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Government by Grace
There is much discussion among some about "once a Christian, always a Christian," and while for people who invent God by making various changes or excisions to the Bible, it is one of the profound wonders that this is even possible for those who affect to believe the Bible. In this review, we shall be considering first the fundamental failure which this represents, this uncertainty about the end of the path in Christ, to understand grace, which afflicts many; it is like someone imagining that his hand is one unit, and ignoring the fingers as a result, or conceiving that the seas are one unit, and departing from the concept of seas; or conversely, imagining that the seas are many, and not realising the vast interconnections.
In short, government by grace is one, and when one is instituted in the Lord's will, life and ways by grace, there is as much opportunity for diversifying the result as there is of making part of an automobile into a bike; and again, when one conceives of any part of this salvation, there is as much scope for severing it from the perspective and faithfulness of God as there is of making a human heart into a petroleum processing unit. While men differ, God is clear; and while men fail, God's word does not; while men may clash in confusion, the word of God is above all this, like a vast soaring peak in the Rocky Mountains, filled with light and intimate with the heights, while based in the depths. Let us see how this is so here, and examine the pellucid beauty of this peak.
DIVINE SPEECH FROM CHRIST
In reality, there is one God with one mind who has one gift to make by grace , so that not only is the gift a thing unearned, but the manner of its impartation is so no less (Romans 5:15). That is the reason why Christ, being the Truth (John 14:6) could declare in truth that firstly, that no one can come to the Father except by Him; secondly, that no one can come to Him except the Father draw that one to come (John 6:44) , and thirdly, that no one can come to Him unless it has been granted to that person to do so by the Father (John 6:65). There is for the very coming therefore firstly a an exclusive way by Jesus Christ, secondly, a drawing, and thirdly a grant, and without these things, there is no action, people simply do not come and do not receive salvation.
Further, in Matthew 15:13, Christ in complete parallel to this simply declares that every plant not planted by His Father will be torn up. You come from those hands or you do not; and if not, you do not last.
Again in John 6:50-54, we learn that if anyone eats (it is not even present tense, but aorist, signifying that if anyone should actually eat, not a continuous process) of this bread, he will live for ever (John 6:51). There is a contrast to the repetitive continuity of the wilderness, in the simplicity of the other option in the reception by faith of the sacrifice of Christ, God's own gift to man, celestial in power, nature and deity in human form, conferring and confirming what He gives to those by faith receiving Him. Thus in parallel once more we find in John 4, that people who come to the Samaritan well would have to repeat the process, but those who receive of the water He gives will never thirst again - and literally, certainly not thirst again.
In this last case, there is an obvious and basic contrast between the repetitive efforts to gain well water because of the repetitive nature of thirsting and the distance of the source from the throat that needs the water, and the inward reality of the water He would give so that two things would follow. In the first place, unlike the other, such a person would NEVER THIRST AGAIN, and in the second place, there is a complete ground on the one hand, and a complete exuberance on the other, for such a result. The water, the Saviour declared, which He would give would become a spring of water within, springing up to eternal life.
Thus not only is it void in a repetitive requirement for reaching the source, once come always there, but the water supply, once received, proceeds to become an eternal spring within, with its outcome eternal life. It is no part of interpretation to reject! Our present task is the former, and where the latter arises here, it is merely irrelevant.
It is in further parallel, like endless lines in some vast railway yards, all proceeding in one direction, that Christ declares that the person who hears His words and believes in Him who sent Him, has eternal life (already present, and already eternal and correlative with John 6:54 where He indicates in clarity that He will raise up this person on the last day), does not come into judgment and has passed from a state of death into a state of life (John 5:24). Thus if at any time you have a person who BELIEVES (in God's sight) in the Father as having sent the Son, and in the Father as He is, and HEARS (heeds, accepts, receives, pays practical attention to) His words, then of such a person an attribution may be made. This person does not come into judgment, this person right then has eternal life, and this person has changed his role in earthly existence, having passed from a state, condition or mode of being which was spiritually definable as death, to one which in the eyes of Christ is life.
Thus in I John 5:11-13, we find that he who has the Son has life. THIS is the criterion and it is ETERNAL life which is its there defined nature: it is not optional, questionable or arguable. It is given, granted and received, paid in and set to account.
Further, in John 5:24, this criterion of STATE of death to STATE of life is the force of the Greek used which is not merely one of action, but one of resultant condition: the word of God there declares that the one who has heeded Christ's words and believed in Him who sent Him has passed from death's wiles, ways and rewards, to those of life. Thus, in the PRESENT, if so believing and heeding, you NOW HAVE ETERNAL LIFE, and as to those who have it, you see in John 10:27-28 that eternity is not a short-lived thing, like its opposite, the temporary, and that there is a safeguarding and a safekeeping involved, where the Father Himself guarantees and ENSURES that this is so. Perishing is excluded, snatching is preventing, continuity is assured by the power of God, as I Peter 1 so explicitly states of those who have precious faith in Jesus Christ, begotten again to a lively faith through His resurrection from the dead.
There in parallel to John 5:24, Peter spells out the program for not only are such begotten again to a living hoe, but to an inheritance. This inheritance has various features, says the apostle; for it is the inheritance of those who, being born now of God, as Father, have from Him what the Father confers for their inheritance. What then is its nature ? It is first of all incorruptible and undefiled. Thus there is nothing like some ancient castle leaking, about it, as having been conferred, as Ephesians 1:11 says, declaring of believers in Him, the saints of God, the believing church in all its believing parts, that we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined to it . Not at all: for it is an inheritance with two features: firstly it CANNOT be spoiled, and secondly it is not now spoiled. Nor does I Peter stop there.
This inheritance which we are repetitively informed is now ours, those begotten of God with this lively hope through the resurrection of Christ, but pure as it is, it is also permanent in kind, and does not pass away. Further, it is RESERVED in heaven for us, so that whether it be a question of its constitution, purity or endurance, or of our inalienable right to it - yes right, for what CHRIST has given, is by the AUTHORITY OF GOD and as a a gift, a grant, secured to the soul: it is always the same. It does not go, an inheritance grant, and we receive, reserved for us. Inalienable, incorruptible, irreducible, it is ours.
It is of course only by GRACE that this is so, for if your father gives you a house, and the title deeds which secure your right of access and ownership, it is yet NOT OF YOUR WORKS, but only of his kindness that you receive it; and it is not a reward, being an inheritance, but a gift; and it is not given because you are fine, but because he is your father and you are his son; and indeed as Isaiah 64 tells us, in God's sight all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.
Thus, excellent as may be this or that work, if you want to compare your purity and your grace and your face and your place and your unction and your wisdom and your perfection of spirit, motivation and performance, your spiritual zest and flame with His, you are as filthy rags. Those who want to compete with God may do so; but the folly of it excludes them, for our place in coming to Him as sinners, excludes pride, prevents boasting and makes the perfection of the ultimate gift, a gift by grace as Romans 5:15 calls it, and the entirety, as Ephesians 2:8 declares and we shall see further, a salvation by grace through faith, not of ourselves.
Let us now return to John 5:11-13, which has so much in parallel, that just as one may follow with the eye this line and that, in a vast railway yard, but come back to one particular one, so do we here.
We find there much more than so far seen, so let us pursue this line in John 5. Firstly, we find that life eternal has been given to Christians, and this life is in the Son. Secondly, he who has this Son has life, and he who does not, does not have life. These things, the apostle declares, are written for those who believe in the name of the Son of God. The purpose ? It is so that they should KNOW that they have eternal life. In John 3:16, we find similarly that there are two ways to go, that of perishing or that of eternal life. Thus in one more parallel - for these tracks go only one way with one singularly consistent manner - Christ in John 10:9 tells us how we become His sheep - we enter the door of the fold, and HE is the door.
Thus any one who enters by this door HAS eternal life, and will go in and out, and find pasture. There is a new state, status and continuity of shepherding for such a person. This is one of His sheep, equipped with eternal life, or as John 6 puts, one who will live for ever and not die (John 6:50-51).
