All of Grace
“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace.”
(Galatians 1:15 )
“Grace tis a charming sound,
Harmonious to mine ear;
Heaven with the echo shall resound,
And all the earth shall hear.
Grace first contrived the way
To save rebellious man;
And all the steps that grace display
Which drew the wondrous plan.
Grace first inscribed my name
In God’s eternal book;
Twas grace that gave me to the Lamb,
Who all my sorrows took.
Grace led my roving feet
To tread the heavenly road;
And new supplies each hour I meet,
While pressing on to God.
Grace all the works shall crown,
Through everlasting days;
It lays in heaven the topmost stone,
And well deserves the praise.”
Christianity is a religion of grace. Grace is the love of God operating toward man. We teach our children early that grace is “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Our hymns are hymns of grace. We speak of God’s grace in our worship services all the time. It is the incessant theme of every pulpit where Christ is worshipped.
Saved sinners find the thought and experience of grace so overwhelmingly wonderful that they never get over it. Grace is the constant theme of their talk and their prayers. In times past men have written hymns about it. They have fought for it, accepting ridicule and loss of privilege, if need be, as the price of their stand. As Paul fought these Judaizers at Galatia, so Augustine fought the Pelagians, and the Reformers fought scholasticism, and the descendants of Paul, Augustine, and the saints of God have been fighting Romanizing, Pelagianizing, Arminian, legalistic, and humanistic doctrines ever since. With Paul their testimony is, “By the grace of God I am what I am,” and their rule of life is, “I do not frustrate the grace of God.”
Yet, there appear to be very few who profess to be Christians who believe what the Word of God teaches about grace. Why do so few people believe in God’s free and sovereign grace? (1.) They fail to see the moral ill dessert of man. (2.) They have a wrong view of God’s justice. (3.) They have a weak and unscriptural view of the merits of Christ’s sacrifice. (4.) They fail to recognize man’s spiritual impotence. And (5.) They refuse to recognize the sovereign freedom of God.
Before God called him by his grace, Paul had been a persecutor of Christ and his people, and went armed with letters to Damascus to hail men and women and drag them to prison. But on his road to Damascus he saw a light, exceeding in brightness the light of the sun, and a voice spoke to him out of heaven saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” By this miraculous interposition of God, this man Saul was converted. He became a saved man. He spent three days in darkness; but when Ananian came to tell him the gospel of Jesus Christ, scales fell off his eyes. He was baptized and became an instrument of great usefulness in the kingdom of God.
We generally consider Paul’s conversion very remarkable in its suddenness and distinctness, and truly it is. Yet, at the same time it is no exception to the general rule of conversions, but is rather a type, or model, or pattern of the way in which God shows forth his longsuffering and grace to his elect. The Holy Spirit tells us distinctly that Paul was a pattern of God’s method of grace (1 Tim. 1:16). That simply means that the grace of God Paul experienced shows us exactly how it is that God saves sinners.
Though he was suddenly converted on the Damascus road at God’s appointed time of love (Ezek. 16:8), the Lord God had had thoughts of grace toward Saul of Tarsus long before he was born. God did not begin to work in Paul on his road to Damascus. That was not the first occasion on which the eyes of divine love and grace had been fixed on this chief of sinners. He declares that God had separated him, and set him apart, even from his mother’s womb, that he might reveal his Son in him.
Salvation is all of grace. We are not saved by our works, or our wills, our obedience, or our faith; but by the grace of God we are what we are;” so that “no flesh may glory in his presence.” That great work whereby sinners are made righteous and brought to he aven is entirely a work of God’s free and sovereign grace, acting in love towards hell deserving sinners.
Commonly, when we think of the word “salvation,” we tend to think only of the time when the chosen sinner, being born of God, first believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. But that is a great mistake. Salvation includes the whole work of God’s free grace in Christ: everything required to bring hell-bent, hell-deserving sinners into heaven’s everlasting glory in perfect conformity to the Lord Jesus Christ. From beginning to end, the whole work is wrought of God. “Salvation is of the Lord.” It is altogether by grace and by grace alone. It is not determined by and does not depend upon the will, work, or worth of man to any degree.
