The Grace of God
L. R. Shelton, Jr.
The Lord has laid upon my heart this series of messages on THE GRACE OF GOD. My desire in preaching on this subject is to open-by the Holy Spirit’s leading-this glorious truth that so fills the pages of God’s Holy Word; for GRACE IS THE THEME OF THE BIBLE!
That God deals with His people in grace is one of the most amazing things of which the Word speaks. For when we fully realize what we are by nature and how we appear in the sight of God as unholy and ungodly sinners; when we fully realize our true deserts of the wrath of God, then we are filled with praise that God’s grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 5:21). So unto us who know ourselves to be sinners, GRACE is the most gracious and precious word in our language; it is the word most suited for our need! Why? because this word describes the way that the Lord deals with His people who are sinners; by His Spirit our sovereign God deals with us by grace, through grace, and in grace.
In this word “grace” we see the heart of God revealed as in no other way; we see God’s love, His mercy and goodness in action when He saves us; for it is wholly and completely by His grace that we are saved, and in no other way (Eph. 2:8). In this word “grace” we see the source from which flows all that God has for us in Christ, for it includes all of His dealings with His beloved people.
You see, dear friend, DIVINE GRACE IS THE SOVEREIGN AND SAVING FAVOR OF GOD EXERCISED IN THE BESTOWMENT OF BLESSINGS UPON THOSE WHO HAVE NO MERIT IN THEMSELVES and from whom no compensation is demanded. But that is not all! Grace is the favor of God shown to those who are thoroughly ill-deserving and hell-deserving! Grace can neither be bought, earned, nor won by the creature, or if it could, it would cease to be grace. But in fact, it is unsought and unattracted by the objects upon which it is bestowed. So when a thing is said to be of grace, we mean that the recipient has no claim upon it, that it was in no way due him, but it came to him as pure charity, even unasked and at first undesired. For by His grace-His sovereign saving favor-God draws the sinner and makes him willing in the day of His power (Psa. 110:3). Again we see that GRACE is the SOURCE from which flows all that God has for us in Christ (II Cor. 8:9).
Listen to God’s eternal, unbroken, verbally inspired Word, as we establish this truth! GRACE which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world is called THE ELECTION OF GRACE in Rom. 11:5-6. Read this precious passage of Scripture! “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”
So since it pleased God to show this grace to His people before the foundation of the world, we see that salvation in Christ is ALL OF GRACE, and there is no way it can be of merit. Also in II Tim. 1:9 we see the heart of God flowing toward poor sinners in grace before the world began: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” And then we see it flowing down to them in time, in verse 10 of II Timothy 1: “But (the grace of God) is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death (for poor sinners) and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Yes, because grace was given to us before the world began, it is called the election of grace.
Then, we see the grace of God flowing out to hell-deserving sinners in the EFFECTUAL CALLING of them to Christ with that irresistible call of grace. This is brought out by Brother Paul in Gal. 1:15: “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me.” Yes, this holy calling of poor sinners to Christ (II Tim. 1:9) is A CALL OF GRACE without which no man would come to Christ to be saved, because all lie dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-3). Our blessed Lord Himself said this in Jn. 5:25: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: (the call of grace by the Spirit) and they that hear shall live.” Just as He called Lazarus, “Come forth” (Jn. 11:43), even so by His Spirit He calls every sinner whom He saves with that effectual call of grace to come to Christ. This is the experience of every one He has ever saved (Acts 2:39; Rom. 8:30).
Further, in Rom. 3:24 we find that our JUSTIFICATION IN CHRIST, because of His imputed righteousness, flows down to us freely by His grace. The righteousness of God which is by the faith of Jesus Christ has brought us into the courts of heaven, and we have been “... justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Or as Rom. 4:4-5 tells us: “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.” Yes, all of grace and none of works is the only way God justifies poor, repenting, believing sinners in Christ.
The very FAITH by which we lay hold of Christ as our complete salvation in THROUGH GRACE as read in Acts 18:27: they “believed through grace.” And in Eph. 2:8-9 we see that faith is a gift; in fact, it is the greatest gift given to us! “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.”
Also, we find in Eph. 1:7 that God’s grace flows toward us in that blessing of the FORGIVENESS OF ALL OUR SINS: “In whom (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” What a grace this is that flows down to us from the God of all grace through our Lord Jesus Christ! Think of it! Because of God’s grace-His unmerited favor towards us-He freely forgives the blackest and vilest of sinners who comes to Him through Christ. You see my dear friend, when you lay down your arms of rebellion and hoist the white flag of surrender in heartfelt repentance of sin, then God can and will freely forgive you of your sins according to the riches of His grace because of the redemptive work of Christ at Calvary. In fact, Isa. 1:18 tells us that God invites sinners by His grace! Listen as He speaks: “Come and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” What grace! God says He will in grace forgive every sin as we come to Him in confession and true repentance for Christ’s sake! (I John 1:9; Prov. 28:13). Do we not see the heart of God revealed toward us here in His goodness, love and mercy?
