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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Seth Fuller  /  11:18 AM  /  , ,   /  No comments
I came across this section on grace by Geoff Thomas, a pastor in Wales that many including myself look up to. I was so encouraged by this quote that I wanted to share. You can read the full text here.

i] Grace has a purpose. It has a specific and particular end in view:- "He did predestinate us to be conformed to the image of his Son." If we begin at that relatively modest goal it takes our breath away. Grace is God's determination to make favoured sinners Christ-like. Grace is not content with justification, or adoption, or union with Christ. Grace is concerned to make people like God. Grace is not going to rest until all it embraces are a transcript of the Lord Christ himself. God so loves his Son that he will fill heaven with an innumerable company of people each one of whom, morally and spiritually, are in the image of Christ, and all the divine energy and creativity are committed to that end. All his resources are to serve that great enterprise. "When we see him we shall be like him." "That he might present the church to himself, a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish." That is the destination of grace.

Or we can expand the purpose further, that grace will make Christ the first-born among many brethren. There is this constituency of the redeemed which does not exist for itself, but to be a family of brethren in which Christ has the pre-eminence. He will be the first-born, and the centre, and the sun. They will all cohere in him. This will be a community of joy and praise because from eternity God has purposed to fill the heaven of heavens with the sound of the praise of the Lamb, like the sound of many waters. "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain ...." "Unto him that hath loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood..."

Or beyond that, God's purpose can be expanded further: he will regenerate the whole heavens and the earth. He will make a new universe which shall be, in all its glory and beauty, the inheritance of the Son of Man and all the children which God has given to him. The whole cosmic environment comprehending the distant stars, or the blades of grace, the solar system or the sands on the seashore, the beasts of the field or the atoms and molecules will be redolent with the righteousness of Christ. God will gather together all things in Christ. There will be a reconciliation of everything in the universe joined to that single hub. Grace has that great end in view.

ii] Grace is invincible. God has made an eternal commitment. He has set his mind upon saving a company of people more than any man can number. He has donated every one of them to his Son to have and to hold for ever. His whole heart is in it. "I shall be their God," he has said. His omnipotence is committed to save them. He has enlisted every divine attribute, and prerogative, and function to this end. The Father is committed. The Son is committed. The Holy Spirit is committed. The angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height, depth, every other creature has that end in view. That is the goal of the incarnation - that is reason there dwelt in Christ all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

Grace is invincible because it is the strength of God. It is not sentiment, though songs about it may be. It is not feeling, though it creates the most powerful feelings. Grace is power acting to redeem. The old persecutor from Tarsus became what he became by the grace of God. When his thorn in the flesh almost destroyed him it was Christ's grace that was sufficient for him and his future life. That mighty grace can change every circumstance, strengthen every weakness, cheer every distress, lift every burden, enable us to climb every mountain, carry every load, handle every responsibility.

Grace is super-abundant. If we make the claim that our lives have been touched by grace we are saying that we are being preserved by the might of the Maker of the heavens and the earth. The grace of the one who raises the dead has a grip on us. So all our hope of keeping on and on and on, going on trusting, and repenting, and believing, and persevering, and entering heaven and receiving a resurrection body depends upon the power of God alone.

Grace is invincible because Christ has ultimate authority in the whole universe. The Lamb sits in the midst of the throne, not as a spectator. He exercises real power. His session there is not only eloquent to us of his centrality in the cosmos and the blessedness of the position he now occupies but it is eloquent of his unchallengeable supremacy. That Lamb who loved the church and gave himself for it today wears a crown. He is head over all things to the church. He has supreme power over every force in the cosmos - physical, intellectual, spiritual - all must obey his command. If you can conceive it, it is under his command. If you can think it then Christ is in control of it. Grace is invincible because Christ is unchallengeable. Should all the hosts of hell gang against him they must miserably fail because he has already triumphed over them at his weakest. Now that he has a name above every name how can he fail? What is utterly beyond human comprehension is ruled over in its every movement by the supremacy of the enthroned Lamb. Christ has taken the church in the grip of grace and is leading it through the darkness and the valleys to its blessed rest. The message of grace is that the divine pity is invincible and is enfleshed in the Man in glory.