The grace of God planned our salvation (Eph. 1:3-14). The whole work began with God’s determination to save the people of his choice in eternal, electing love. He chose whom he would save. He predestined them unto the everlasting glory of the sons of God. He arranged all things from eternity, “according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). And looking upon his elect in the person of his Son, our Mediator and Surety, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, he made them “accepted in the Beloved,” and blessed them with all the blessings of grace and salvation in Christ before the world began, “to the praise of the glory of his grace.” In divine providence our God constantly works all things according to the purpose of his all-wise decree for the eternal salvation of his elect (Rom. 8:28-31).
The cost of our salvation was born by our God alone (Eph. 1:7-12). The price demanded by his own holy law and justice was the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:18-20). He found a way, by his own “wisdom and prudence,” to redeem and save the people of his love; and that way is Christ. The Lord God graciously trusted his chosen into the hands of Christ as our Surety, the same Surety we now trust “to the praise of his glory.”
God the Father planned our salvation (Eph. 1:3-6). God the Son purchased our salvation (Eph. 1:7-12). And God the Holy Spirit performs the work of grace in us by the power of his omnipotent, irresistible grace (Eph. 1:13-14). He brings the word of truth, “the gospel of your salvation,” to every chosen sinner at the appointed time of love, creates life and faith in the chosen, seals to the believer all the promises and blessings of the everlasting covenant, and seals the believer in the grace of God, keeping him by infallible grace, until the resurrection day, “to the praise of his glory.”
Grace planned salvation; and grace precedes salvation. We seldom hear or read anything about it in our day; but this grace that precedes grace is what the old writers used to call “prevenient grace.” This prevenient grace is demonstrated in Paul’s life. He was molded by the hand of God, inwardly and outwardly, for the specific purpose of doing the very thing for which the Lord God had separated him from his mother’s womb, to proclaim the unsearchable riches of his grace to the Gentiles. His personality, his education, his religious training, even his persecutions of the church were things used and over ruled by his God for his soul’s good.
I mention his persecutions of the church in this matter because Paul seems never to have gotten over the fact that the Lord had so wondrously made him a member of that very body he once tried to destroy. His past acts of sinful cruelty to God’s people were matters of repentance to him, ever humbling him. The remembrance of what he had been and done as a lost man seem to have inspired in him greater zeal and boldness in the cause of Christ than he otherwise could have known.
How we ought to thank God for his secret, prevenient grace. I doubt Peter would have been so bold on Pentecost had he not fallen before the maid. Luther probably would not have been so mighty a defender of grace, had he not known what it was to seek eternal salvation by his own works. Yes, when God almighty has set his heart upon a sinner from eternity, he causes “all things” to work together for his good.
It is impossible to say when the grace of God begins to work in his elect. You can tell when quickening grace comes, but not the grace itself. God’s grace begins in our earliest years as formative grace. He sovereignly puts us in our homes. He moulds our dispositions. He forms our thoughts. In later years God’s grace is upon us as preventive grace. He keeps many from a course of open sin and degradation. Then there is that marvelous restraining grace of God. He allows many to walk in sin and yet restrains their vice and keeps them from destruction, even while they live with their fists shoved in his very face (Jude 1). As he says to the mighty ocean, so he says to the object of his love, “Hitherto shalt thou go, and no further!” And at the appointed time of love, he steps into the lives of his elect by omnipotent, saving mercy, revealing his Son in them and calling them by his grace.
The grace of God prepares the hearts of chosen sinners for his salvation (Matt. 13:3-9). He makes them willing in the day of his power (Ps. 110:3). He makes them willing to hear his Word. He gives them a tender conscience. He creates in them a dissatisfaction with their present condition. He strips them of joy and peace, creating trouble and woe in their souls (Ps. 107). And he sends his Holy Spirit to convince them of their sin, Christ’s righteousness, and of redemption accomplished by Christ’s atonement (John 16:8-11). God the Holy Spirit turns the eyes of the despairing prodigal heavenward. By his invincible grace, Christ effectually calls his sheep, and causes them one by one to come to him in faith (Ps. 65:4).
The grace of God preserves our salvation, too (John 10:27-29; Phil. 1:6; 2 Tim. 1:12). This thing called “salvation” is God’s work. He will carry it through. Christ’s sheep shall never perish. Here is a divine promise. —“I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish.” That is a blanket, unconditional promise of the Son of God concerning his people. It takes into consideration all times, all circumstances, all contingencies, all events, and all possibilities. Our Lord says, concerning all his sheep, “I give unto them eternal life,” and because they are my sheep and I give eternal life to them, “they shall never perish.”
