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GRACE – WHAT IS IT?

PERHAPS there is no subject of the Scriptures more important. Perhaps no subject is so little understood by the masses of men. Surely no subject should be emphasized more. After an acquaintance and experience with and in the ministry for many years I have never heard any man tell his audience what“grace” is. This is my one point in this short article, and I wish that every statement he tried by the holy Scriptures, which are the infallible record of God, by which everything pertaining to godliness must be tried to see if it be true, just and right.

When the Lord put Adam in the garden of Eden to keep it and dress it, he gave him a law by which his life therein should be governed. The law gave him right to all the trees of the garden except one, which was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The law said to him, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” That law was the word of God, hence was holy, just and good, and for Adam to transgress it meant death to him and to all his posterity. He did eat of that tree, in violation of the law, and immediately became dead in trespasses and in sin, separated from God, driven out of the garden, and the flaming sword was placed at the entrance of the garden to avoid his return. In that sad state and condition the Lord made Adam the promise that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head, or undo the devil’s work in bringing sin, and death by sin, into the world.“ Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” “So by the obedience of one [Christ] shall many he made righteous.” Here is the key to the subject, “grace.” If the law of our land holds the transgressor thereof responsible for his disobedience, and the guilty must meet its every demand, how much more so does the law of God hold the guilty accountable. Should man commit willful murder the law says he shall die. If he were to faithfully promise never to transgress again, and were able to keep that promise, would the law excuse him? Certainly not. If all men have sinned and come short of the glory of God, does God’s law excuse the guilty upon promise to do better? Certainly not. The only hope for a man indicted for crime is to prove that man innocent in the eyes of the law of the crime of which he is charged. This is often done, but every man was guilty in the eyes of God’s law, because all had sinned; hence by nature all were under the curse. All being in this condition, “without hope and without God in the world,” the Lord manifested his mercy to men in sending his only begotten Son to die that they might live. Christ met every demand of God’s law, suffered all its penalty, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. Therefore Paul tells us that we are saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. Since the sinner therefore could not merit the favor of God, since he could not undo what he had done, salvation is God’s free, unmerited gift, which is “grace.”

It seems remarkably strange that while all intelligent persons admit the above facts, many still contend that all men are saved by their own works of obedience and self-righteousness. The apostle tells Titus plainly that men are not saved by works of righteousness performed by them, neither are they called with an holy calling according to their works, but according to the purpose and grace given them in Christ before the world began. A man condemned to death by the law and in the death-house awaiting the day of execution is no more helpless to work himself into the favor of the law and be excused for his crime than is the man condemned by the law of God for sin. When the apostles conceived the idea that they could do some things themselves, and desired, each, to be the greatest in the kingdom, the Savior said, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye can in no wise enter the kingdom of God. Little children are helpless, and can do nothing whatever for themselves. This is why, it seems to us, the Savior said, “Little children.” There must be a realizing sense of this helplessness and a revelation of the power of God before any man can know experimentally that salvation is by grace and in no sense of creature works. If the children of God are the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus, what part of the work did they perform and what part in the creation did they take? Such questions put the wisest men to silence, as was the case of Job when the Lord asked him, saying, Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? That question taught Job that he was not in existence when the Lord laid the foundations, hence had no part whatever in the work. The word“create” means to bring into existence that which did not exist before. Hence if the children of God were created of the Father in Christ Jesus what part of the work did they perform’! Absolutely none. Therefore salvation is by grace, to the glory of God the Father, and because of this salvation they are called with an holy calling unto holiness and everlasting life. But salvation by grace is not for eternity only, but for this time state, that the children may be saved now from falling away from the doctrine of Christ; that they be saved from despair when overtaken with the afflictions of this world; that they be kept from evil in the day of temptation; that the tongue be bridled that it speak no guile; that the hands be governed that they commit no crime. It is also a light to the pathway of the pilgrim, that the feet be kept in the way of peace. When we see the mighty works of God in building his spiritual house, the song is grace, grace be unto it. Then of grace let us sing, of grace let us preach, of grace let us write.

“Grace!‘tis a charming sound,
Harmonious to the ear;
Heaven with the echo shall resound,
And all the saints shall bear.”

K.

Elder H. C. Ker

Signs of the Times
Volume 84, No. 16.
August 15, 1916