speaking of his hope of a reward because of faithful service, he proceeds to describe the details of that service. In this connection he is incidentally led to disclose his own position at that time, as compared to other possible positions before God. We read: "For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ), that I might gain them that are without law" (1 Cor. 9:19-21). These various relationships should be considered:
First. "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews."
Was not the Apostle a Jew? Did he not make that his boast (Phil. 3:4, 5)? He was a Jew by origin, birth, and training; but when he became saved by grace he passed over onto new ground where there "is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all" (Col. 3:11). In like manner, Gentiles when saved, are no longer Gentiles in the flesh: "Wherefore remember, that ye being in times past Gentiles in the flesh, ... now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:11-13). The new creation in Christ is in view here. Through the new birth by the Spirit, a new humanity is being formed, and, though drawn from both Jews and Gentiles, it is neither Jew nor Gentile; it is the Church of God -- the redeemed of all generations from Pentecost until the Lord returns for His own. According to the Scriptures, humanity is now classified under three major divisions: "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God" (1 Cor. 10:32). The Apostle made an effort to become "as a Jew, that he might gain the Jews." Thus he left his own position, as it were, to adapt himself to the position of the Jew. To what length he went, it is not revealed. As regarding himself, it is clear, however, that he everywhere disclaimed every Jewish relation to God. There are very many questions which might be discussed between a Jew and a Christian; but the Apostle passed these by that he might get to the heart of the Jew with the one issue of the Gospel of the grace of God.
Second. "To them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law."
While it is evident that the law was never addressed to any outside the one nation Israel, and also that, since the death of Christ, no Jew, Gentile, or Christian is now under the law either for justification, or as a rule of life (which statement will receive fuller proof at another place), there was a multitude of people in Paul's day, both Jews and Christians, as there are today, who have placed themselves under the law. This does not suggest that God has placed them there, or that He recognizes them as standing in their self-imposed position. However, having assumed a position under law they are morally obligated to "do the whole law" in the interests of consistency. It is not a mere repetition, then, when the Apostle makes reference first to the Jews and then to those that are under the law. The important point to be observed here is that the Apostle did not consider himself to be under the law; for he represents himself as leaving his own position that he might approach the man who is under the law. What endless discussions might he have waged with the one who was under the law! He set all these questions aside that he might rather present the more vitally important blessings of grace. The supreme issue was not, and is not, one of correcting the outward life by the application of one rule or another: it was, and is, one of believing on Christ unto salvation by grace. When that is accomplished, and because of the very character of salvation, the saved one, of necessity, is subject only to the governing principles of grace.
Third. "To them that are without law, as without law, ... that I might gain them that are without law."
Thus the Apostle implies that, as to the rule of his life, he is not "without law." The class referred to as being "without law" is not the heathen to whom no missionary has ever gone; it refers, rather, to the great Gentile world to whom the law was never addressed. To these the Apostle went, acknowledging as he went, that he, as a Christian, had no part with the lawless and ungoverned.
Fourth. "Not being without law to God, but under the law [literally, inlawed] to Christ."
Here the Apostle reveals the exact truth as to his own relation to God as a Christian. It is unfortunate that the theological discussion which has proceeded on the supposition that a Christian must either be under the law of Moses, or else be absolutely lawless and ungoverned, could not have made place for the fact that there is a third ground of relationship to God which is neither the law of Moses, nor the ungoverned lawlessness of the world. To be "inlawed to Christ" is to be under the teachings of grace as a rule of life. These teachings include the "commandments" of Christ which are addressed to Christians as such in the upper room, and these "commandments" of Christ have been taken up, enlarged, and advanced, under the guidance of the Spirit in the book of the Acts and the Epistles of the New Testament. They constitute a separate and sufficient rule of life for the believer which is divinely adapted to his position in grace, and these great governing principles of grace are addressed to the believer alone, and not to the Christ-rejecting world. The message of God to the unsaved world is that they believe on the Saviour who is offered to them in limitless grace. The message to the saved is that they "walk worthy" of the calling wherewith they are called.