Such sheep, we find in John 10:27-28, and this from the Saviour's own lips, from those of the One who is Saviour, who DOES IT, and DID IT which sin required (I Peter 3:18, John 6:51): these sheep or believers entered into His realm of skill and practice, these have several great gifts. Firstly they know His voice. Since Christ says of such that He will be IN YOU (John 6:56 cf. Colossians 1:27), this is scarcely surprising, but it is well that is said, such is the trend of sin to divorce from reality. The metaphor is bread and the fruit of the vine, so that the sense of 'in' is very clear: you ingest and within you it is. When someone is living IN YOU, you would expect such a clear and intimate knowledge, and this is in parallel, once more with Jeremiah 9:24.
Thus sure knowledge of the Saviour too is found in John 17 which at the outset advises us that eternal life is this, that they should know the Father who sent the Son, and know the Son sent by the Father.
When this is your
invisible world become actual, and this is the mode of seeing Him who is
invisible, not merely tasted or tested by received into you; and
when you are acquainted as one must be when one's life is saved by the sacrifice of another, with the Saviour, and in Him find your very being and the gift of a life so comformable to Him that mutual knowledge becomes intimate and continual,
then what do we find to follow ?
It is this. Then of course such knowledge can only be because this sort of life has been given you. With infra-red glasses, you can trace that domain. With this knowledge, you can walk in this realm with Christ and know what you are doing, and understand. There is a harmonious and a compatible and an adequate basis for knowledge. Now, moreover, it is no more as in photographs, merely of the form, but as in friendship, a revelation and reality in the fact of knowing that person. It is a matter of LIFE! Friends are distinct from photographs of them, mere matters of form which is all for some who therefore find their religion dead: and how are they distinct ? They are different in LIFE, in POWER and in PRESENCE. So is Christ to the believer, and since His is the power of God, and from Him is the love of God, practical and sacrificial, this is the ultimate case of friend!
Thus in John 10:27-28, His sheep KNOW Him, and they know HIS VOICE, and further they will follow them – indeed, secondly, HE knows THEM. Thirdly, He GIVES them ETERNAL LIFE. In case some seedy substitute for these things be 'tried on', He proceeds, it seems to make it yet more conspicuous in clarity. Fourthly, they will CERTAINLY NOT PERISH. There is here a double negative in the Greek sense of a maximal reinforcement of the negative. In no way, or as we have in our idiom, No way will they perish! indeed Christ goes even further in an extraordinary doubling of confirmation. IN NO WAY will they perish FOR EVER.
Even this is fortified, like sending, to use a destructive parallel for what is constructive, two atomic bombs when one would devastate a city. Fifthly, then, no one, He continues, can snatch them out of His Father's hand, and His Father is greater than all - for as Messiah He has taken the form of a servant (Philippians 2). NO POSSIBLE POWER and NO POSSIBLE WAY is available to remove them, and NO POSSIBLE EVENT of perishing is available to remove them differently, and they will LIVE FOR EVER. In John 10, it is precisely as in I Peter, and I John 5:24 and Ephesians 1, where the predestination to this is affirmed of those who so believe, just as is the inalienable inheritance which this provides.
And that ? It is eternal life, in, with, through and for the Lord. That is how David can declare in Psalm 17, that when he awakes, he will behold the likeness of God; and how in Psalm 145, we find that the writer is secure in the knowledge that he will praise God for ever and ever.
INSPIRED SPEECH FROM PAUL
If on the other hand, anyone does not trust Christ, then of course he is not discussing what is our current topic, the hallowed harmony and certainty of the Biblical declaration on eternal life and necessary and certain assurance for each Christian. Yet if anyone believes the Bible and trusts in the Lord, this is the multiply clear assertion, as also found in Paul so exceedingly clearly in many places, in Peter, in John, in the Psalms. One of the sites in Paul is I Thessalonians 5:9-10, where speaking to Christians (and not of course to the Judases, the frauds, who are devils - cf. Christ's word in John 6:70 concerning this), Paul declares that God has made an appointment concerning them. What is the nature of this divinely granted appointment ?
First it is NOT TO WRATH, and secondly, it IS to OBTAIN SALVATION. This of course is assuredly so since as Ephesians 1:4 tells us, God has chosen the Christians in Christ before the foundation of the world. This book of life is permanent and unalterable, this sure and certain divine knowledge from before time of all who are His.
It is only from a variable book, a different one, one appropriate, such as the list of the apostles which contained Judas, or parallel lists in any church, the book of visible believers as far as records go, that any may be blotted out; and many are they who will be so blotted out, as you see so very clearly in Matthew 7:21. MANY will come and depending on performance claims, seek acceptance (and ANY performance claim is one, in this field). I NEVER KNEW YOU, you notice, is the divine rejoinder to their daring arrogance. It is not that they first of all knew God, but they NEVER DID; for the word is not, I did not continue to know you, but NEVER knew you. What God makes clear, let not man confuse, as if unable to differentiate what is black and white, what is day and night.
It will be edifying to pursue this concept of divine appointment before time.
Put slightly differently, but in entire and conspicuous parallel, we find in II Timothy 1:8-12, an entire perspective beyond time, and for all and any time. Paul is advising in this place, his son in the Gospel, Timothy that he is not to be ashamed of Paul's apostolic imprisonment, for he was commissioned and sent to suffer, in the work of the Gospel; and in this, it was a matter of the POWER OF GOD. This God, he informs Timothy, HAS SAVED US, and called us with a holy calling (Romans 8:29ff. tells us in parallel, that whom He foreknew, He predestined, and whom He predestined, He called, whom He called He justified, and whom He justified, He gloried - as in 8:17).
This calling of which the apostle speaks, it is a holy calling, not in the domain of the incidental, one which comes from foreknowledge, one which some call "effectual calling" (as in the Westminster Confession of Faith). Thus the believer is saved and called with a holy calling which results in glorification, following justification, and the one is the assurance of the other, for there is no breach of the cycle given in Romans 8:29-30, any more than there is in the inheritance, its reservation, in the eternal life grant, in the springs of water rising to eternal life or in the power of God who keeps, as Peter confirms in I Peter 1:5.
This holy calling has nothing to do with works, the apostle continues in II Timothy 1:8-12. Thus if you are resting on the salvation in Christ as sin-bearer, and then want to say that though your own brother was in once the same position as yourself, and yet for lack of fortitude/perseverance/simplicity/vigour or whatever else, failed while you did not, but now proceed to heaven: then there is a clash with the word of God here. You are making something up, beyond your knowledge by pure, or rather impure presumption.
In such a hypothetical case, you are advising us that the entire difference between your brother and yourself is not the gift of eternal life, or the cover of guilt on the cross, or the work of Jesus Christ in atonement. It is your own superior or greater or purer or better character in this or that component, or your greater application of that character, or in any case, your superior performance. It is not, in this case, put that this is the RESULT of a NECESSARY kind of your salvation, for in this hypothesis, you both had Christ, and if the result were necessary, your brother would have HAD THIS RESULT too, which however he lacks.
Hence it is you and Christ, it is your performance and His, a joint work for a jointly obtained salvation; and it is yours distinctively in this, that it depends not on the gift in the atonement, but on your work with what you have in a fashion that is peculiarly yours, to make the DIFFERENCE which is DECISIVE and eternal!
But what ? This is a work. This is NOT the nature of the thing, says Paul expressly as in Romans 3:23ff., where he additionally points out that if it WERE SO, then you could BOAST; but no one CAN BOAST. It is in fact a gift by grace, and the gift is deliverance from wrath, salvation by His blood, the reception of reconciliation, and reigning in life (Romans 5:5-17). Indeed, there in Romans 5, Paul not only states the fact that covered by His blood, you have life, and escape wrath, and shall reign in life; for he also makes the point that if having been so saved, when mere sinners without God, and if saved when enemies of God, such a miracle as that, then how MUCH MORE will you be saved from wrath by Him. If that happened in the past, FAR MORE will salvation from wrath happen in the future.