Another blessed truth that springs out of the grace of God flowing down to us in Christ is that because Jesus by the grace of God, “tasted death for every man” (Heb. 2:9), there come forth LIFE for us - RESURRECTION LIFE! Listen to Gal. 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Now He lives in all His blood-bought ones; He is our very life! (Col. 3:4). And this to me is the HEIGHT OF GRACE: to know that because of Christ’s death and resurrection, He now lives His life in His people, and that the old man has been crucified with Him. Romans 6:4-6 expresses this in these words: “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”
What is meant here by the old man? We know that it is not the flesh, because we still have to fight against it every day. We know that it is not our depraved nature, because that has not been eradicated; that must be kept in the place of death by the grace of God and the Spirit of God for us to survive. What then is the old man? The old man is what we were as unbelievers before Christ came into our lives. It describes us as apart from Christ-unforgiven, alienated and totally in subjection to the reign of sin in our depraved natures. But now, praise the Lord, each one who is in Christ is a NEW MAN. He has put on Christ (Rom. 13:14) and walks free in His Spirit, no longer under the dominion of sin because his sins have all been blotted out as a thick cloud, forgiven, put away from God’s sight (Rom. 8:2-4). To me this is GRACE!
In this I see the picture of the caterpillar changing into a butterfly, the action of metamorphosis: from the worm to the butterfly, from a sinner to a saint, from death unto life, from hell to heaven. You see, it is the implantation of a new heart (which in Scripture means the affection), the giving of a new nature! It is the old passing away and the new taking over as II Cor. 5:17 says: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away: behold all things are become new.”
This is what God does by His grace: He gives eternal life to the sinner (the worm) to now become a saint (a butterfly); He gives A NEW LIFE! Therefore, in the sight of God the old no longer is in existence! Why? because the old was crucified with Christ and now the new lives because Christ now lives in our spirit by His Spirit (Rom. 8:9, 11); and he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit (I Cor. 6:17). God no longer sees the worm which was I; He now sees Christ Who is my life! This does not mean that I no longer have trouble with the old nature and the body of flesh, but what it does mean is that, because of God’s grace, “where sin reigned unto death, now grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:21). And we who were once under condemnation can now come to a THRONE OF GRACE (Heb. 4:16); we come because we’ve come to know Him Who sits upon that throne, Who is THE GOD OF ALL GRACE; so grace reigns in our hearts and lives!
To sum it all up, this grace of God is God’s love in action. It is the unmerited favor of God shown to the ill- deserving, hell-deserving sinner! Because it is “grace,” all merit or works of any kind are ruled out in the salvation of any soul, and God alone receives ALL honor and praise.
Last week in our new series on the GRACE OF GOD, having given a definition of GRACE, we considered how God’s grace flows to us through Christ in the election of grace, the effectual call of grace, and the forgiveness of sins by grace through His blood. Then we saw His marvelous grace in that life-giving union with Christ in crucifixion and resurrection.
Today we desire to continue these messages of the GRACE OF GOD by considering THE POWER OF GRACE. How does it manifest itself in the deliverance and salvation of a lost soul who is under the reign and dominion of sin? Romans 5:20-21 tells us: “But where sin abounded, GRACE DID MUCH MORE ABOUND: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Here we see that God’s grace must be powerful, to abound over sin, and to reign where once sin reigned: it is powerful because it is sovereign, reigning where sin and death once reigned in the heart of the sinner.
When we see what grace has to overcome to save sinners, we can begin to understand how powerful grace must be. What is it then, that the power of grace must overcome? IT MUST OVERCOME OUR SPIRITUAL DEADNESS. Eph. 2:1 reads: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” You see dear friend, by nature we all are spiritually dead; that is the condition of the whole human race apart from the grace of God in Jesus Christ. We have all died in Adam (Rom. 5:12-19). So we are born into this world spiritually dead, without one ounce of spiritual life! What this means is that we are dead to the interests of our own souls; we are dead to the life of God and to spiritual things, for they do not interest us at all. And that is the condition of the vast majority of people in the world today, both in and out of so-called religion. They give no thought to the things of God, and easily dismiss them if they are mentioned. Though they are religious, they are spiritually dead! They have no spiritual awareness, no spiritual understanding, no conception of the things of Christ at all. So grace has to overcome this state of death; and nothing but the power of the grace of God in Christ Jesus can do it!
