THE MEANING OF GRACE.

BELOVED BRETHREN: – Does it seem meaningless to you that one should write upon the meaning of the simple word “Grace!” Yet it may not be labor in vain. The fact that a word is very common and simple, may incline us to pass over it slightly, and thus we may miss its deep and rich meaning; its strength and comfort. Perhaps none of us have fully investigated and understood the divine fullness of the precious meaning of the grace of God. The writer feels that he has come short in this. Therefore, both for his own good and yours, let us together consider the divine meaning of the Bible term, grace.

The standard dictionary thus defines divine grace, as a noun: “(1) The unmerited love and favor of God in Christ: hence free gift. (2) The divine influence acting within the heart, to regenerate, sanctify, and keep it. (3) A state of reconciliation to God, of deliverance from the dominating power of sin, and of full participation in and enjoyment of God’s favor and free gifts on the ground of Christ’s merits. (4) The power or disposition to exercise saving faith, to live the christian life, and to endure with patience the trials of the earthly state.” Hence, said an eminent writer, “The grace of God is the life of the soul, as the soul is the life of the body.” These renderings of God’s grace are definite, clear, and scriptural, and they plainly show that grace means this, and all this. The mest eminent of the apostles, Paul, fully supports this meaning when he says, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” This sweeping statement embraces and covers his whole christian life, his faith in Christ, and his ministry of faith and love in the gospel of grace. His Savior and Master expressed the same fullness of grace, saying, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Sufficient against his weakness, the buffetings of Satan, and the thorn of sin in the flesh.

“On the ground of Christ’s merits.” This is eminently scriptural. For no truth is mere fully revealed than that all divine gifts and blessings to the children of men, including all spiritual blessings, are freely bestowed upon us, “On the ground of Christ’s merits.” This entirely excludes all our own supposed merit, and hence excludes all boasting, as that God will bless us for the good we do, because of our obedience to him; for all his gifts and blessings of salvation are in Christ, and for Christ’s sake. One text fully sustains this: “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

Such is the precious meaning of grace. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ himself is grace: the fullness of grace: the riches of grace: the glory of grace. His work of eternal redemption, his righteous life in our flesh, his atoning death for our sins, his burial, and victorious resurrection for our justification, his glorious ascension to the throne of God as our Advocate with the Father: grace means all this. Yea, mere! for the watchful and loving care of Jesus our good Shepherd over us, his leading us beside the still waters, and causing us to lie down in green pastures, his giving us peace and rest, and not leaving us comfortless, his Spirit and his love that he puts in our hearts, and his sweet words of faith, and cheer, and promise, which he puts in our meuths, this, all this, is grace!

Come with me, now, to the Bible, and let us notice some of the excellencies of the grace of God. And, first, its source. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” “And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by .Jesus Christ.” – John i, 14, 16, 17. Second, its character. It is free and undeserved. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” – 2 Cor. viii. it. “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us, through Christ .Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” – Eph. ii. 7-9. “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” – 2 Tim. i. 9. Third. It is justifying. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” – Rom. iii. 2.5, 24. Fourth. It is saving. “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 ye are saved.)” – Eph. ii. I, 5. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation,” &c. – Titus ii. 12. Fifth. It is purifying. “Teaching us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” – Titus ii. 12. “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be meved, lei us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” – Heb, xii. 28, Sixth. It is strengthening and sufficient. “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in mine infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Cor. xii. 9. “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” – 2 Tim. ii. 1. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” – Heb. iv. 16. Seventh. Its use and benefit. “For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might, through the thanksgiving of many, redound to the glory of God.” – 2 Cor. iv. 15. “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much mere they which receive abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.”

Rom. v. 17. “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” – Eph. iii. 8. Eighth. Its victorious reign. “But where sin abounded, grace did much mere abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign, through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Rom. v. 20, 21. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” – Rom. vi. 11. Ninth. Who are its partakers? “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” – Eph. vi. 21. God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” – James iv. 6. “Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” – 1 Peter v. 5. Tenth. Its consummation. “He shall bring forth the head-stone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace, unto it.” – Zech. iv. 7. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” – Eph. i. 3, 6.