It is therefore IMPOSSIBLE to be justified, to be saved by His blood - which you are if you are a Christian (Romans 5:1 - having been justified by faith), and yet to come to the wrath of God, or not to have life; and it is CERTAIN that you will reign in life, which is not the case if you are defeated in death eternal, everlasting destruction! If then, Christ is delivered up for your offences, and you believe He was raised up for your justification, then of you it is said: HAVING BEEN JUSTIFIED BY FAITH. It is past. You are now in that cycle of Romans 8:29-30, so that you will certainly be glorified in the sense of Romans 8:17, moving from foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification to that end! It is then in Romans 5 that Paul shows that this justification being NOW attributed to you, MUCH MORE will all the rest of eternal salvation be yours, and indeed (Romans 5:11) you should rejoice in the atonement, and will reign in life (Romans 5:11,17).
What then ? In precise parallel to this theme in Romans 5, this a fortiori argument that if you were swept from the seas of folly by the death of Christ, to receive blood cover from His sacrifice, you will assuredly not face divine wrath, but rather be saved from it, HOW MUCH MORE will you never be lost: we have II Timothy 1. There is no end of parallels, mutual corroborations, and this not only in more and more words, but in concepts, formulations and terms which are intimately allied, aligned and proceed as in all truth, with the felicity and facility which understanding brings, of a whole realm which is both one and impregnable to what is alien.
If then, as Paul affirms in II Timothy 1:8-12, it was NOT according to our works that we are saved, then according to what was it in fact done ? In what way then, was this salvation conferred and confirmed which is already asserted as a present reality, and not a hypothetical possibility ? This salvation, the apostle affirms, was according to God's own purpose and grace. As to this, it was statedly given to us in Christ before the time began. It was given by grace, divine purpose and before time started. It is beyond the pale of the present, fixed steadfast in the immutable God by His own decree. To this time will conform, and this eternity will acclaim, which is its own.
In other words, there is a pre-temporal assignment of life eternal, it is done by grace, it is wrought by a divine purpose, we are chosen in Christ before time was; and this is a matter of grace. As Paul so vigorously affirms in Romans 10, what is of works is no more of grace; what is of grace, is no more of works. They are mutual exclusives. If you are given something by an undeserved kindness, then so be it; if you work for it; so be it. If however it is of grace, it is not true to affirm it is of works.
Thus as in Titus 3 so briefly, as in Romans 10 more extensively, WHEN "the kindness and the love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saves us through he washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit".
Will a man or woman then attribute to the work of one's mind or spirit or body or endurance, what God attributes to the blood of Christ, to the work of the Holy Spirit ? Fie on such, for it is to injure truth with self-will so to do. Will one even do this when the concept of human work is decisively excised from the equation! Is there then no limit to confusion and no end to profusion of escapes from divine grace ? And why escape ? If one receives an inheritance, it is best not to pretend one worked for it, for then it is in part or in whole, a payment. Not of that kind, assets and affirms the word of God is it; for it is the work of the blood and the Spirit, neither of which is man's, but the performance of the second and third members of the trinity, as far above man as the heavens above the earth, and higher, for these are merely vastly more, while God, He is infinitely more.
But consider it well. Is man the one who washes ? is it he who renews ? it is on the contrary the blood of Christ which washes, and the Holy Spirit who renews, as Paul declares.
So far from this being, for the Christian person to whom Paul speaks in generic terms, a matter of coming and going or vicissitudes, it is GIVEN BEFORE TIME BEGAN. Such is the inheritance of the Christian. He is referring to the gift of the Gospel as in II Timothy 1:10, and thus this is the nature of application to all who believe in the name of the Son of God. So far from being variable, it is confirmed in predestination and revealed in history.
This, it is the word of God, harmonious, divine, filled with grace, beyond sequestration itself, making His own beyond sequestration from Him, the God who has no mistakes, is in no way subject to vicissitudes, who knowing all, does all, and into His kingdom brings His own, merit never on a hair of their heads, but in Him alone. Indeed, God made Christ who KNEW NO SIN to become a sin offering for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in HIM, so that we receive the gift of HIS righteousness (Romans 5:17, II Cor. 5:21).
All the world is guilty before God and any may receive the sacrifice to atone from God, but none can atone (Romans 3:19, Psalm 49:7,15, Ephesians 2:1-12, 4:17-19, Psalm 51). To confuse one's life with that of God is unwise; and to confuse one's work with that of God is unwise; but to confuse this when it is excluded by the word of God, it is most unwise!
What then is brought to light from this gift by grace, this confirmation of what was wrought before time and given to us in the divine election before we came to this earth, but which is now assigned to us in those infallible terms ? It is life and immortality (II Timothy 1:10), and with it goes the ABOLITION OF DEATH as Paul there also declares. What is not there cannot be gained! But what is already granted in eternity for eternity, cannot be lost! Faith receives what is given. A preacher of this same Gospel is Paul (II Timothy 1:11), and as to him, he KNOWS whom he has BELIEVED, and is by faith PERSUADED that He, the Lord, is able to keep what is committed to Him against all judgment.
Saved already, says the apostle in this place, given holy calling NOT according to our own works BUT according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us before history beamed into day, or even existed, we have this blessed call and salvation revealed in Christ; for it is He who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light. God did it in eternity; God did it in history; God had its inheritors in eternity, inscribed unalterably, and has shown the means for it, just as He has granted to those who He has foreknow, the salvation itself, which those who believer have already received. The author has before the book was written, authorised; and what is authorised and secured, comes into being.
Some may want to paddle their own canoe into heaven; but God's own purpose and grace is not in our hands but His. Some may want acclaim for their achievements with Christ, to breed a result with Him; but it is not by our works, but His, not made in time, but before time, and it is granted to those who having it, are saved already, as is fitting for those so made before history could set foot in anything, to foil or foul, secure or boast.
Grace did it, mercy secured it, love wanted it, predestination fixed it, the blood of Christ and the application by the Holy Spirit in renewal performed it. When you are born, it is not you who does it; when you are born again, it is born of the Spirit, and you do not even know where it comes from or where it goes (John 3). You neither produce, as the child, the child itself, nor induce your birth. You ARE CONCEIVED and ARE BORN. Here, you are born from above. WHEN born, the seed of God stays within you as in any child, who born Smith stays it genetically (I John 3:9), so it is impossible to be other; just as that which is not born again, remains what it was, without this new state, inheritance and life.
Such then is the nature of the case.
THE JUDAS PATHOLOGY AND ITS SETTING
When then of Judas ? He was known to be a devil before the devil entered into him and he betrayed Christ (John 6:70, 13:11,27). He was in Christ in the sense that he was one of the group, on the roll book of life if you will, putatively and currently on the formal list of the registered - though of course not in the eternal list known only to God, which was given and clear before time began, and which includes all Christians. He was blotted, in this sense, out of the book of life, for though in the very leadership role of the personal selected group with the Saviour who knew who were His own, he was not in that original and final book list, which from the first to the last is changeless, being granted before time was.
It is obvious that what is granted before time was and what lasts for ever cannot change. What then is this blotting out from the book of life ? It CANNOT be that book, so it MUST be something of the nature of the list of the formal, the congregation of the apparent heirs, those who lie in some sense and setting as hopeful, but who, in mere form lacking the reality, never were no, nor even could be in the primary, original and final book of life which constitutes the determinant of all these things, the predestinating election of God as II Timothy and Romans 8, as Ephesians and John so definitively declare.
What then of John 15, where a branch in Him can be cut off, and wither ? Such a branch is precisely like Judas who was sent with the rest to perform miracles and preach the Gospel. He was assuredly in the firm, the following, the functionary list for Christ; but equally certainly as you see way back in John 6:70, he was not, never was, and was always known to be, NOT IN CHRIST. He was in Christ but Christ was not in Him. He was like a sport from a wild base, arising in an orange tree, one REQUIRING to be cutt off, reverting to the wild, and showing it in the very look of the leaf and the coarse grain of the branch.