Second, GRACE HAS TO OVERCOME THE STATE OF ANTAGONISM TO THE TRUTH AND TO GOD, (which is the tragic state of natural man) of every sinner outside of Christ. Not only does he fail to respond to spiritual truth, but he he hates it, spurns it, and opposes it. In Rom. 8:7 we read: “The carnal mind, (the natural mind of man, the fleshly mind) is ENMITY against God.” So it does not respond to truth, but that he is also an enemy, hostile against God; his mind and heart are “not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
Again in I Cor. 2:14 we are told: “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.” And why not? “for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” He laughs at the things of the Spirit of God; he does not receive them because they are nonsense, folly and utter rubbish to him. It is not only that he cannot receive them, but he is actively, bitterly opposed to them; he rejects them altogether. This is the Biblical truth of the awful and fearful condition of natural man! How then is this man going to be saved when he is in this condition? There is only one answer: it is by the power of the grace of God. It is because the power of the reign of grace is altogether greater than the power of the reign of sin!
Third, THE POWER OF THE GRACE OF GOD MUST OVERCOME SATAN. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12). You see dear friend, Satan does not want to lose his citizens, his slaves. He is the strong man of Luke 11:21, armed, that keepeth his goods in peace. He holds them captive at his will (II Tim. 2:26), guarding and surrounding them with mighty fortification; so they must be delivered from the “POWER OF SATAN” (Acts 26:18). How then can anyone ever be redeemed? Nothing less than the power of the grace of God can do it as the Scriptures so plainly declare, and I praise the Lord that His grace is so powerful!
Let us go further! For grace to do this then, it must be POWERFUL and IRRESISTIBLE. For if grace were not irresistible, no one would ever be saved. You see, grace does not merely help or assist us, it comes in and actually reigns where sin once reigned. It does not take “no” for an answer! By the power of the Holy Spirit, the antagonistic will of the dead sinner has been overcome and he is now made willing in the day of God’s power. And being overcome by grace in the power of the Holy Spirit, that sinner cries like the apostle Paul in I Cor. 15:10: “BY THE GRACE OF GOD I AM WHAT I AM: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain.”
Dear friend, if grace only presented to us the love of God in Christ as the way of salvation and reconciliation back to God, and then left the final choice with us as to whether or not we were going to take advantage of it, it would leave us worse off than we were before. Why? because being dead spiritually, we would never respond to the claims of the gospel. Apart from the irresistible grace of God not only to bring us to salvation (Titus 2:11), but also to teach us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present evil world (Titus 2:12), we would die and go to hell! In other words, if God did not take the initiative by His grace, subduing our depraved wills and making us willing in the day of His power, then we would never be saved!
Second, GRACE BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT CONVICTS OF OUR SINS; and oh what power is needed to do that, to convince the natural man of sin! You may say that it’s easy to convict and convince a drunkard, or a dope fiend, or a whoremonger of his sin. But is it? Well, try it; and you will find that he defends himself and rationalizes his sins, explaining them away with the utmost ease. But that is not all! What happens when you come to a proud Pharisee such as Saul of Tarsus? What can possibly convince and convict such a man of his sin? Again, there is only one power that can do it: it is the power of grace that can strike him down and make him cry, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). You see, only the irresistible grace of God that reigns through righteousness can so convince a man of his sins that he forever despairs of self, cries after God for mercy, and rests only in the righteousness of Christ and His precious blood to cleanse and clothe him.
Third, GRACE REIGNS AND SHOWS ITSELF TO BE POWERFUL IN REGENERATION. A man can no more give himself the new birth or regenerate himself than he could produce himself in his mother’s womb. Dear friend, a man is not born again or regenerated because he believes; he believes because he is born again! This is so clearly set forth in John 1:12-13: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” This takes place by the grace of God in the power of the same Holy Spirit that raised our blessed Lord Jesus from the grave (Jn. 3:3-8; Eph. 1:20; I Pet. 1:23).
Fourth, GRACE REIGNS AND SHOWS ITSELF POWERFUL IN ITS RESTRAINING POWER. Praise God for that restraining grace! You see, the restraining power of grace is manifested in God’s people even before their conversion. They are not allowed to sin to such a degree that they put themselves outside the scope of salvation; they are never allowed to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. They may say many things they should not say against Him; but they are never allowed to blaspheme. And the power of restraining grace is necessary even in the Christian, the child of God, surrounded as he is by temptation, and often tempted from within. Oh how I thank God for the power of retraining grace, the grace that holds us back, the grace that prevents us from doing things that would harm and damage our immortal souls! We are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Pet. 1:5).
Fifth, GRACE REIGNS AND SHOWS ITSELF POWERFUL IN OUR SANCTIFICATION. You see, in salvation we are saved from the penalty of sin (which is the second death), as well as from the power of sin. And one day we shall be saved from the very presence of sin. But now we are being saved from the pollution of sin by the power of sanctifying grace. Here we see the power of grace manifesting itself daily against indwelling sin: sin in the flesh, and sin in the body. Thank God for the power of sanctifying grace in our lives that reigns over the power of indwelling sin, delivering us daily from its pollutions! (Rom. 6:14; 8:4).