In seeking an understanding of the teachings of grace, it is necessary to give due consideration to the teachings of the law; for, according to the Scriptures, the latter, with its covenant of works, is the one principle which is opposed to the teachings of grace. The law may be considered in a three-f old way: (1) As to the meaning of the word law as used in the Bible; (2-) As to the relation the law sustains to the time of its reign; and, (3) As to the application of the law.
I. AS TO THE MEANING OF THE WORD LAW AS USED IN THE SCRIPTURES
The foundation of all divine law is the Person of God. What He requires is only the expression of what He is. Since He is holy, just and good, His ideals, standards and requirements must be holy, just and good. The ideals and ways of fallen men are, of necessity, far removed from these divine standards which reflect the character of God. Comparison of these two standards has ever demonstrated the measure of human failure. Throughout the history of God's dealings with the world this comparison has brought into bold relief the unmeasured gulf which exists between God and man, between holiness and sin, and the complementary revelation of the divine compassion which led God to bridge that gulf.
The word law, as commonly used, means a rule which regulates conduct. It naturally implies the adequate authority and power on the part of the law-giver for its enforcement, and the proper penalty to be inflicted in case of its violation. The use of the word in the Bible is, however, much wider than its common usage. At least a seven-fold use of the word law is found in the Word of God.
First. The Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments have the peculiar distinction of having been written by the finger of God on tables of stone. They are therefore the direct writings of God. They are themselves a crystallization of the entire law given to Moses. They are summarized by Christ when He said to the Jewish lawyer: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Mt. 22:36-40). The Apostle Paul summarized the law in two great statements: "Love is the fulfilling of the law"; and, "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Rom. 13:10; Gal. 5:14). So, also, James has written: "If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well" (Jas. 2:8). In no sense is the law applied to the believer by these Scriptures; they merely imply that the law is fulfilled by the exercise of that love which is most vitally the duty of every child of God.
That this limited declaration of commandments from God is termed "the law," is proven beyond question in Rom. 7:7-14. In this passage the Apostle records: "I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." The same precept is also called a commandment; for he goes on to say: "But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence." Further, it is evident that the Decalogue is the heart of the law as the law is stated in the Old Testament. Particular emphasis is given to the fact that the Commandments are a part of the law, because there are those who teach that the whole law might be set aside without affecting the Ten Commandments. They claim that these commandments were never any part of the law, and, though the reign of the law ceased with the death of Christ, the binding authority of the Ten Commandments did not cease. The Bible teaches that the Commandments are a part of the law, and though their principles are restated under grace, the Commandments ceased to be the rule of conduct when Christ fulfilled the law, and it came to its end in Him.
Second. The Whole System of Government for Israel in the Land
The law in this larger aspect was divided into three major parts:
1. The Commandments, which were the revealed law of God relative to His righteous will. Of this revelation, the Decalogue was the center (Ex. 20:1-17).
2. The Judgments, which were the revealed law of God relative to the social life of Israel (Ex. 21:1 to 24:11).
3. The Ordinances, which were the revealed will of God relative to the religious life of Israel (Ex. 24:12 to 31:18).
This three-fold governing system of law covered all divine requirements which were imposed on an Israelite in the land. The three divisions of the system were both interrelated and interdependent. This three-fold system provided its own instruction as to what was good, and its own prohibitions against that which was evil. In the prescribed sacrifices its own divine remedy was provided for the wrong committed. No other provision for a broken law has ever been disclosed to man than that of the animal sacrifices, and the final, and fulfilling sacrifice of the cross where every demand of the law was met forever. The projection of the Commandments into this dispensation disassociated from the ritual and sacrifices to which they are interrelated, is done with seeming plausibility only at the expense of one of the most vital dispensational distinctions in the Word of God.