The arm of form was around Him; the life in Christ was never his. He was, as Christ said, A DEVIL. As II Timothy 3:5 puts it, there are those who have "a form of godliness" while "denying the power", adding, "from such people turn away." Denying the power of God in His word, in His works, in His grace, in His government, it is all one; His Lordship and His salvation alike are His alone, and where one intrudes and excises, there is this dreadful peril. A good tree bears good fruit, and cannot do other; and a bad one cannot do other than bear bad fruit, though some fruit is gilded, and some good fruit may look a little spotty, being revealed only when the teeth sink in and the eye beholds the innermost parts (Matthew 7:17-19), so that though some things are clear at once, some remain hidden, requiring one to remember,
"Judge not that you
be not judged; for with what judgment you judge, you will be judged;
There is then a purely formal kind of 'Christianity' where you may seem to stand, but actually never stood, being mere premature or immature or certainly obscure dimness, uninhabited by light (cf. Luke 6:37-42, 11:36).
What then of Hebrews 6 and 10. It is amazing how people can read that of those who have fled for refuge to Christ, that we have an anchor sure and steadfast within the veil (6:19 - which symbolically and indubitably represents the very holy heart and mind of God, as in Hebrews 10:1,10:10, 4:14ff.), and yet still think that it is an anchor not steadfast, nor sure, or not either of these things. Are words to be evacuated of meaning in order that people may escape ? Escape what ? Escape, as we shall DV shortly see, the very government of grace. Is eternal redemption with this anchor, temporary ? or is perfection or completion for ever by ONE sacrifice, non-completion! (Hebrews 10:14).
What then happens in those who having TASTED of the things of the world to come, and the powers of the coming age (like Judas), experienced something of these good things, and of the good word of God (Heb. 6:4-5, like Judas, constantly hearing it, often seeing things happen) ? They fall away. From what do they fall, a hearing and tasting and experience is that from which they statedly fall, from a preliminary introduction to the word of God and a lax failure to ingest, stopping at tasting. From this brave front, they fall. From this sand-castle they dissolve. Far from being founded, they taste; far from standing on the rock, they are rocked.
Is there any further scripture from the mouth of Christ to interpret such a falling. Of course there is, just as God is most kind and clear; for it is found in that most loved and lovely parable of the sowing of the seed as seen in Matthew 13:1-23. One of the cases noted, in seed terms, is this. Someone has stony ground. He is like a segment of the field to be sown. There he is, with hard heart unbroken as in Zechariah 7:12-14. Let us see this divine perspective in His own words (cf. I Corinthians 2:9-13, Matthew 4:4).
"Yes, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts has sent in His spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts. Therefore it has come to pass, that as He cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, says the LORD of hosts: But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they did not know. Thus the land was desolate after them, sp that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate."
There is the phenomenon of making their hearts hard like an adamant stone. Indeed we use the term 'adamant' in the sense of irreconcilably concerted against something, or for it: and here it is AGAINST the word of the Lord. Stony soil is NOT receptive to the seed. It is CONTRARY to it, and though the seed may lie on it, and even sprout, it does not have a basis in which to grow. The seed dies, and it is this and not some other form of life, which here ends. The love of God does not wither, but its impact in that life ends.
Thus in the parable, the seed, which is defined in Matthew to be the word of God, falls on shallow soil, a mere cover for this hard and unbroken ground, this unrelenting disbelief, this which is from its own perspective, indomitable will, inalienable hardness (cf. Matthew 23:37 and SMR Appendix B).
Thus it does not strike down, its tiny strands becoming vulnerable to the sun's heat when it comes, and the seed - the word of God in the heart of the one concerned - dies. God does not fail, but His word, not being mixed with faith (Hebrews 4:1ff.), fails to secure this soul. That is not a defect in the word of God, which provides grace, not dictatorship, but it is a failure in the soul. It gives no place to the word of God, and it fails as was appointed (II Peter 2:8). They have certainly had an experience, for in the parable, it states that they rejoiced for a season.
It is certainly a spiritual experience, for it resulted from the ijmpact of the seed, defined to be the word of God. They gained some knowledge of the things of the world to come, but it is neither a personal nor a saving knowledge, for to the Saviour they do not submit, since their hearts are as adamant. They are irrelevant to the kingdom, and like those prostitutes who become camp followers to some army: they are about it, near it, seek to have dealings with it, but assuredly not of it!
They may even declare themselves to be born again, to be Christians (the author not so long ago heard someone in this category affirming just this state, but it was one who had almost shouting, declared that he had NEVER said he would be a Christian, on another occasion, equipped with bifurcation, ambiguity, will and liberty of tongue, not found to the Lord).
It is not without a vivid pity that one sees such obfuscations and battles of unredeemed will; but it is not with pretence that one beholds the categorical denial of Christ which then endures, untempered. If one tampers, one is not tempered; if one is tempered, one does not tamper. One is or is not born again; and when one is born again, one does not need a tome to be told what happened; though the testimony of other scriptures, the work of the Holy Spirit within (Romans 8:16), attesting one's place as a child of God and the word of God written with such awesome clarity, these things are intimate friends.
What then of this "form of godliness" case, by contrast with this blessed condition ? It is a certain listlessness and ferocity, a certain fraudulent wavering, a lack of faith, for as James says, the double minded man will never receive anything from the Lord (James 1:6-8). Such is the realm of the pathological, the spiritually pathological. It is defined by Christ in all these aspects as in Hebrews, as in Matthew 13, as by Isaiah in parallel terms in Isaiah 29, cited by Christ; and it is shown to be a case where the heart not being even available, the heart of the land, the depth of the soil, it is a case merely of an impact, a lively one to be sure, a superficial impact of the word of God where it is not permitted to lodge, where Christ cannot be.
Nor is this some ephemeral or repetitive phenomenon. As Hebrews assures us, when this happens, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE for there to be any salvation. It is come, it is fooled about with and it is gone for ever. It is not a game, an in and out business; foul it and it is fouled, and more is then impossible. That is but one reason why it is best to rest in the word of God, the "ingrated" word which is able to make you wise to salvation; and those saved will learn to appreciate it, more sure than the heavens, more clear than the noontime sunlight. Of course, as Peter declares, there are those, unstable, people unfounded, who wrest the scriptures to their own destruction.
When therefore God says what He means, it is not to the point to start declaring something else. If then a Headmaster in some school declares that you may not use the play-ground during a parade on Tuesday, June 19, and you find somewhere else that children are encourage to use the playground, you do not start trying to twiddle the dials. After all encouragement is not infinite licence; and a clear prohibition for a given reason is for safety, not to deny the attitude of encouragement which endures.
The mere form of obedience, of faith, of godliness is far from the reality!
Such persons, their hearts and maybe in some cases their pastors and the church receiving them, in hope, as with Judas - for though the end was known it was not so to the disciples! what of these ? They are indeed blotted out of the book of life, to which they seemed to have laid claim; but as we have seen, this book is inscribed before time began, so that the blotting is merely from the apparent, the formal, the ecclesiastical book, the book of appearance. Judas would be on that book to be sure, for was he not an apostle ? and did he not have the sending to do works for the Lord with the others, when they were all sent out ? and was he not even OF THE TWELVE ?
Assuredly, then, in some book of life, some church list, he was involved, and he was of this a member; but of his eternal condition and eventual state there is no doubt. He was blotted out, so that his actual standing in reality, predestined from the first, should be conserved.
What then of such people ? They NEVER EVEN POSSIBLY appeared in the book of life which is written from the first, and the basis of judgment in the end. As to it, their predestination is from before time, and it is accomplished past ever vicissitude of time, for they have already obtained an inheritance.
It is therefore apparent that the mixture of pathological situations with the clear and ringing affirmations of the gospel is one reason why some, confusing reality with appearance, refuse to accept what Paul, what Christ, what John, what the Psalms (as in Psalm 17, 145), declare of eternity.
What however of this eternal book of life, as distinct from the mere construction of hope and of man ? HOW COULD GOD who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that every one who believes in HIM should not perish but have eternal life, exclude so many (cf. Matthew 7:15ff.) before TIME BEGAN!
It is quite simple. God is not susceptible to learning as man is, for all things are known to Him with whom we have to do, and He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10, Hebrews 4:13): indeed He even DECLARES the end from the beginning; and it is thus that of course He has known before time was, who are His (cf. II Timothy 2:19). He does not have to find out! Christ KNEW Judas to be a devil long before the betrayal, and indeed in Psalm 41, 69, 108 (cf. Joyful Jottings 22-25), in times a millenia or so beforehand, his place is in detail depicted, so that having messed with the very mercy of God, he is lost irredeemably. God is not limited as is man, and it is this confusion which often misleads many!