Grace is thus shown to be an active principle in the hearts and lives of christians or believers in Christ, divinely influencing and enabling them in all their spiritual exercises, and true and acceptable worship of God, and service in his kingdom of grace. The Scriptures following also express and show this: “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself mere highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.” – Rom. xii. 3, 6-8. Grace, then, underlies and supports all this active walk and work in the divine life, this “obedience unto the faith.” And faith itself is a gift of grace, as Paul says: “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed.” – Rom. iv. 16. “I have written the mere boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, that I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.” – Rom. xv. 15, 16. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” – Col. iii. 16, 17.

“O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!”

In all the “oracles of God,” grace, as a divine principle, thus stands out pre-eminently with heavenly radiance and glory, rising infinitely superior to, and obscuring every other principle, of whatever nature or name, whether it be law, or conditions, or works, it matters not; for, as compared with glorious grace, they are weak and mean, and as nothing. For we have seen that in all the work of salvation, grace reigns; reigns through righteousness; reigns unto eternal life; reigns by our Lord Jesus Christ. No other principle in God’s universe has this power and success; nor to any other power is such boundless praise and glory ascribed in the Bible. As we have seen, the holy Scriptures magnify the grace of God in all the work and way of salvation from sin and its dominion unto death, from its beginning unto its ending in glory, and immortality, and eternal life. In the riches of grace, the Lord’s hand laid the foundation of his spiritual house, his heavenly and holy temple; and in the praise of the glory of his sovereign grace he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings of grace, grace unto it.

“Grace all the work shall crown,
In everlasting days;
It lays in heaven the topmost stone,
And well deserves the praise.”

The heart experienced confession of every saved sinner, must be in unison with all this divine testimony in the record, that God gave of his Son, not only when he began the good work of salvation in us, but in performing it unto perfection, in the full revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ in us, in his resurrection-life and holiness and glory. For by him grace thus reigns in us through righteousness; therefore all righteousness and good works in the saved in Christ Jesus, are the result of reigning grace in their hearts, and the praise is due to grace. What honored and blessed subject of grace should want it otherwise! Since it is with grace in our hearts, that any teach and admonish one another, and sing praise to the Lord, why should we claim part of the honor, by saying that all this reasonable service to the God of all grace, depends largely upon ourselves? It is infinitely mere befitting a weak, dependent sinner to say, with humble and yet noble Paul, after he had labored in the gospel work mere than all the apostles, “Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” Take away the grace of God which is with any obedient child or servant of his, as a reigning principle and power in the heart, so that he would have to really “depend upon himself” in his obedience and service to God, and what a pitiable spectacle and miserable failure he would make! But the grace that reigns through righteousness and saves the sinner from his sins, is a never-failing, everspringing well-spring of life in the soul, like the love of Christ, that constraineth us, so “that the christian loves the God he knows, and serves the God he loves.” Jesus, by whom grace reigns, says, “The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” This is the grace that saves the blessed one in whom this water or life is a living well, springing up, and lifting the heart and soul, heavenward and to God. Jesus gives the true worshippers this living water, and, so far from its springing up in them being dependent upon themselves, they are dependent upon this fountain of grace, and blessing springing up in them, to inspire them with a spirit of true devotion and service. So all praise is due to the grace of God that is with us; and not only are we saved by grace, but it is the grace of God wherein we stand, and are obedient unto the faith. O that we mere perfectly understood and realized this in our hearts! for then should we be mere humble, reverent and prayerful, and mere to the praise of the glory of God’s grace.

The active effect, and heavenly sentiment of grace, is thus expressed:

“Keep, O keep me, Lord, from sinning,
Guide me in the way of peace
Make me walk in
All the paths of holiness.”
“Free grace only
Shall resound in heaven’s land.”

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”
D. BARTLEY.
CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind., July 21,1897.

Signs Of The Times
Volume 65., No.18.
SEPTEMBER 15, 1897.