Sixth, GRACE REIGNS AND SHOWS ITSELF POWERFUL IN SUPPORTING GRACE, of which all are constantly in need. For what is going to keep us when sin, the flesh, the world and the devil come against us with their combined forces? These are ever threatening and attacking us, so how are we going to overcome them? James 4:6 tells us: “He giveth more grace ; and II Cor. 12:9 tells us: “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
Seventh, GRACE REIGNS AND SHOWS ITSELF POWERFUL IN ITS ENABLING AND PERSEVERING EFFECT. Here again is something we constantly need. We have seen how we are brought out of the bondage of sin and antagonism toward God and His Christ, and are delivered from the second death in hell. We have seen how we are restored, sanctified and supported. But, how are we to continue on the rest of our journey? How are we to hold out in the Christian warfare and the fight of faith? The answer is still the same! It is the power of reigning grace alone that makes possible and guarantees the final perseverance of the saints. Phillipians 1:6 tells us how: “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” This means that what the grace of God starts, it will finish. Grace so works in our hearts by the Holy Spirit that we are enabled to persevere to the end! (Jude 20).
As we continue our present series on THE GRACE OF GOD, I continue to stand amazed that God deals with His people in grace. To fully realize what we are by nature and how we appear in the sight of God as unholy, ungodly sinners, and to fully realize our true desert of the wrath of God, then we cannot help being filled with praise that God’s grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 5:21).
Let me put you in remembrance: This amazing, distinguishing, matchless grace which is poured out upon ill-deserving, hell- deserving and ungodly sinners like you and me, is the sovereign and saving favor of God exercised in the bestowment of blessings upon those who have no merit in themselves and for which no compensation is demanded. It is pure charity, freely bestowed upon us, even unasked and at first undesired. But if God’s eternal, loving, blessed salvation in Christ came to man in any other way than by pure grace, then your speaker would have never been saved, for I too am nothing but a hell-deserving sinner.
Now let us look at the GRACE OF GOD working in the lives of poor sinners as recorded in God’s Holy Word. I pray that by this Word many who are listening and many who will read these pages will be enabled by the Holy Spirit to know that Christ receives sinful men, and to say: “EVEN ME, with all my sin.”
I direct your attention to these words written about the Christian believers who were in the church of Corinth. Listen to I Cor. 6:11: “And such were some of you : but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” And what were they? verses 9-10 tell us: some were: “fornicators,...adulterers,...effeminate,... abusers of themselves with mankind,...thieves,...covetous,...drunkards,...revilers and extortioners.” What an array of sins committed against the most high God! And yet the Scriptures plainly declare that these desperately wicked sinners who had lived their lifetime in such cesspools of hell, were now by the grace of God, washed, sanctified, and justified. How? “...in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
Something happened to them! And what was it? God’s grace : by His unmerited favor He reached down to them and saved them; He delivered them, changed them and made them new creatures in Christ Jesus. God did this by the convincing work of His Holy Spirit, Who commanded a light to shine into their souls, revealing themselves unto themselves as hell-deserving sinners. Then they, by the grace of God, repented of their sins, left them and turned to God; from them with a for them, and desiring never to go back to them. All of this was done for them out of free grace, even though they in themselves hated God! They did not want Him and would not have come to Him, had He not first looked upon them in free grace and made a way that He, the Righteous, Just and Holy One, could be just in justifying them in Christ. And when I read this portion of God’s Word which shows the amazing grace of God manifested to such vile and filthy sinners, then I despair of no person being beyond God’s grace!
Think of it! Before they were saved by the grace of God, these precious souls lived in the most filthy of outward sins. Some were sexually immoral and licentious; some were worshippers of idols (the work of their own hands); others were guilty of adultery in all of its perverted forms or of sexual perversions; and others of stealing whatever they could get their hands on, or of living in debauchery and drunkenness; and some were given to evil slander and swindling of the worst kind; yet they turned to God in true repentance, trusting themselves, their sinful nature and all their sinful deeds into the hands of the GLORIOUS SUBSTITUTE, Whom God had provided for them in Christ Jesus. The Word of God plainly says that they were washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. And this is grace!
What this means is that when these vile, filthy and ungodly sinners were by the grace of God lifted out of the miry clay (the abyss of sin), they were brought into the very presence of the thrice holy God as if they had never sinned and had been holy and righteous all the days of their lives. Again, this is grace! Not only that, but they were given new hearts whereby they became partakers of the holy nature of God in Christ. Is not this grace?
BUT THERE IS MORE! Those very bodies which had been given to such depravity, were now made the very temple of the living God and indwelt by His Holy Spirit. This is grace!