Nevertheless, that is the reality, the resultant, the thing worked out and wrought by God from the first and to the last; what of the method ? There is more in love than mere rejection slips, and opportunity is not lacking, nor heart in all this; for in God, knowledge does not change who He is, and His compassion and forbearance and patience and kindness and seeking of good, this is not altered by knowing the result. He is not man as such, but Spirit. Time is a mere invention, in our terms; and it is does not contain God, but God contains it in His writing of the thing called history.
In this, the blind and wanton wilfulness of man is given place, and we have seen something of this in our last chapter. It is not WHEN or in what manner of disposition of events in procedure, God CHOOSES His people, but HOW which matters. It is not whether your uncle decided to exclude or include you in his will when he was at the age of 30 or when 60 which counts, when you are concerned about the kind of man that he was.
That is not even relevant (assuming, to come closer to the case before us, that he knew all things). It is ON WHAT BASIS he chose: it is this which is relevant. If then Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever, who was in heaven with His Father before the world began as the eternal word of God (John 1:1, 17:1ff.), as a member of the trinity is concerned with the election of souls, then in His own same love and compassion shown on earth, though in divine form, is He resident and operative in the divine choice before time began!
Hence the predestination is such that the word of God in Isaiah 48:17ff., and Matthew 23:37ff., and Ezekiel 33:11, and Luke 19:42ff., and I Timothy 2:1ff., and Colossians 1:19ff., was operative IN the selection. The God who WOULD HAVE all to be saved, such that it PLEASED HIM that all fulness should reside in Christ, and having made peace through the blood of the cross, to reconcile ALL THINGS, yes all in heaven or on earth to Himself, as the last noted scripture declares: this God is the one who CHOSE. Knowing all things, He has wrought in advance the result of His love and the liberty granted to man, so that He loses none.
He does not invade; nor for that matter is the pathological will of man capable in such final and spiritual issues, outside salvation (John 1:12ff., I Corinthians 2:14, Ephesians 4:17-10), of taking the reins of 'decision' (Romans 8:16, John 1:12, John 15, John 10:26), so that their bringing into the kingdom of heaven is NOT of their wills (cf. Romans 9:16), nor of the flesh, nor of their blood: it is not dependent on this. Some are not His sheep, He declares on earth, and therefore they do not believe. He knows in advance, and all is identified from the volcanic flow of His loving passion to the restrained reality of His declining to use force. That is done before time, which here by analogy we represent in terms of divinely stated principles; and then it occurs on earth, what is the thing in view.
It is a matter of being born, the word of God declares in John 1 and 3, by His Spirit. Further, this is in CONTRAST to its being a matter of the will of man, his flesh, which is by name excluded.
THE REMOVAL OF CONFUSION FROM THE CASE
Thus it is true BOTH that God does the choosing and the saving, without the differential of man's will making the difference as He operates, and that God WOULD HAVE ALL saved and acts in the integrity of His love, to that end, without violating what man is. Hence He can lament with tears in Christ, that they did not know the time when salvation offered (Luke 19:42ff.). Does He lament because He failed to construct things, working all things after the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11) ? That is merely imagination, for He declares to the contrary. THOUGH knowing all things, He yet has them when on earth as Saviour, before Him, the eventualities. Thus Jeremiah who declared the destruction to come to Jerusalem in the name of the Lord, does not fail to be moved both in prospect, when he would that his head were a fountain of waters that he might adequately lament for those about to suffer, and in retrospect, when the ruin has actually come. He is profoundly moved, but does not use a steel rod to force people where they do not come.
It is accordingly nothing to do with
predestination, that any can scripturally chide about the love of God.
It is immensely clear, even to the point of the eternal purity of the Son being set to the points of the cross, the nails, the contempt and the total rottenness of soul of those guilty of the murder; and the experience of sin, its guilt not its performance, being felt, such that in all their affliction, HE was afflicted, to the point of His lament for those who invite death and refuse escape: that His love works, has worked and has done all for all. Thus He is the 'Saviour of all men' in this (I Timothy 4:10 - 'especially of those who believe', where the charisma of grace is consummated), that His salvation is meaningfully and sincerely and with love offered to all; and justification comes towards all, being propelled in His love as declared in Romans 5:19, just as condemnation came to all, which Paul announces in parallel.
Whereas however, all ARE condemned at the outset because of sin in its onset, nevertheless all to whom justification proceeds (it is "towards all"), do not receive it. That, it is not the want of its sending, its adequacy or the passion of its sending, as the depth of the lament so fully exposes for the enduringly lost, and as the marvels of intervention occur and are seen for the hideously profane when they return (cf. II Chronicles 33:10-17). Paul himself was such an exhibit of the profundity of grace (cf. I Timothy 1:12ff.).
In fact, predestination is the assurance that NONE will be lost who might be saved, and that the love is not dependent on events which make a mockery of eternal results. Indeed, it is ONLY because it is in this way that those to be saved are chosen, that the whole thing is not near to mockery. For if man in his superior upbringing or education or gifts, or inferior post or condition, were to have ANY part in the selection of God, what would this be but the performance of what was from the first fitted so to act, and hence not a matter of love but of mere necessity. He whom it pleased that ALL things in heaven or earth should be reconciled to Himself, having had all fulness dwell in the Messiah and having made peace by the blood of the cross, does not fail for a technical hitch; HE for Himself, gains His own, and loses NONE.
The Father draws His own, grants life to His own, and they are never lost. He is not limiting in love, but neither does He defile in force, or use meretricious substitutes for love, allowing mere circumstance to limit Him (Ephesians 1:11).
Not only does the Bible repudiate such things, but its principles exclude them. It is GOD ALONE who knowing all, selects His own, with the mandate of love, not some substitute of iron fist, to find His own; and He has always known them, for the foreshortening of our time is not eternal (Romans 8:38-39), but an invention with the rest of creation. He surveys as an author the work before Him, and knows its end before any read it, and is no part of it; but even if he entered it as a character, yet is its end clear as he writes it.
As to God, He knows; and it is well that this is the basis, for WHOM HE FOREKNEW HE chose. Nor is it a matter of merely foreseeing what we would do, for this would fall on the same necessitous stone. He expressly moreover EXCLUDES this in Romans 9:9-13. It is not of works of any kind in any way, on any day or in any show or display. It all depends on God; but this God so LOVED (NOT so shoved) the world that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life; and this life is in the Son (I John 5), who gave Himself in His love for the world (I John 4 - not its system, but its contents of persons) that He even went so far as to die, experimentally for man, showing His ascendency not only over scholars and sickness, as in His days from birth, but over death when He arose, a mockery of finality and a testimony from eternity of immortality not only which He had, but which He could confer by His deeds and power, having fulfilled the Messianic work to perfection, so proclaiming, "It is finished" - John 19:30. (On this field, see the Predestination Quintet.)
There is life.
It is all a matter of
GOVERNMENT BY GRACE.
HOW was one chosen, if a Christian ? It was "according to His own purpose and grace," as Paul declared in his second epistle to Timothy. HOW are we saved ? It is BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH, we find in Ephesians 2:5,8. In the Greek, the "that" which is said NOT TO BE OF YOURSELVES, is neuter grammatically agreeing not with 'faith', but with the entire preceding statement (for 'faith' is feminine). In other words, you are having been saved persons (the Greek tense and grammatical unit) and this is BY GRACE and it is THROUGH FAITH. First of all it is by grace. It is not by merit, by earning, by works of mind, spirit or body, it is not of the will of man, or of the flesh at all. It is by grace. This we have seen in Romans 9 and John 1.
Secondly, then, it is already accomplished, precisely as in II Timothy 2:8-12. We are not TO BE SAVED, or BEING saved in this declaration, but HAVING BEEN SAVED, and not only is this in the past tense, it is in that particular form called the 'perfect' which in Greek has the elemental insistence on COMPLETION. That is its force. The act of salvation is a fait accompli, and it is not only an act, it is a change of state precisely as in John 5:24, where the person who hears Christ's words and believes in Him who sent Him, has eternal life and does not come into condemnation (which would be contradicted of course if any such person DID come into it!) and has passed from a state of death to a state of life (it is the same perfect tense as in John). It is a complete, epic, spiritual transformation which is in view, a change of prince, precept, position and destiny.