Third. The Kingdom Rule of Messiah
The still future dispensation of the reign of Messiah, which will be the fulfillment of all God's covenants with Israel, is to be a reign of pure law. This, it will be seen at a later point of the discussion, is proven both by the precise statements of Scripture, and by a careful study of the character of those injunctions which constitute the laws of the kingdom, and which find their application in the yet future dispensation of the kingdom.
Fourth. The Whole Revealed Will of God for any Individual, or Nation, when Contemplated as a Covenant of Works which is to be Wrought in the Energy of the Flesh
The essential principle of the law was embodied in the covenant of works. The divine blessing was conditioned on the performance of the entire law of God. Under the new covenant of grace, the undivided, undiminished, divine blessing is first bestowed by God's favor, and by this bestowal, an obligation is created for a life corresponding to the divine blessing. When any work is undertaken for God by which it is hoped thereby to gain divine favor, that work is wrought of necessity on the basis of pure law. On the other hand, when any work is undertaken for God because it is recognized that divine favor and blessing already have been received, it is wrought in harmony with pure grace. Thus the highest ideal of grace if prostituted by the motive of securing divine favor, takes on the character of law.
Moreover, the will of God for the daily life of the one who is perfectly saved in grace has been clearly revealed by extended and explicit injunctions, or beseechings. These injunctions and beseechings, being gracious and heavenly in character, anticipate the imparted and inwrought enabling power of the indwelling Spirit for their fulfillment. The covenant of grace is a covenant of faith. Thus when the injunctions or teachings of grace are attempted in the strength of the flesh, the very teachings of grace thereby become, in principle, a covenant of works. Therefore any revelation of the righteous will of God for any individual or company of individuals is, apart from the one exception of a personal reliance of faith on the power of the Spirit, a covenant of works, or a law of God. One illustration may suffice:
In Romans 8:4 the statement is made that the "righteousness of the law" is to be fulfilled in us, rather than by us. To this end Christ has died, and to this end the energizing Spirit has been sent into the world (8:2, 3). The phrase, "the righteousness of the law," which is here said to be fulfilled in us, proposes more than a fulfillment of the limited demands found in the Mosaic system; it proposes nothing less than the divine energy of the Spirit realizing continuously every aspect of the revealed and unrevealed will of God in the believer. It is conditioned on one thing only: "Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
No better example of a man-made, self-imposed law can be found than the experiences of every unsaved person who is trying, even in the slightest degree, to live the Christian life. He is doing what he does with a view to being accepted of God, not because he is accepted; and he is doing what he does in the energy of the flesh, not in the power of the Spirit. To such an one, the Christian's manner of life in grace is only a yoke of bondage.
Likewise, there is reference to the whole will of God in the following Scriptures wherein that revelation is termed the law: "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Rom. 7:22). There is the possibility of a wide difference between what is indicated by the two terms, "The law of Moses," and "The law of God." The law of Moses is the law of God, but the law of God may be much more than the law of Moses. "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4). Since the Decalogue contained no reference to the great issues of Christian service and prayer, or the details of the character of the believer's walk in the world, no one, upon serious thought, will be willing to limit this great definition of sin as merely the transgression of the law of Moses. "The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law" (1 Cor. 15:56). Sin, again, is nothing less than failure in any aspect of the will of God. When this fuller requirement of the will of God is considered in its present application under grace, it is termed "the perfect law of liberty" (Jas. 1:25. Cf Rom. 8:21; 1 Cor. 8:9; 10:29; 2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 2:4; 5:1-13; Jas. 2:12).
Fifth. Any Rule of Conduct Prescribed by Men
Here the use of the word law is extended to the regulations men may make among themselves. We read: "But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners" (1 Tim. 1:8, 9). "And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully" (2 Tim. 2:5. Cf Mt. 20:15; Lk. 20:22).