BUT THERE IS MORE! These vile, despicable, hell-deserving sinners were brought into the very family of God; they were made to sit down at His table of grace and feast in His presence as His dear children, and to call Him Father-the very One Who only a few months or years before they had hated, blasphemed, cursed and would have killed if they could have gotten to Him! Is not this grace?
BUT THERE IS MORE! They were also given the perfect robe of Christ’s righteousness, which had been woven on the loom of the cross, tested in the darkness of the tomb and adorned in the brightness of the resurrection. In this robe of Christ’s righteousness, they could now appear in the very presence of God, for they were loved by Him with the same love with which He loves His only begotten Son. This is grace!
BUT THERE IS MORE! They were even made heirs of God and joint-heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ. They were now kings and priests, ruling and reigning in His present kingdom of grace and daily were partakers of all that God’s hand provided. This is grace!
BUT THERE IS MORE! Through this marvelous and amazing grace of God, all their sins had been forgiven, never to be remembered against them any more, and they had the privilege of daily cleansing at the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness in the precious shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ in Whom they now rested their entire lives. This is grace!
BUT THERE IS MORE! These same men and women who had lived their lives in shame and reproach in the awfulness of sin, were by the grace of God, given a title to everlasting salvation with Christ in heaven. They were given the right to enter heaven, into the very presence of God Himself, to be with Him in holy bliss and splendor throughout all the ages to come, even where the spirits of just men made perfect dwell (Heb. 12:23). And this is grace!
BUT THERE IS MORE! To these same vile sinners who were now washed, sanctified and justified in Christ, were given exceeding great and precious promises, that by these they might be partakers of the divine nature and thereby escape the corruption that is in the world through lust (II Pet. 1:4). They were given the promise of Heb. 13:5: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee;” and of Heb. 4:16: “Come boldly unto the throne of grace, that you may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need;” of I Jn. 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness;” of Phil. 4:19: “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus”; and of I Cor. 10:13: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye shall be able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” All this is grace!
BUT THERE IS MORE! To these same men and women who only a few months or years ago never knew this great grace, was given the privilege of sharing in the work of spreading the gospel of the grace of God-to be laborers with God in His vineyard and to tell the great story of God’s grace which had washed, sanctified and justified them in the Lord Jesus by the Spirit of God. To me, this is grace, that God would allow me, who once spurned the message of redemption, to proclaim this greatest message of all!
BUT THERE IS MORE! To these same sinners out of hell who by grace had turned to God in repentance and to Christ in faith, was given the privilege by faith to behold with open face the Lord of glory and to be changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (II Cor. 3:18). Beloved, this is grace, to now have the privilege of being made like unto the One Who died for me!
BUT THERE IS MORE! These same precious souls now redeemed by the grace of God were given the hope of the resurrection. To them it was said, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (I Cor. 15:52-53). This is grace!
BUT THERE IS MORE! Not only were they given the hope of the resurrection, but at the same time, these saved souls were promised a bodily resurrection, new bodies like unto their precious Lord Who had redeemed them from all their sins: “For our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:20-21). This is grace!
And as if all this were not enough, yet THERE IS ONE MORE gracious thing that the God of all grace did for these poor, hell-deserving sinners, and it’s found in Romans 8:38-39: He promised them that having loved them, He would love them to the end, and that nothing could separate them from Him: “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, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What marvelous grace!
Dear friend, I have tried to picture what the grace of God does for a poor, hell-deserving sinner, taking him from the pit of sin and hell and setting him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus irrespective of who he, the sinner, is and what he has done. This to me is grace : “that as sin has reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:21).
What a gracious theme this is: THE GRACE OF GOD! It is a subject of which we cannot be reminded too frequently; that is why the New Testament repeats it over and over again. For what is grace, this grace of God? It is the quality or attribute of God which causes Him to be gracious towards and to bless the utterly undeserving. Grace is favor shown to people who do not deserve any favor at all, who indeed deserve the exact opposite. It was while we were without strength, while we were ungodly, while we were sinners and even while we were yet enemies, deserving wrath and hatred, punishment and perdition, that God sent His only begotten, dearly begotten Son into the world to die for us. This, my friend, is grace!
Now having shown how God’s grace flows to us through Christ, and having considered the power of grace in the deliverance and salvation of a lost sinner, and the grace of God as illustrated in the lives of the Corinthian believers, in this fourth message I desire to show you that THE GRACE OF GOD COMES TO US EXCLUSIVELY AND ONLY IN AND THROUGH THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. This precious truth is the theme of the Bible, and it surely amazes me, for it shows God’s amazing love : a love so strong, so pure, so unfeigned that heaven was emptied and God came down in the Person of His Son to redeem poor sinners from the slave market of sin and wrath.