It is of course just this to which Christ refers in John 3, in terms of being born again. In I John 3, and 3:9 in particular, we learn that there is a new birth such that the one concerned may be said to have the 'seed' of God within him or her. That is, there is an analogy, and just as the seed confers life to what is receiving it, in the zygote, so here there is a seed which comes to impart life. It is a physiological analogy to the sowing of the seed analogy. They are parallel analogies and these fit snugly and felicitously, yes precisely, as all scripture always does, once you consider it, comparing scripture with scripture (cf. I Corinthians 2:9ff.).
What then of the one in whom this has occurred ? It is this: His seed remains in him (I John 3:9). There is no more possibility, indeed less for this is founded on the word of God, not the mere happenings of nature which nevertheless serve here well in illustration - of losing this seed, this certitude, this name, this new nature, this status as a child of God, begotten by Him, than there is of losing your own genes, and having new DNA inserted in every cell. Born by Smith, you are of the breed and seed of Smith's; and biologically it stays that way. Born of God, you are God's and you stay that way. That is the ineluctable force of the statement in I John. As a result you do not make a PRACTICE of sin: it is not the manner of your life (that italicised, it is the translation, rather than that sometimes found, which ignores the Greek's use of "do" or practise before the term sin, as a noun in this text).
The REASON then for this slope away from sin, it is this: it results from the FACT that the seed of God REMAINS IN HIM. The word uses between the two the term "for". The reason for the one, is the fact of the other! BEING so born by grace into grace's realm, you are governed by grace. It is thus not merely an announced fact that your godly nature is permanent; it is a fact grounded in the nature of the case, the case of what God has done and what is the position in terms of this, which continues.
It is equipped with the consequences of reality, and while man in his limitations must be careful about judging others, yet the realities when revealed will expose it: what is born of God acts it, with whatever imperfections; and what is not acts it, with whatever glosses. We see it in part now; we shall see all when we know all (I Corinthians 13:11-12), which is not yet, though what we are told is the truth (cf. John 8:40, 14:6).
It is because of His love that He has taken the necessary action (I John 4:9), and the manner in which this is wrought is BY GRACE (Ephesians 2:5,8, Romans 5:12-17, II Timothy 1:8-12, Titus 2:11). Let us consider this last testimony in Titus. "For the grace of God which brings salvation has appeared to all men." You see the intimate involvement of this with the fact that it is according to His own purpose and grace, and the other declaration that by grace are you saved through faith, and THAT, it is not of yourselves! Such is the charming, the disarming harmony, neither officiously thrust, nor deviously hidden, but like a rolling countryside, the more obvious the more you look.
For the moment, we are concerned that it is the GRACE which BRINGS SALVATION. It is by grace through faith that you are, if a Christian, a "having been saved one".
This is government by grace, which as you remember was before time began operative in the arrival at the chosen ones, which is not dependent on the passage of time, but known to God before time was.
What is it like ? It is like the ocean in its vast accomplishment: it is there, it is enormous, has its own ways and is beautiful in composition, in grandeur, in majesty and in self-purifying. In this, it has some resemblance by analogy with the Lord, who is not self-purifying, being already without iniquity, but so filled with light that darkness is irrelevant; but the parallel speaks. Indeed, He dwells in the form of God in light unapproachable, radiant so that darkness if a mere glimmer in the distance for the lost of creation, and especially for those sealed in permanence in their hatred of His light. But let us go to sea again!
This ocean, in our analogy of grace, it comes right into the deep, penetrating fiords, into the land it moves with its solemn assurance, its moisture and beauty striking deep into the heart of the territory. It may be experienced by swimming in it, watched with aesthetic revelling by observing its moods, moments and tossings, its lithe motions and its pure force. Grace is like that ocean into the fiords, coming in on its own terms, and imparting what it will. It is near, it is different from land, but to and indeed through the land it proceeds!
So does the grace of God announce, impel, propose, secure salvation, and it is by no other way. In NOTHING is there ANYTHING contrary to it, for it was according to His own purpose and grace; and the grace of God which brings salvation has appeared. Anything which is not of grace, it is alien to this motion, this marvel, this way, this vision, this reality. If you want to make your overcoming as a work of your own nature, or a work in which, though it is maximally of God, yet is minimally of you, so making you different from those who do not fall, then it is NOT of grace in this particular, but of grace plus works, which is endlessly forbidden in the written word of God, and smitten by it as a tea-spoon by a steam-shovel. It is in insolence before that divine and Infinite God who has spoken, so to speak; it ignores the complete assurance of God to those who believe in Him, and it contradicts His statements, as if the laugh of Sarah were to be heard once again (Genesis 18:10-13), and as to that ? it was one which inherited divine rebuke!
If it is supernatural, if it be, as it is, supreme in power and operative on terms which reside in the divine heart alone, will it then reside in the human heart, which becomes what it was not by the divine seed, and becomes a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17ff.), so that all things become new: will it be by some new law and outrageous outage, so that the divine is in subservience to the flesh, to its works or to its vulnerabilities, dependent on its will or whim, its circumstances, modes or moods ? and will this be so despite the specific, repeated, cumulative affirmation of Jesus Christ that you CANNOT come to Him unless it be granted to you by the Father, and that having come, you come not into condemnation ? Let it be so: it is nothing to do with Him, but rebellion.
If it be confusion (and in one case, Wesley can say things not at all sound in this, but on another he visits his speech, and affirms that justification has NOTHING to do with man's efforts*1 ), then it is for the Lord to determine the outcome; for man is not sent to hell for deficiency, and those who would take over from God need to examine not only Matthew 7, but I Corinthians 4. What are the fruits of the one whom a man makes himself the judge ? do they resemble those of the devil ? This Matthew 7 presents. What is the authority when Paul says, Judge nothing before the time ?
Certainly, if someone unequivocally denies the ground of salvation, there is what appears a clear case, but it must be this, since confusion in the heart of man is far from unknown, and retraction is not to be ignored. It is GOD WHO DETERMINES it, and He has this advantage, that HE KNOWS! Fellowship may have to be foregone if someone insists after counselling twice (Titus 3:10), on pursuing an obviously anti-scriptural course and promulgating it; but inference can be dangerous, when confusion and emotion sway the very foundations of the man's heart! It is best to JUDGE NOT and let the Judge judge when the time comes, though the church must be purged of false teaching as such, and those who insist on clearly and unequivocally contradicting the word of God cannot be received. Some may be sick, some confused; it is wise to be temperate, holy, godly and thoughtful, while watching that the lambs are not molested, and acting in terms of church membership when the cardinal requirements of the faith as depicted in scripture are forsaken (cf. SMR pp. 520ff.).
Nevertheless, having disposed of the danger of man acting as man's judge, as if God had never written the caution of Matthew 7 and I Corinthians 4, and having faced the reality of fellowship as the case may come to require in view of the lambs (Matthew 7:15 cf. Separation 1997), and the dangers of presumptuous inferences in the act of judging what God alone knows (Jeremiah 17:9-10), the fact that it is government by grace, this remains!
It is government, it is action by
grace and not works,
grace and not
the will of man, either at the outset of salvation, or in its resultant reality
when it has indeed come (Romans 9:16ff., John 1:12ff.),
grace and not the flesh, not its works or ways or its 'wonders', not its tenacity or its proclivities, not its perceptions (I Cor. 2:14), nor its contributions:
for neither works nor will nor flesh contribute ANYTHING to this GOVERNMENT BY GRACE. It is by GRACE that you are saved, and NOT something else. It is through faith; and as to this entire cycle of being saved BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH, it is directly and unquestionably affirmed by Paul to be NOT OF YOURSELVES (Ephesians 2;8). It is so and the opposite is excluded on such grounds as this, that SO GOD DID IT, and that otherwise SOME MIGHT BOAST (Ephesians 2:9). This, it includes ALL that your precious self is, its will, ways and powers, and it is NOT by that. It is instead, Paul continues to affirm, the GIFT OF GOD. Indeed, to what is this gift given by grace ? It is given to those who had the law, but failed to keep it, or to those Gentiles who "were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in this world).