iii] Grace is sovereign. God's determination to save sinners is entirely a matter of his own initiative. It is reduced by the apostle Paul to one marvellous statement as he reminisces about his own conversion - "When God was pleased" he says (Gals. 1:15), then Paul was saved. Grace is utterly discretionary - consider the title of Shedd's sermon on the text, "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy". Shedd calls it, "The Exercise of Mercy Optional with God" (W.G.T.Shedd, "Sermons to the Natural Man," Banner of Truth, p.358ff). No saviour was commissioned to the angels that rebelled: God simply dealt with them in utter fairness. God has no obligation to save a single sinner. You would think today, hearing some men, that the most obvious and predictable characteristic of God was his mercy, that he should love the world and spare not his Son. In the New Testament the forgiveness of God is a mystery. It is a supreme paradox. In vain the first-born seraph tries to sound the depth of love divine. That is because grace is optional. It is rooted into God's sovereign good pleasure.

It is utterly unconditional, that is, it is not evoked by any qualities in us at all. It is not because of perceived beauty, or righteousness, or attractiveness that constrained the pity of God. He did not look and see a decent life and so focused his salvation on that one. Salvation comes forth utterly and entirely out of God's own unconditional love. So the message of God's grace declares that always it is objective, and invincible and sovereign.

iv] Grace redeems. Think of John Murray's classic, "Redemption Accomplished and Applied" (Banner of Truth). Whether by Christ or by the Holy Spirit, for us or in us, past accomplishment in the finished work or present reality in the ongoing work - it is all of grace, from beginning to end, from the alpha to the omega.

In the accomplishment of redemption it was God who conceived the possibility. He thought of it. It dawned on him, we would say. He then took the initiative. He had not created the quarrel, nor forged the enmity, nor set up the estrangement, but in effecting reconciliation he acts. He draws the blue-print in its every detail. It was not that his intervention is constrained by the pleading of man. No counsel of the most holy men in the world gathering together laid out this plan before him and urged him to act upon it. Prior to any human initiative or sense of need God alone set up this tremendous machinery of redemption.

God provided the instrumentality. He found a Lamb in his own flock, even from his own bosom, bearing his own image. He even became that Lamb: the providing God is not a different being from the provided Lamb. The God who said that without the shedding of blood there could be no remission himself provided the blood that should be shed: "Feed the church of God which he purchased with his own blood."

That same grace made him who knew no sin to become sin for us. That same grace paid him the wages of sin. It was all of God. We did not make Christ our substitute - that was God. We did not offer him upon Calvary - that was God. We did not give our son to the death of the cross - that was God. He aroused the sword of rectitude and commanded it to find its sheath in Christ's breast. We did not go through our sins one after another trying to think of them all placing them carefully upon him - the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all. The accomplishment of redemption was all of God. The great theme in the letter to the Hebrews is that Christ was all by himself when he purged us of our sins.

But also in the application of redemption it is the same divine grace which saves us. God embarks upon a ministry of reconciliation. God becomes the preacher of his own gospel. Men are "ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us" (2 Cors. 5). Paul was conscious that behind all his speaking there was the authority of God. Behind Paul's imploring there was a yearning God, longing and pleading with men - the one who in the days of his flesh saw the city and wept over it.

We might think that that would be the conclusion of God's application but the audience hearing of the finished work of Christ are deaf and blind and hostile. The hearts of the hearers are closed to the message. What happens? Grace acts again, and the one who preaches to the heart opens the heart. On the road to Emmaus the one who opened the Scriptures also opened the understanding. Lydia heeds the message of Paul for this reason - the Lord Jesus opened her heart to receive it. He gave her a birth from above. He resurrected her. He made everything new. He gave her the conviction that this message was true. He revealed to her the beauty of Jesus. He created in her heart a desire for him. He made sin loathsome. To what does Paul ascribe the success of the gospel in Thessalonica? That "our gospel came not to you in word only, but in power and in the Holy Ghost and with much assurance."

So firstly our message is a message of grace, and whenever it is preached the Lord is delighted and our experience will be that of the apostles: "So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace" (Acts 14:3). Thus it has ever been in the history of the church - think of Geneva, and Edwards, and Whitefield, and Princeton, and Spurgeon, and Lloyd-Jones.

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