Let us rejoice together in praise unto our living God for so great salvation as we show you this precious truth from Scripture. In Rom. 5:15 we read: “...much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.” And John 1:17 declares: “... Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” In II Cor. 8:9 we read: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” And in II Cor. 5:18-19: “All thing are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ...God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” How? By the grace of substitution! For God hath made Christ to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Christ (vs. 21). Again, in I Cor. 1:4 Brother Paul tells the Corinthian believers, “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ.” All these Scriptures plainly show that the grace of God comes to us through the Lord Jesus Christ and there is salvation in none other (Acts 4:12). For it pleased God that in Him-our Lord Jesus Christ-He would show forth His grace and mercy to poor sinners.
So as GRACE AND TRUTH came by Jesus Christ, Who has brought in salvation by the sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:26), we can say that Christ is GRACE PERSONIFIED (Titus 2:11): “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.”
But how did this grace of God come to us through Christ? It came through His WILLINGNESS to bring this grace down to man, having been a party to the purpose and will of God in the eternal counsels to save sinners by His grace (Heb. 10:5-9): “...a body hast thou prepared me:...then said I, [the Lord Jesus Christ] Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.” Of what book is Christ speaking here? the book of Predestination, the Lamb’s book of Life, written before the foundation of the world.
Further, Heb. 2:9-17 shows us how our Lord Jesus brought us this grace in time, for it says, “But we see Jesus” by the grace of God, tasting death for every man. “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings...For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren...” And while here on earth, to manifest the grace of God, He said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). And again in verse 15: “I lay down my life for the sheep...therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself” (vv. 17-18). This proves His willingness to perform all that was written of Him in the eternal counsels.
But the greatest verses of Scripture to show our Lord’s willingness to bring the grace of God down to man are found in Phil. 2:5-8: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 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.” He we find it all together: He was willing, so He came, even to the death of the cross, that He might show forth the amazing grace of God in making the way open whereby God could be merciful to sinners.
In what manner did He bring us this grace? First, He brought it to us BY LIVING A HOLY AND RIGHTEOUS LIFE WITHOUT SIN IN OUR BEHALF, that by the shedding of His perfect, precious blood, sinners could be washed clean from all their sins. Listen to Heb. 7:26-27: “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s.” This we see He did, because He was sinless and therefore His sacrifice for His people’s sins would be accepted by the holy God. Second, He brought us this grace BY ACTUALLY BECOMING WHAT WE ARE, SIN ITSELF, BY SUBSTITUTION FOR HIS PEOPLE. Listen to II Cor. 5:21: God “hath made him (Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” And as I Pet. 2:24 tells us: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” As Isa. 53:6 tells us: “...the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” So we see that He willingly became what we are- SIN -so He could show forth the grace of God in paying our sin-debt in full.
Third, Christ showed the manner in which God’s grace came to us BY ACTUALLY IMPUTING HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS TO THE ACCOUNT OF EVERY SINNER WHO BELIEVES IN HIM. You see, having paid our sin-debt in full, He can give to every repenting, believing sinner a right standing before God which the poor sinner could get in no other way. I Cor. 1:30 tells us that Christ is made unto us righteousness ; and it is on the basis of His imputed righteousness that we are justified before God, that we stand before God perfect, holy and righteous in His sight. Rom. 4:4-8 says, “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. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”
Fourth, Christ brought down the grace of God BY GIVING HIS HOLY SPIRIT TO CONVICT AND TEACH (Jn. 16:7-15), FILL (Eph. 5:18), SEAL (Eph. 1:13-14) and WORK SANCTIFICATION (I Thess. 5:23) AND THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT (Gal. 5:22-23) IN EVERY SOUL WHOM HE SAVES BY HIS GRACE. So in all these things we see the grace of God manifested to us in the Person of His Son Whom He sent as His love-gift to our soul.
My friend, there is no blessing that ever comes to man from God without coming through the Lord Jesus Christ! There is no salvation apart from Him. You see, sin had made man a rebel against God, His government and His very Being of holiness. Therefore, only a perfect, sinless, human sacrifice could satisfy the wrong done to God’s Person, holiness, law and divine perfection; the integrity of the divine and eternal Being required this if ever grace was to flow to poor sinners. I say it with reverence, but even God could not forgive us apart from what happened in Jesus Christ! Why? because THERE IS NO SALVATION WITHOUT SUBSTITUTION! Substitution is God’s way of salvation, therefore incarnation was essential to the way of grace. A perfect, sinless body, soul and spirit was a necessary sacrifice, because a perfect, sinless and holy God had to be satisfied; a perfect and holy law had to be vindicated, and a perfect and holy justice had to be executed. And this work could only be done by God Himself in the Person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
So again I say, the grace of God comes to us exclusively and only in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. If He had not come, if it could be said of Him that, though He counted it not robbery to be equal with God, and though He humbled Himself and made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a man, event he form of a servant; if He had not further humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, submitting passively to having the sins of men laid upon HIm and punished in Him; if His blood had not been shed, and if He had not risen again-I say, if He had not done all of this, there would be no abundance of the grace of God with respect to us! But because He did, “... much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many” (Rom. 5:15). This marvelous grace comes to us through one Person, truly human, truly God, the two natures in one Person- the God-Man, Christ Jesus (I Tim. 2:5).
