THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD Lesson #18
The Grace Of God Romans 5:20-21
The source and fountain of grace is God the Father (Eph. 1:3) who purposed in himself the everlasting salvation of an elect multitude before the world began, and on behalf of that elect multitude made a covenant of grace with his Son, ordered in all things and sure.
The mediatorial channel of grace is God the Son (John 1:17). The grace of God is revealed and given to men only by the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ. “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” Certainly, that does not mean that God did not save men by grace before the incarnation of Christ. He did. Salvation has always been by grace (Gen. 6:8). And that grace has always been found and given in Christ (Rom. 3:24-26). But grace and truth were fully revealed in the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. Christ alone always has been, is now, and shall forever be the solitary channel of grace (Rom. 5:15, 17, 21; 1 Tim. 2:5). Grace does not come through the church. Grace cannot be conferred by some pretentious, earthly priest, and grace is not given through the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Grace comes to sinners through Christ alone.
The only bestower of grace is God the Holy Spirit who is called “the Spirit of grace” by the prophet Zechariah (12:10). He is the One who applies the gospel to the hearts of chosen, redeemed sinners with saving power. He quickens God’s elect while they are yet spiritually dead. He conquers the rebel’s will, melts the hard heart, opens the blind eye, and cleanses the soul. He gives ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
The gospel of God is the message of grace. It is called “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). To the self-righteous religionist, it is a stumbling block. To the learned, philosophical worldling, it is foolishness. Why? Because there is nothing in the gospel to gratify the pride of man. The gospel of God declares that man can never be saved, but by the grace of God. It declares that apart from Christ, the unspeakable gift of God’s grace, there is no salvation and the state of every human being is desperate, hopeless, and irretrievable. The gospel addresses men and women as depraved, guilty, condemned, perishing sinners. It puts us all upon one level. The gospel declares that the purest moralist is in the same condition as the vilest profligate, that the zealous religionist is no better off than the most profane infidel. Without Christ, without grace, all are lost.
The gospel addresses every descendant of Adam as a fallen, polluted, hell-bent, hell-deserving sinner, utterly incapable of changing his ruined condition. The grace of God is our only hope. All men, by nature, stand before God’s holy law as justly condemned felons, awaiting the execution of his wrath (John 3:18, 36; Rom. 3:19). I repeat myself deliberately, our only hope is grace! “Grace is a provision for men who are so fallen that they cannot lift the ax of justice, so corrupt that they cannot change their own nature, so averse to God that they cannot turn to him, so blind that they cannot see him, so deaf that they cannot hear him, and so dead that he must himself open their graves and lift them into resurrection” - (George S. Bishop). Our only hope of salvation and eternal life is the grace of God freely bestowed upon sinners through Jesus Christ, the sinner’s Substitute. As we study this marvelous attribute of our God, I want to show you the character of grace, the works of grace, and some of the illustrations of grace as displayed and described in the Word of God.
THE CHARACTER OF GOD’S GRACE - Grace as it is displayed in the Word of God and grace as it is understood by most people are altogether different things. All the religious world talks about salvation by grace. But few understand the character of God’s grace as it is revealed in holy Scripture. As soon as grace is defined in biblical terms, man’s opposition to it comes to surface. Grace is an attribute of God which, like his love, is exercised only toward his elect. Nowhere in the Bible do we read of universal grace, or of grace bestowed upon mankind in general. The mercy of God is “over all his works” (Psa. 145:9). But the grace of God is upon his elect. The mercy of God is life upon this earth. The grace of God is eternal life. Mercy is anything short of eternal wrath. The grace of God is eternal salvation. Grace is the solitary source from which the goodwill, love, and salvation of God flow to his chosen people. “It is the eternal and absolute free favor of God, manifested in the vouchsafement (infallible promise) of spiritual and eternal blessings to the guilty and unworthy” (Abraham Booth).
Arthur Pink wrote, “Divine grace is the sovereign and saving favor of God exercised in bestowing blessings upon those who have no merit in them and for which no compensation is demanded.” Grace is completely unmerited and unsought. It is altogether unattracted by us. Grace cannot be bought, earned, or won by anything in us or done by us. If it could, it would cease to be grace. Grace is bestowed upon sinners without attraction, without condition, without qualification. When it first comes, it comes as a matter of pure charity, unsought, unasked, and undesired.
In Bible terms, grace is placed in direct opposition to works, worthiness, and merit in the creature (Rom. 11:6; 4:4-5; Eph. 2:8-9). Grace and works will not mix. And any attempt by man to mix the grace of God with the works of man or the will of man is both blasphemy and a total denial of grace.