Again, to this classification of law as being manmade, may be added any self-imposed law. Thus the law of Moses or the law of the kingdom, when assumed as a rule of life by Jews, Gentiles, or Christians, becomes a man-made and self-imposed law. It is written: "For when the Gentiles [the same is equally true now of Jews or Christians], which have not the law, do by nature [usage] the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves" (Rom. 2:14). The law, though not addressed to them is self-imposed and becomes to that extent a mere man-made obligation.
Sixth. Any Recognized Principle in Operation.
In this aspect of the meaning of the word law it is seen to be used as the equivalent of power. In common usage, reference is made to the law of gravitation. Which is likewise the power of gravitation. Thus it is used in the Word of God: "For the law [power] of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law [power] of sin and death" (Rom. 8:2).
Seventh. The Necessary Sequence Between a Cause and its Effect
This particular aspect of the use of the word law is seen in Rom. 7:21: "I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me."
Discrimination of these widely different meanings of the word law is imperative for a right understanding of this great theme in the Scriptures.
II. AS TO THE RELATION THE LAW SUSTAINS TO THE TIME OF ITS REIGN
The Scriptures teach that the law given by Moses, which was a covenant of works, was given from God to man at a particular time. The human family had walked before God upon the earth for upwards of 2500 years prior to the imposition of the law. Thus it had been demonstrated that God is able to deal with men in the earth without reference to the law of Moses.
In the Word of God the period between Adam and Moses is particularly contrasted with the dispensation of the law. The revelation is final: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed where there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression)" (Rom. 5:12-14).
Physical death, the unavoidable penalty for sin, antedates the giving of the law, and death reigned from Adam to Moses; but sin was not "imputed" where there was no law. As it does now, death reigned over sinless infants, good people, and bad people alike. Sin, in this connection, is evidently the inbred fallen-nature which all have received from Adam; and not the transgressions personally committed. Thus the penalty -- death -- is due to the fallen-nature which all have received and is not due to individual transgressions. Since the sin-nature from Adam is universal, its penalty is universal. Should one member of the human family be delivered from the possession of the sin-nature, the fact would be proven by a like deliverance from its penalty -- death. None are delivered from physical death so long as Christ tarries. It is "by the offence of one" that "judgment came upon all men to condemnation" (Rom. 5:18).
The all important distinction between the sin-nature of man, which is the universal possession, and the personal wrongdoing of the individual, is maintained throughout the Scriptures, including the revelation of the cross. There are two aspects of the death of Christ as that death is related to sin: He died "for our sins," which fact is the basis of the divine cure for personal sin by justification (Rom. 3:21 to 5:11); and He died "unto sin," which fact is the basis of the divine cure for the reigning power of the sin-nature (Rom. 6:1 to 8:4).
Sin and death reigned from Adam to Moses because sin, in its essence, is the fallen-nature itself, and death is its penalty; but sin, which is the personal wrongdoing of the individual, "is not imputed where there is no law." Thus is the relation of man and God described covering the great period between Adam and Moses.
The pertinent question -- "Wherefore then serveth the law?" -- is both propounded and answered in the Scriptures (Gal. 3:19). Continuing we read, the law "was added because of transgressions." That is, it was "added" to give to sin the augmented character of transgression. Sin had always been evil in itself and in the sight of God; but it became disobedience after that the holy commandments were disclosed. The fact of the sin-nature is not changed by the introduction of the law; it was the character of personal wrongdoing which was changed. It was changed from sin, which is not imputed where there is no law, to sin which is the rebellion against the command of God, and which must reap all the punishment attendant upon broken law. Israel, to whom the commandments were given, being a chosen, exalted people, were, by the imposition of the law, constituted a more responsible people before God; but they were wholly unable to keep the law. The giving of the law to Israel did not result in an obedient people; it rather proved their utter sinfulness and helplessness. The law became a ministry of condemnation to every one who failed to keep it. Nor did the giving of the law really tend to their betterment at heart, or retard the power of sin; it provoked them to sin. As the Apostle says: "But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence" (Rom. 7:8).