So the vital question is, Do you know Christ, thereby experiencing the grace of God in your life? Do you know this abounding grace? Are you rejoicing in it? Are you experiencing it? Can you say with the song writer, “Thou O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find?” Is Christ everything to you, or is your salvation merely a matter of saying, “I believe my sins are forgiven?” Are you receiving of His fulness? Are you aware of His meeting your every need? Are you looking forward to the glory of being with Him forever? Are you certain of the grace of God in your life? Oh that each one of us would be able to sing of His AMAZING GRACE to our souls and walk in His fulness every day!
Ah! but for free and sovereign grace, I still had lived estranged from God, Till hell had proved the destined place Of my deserved but dread abode.
But O, amazed, I see the hand That stopped me in my wild career; A miracle of grace I stand; The Lord has taught my heart to fear.
To fear His name, to trust His grace, To learn His will be my employ; Till I shall see Him face to face, Himself my heaven, Himself my joy.
To conclude this series on THE GRACE OF GOD, let us now consider THE CONSUMMATION OF THE REIGN OF GRACE : where is it brought to completion? It is consummated in our glorification with Christ in heaven.
Glorification is the last link in the golden chain of God’s purpose for His people, which we find in Rom. 8:28-30: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 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.” The links that form this golden chain of God’s grace toward His people are found in these expressions: HIS PURPOSE, which was His eternal counsel (Eph. 1:11): HIS FOREKNOWLEDGE, which led to that election of grace (Rom. 11:5); HIS PREDESTINATION, which marked out the path by which grace would come and reign over His people (Rom. 8:29); HIS EFFECTUAL CALLING, which was the voice of His Spirit making His people willing in the day of His power (Psa. 110:3); HIS JUSTIFICATION, which is given us by faith (Rom. 5:1), based upon the redemption that is in Christ and His imputed righteousness (Rom. 4:5-8); and then the last, this glorious truth of our GLORIFICATION in Christ and with Christ in heaven in the ages to come. In all these links of this golden chain, grace reigns and it will definitely reign in our glorification as we rule and reign with Christ in eternity. What a theme for our souls!
What then does glorification mean? and what does the apostle Paul mean in Rom. 8:17 when he says that we with Christ shall be “glorified together?” Glorification means full and entire deliverance from sin and evil in all their effects and in every respect in body, soul and spirit. In other words, in glorification the whole man will be completely and entirely delivered from every harmful effect of sin-yes, from every tarnishing and polluting effect of sin. Not only this, but we shall become like the Lord Jesus Christ : perfect and glorified! For you see, because our blessed Lord is already glorified, we shall be glorified together with Him; and our glorification (like everything else that happens to us in the Christ life) is the result of our union with Christ: it is the result of our being joined to Him by His marvelous grace through the operation of the Holy Spirit upon our soul.
As we go through the Scriptures, we note that this glorification of the people of God by grace is called “being caught into the paradise of God” (II Cor. 12:4), an allusion to the garden of Eden; for at God’s right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psa. 16:11). To signify its grandeur, its magnificence and its glory, it is called a crown of glory in I Pet. 5:4 and a kingdom in II Tim. 4:18; and I Pet. 1:3-5 tells us it is “unfading and incorruptible.” To show that none shall enjoy it except by the Redeemer’s obedience, it is called a crown of righteousness (II Tim. 4:8); and in Rev. 2:10 it is called a crown of life.
As a kingdom, it was prepared for believers before the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:34), for it is a kingdom of their Father Who bestows it upon them here and hereafter. To show its continuance, it is called an everlasting kingdom ; and those who enjoy it are called “kings and priests” who are said to sit upon thrones and to reign already in this life! (Rev. 5:10).
All this is blessed indeed, but the thing that matters most to me in our glorification is that mine eyes shall see the KING IN HIS BEAUTY (Isa. 33:17); I shall behold my blessed Lord in all His glory and be with Him where His is for eternity! This precious thought is brought out in many places in the Scriptures. For what would heaven be without Christ ? and what would heaven be if we could not behold Him Whom our soul loves and Whose life is the very life of our own glorification?