What if they are babes in Christ and their faith is weak? “They shall never perish.” What if they are young men in Christ and their passions are strong? “They shall never perish.” What if they are old men and their vision grows dim? “They shall never perish.” What if they are tempted? “They shall never perish.” What if they are tried? “They shall never perish.” What if all hell breaks lose against them? “They shall never perish.” What if they sin? “They shall never perish.” What if they sin again? “They shall never perish.” What if they fall? “They shall never perish.” What if they fall seven times a day? “They shall never perish.” What if they fall seventy times in a day? “They shall never perish!”
This promise takes in all the flock. “They shall never perish.” Not one of Christ’s sheep shall ever perish; no, not even one! This is not a distinctive privilege reserved for a favored few. It is a common mercy to all the chosen flock. If you are a believer, if you trust the Lord Jesus Christ, if you have received eternal life, you shall never perish! Christ himself has promised it. No, you cannot even sin away the grace of God bestowed upon you in Christ. Noah’s fall did not alter God’s grace. Abraham’s weakness did not make God’s grace less strong. Lot’s wickedness did not make him less righteous before God. David’s crime did not cause him to perish. Peter’s denial of the Lord did not cause his Lord to deny him. “Salvation is of the Lord!” Christ’s sheep shall never perish.
This doctrine of the believer’s security in Christ is in every way consistent with all revealed truth. It is most surely believed among the people of God. Deny this promise and with it you deny every promise of God. If one word from God cannot be believed, no word from God can be believed. Here are seven reasons why the sheep of Christ shall never perish.
1. The promise of God must be fulfilled—“They shall never perish” (2 Tim. 2:19; 1 John 3:19).
2. The purpose of God cannot be frustrated (John 6:37-40). God’s covenant cannot be disannulled. God’s purpose in election cannot be overturned. The suretyship engagements of Christ cannot be defeated (Heb. 2:13).
3. The redemptive work of Christ cannot be nullified (Isa. 53:10-11).
The Book of God declares an actual, literal, accomplished, substitutionary redemption. Since Christ died for his sheep, in their room and in their place, they cannot and shall not die. He paid all our debts. -- We have no debt to pay. He bore all our punishment. -- There is no punishment left for us to bear. Christ satisfied the offended justice of God for us. -- There is nothing left for us to bear, and nothing for us to satisfy. Justice pleads as strongly as mercy for the eternal salvation of those people for whom Christ died at Calvary (Rom. 5:10; 8:31-34). If even one of those for whom Christ died were to perish, then his purpose in dying for them would be frustrated (Eph. 5:25-27; Gal. 1:4-5; Tit. 2:14). If even one of those for whom Christ died were to perish, then he could never see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied.
4. The believer’s justification in Christ is an irreversible act of grace.
The trial is over. The court of heaven has pronounced an irreversible verdict upon us -- “Justified!” God will not impute sin to a believing soul (Rom. 4:8). God has put away our sins forever by the sacrifice of his Son. Our acceptance before God is in Christ. Our justification is free, full, and forever!
5. The work of God’s grace can never be defeated (Phil. 1:6).
That which God has begun he will carry on to perfection. God is willing to complete his work in us. God is wise enough to complete his work in us. God is strong enough to complete his work in us. Without the least presumption, every true believer may gladly sing,
“The work which God’s goodness began,
The arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is yea and amen,
And never was forfeited yet:
Things future, nor things that are now,
Not all things below nor above,
Can make Him His purpose forego,
Or sever my soul from His love.
My name from the palms of His hands,
Eternity will not erase:
Impressed on His heart it remains
In marks of indelible grace:
Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the Earnest is given,
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in heaven.”
6. The intercessory work of Christ must prevail (John 17:9-11, 15, 20; 1 John 2:1-2). “Our cause can never, never fail, for Jesus pleads and must prevail!”
7. The seal of the Holy Spirit cannot be broken (Eph. 1:13-14).
“Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” We are preserved in the heart of his love. And we are preserved in the hands of his power. “All thy saints are in thy hands.” We are in the hands of Christ our God and Savior. We are always in his hands. What a blessed place to be! This is the place of our security. These are the hands that were pierced to redeem us. These are the hands of omnipotent power. These are the hands that hold the reins of universal dominion. These are the hands that hold us in life. These are the hands of God himself. -- "My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one" (John 10:29-30). God’s elect are preserved in Christ forever, forever, infallibly secure in him (Zech. 4:6-7; Jude 24-25), because this blessed work called “salvation” is all of grace!