There can be no question as to the righteous character of the law; for it is written: "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful" (Rom. 7:12-13). Thus the purpose of the giving of the law is stated: "That sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful."
Apart from the Man Christ Jesus, there was universal failure in the keeping of the law. This is not to say that the law was imperfect in itself. The universal failure in keeping the law is the revelation of the helplessness of man under the power of "sin in the flesh." Two passages give evidence as to the failure of the law through the weakness of the flesh to which it made its appeal: "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh" (Rom. 8:3); and, "But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly [poverty-stricken] elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?" (Gal. 4:9). The appeal is strong: Why, after having come to know the power of God through the Spirit, do ye turn to a relationship to God which as a means of victory and blessing has always been, and must always be, "weak" and "poverty-stricken"?
The law was never given as a means of salvation or justification: "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20. Cf Gal. 3:11, 24). Though given as a rule of conduct for Israel in the land, it, because of the universal failure in its observance, became a curse (Gal. 3:10), condemnation (2 Cor. 3:9), and death (Rom. 7:10-11). The law was effective only as it drove the transgressor to Christ. It became a means of turning the people to God for His mercy as that mercy is provided in Christ. The law was a "schoolmaster," or child trainer, to bring the offender to Christ. This was immediately accomplished in his turning to the sin-offerings which were provided, and which were the type of Christ in His death; but more fully, was this accomplished when the dispensation itself came to its end in the death of Christ. "The law made nothing perfect, ... but the bringing in of a better hope," and the law was a "shadow of good things to come" (Heb. 7:19; 10:1).
The reign of the law is limited to a period of about 1500 years, or from Sinai to Calvary -- from Moses to Christ. These boundaries are fixed beyond question in the Word of God.
First. The Law Began its Reign at Mount Sinai.
The law was never imposed upon any people or generation before it was given to Israel at the hand of Moses. "And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day" (Deut. 5:1-3). When the law was proposed, the children of Israel deliberately forsook their position under the grace of God which had been their relationship to God until that day, and placed themselves under the law. The record is given thus: "And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD (Ex. 19:3-8).
While it is certain that Jehovah knew the choice the people would make, it is equally certain that their choice was in no way required by Him. His description of the relation they had sustained to Him until that moment is most tender and pleading: "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself." Such is the character of pure grace. By it the sinner is carried on eagles' wings and brought to God. It is all of God. Until that hour they had been sustained in the faithfulness of Jehovah and without the slightest reference to their wickedness; but His plan and purpose for them had remained unchanged. He had dealt with them according to the unconditional covenant of grace made with Abraham. The marvelous blessedness of that grace-relationship should have appealed to them as the priceless riches of the unfailing mercy of God, which it was. The surrender of the blessings of grace should have been allowed by these people on no condition whatever. Had they said at the hearing of the impossible law, "None of these things can we do. We crave only to remain in that boundless mercy of God, who has loved us, and sought us, and saved us from all our enemies, and who will bring us to Himself," it is evident that such an appeal would have reached the very heart of God. And the surpassing glory of His grace would have been extended to them without bounds; for grace above all else is the delight of the heart of God. In place of the eagles' wings by which they were carried unto God, they confidently chose a covenant of works when they said: "All that the LORD hath spoken we will do." They were called upon to face a concrete choice between the mercy of God which had followed them, and a new and hopeless covenant of works. They fell from grace. The experience of the nation is true of every individual who falls from grace at the present time. Every blessing from God that has ever been experienced came only from the loving mercy of God; yet with that same blasting self-trust, people are now turning to a dependence upon their works. It is far more reasonable and honoring to God to fall helpless into His everlasting arms, and to acknowledge that we rely on His grace alone.