These are "brought near", just as they are likewise brought to birth (John 3), even those who were far off. Make yourself an exception ? It is like making yourself an exception to admission to the Air Force, by changing the application form. God is not mocked, deceived, duped or wisely contradicted. If you disagree with God, then make sure you can combat Him! (cf. Luke 14:31). Indeed, there is NO OTHER NAME by which man must be saved, but that of Christ (Acts 4:11-12), and when one's own name is added to this, it is like putting oneself in some Honour Roll, adding it surreptitiously by night.
It is, as Paul asseverates in II Timothy 2:8-12, not only NOT according to our works but according to HIS OWN PURPOSE, and it is impossible to confuse HIS purpose with your own since He is both sinless and infinite, and even in mathematics, the confusion of infinity with the finite is of the utmost phase of nonsense. Not in some imaginary realm, then, but in that of grace, according to His own purpose and grace, has God before all time and without regard to the works of any, determined who are His.
THIS GRACE, however, is not to be confused with mere self-will, as if He did not care for some; but it is specifically and with extreme emphasis, as in Colossians 1, made a subject of the precise opposite. He would have ALL in heaven or in earth, to be reconciled. Why deny it ? HE affirms it, and what is this knowledge of the heart of God which man proposes who does not even know his own heart, except by the light of the Lord (Psalm 51, Ephesians 2, 4).
WHAT then does God in this point affirm ? It is this: that it is HIS DESIRE that ALL be reconciled to Himself. Hence the grace is not in some sort of aristocratic mode, as if it simply did not like the look of some; for it was when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, and Paul himself is made a pattern of this very thing, that God can save the most abominable (I Timothy 1:14ff.): and it is he who calls himself the chief of sinners (I Timothy 1:15), having violently persecuted the church of God, causing acute suffering and anguish in his wilful strutting in former days (Galatians 1:13-14, I Corinthians 15:9).
It is very grace: it is not only without ground in merit on our part, it is not with even relative appeal. It is a matter of grace, something kind contrary to merit: it is profound like the oceans, of its own kind like them, it advances and reaches into our territory, as in the fiords does the sea; it reaches toward all, it is stopped by nothing but its own life in the Lord; for grace is not dictation, nor is it subservient, but in divine beauty of holiness it proceeds, with restraint in charity, with exuberance in outreach.
In this way is the love of God, the grace of God, the salvation of God and His gift of eternal life a kindness towards MAN as Paul declares in Titus, and in this way is it "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that having been justified by His grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
LOVE IS GIVEN AND RESPONDS
Such then is the multiply affirmed biblical teaching, and it is so in life, for in everything it is by grace, even the deliverance from temptation, the chastening when needed, the moderation and temperance, or the occasional severity, the pangs and the longing (Psalm 27, 40), and the pardon in error (Psalm 51): for in all things God works in us, who are His children, both to will and to do (Philippians 2:13).
What however of someone who presumes on his assumed inheritance, but is in fact of the Judas clan ? We have already considered this pathology at some length, but let this be added here. If there is a new nature, then we do not have to infer: for John in I John 3 TELLS us that this is such that we do not MAKE A PRACTICE of sin. Many do, and many are rescued on the brink of destruction, as David was, because as the children of God, they will never be snatched from His hand.
Some, on the other hand, were mere devils in party dress, and this soils, and they are spoiled and go to the destiny in the land from which they never escaped, being godly in form only; and some even of these remain 'pillars of the church' and are mere devils. Was not Judas quite a pillar for a time before the populace, one of the TWELVE! Further, some may appear bad to the censorious, having slipped only a little, and are restored; while many, presuming, do not know the difference, and judge like some erratic gun going off automatically. They do not know of what they speak; but the Lord does.
ANY father in his right mind is likely to know whether his young son loves him and fails in this or that, or is a rebel; and how much more does the Lord, who not only knows these things, and infinitely more, but according to His own purpose and grace and chosen His own before time was. Hence He learns nothing, an offence to the arrogant and to the dealers who want to seal up a personal contract on their own; but man is forever failing to see the glory of the invisible God and trying to make of Him some lesser thing, as if His products were His container.
Far from true is such sterile imagination; and the Lord knows with nothing in the manner of consternation as if inept, but rather of fulfilment as equipped with knowledge. Further, this very wonder of His nature, and His choice, it is wrought in any impelled sense, to bring evil: for we have seen over and again that it is His wish that ALL be reconciled; but rather is it worked in the understanding which is His, of the realities concerned. Inalienable from sin, many are by the all-comprehensive wisdom of God, repudiated from the first, but as His word assures us, this is despite His longing, His love and His grace, and in the very face of it.
Therefore indeed, let him who thinks he stands be careful lest he fall.
This is applicable in general in two senses.
Firstly, the David who is too successful even in spiritual things, takes time off for disaster (II Samuel 11); and he was beginning to become too self-confident, as perhaps again in I Chronicles 21, in the numbering, where even Joab, his commander resisted him. It is not FAITH which is wrong, but SELF-CONFIDENCE. This teaches us to be ready to listen, to hear when prudence and humility is presented us!
Secondly, it is applicable in this, that some who have mere formal connection with Christ as has been discussed, assume spiritual things of themselves which were NEVER applicable, and continue to make some marvel at their manner or manners or both; but it is all resolved in the end when the Lord exposes before all, the sheep and the goats. Some goats try to imitate sheep, and some who are with them secretly admire their very goatishness and join 'churches' such as now abound, which have false doctrine or false faith, where their worldliness is esteemed. Some sheep, on the other hand, in some momentous moment of folly, act the goat.
Some love to mark this, and assume the sheep does this often; but it is not so. And others, loving the liberty of licence, say, Look this elder is doing it and so will I! not knowing that this elder IS a goat. So, not looking to the Lord, they fall where wisdom would soon have stopped it, and recovering, bruised, must be treated kindly to bring them to health once more!
It is safe neither to trust in yourself nor in your pastor nor in your church, nor to set yourself up as person's judge (although if the word of God judge that someone denying the Lord is no Christian, and this continues, then of course this is self-declaration).
It is safe to receive the salvation which is by grace through faith, and having trusted in the Lord, find the adventurous wonder that is life, and the admirable delight which comes in trusting in the One who really is God, really has already conferred eternal life, and having believed His repeated statements, and avoiding the follies which belong elsewhere, to find the meaning of eternal life right now, in serving the Saviour.
It is He whose grace is in Himself, for He is full of grace, and not only saves entirely, once for all, by grace, His having been saved persons, but shows His grace to them in the course of life which continues. Being born again is often mentioned and often manipulated by worldlings; but it is not the birth which is the end of it, but the beginning. For one having been born again, if it is indeed into HIS kingdom, then LIFE BEGINS; and it is no more a matter of being born (look! says one lad, I was born! and the others jeer, for they are all born and know it), as if this were the be-all and end-all. Rather, having been born, the point is now that this being so, one is ALIVE and lives with the Lord, the living and all powerful God of grace and glory, both now and for ever. Hence one loves His word, seeks to do it and in love to please Him in all things (John 14:21-23, Colossians 1:10). The New American Bible puts the last, thus:
"to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing,
in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God..."
Now it is true that in the analogy above, where we envisaged some deriding other lads who talked strangely much about being 'born', when they were now growing up, that all of them were of course 'born', for it was an analogy in the natural. It is true no less, that in the case of being born again, by no means all are so born: yet the point remains. If even in a MILIEU of Christians, the point remains continually, HAVING BEEN BORN, there is obviously something missing. By all means rejoice in being the Lord's and hence in having been born; but continue to rejoice in the life which THIS COMMENCES. In Him is fulness of life, and He has come not only that His own purpose by grace through faith should be fulfilled in the SELECTION of His people, but in the LIVES they then live!
