GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE (1)
What a glorious triplet of blessings is that which the apostle Paul invoked on Timothy! “Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord.” Grace is the free favour of God bestowed on man without the least merit or claim on his part. It also implies Divine influence and its results on the heart: for all the graces that are in Christ are reflected in believers. As Christ is formed in them by the power of the Holy Spirit, His lineaments are to be traced there. Thus there is grace in the soul itself as God’s grace is exhibited in redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ.
By nature man is God’s enemy; he lives in sin, and he delights in it. He could no more cooperate with God in the salvation of his soul, than the dust of the ground could work with God when He formed Adam out of it. After the fall, the man fled from God, though God was his only refuge for safety. There was no cooperation on the part of Lazarus when Christ brought him back to life. It was free favour on God’s part. Christ gave Lazarus the power to breathe again, and to walk again, just as He gives power to a renewed man to perform good works. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
When Adam fell from his first estate, God was willing to extend His free favour – His grace – toward guilty man, but there was an impediment. There would be inconsistency in His doing it, if His holy law was dishonoured by being left unfulfilled. Sinful man, utterly corrupted, could not obey it, and as Satan’s willing slave, he
would not have obeyed it if it had been in his power to do so. God had fulfilled His threat, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Therefore a dead spirit could not have attempted it. The inducement for God’s grace must be sought for in Himself. It was manifested with the intention to show the richness and fulness of His attribute of goodness. So Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace are ye saved).” Before man could be the recipient of God’s free favour, the impediment had to be removed. The atoning work of Christ and His perfect fulfilment of the law did remove it. It was the effect of God’s grace. It produced no change in God, for He was not gracious because Christ died, but Christ died because God was gracious and merciful to man, and accepted Christ as man’s Substitute. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.” Whatever the momentous negotiations carried on between the Father and the Son, man had no part in them; it was a work of free grace from first to last, the Father and the Son being one.
God suspended the world upon nothing, and ordered all its motions; man had no hand in that, and has nothing to do with the ordering and distribution of the earth’s surface. Similarly, His grace, and the bestowal of it, is God’s sovereign prerogative. So we have in the Scriptures the expressions “The gospel of the grace of God”; “The God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus.” The “election of grace” must stand, notwithstanding all the arguments against it, for the doctrine is revealed. “The counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” The Lord Jesus said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” Men forget that their power of reason is finite, and however irreconcilable with man’s responsibility the doctrine may appear to them, it must be consistent with the perfection of God’s attributes. If the angels desire to look into these things, it is plain that they cannot acquire the knowledge of them by a mere glance; how much less able must man be to understand them, with his limited faculties distorted and weakened, as they are, by sin.
We lay more stress on this doctrine because it is so generally neglected, if not strongly opposed. A minister of Christ has no discretionary power as to preaching the Gospel with something omitted. If he be faithful, he must “testify the Gospel of the grace of God.” Grace may, or may not be withheld by God, but the command is to preach the Gospel – the whole Gospel – not a part only. There is much boasting of man’s progress in science, and in learning of all natural forms, but how little is known, or heard of Â•’the grace of God that bringeth salvation!” Man’s pride makes him
dislike the idea that he is an absolute beggar so far as salvation is concerned, and that as “death passed upon all men,” he must receive salvation as a free gift from the grace of God through Jesus Christ alone. The Eternal Son is the “power of God,” through whom God manifests His grace; and “by grace are ye saved.”
K. W. H. Howard