Upon the determined choice of the law, the mountain where God was revealed became a terrible spectacle of the unapproachable, holy character of God. "And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.... And the Lord said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish" (Ex. 19:18-21). He who had brought them to Himself under the unconditional blessings of His grace, must now warn them lest they break through unto the LORD and perish. That the burning mountain was a sign of the unapproachableness of God under the new covenant of works, is again declared in Heb. 12:18-21. Speaking there of the glory and liberty of grace, it is said: "For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burnt with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:). But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." By this passage, the great contrast between the relationship to God under the law covenant of works, and the relationship to God under grace, is set forth clearly. Under their works, Israel could not come unto God lest they die; but under grace they were carried on eagles' wings unto God, and so, under grace, all come unto God, and to Jesus, and to the blessed association and glory of heaven itself.
The children of Israel definitely chose the covenant of works, which is law, as their relationship to God. In like manner, every individual who is now under the law, is self-placed, and that law under which he stands is self-imposed. In every case such relationship is clung to in spite of the appeal of pure grace. Had the legalists minds to understand and hearts to feel, they would realize that there is no access to God by a covenant of works and merit. To such as seek to come to Him by the law, God is as unapproachable as flaming Sinai.
Second. The Reign of Law was Terminated with the Death of Christ.
The truthfulness of the statement that the reign of the law was terminated with the death of Christ is to be determined by the Word of God, rather than by the traditions and suppositions of men. The law, when given, was only a temporary, or ad interim, dealing "until the seed should come" (Gal. 3:19), and the "seed" is Christ (3:16). This conclusive passage (vs. 22-25) continues: "But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." The distinction between Jew and Gentile is broken down and all are "under sin." There is provided and offered in Christ a new access and relationship to God. It is "through Christ" and "in Christ." It is gained upon a principle of faith alone. Christ is the object of faith. It is nothing less than the "promise by faith of Jesus Christ," and it is given to them who "believe." Thus the new covenant of grace through faith in Christ is placed in contrast to the old covenant of works. The passage goes on to state: "But before faith [the new principle in grace] came, we [Paul is here speaking as a Jew of his own time] were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [child leader] to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith [the new principle in grace]. But after that faith [the new principle in grace] is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster" (the law).
As a standard of holy living, the law presented the precise quality of life which was becoming a people who were chosen of God and redeemed out of the bondage of Egypt. At the cross, a new and perfect redemption from sin was accomplished for Jew and Gentile alike. The redemption from Egypt was a type of the redemption from sin. As the redemption from Egypt created a demand for a corresponding holy life, so the redemption from sin creates a demand for a corresponding heavenly walk with God. One is adapted to the limitations of the natural man; the other is adapted to the infinite resources of the spiritual man. One is the teaching of the law; the other is the teaching of grace.
III. AS TO THE APPLICATION OF THE LAW
The law was given only to the children of Israel. This statement admits of no discussion when the Scriptures are considered. A very few passages from the many are here given: "And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart" (Mk. 12:29-30); "And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I have set before you this day?" (Deut. 4:8); "And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day" (Deut. 5:1-3). The message given from the mount was that great covenant of works of the law contained in the Ten Commandments, which is here included in the "statutes and judgments." This covenant was never made with any other nation or people; for God made no covenants with people other than Israel. "The LORD gave me the two tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant" (Deut. 9:11). Speaking of the covenants in relation to Israel, it is said: "Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever" (Rom. 9:4, 5). Speaking of the Gentiles it is said: "Wherefore remember, that ye being in times past Gentiles in the flesh, ... that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:11, 12).
It is expressly declared that the Gentiles have not the law: "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature [usage] the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves" (Rom. 2:14). In harmony with this, Pontius Pilate, a Gentile ruler, denied any responsibility to Israel's law: "Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law" (John 18:31).
We conclude, therefore, that the law which was given by Moses was a covenant of works, that it was "added" after centuries of human history, that its reign was terminated by the death of Christ, that it was given to Israel only, and that, since it was never given to Gentiles, the only relation that Gentiles can sustain to it is, without any divine authority, to impose it upon themselves. Additional proof of these facts concerning the law are yet to be presented.