Biblical Grace Defined

What is grace? And how does one speak of it to those who have heard of it countless times and sung about it ten thousand times?  Let me make the attempt: 

Grace is like a cool rain on a hot day that washes all my sins away. Grace is me, in my nakedness, in all my shame, covered by the finest royal robes. Grace is my head, bowed to the ground in the presence of the king, fearing for my life, only to be crowned with the gems of heaven.  Grace is when, in the place of slamming iron doors echoing through the halls, where despair holds life in its cruel claws, and death is waiting in the dark across the prison yard, a man with a blinding ray of hope in his eyes, and the sound of repentance in his voice, tells of the One who rescued him from hell, saying: “I’m free. I have been forgiven. God’s love has taken off my chains and given me these wings…” (S.C. Chapman).

Grace, pure grace, is the cross of Christ from which flows “free and liberating grace . . . a grace revealed completely apart from the Law, works, or human effort” (John Dunn). Grace, saving grace, is not a pay cheque from God. It’s not a dividend for our attempts to live for Divine approval. We can never earn God’s approval by Law, by work, by self-effort, or anything else. It’s so true; the real offence of the cross is not so much the cross itself, but that it preaches “Done! You’re free! You’re forgiven! You need not do anything! I’ve done it for you!  You need not do a thing to justify yourself in the sight of God.  The great British preacher of the nineteenth century, Charles Spurgeon, though dead speaks thus:

I know not a word which can express the surprise and wonder our souls ought to feel at God’s goodness to us. Our hearts playing the harlot; our lives far from perfect; our faith almost blown out; our unbelief often prevailing; our pride lifting up its accursed head; our patience a poor sickly plant, almost nipped by one night’s frost; our courage little better than cowardice; our love lukewarmness; our ardor but as ice—oh, my dear brethren, if we will but think any one of us what a mass of sin we are, if we will but reflect that we are after all, as one of the fathers writes, “walking dunghills,” we should indeed be surprised that the sun of divine grace should continue so perpetually to shine upon us, and that the abundance of heaven’s mercy should be revealed in us.

 

What is grace? Grace is the root of the gospel, as someone said. It draws us, secures us, justifies us, sanctifies us, and keeps us. And if grace is the root, peace is the fruit, peace with God, and thus a quiet, restful conscience. How do we find rest from a guilty conscience? Rivet the eyes of your soul on the cross. Fix your eyes on Christ, not yourself. By faith alone, Christ is our righteousness. By faith alone, Christ is our perfection. By faith alone, Christ is our justification. And by faith alone, He is our assurance and peace.  

-The Blackie Pulpit, Feb. 12, 2012

Christ Delivers from the Wrath to Come

IMG_0531How does He do this? How does Christ deliver us from the wrath to come? We of course must speak of the cross. Christ delivers by the cross, by his own death. He who knew no sin, became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God. He bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Christ gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age. We preach Christ and Him crucified, to some an offense, to others foolishness, but to the called the power and wisdom of God. It was on the cross that Jesus died. And for every believer, His wrath was satisfied. “For every sin on Him was laid. Here in the death of Christ I live.”

But it doesn’t end there. If that was it, if that was everything Christ does to deliver us it would be amazing. That would be no small or inconsequential thing. But that, I’m convinced, is only the start of it all. Christ delivers us not only by dying for us on the cross, but living in us by His Spirit. Paul’s gospel was a gospel that demanded him to say things like: “…it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” and “…because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts…” and “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Don’t let Pentecostal distortions rob you of the joy this brings. Don’t let western categories of thought push you into thinking this must be balanced by some other doctrine. Listen to me: If it’s true, it doesn’t need to be balanced. Christ indwells believers by His Spirit, and there He produces and causes our deliverance from sin and sins. How else is a church marked by the work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope? How else is it possible to strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord? Christ delivers us not only by dying for us on the cross, but living in us by His Spirit. It’s Christ! It’s all of Christ! Christ delivers. He will do it. He will bring it to pass. He will cause us to walk as we ought to walk, if we walk by Him, by His Spirit. Does this mean the Christian has no need for exhortation and instruction? Does this mean the Christian does not exercise his will at all? Of course not. But these things must be seen in their proper context. We must put the cart in its proper place in relation to the horse – the bigger, and driving, if not generating and governing reality.

The Blackie Pulpit