If you will search the Scriptures, you will find that there are four things which always characterize the grace of God. Whenever men speak contrary to these four things they deny the grace of God. (1.) The grace of God is eternal (Rom. 8:28-30; 2 Tim. 1:9). Grace does not originate in time and cannot be controlled or directed by anything in time. Grace is eternal. (2.) The grace of God is free (Rom. 3:24). When God declares in his Word that his grace is free, he is telling us that his grace is without qualification, without condition, and without change. (3.) The grace of God is sovereign (Rom. 5:21). Grace reigns, everywhere, over all things. If grace reigns, then it reigns from a throne. And the One who sits upon the throne is sovereign. The throne of the sovereign God is called “the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16). When the Bible declares that grace is sovereign, it is declaring that God is gracious to whom he will be gracious (Rom. 9:11-18). Salvation (eternal life) is the gift of God (Rom. 6:23). If it is a gift, it cannot be claimed as a right. If it is a gift, it cannot be earned. If it is a gift, the Giver is free to bestow it upon whom he will. Nothing so riles man’s hatred of God as the declaration that grace is free, sovereign, and eternal. This is the offense of the gospel (Gal. 5:11). Grace is abasing to man’s proud heart, putting all upon one level, declaring all to be helpless, justly condemned sinners, dead in trespasses and sins. Grace gives no recognition to the righteousness of man, except that all our righteousnesses are filthy rags before God (Isa. 64:6). Grace makes fallen man to be utterly dependent upon the goodness of God for salvation. And (4.) the grace of God is distinguishing (1 Cor. 4:7). Grace discriminates men from men. Grace segregates men. Grace makes differences between men. Grace chooses some and passes by others. God has his favorites whom he has from eternity singled out from the rest of Adam’s race, to whom he will be gracious (John 15:16; Eph. 1:4-6; 2 Thess. 2:13-14). Grace separated Abraham from the rest of his family. Grace separated Jacob and Esau. Grace separated David from his brothers. The only difference between the children of God and the children of the devil is grace. Every child of God knows it and gladly acknowledges, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (I Cor. 15:10).
THE WORKS OF GRACE - It is absolutely essential that we understand that everything involved in the salvation of sinners is the work of God’s grace. There is nothing required for our salvation that is in anyway dependent upon, determined by, or conditioned upon man, not the worth of man, not the works of man, and not the will of man. We are saved by grace alone (Eph. 1:3-14; 2:1-9). I cannot state this fact too strongly. It cannot be over-emphasized. Salvation is by grace alone, without works. God’s election is the election of grace (Rom. 11:5-6). God’s covenant is the covenant of grace (Psa. 89:2-3). Our adoption into the family of God was by grace (Eph. 1:5-6). The redemption of our souls by Christ was a marvelous work of God’s grace (Heb. 2:9). We are justified freely by God’s grace (Eph. 1:7). We are forgiven by grace (Eph. 1:7). Our regeneration and calling is by the grace and power of God the Holy Spirit (Gal. 1:15-16). Our sanctification is by the grace of God (1 Cor. 1:30). Our preservation in grace is by grace. And our resurrection shall be the work of God’s grace (John 5:25-28). From the gates of hell to the gate of heavenly glory, we owe our salvation to grace alone. When almighty God has finished the work, he shall “bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it!” (Zech. 4:7).
THE TROPHIES OF GOD’S GRACE - The glory of the grace of God shines forth most splendrously when we behold the unworthiness of those whom he has saved by his marvelous grace (1 Cor. 1:26-31). Here are four trophies of grace which will serve to illustrate what I have tried to describe to you.
1. Manasseh, King of Judah (2 Chron. 33:1-13) - Manasseh was a barbaric monster. He sacrificed his own children upon fiery altars of idolatry. He filled Jerusalem with innocent blood. His sacrilegious indecencies perverted the whole nation. He lead Judah into corruptions unmentionable even among the heathen. Yet, the grace of God touched his heart, renewed his soul, forgave his sin, and made him an heir of heavenly glory!
2. Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9) - A more blood thirsty persecutor of God’s church the world has never known than Saul. He was a monster of a man, set upon the destruction of God’s lambs, bent upon the annihilation of Christianity. His thirst for violence and murder was insatiable. His rancorous heart was filled with violence. Never did a man live who, in the opinion of human judgment, was more certainly deserving of eternal damnation. Yet, this godless, implacable wretch of a man is today seated with Christ upon his throne, a trophy of the grace of God!
3. The Corinthians (1 Cor. 6:9-11) - The people at Corinth were the most sensual, profligate people of the ancient Roman world. They were the most vile of the vilest age in the annals of human history. Yet, through the infinitely tender mercies of an ever gracious God, a great multitude of them today are robed in white and crowned with glory.
4. The Man who Writes These Lines - Indulge me a little as I make a personal reference. I cannot refrain from my own testimony to the grace of God. I am Gomer. I am Onesimus. I am the prodigal son. I am a sinner saved by grace. Grace chose me. Grace redeemed me. Grace preserved me. Grace called me. Grace keeps me. Grace will bring me home.
“Naught have I gotten but what I received, Grace hath bestowed it since I have believed;
Boasting excluded, pride I abase- I’m only a sinner saved by grace!”