Hence in a healthy spiritual community, the realisation descends that it is not only a matter of preaching the Gospel (great at this is), it is ALSO a matter of TEACHING them to obey whatever He has commanded; for if you KNOW HIM, then obviously you want to know what you can of this LORD of your life! He is deep, and though salvation and gospel is purposely easy in speech, yet there is much to understand, choice like delicious steaks. In fact, Paul even talks of the milk and the meat of the word, or more preciselly milk and solid food! (I Corinthians 3:2).
Recently, when someone was shown this reality of eternal life for all Christians, there was an appalling admission. This one had never met the case of someone actually confronting with scripture in a sustained and systematic way. It was new. Is there coming now such a falling away of moral ecclesiastical units (for many are no longer actual churches, though they retain the name, having changed over time), and has there come such a failure of pastors to do what Paul shows must be done in Titus 1:9, and that he does in II Corinthians 10:5: that it is a novelty to see it happen!
To exhort or rebuke in all kindness but in all gravity, is this being thrown away, while consultative quietness occurs, and many fall foul as the pastors continue in their salaries, superannuation and positions! Such as case is precisely as the Lord depicts with horror in Ezekiel 34, and this is one of the reasons stated for HIS COMING to earth as Shepherd Himself, the Good Shepherd who gives His own life for the sheep, as shown in John 10 through the lips of that Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
This sort of declivity, of fall, of failure in what were once churches, this too is part of the foreknown and the ordained in the will of the all knowing God as seen in II Peter 1, I Timothy 4, II Timothy 3 and II Thessalonians 2; and to this we shall look DV in the next chapter. Such churches may indeed fall over time, as members change and the beliefs are altered! (cf. Colossians 1:23), and many confuse the failure over time of changing churches with faith and destiny for the Christian. The point however should be made and made clearly, that WHERE such former churches become mere ecclesiastical units with a past, but no spiritual present, you are not PERMITTED to stay! This is part of the topic in Ch. 6 to follow.
It is by no means the way of Christ to encourage a slack and slippery indifference to truth, for the under-shepherds must to help the sheep, not be resource persons for consultation if anyone feels like it. In Ezekiel 34 the Lord despises those false shepherds who did not really seek after the sheep to deliver them, help them and seek their health in the midst of difficulty. Pompous officiousness is one error (condemned by Peter in I Peter 5); but listless failure in zeal to help the straying is the other. In grace, in the government of grace, all must be done in wisdom, humility and keenness, but with watchful zeal, lest any being short-changed in pastoral service; and the help of the elders must come kindly and personal but aware of evils, lest nay suffer needless pain and trouble (cf. Hebrews 13:17).
The MEANS of grace must not be neglected; but who would refuse time with his friend, when it is offered for sharing in the delights of comradeship on some project or pastime, where leisure exists! It is not needful to tell love to 'get on with it'; for love, it loves it! My beloved is mine and I am His! says the bride in the Song of Solomon (cf. The Song ). Even so; and for that matter, love loves the One in view, and thus we echo John, "Amen, Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" The context ? This: "He who testifies to these things says, Surely I am coming quickly." Two days have past, if you will, in the scripturally defined context for this event (I Peter 3:9); and His coming is now near, nation having risen against nation, and all the other necessary preliminaries being fulfilled (Answers to Questions Ch. 5).
In His time, He comes, and His time is near; He comes as the tsunami came, unexpectedly to many, but on His own terms at His own time of entry, and those who do not realise it (Luke 21:24ff.), looking rather to space for place, than to its Maker for grace, they are slack towards their own mercy.
*1 See Anguish Ecstasy and the Mastery of the Messiah Chs. 8 - 9. This deals with the entire concept at some length, with special reference to Wesley and his utterance. It continues in Ch. 10 of the same volume on the place and nature of grace, and represents a background for this chapter.
There follows a short exposition of II Timothy 1:8-12 in sermonic form, and this is presented to aid any who simply want to follow the word of the Lord.
GOVERNMENT BY GRACE
II Timothy 1:8-12
I EXCISION - II Tim. 1:8
Paul is in prison for the Gospel, and exhorts Timothy to share such sufferings, and not be ashamed: for it is according to the call and power of God that it is so happening. There is need for removal of false shame, social pride in distress, carnal fear in multiplication: if you are going to be a servant of a man who was crucified by the court of this world, then what do you expect ? Justice is not to be tampered with, but love is to have full place. Subtract, remove, excise the cancer of self-pre-occupation and get on with the work of the Gospel.
II PREVISION AND PROVISION - II Tim. 1:9
It is according to the power of God that this occurs, the very Lord who has
a) saved us and b) called us with a holy calling, so that in nothing is there doubt, or uncertainty, and
c) done this not in terms of anything we have done or can do, but
d) according to His own purpose and grace.
GRACE is what is behind it, undeserved kindness; and His purpose, that anyone who believes should not perish ever, but have a life which is eternal, unending, that never fades away, reserved in heaven for you, as I Peter 1 puts it. In this purpose is love, and of this purpose is grace, like the moss on the ground where the waterfall clouds nearby.
This same Lord has
e) done this before the world began.
Time contributes not to the decision of the Lord, nor does it hold His determination, but merely shows it. BEFORE TIME, He has chosen His own, so that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal word of God, shown on earth, is that very grace operative before time; and as He lamented for the folly of Jerusalem which did not know the time of its opportunity, to receive its Saviour (Luke 19:42ff.), so is His heart moved that all might be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:1ff., Colossians 1:19ff.). It is not WHEN the salvation decision of God is made that really matters, but HOW. Since it was in the interests of grace and love and mercy, then such is the nature of it, and it simply ensures that none who might be saved, will in fact be lost. No circumstance can sink you, and no catastrophe can foul your future, for in God, who knows and even declares the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), there is complete certainty.
Does this mean that a person need not close with Christ, receive Him as repentant so that the work of salvation is imparted ? Of course not, for did not God know your heart from the first, and if this is to be it, did He not know to what in the very face of His light, you would incline! It is, then, just as presumptuous to assume that all will be well and not to bother when you do NOT know Christ, as it is to doubt whether all is well when you DO! After all, as we have just seen, God has SAVED and called with a holy calling, all done before all time, so that to believe is to have eternal life as John declares (I John 5:11-13). He who has the Son has life, says John in these verses; and he writes so that you who believe in the name of the Son of God may know that they have eternal life.
III VISION VERIFIED - II Tim. 1:10
These things before time have been revealed in time, and we have been treated to the very sight of the living God in the face of Christ Jesus (II Corinthians 4:4), who acted - yes, who "has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel".
This heavenly vision is thus now an earthly proclamation, for on earth it has been done. Death is no more the destiny to await, but the change of the resurrection, when the toils of history are done, as in I Corinthians 15:50ff.. On this earth, "He made Him to be sin, who knew no sin, so that He might become the righteousness of God in Him" - II Cor. 5:21. That is to say, Christ became a sin offering and in being so sacrificed, became the butt of justice, receiving the just judgment due to us, that we might for our own part, receive what He has to offer, namely perfect right standing with God, Himself OUR cover!
Note the abolition of death - the most pleasant of words. American tried to abolish strong drink many decades ago, and failed; God's plan to abolish death has prevailed, and when the time is finished, the results accrue. Immortality - what a glorious name, inability to die! Of all the inabilities, this is as great as any! If the body goes to the earth, the spirit to God, and when Christ returns, then the spirits of all who are His are clothed over again with the same power with which God created mankind in the first place.
IV VICTORY II Tim. 1:11-12
To this Gospel, Paul is appointed a preacher, and of it a teacher.
That is why he suffers these things, and to return to being ashamed, HE DECLARES that he for his part, is not ashamed! Indeed, he knows his place, he knows his calling by grace according to the divine purpose, and he is persuaded that the God who called him can keep what he has committed to Him, secure that even at judgment day itself, he will be as covered then as now, freed from all condemnation (Romans 8:1), accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6) who has given His life for His sheep. They know Him, follow Him, and to them He has given eternal life (John 10:9,27-28, Ephesians 1:11, I Thessalonians 5:9-10). Here is victory, not in slaying soldiers, but in knowing the Lamb who was slain according to the everlasting Gospel, and having the power of His resurrection in your life until He comes.