In the book of Job, the oldest of all the Books of the Bible, we hear Job saying, “I know that my redeemer liveth... whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold” (Job 19:25, 27). So we see that from the very beginning of time, all the children of God have waited with blessed anticipation to behold the face of their lovely Lord. And the Psalmist bore witness to the same longing of his soul in these words found in Psa. 17:15 and 16:11: “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness : I shall be satisfied when I awake, with thy likeness.... In thy presence is fulness of joy ; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” So he too, like all of God’s children, would not be satisfied until he could behold the face of Christ, and be by His right hand where there are pleasures forevermore.
How about you and me, do we long and wait for the coming of the Lord so we might see Him and be like Him? In I Jn. 3:2 the beloved apostle said he and all of God’s children do: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” Yes, as we behold Him, the King, in all of His beauty and glory, we shall be like Him!
Now how does this blessed thought affect us who know Him? It affects us in two ways: the first is found in I Jn. 3:3: “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as Christ is pure.” It makes us desire to live a holy life, for we know that without holiness no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). Second, IT GIVES US A GREATER LOVE FOR HIM, Whom having not seen we love; in Whom (that is, Christ), though now we see him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls (I Pet. 1:8-9). So not only does this hope cause us to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world”; but we find ourselves daily, with great expectation, “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12-13), because we love Him, “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). We shall be glorified!
What a hope! What a joy! What a blessing to wait for our Lord from heaven and to live for Him with our lamps all trimmed and burning! As faith lays hold of these gracious truths, they become living realities to our hearts, so we can say with the apostle Paul, “...whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.” In other words, I am “willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:6- 8). Therefore, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain...to be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:21- 23). My friend, have you seen the King in His beauty? Let us go through the precious Book of Revelation and see THE BEAUTY OF OUR KING, and there I believe we’ll find how we shall behold the King in His beauty as revealed in the Lamb. In chapter 5 we see Him as the One before Whom all the redeemed one in all ages fall down and sing praises unto His name. Listen! “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priest: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angles round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (vv. 9-13). So here we see the King in His beauty as the Lamb, the One Who was crucified in our place upon the cross and Who rose from the grave, leaving all our sins in the tomb, triumphing over all our foes as He went into heaven to be our Great High Priest within the veil.
We also see His beauty in His mercies toward His people, as we read, “The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17).
In Rev. 12:11 we see the King in His beauty as He triumphs over the accuser who accused His people day and night: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb...” In Rev. 14:4 we see a beautiful sight: all the redeemed ones following the Lamb wherever He goes. And what are they doing as they follow Him? Rev. 15:3 tells us. They are singing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, which is the song of redemption. Listen to these words: “Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”
And we shall even see Him in His beauty upon His judgment throne as He pours out His wrath upon sin: “...I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia, Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: for true and righteous are his judgments” (Rev. 19:1, 2).
Oh what a blessed time that will be, to share and behold the glory and beauty of the Lamb Who is the King, the Lord of glory, the Lord Jesus Christ, God manifested in the flesh, to follow and to be with Him for ever and ever! This is glorification!
But this is not all! We shall see the King in His beauty as the Lamb at His marriage supper. Listen to Rev. 19:7, 9: “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready...And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And as He serves us at His table in the heavenlies, we shall see His nail- scarred hands and look into His face of love. We shall weep for joy that ever by His grace we were made partakers of His divine nature and given the privilege to sit at His table, redeemed from all our sins and clothed in His perfect garment of righteousness. “And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
Then in Rev. 21 we have a picture of the Lamb’s wife -all of His redeemed ones, His bride. It is the picture of a city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. The Lamb, Who is the Light, is in the temple and His throne is in the midst of them; and we shall see His face! (Rev. 22:4). Then we shall behold Him in all His beauty and glory as we serve and reign with Him for ever and ever.
This to me will be heaven, the end and glory of it all, just to see His face in righteousness and to follow the Lamb wherever He goes! And all this begins here, even as we behold Him now by faith and follow Him wherever He leads!
O THAT WILL BE GLORY
When all my labors and trials are o’er,
And I am safe on that beautiful shore;
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore,
Will thro’ the ages be glory for me.
When, by the gift of His infinite grace,
I am accorded in Heaven a place,
Just to be there and to look on His face,
Will thro’ the ages be glory for me.
Friends will be there I have loved long ago,
Joy like a river around me will flow,
Yet, just a smile from my Savior I know,
Will thro’ the ages be glory for me.
O that will be glory for me,
Glory for me, glory for me,
When by His grace I shall look on His face,
THAT WILL BE GLORY, BE GLORY FOR ME!
-Chas. H. Gabriel
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound!
That saved a wretch like me;
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be for ever mine.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun;
We’ve no less days, to sing God’s praise,
Than when we first begun
Obtained from Mt. Zion Bible Church (www.mountzion.org). Reformatted by Eternal Life Ministries.
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