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Chapter 9




Grace Grapples, Doesn’t Dabble, is Profound


Revelation 3 and Grace


A Tale of Two Churches


1. Preliminary Understanding




If you consult Revelation 3:7 and 3:14, you will find two successively noted churches, presented complete with analysis of their positions. You proceed from the Himalayas to the Dead Sea, in that order. This gives a wonderful opportunity to look at the work of grace. It is so distinctive that there is nothing like it in all the world.


But how does grace relate to love ? Grace has the concept of pleasantness, good pleasure, kindness, expansive contribution, generosity. Love is like that, but has a deeper sense of personal involvement, in that it REQUIRES that one not only has this vast generosity of spirit, not exacting but desiring to ennoble and develop, but has within it, as if a core, an attachment which yet is pure, a solicitousness which is yet not possessive, a desire which is not touchy or tedious, but persistent and of a tender goodwill. Love does not fail, but those loved may fail (Ephesians 1:6, 11).



What however if grace intervenes. If the grace is effectual, as in donation of life to the dead, then that is the result. If it is again, effectual, as in spiritual life from the dead, that too is the same. Love with grace means that there is a gift, with an exuberance, a donation with no residue of bitterness or any qualification of queasiness. But what if the gift is not transformative ? Then grace would not be sufficient for its object. What however if it IS transformative ? Then of what ? If it is restricted to the financial situation of its object, that may fail; to his/her mental powers, this may age; but if it is to grant life of spirit in the presence of God, and if it includes adoption as a privilege GRANTED, even to the family of God, then this effectual grace is eternally transmutative: eternal life is there.


What however would happen if it were without love ? Suppose some vast contribution of spiritual life were possible in which you still retained the option to love yourself more than God, and prostitute grace to your own selfish advancement, as if you were the hub and God the road ? Then such grace would not be effectual; and God would not be God.


In what way would God not be God ? In this way: that He is not like that. He does not cast pearls before swine, or give His life TO untransmuted lead. IN giving it, He transforms (regenerates) the one who receives it, so that this then becomes a transaction so vital, so profound, that it is no longer even possible for the recipient to change, just as born a Smith, you cannot then acquire the genes of a Jones. As the joke has it when a daughter writes home from Camp: Mother I did not bring my jeans, the Mother replies, If you do not have them now, it is too late to get them.


Of course it is a play on genes, but the issue is this: IF when you are born again as I John 3:9 expressly intimates, you have a spiritual inheritance and nature, or ‘seed’, then you simply cannot divest yourself of this. It is quite as designate as other sorts of birth. What you are born, YOU ARE! What have you, asks Paul, that you did not receive ? (I Corinthians 4:7).


Is it a body ? did you make it ? Is it a spirit ? Did you construct it ? Is it susceptibility ? Did you manufacture and instal it in your frame ? Is it the willingness to be susceptible ? Is this chosen equipment, specified for supply ? Past all this is God, who knows YOU with all your equipment, not only incomes and outcomes, but the essential being which you are, in spirit; for the spirit of man in the end, would go this way or that, and wills this or that; and though sin control the vision without the light of God, it does not control God who knows those with whom He has to deal.


But someone may say: Is this fair ? Is this the love of God, that you should be swept into someone else’s domain by a dynamic irresistible and into a state in essence, irreformable ( or more accurately in this case, undeformable, but let that pass, the point is unchangeable in NATURE) ? One notices the addition of the concept of ‘irresistible’ in this formulation, but in one sense, if we move into the scriptural concept, it is just. When the wind blows, the eyes are opened and one enters (John 3), or as Jesus put it in John 6:65, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” There is a grant which is or is not made. In that sense, it is irresistible, for if the grant is given, you are governed by it. It is yours. It is not left on the doorstep to be picked up or let go: it is YOUR new nature!


In all such thought, however, there is an almost ludicrous play upon analogy. HOW and WHY does God so grant ? Does He grant to bits of blank paper, to be written on ? Are you selected for grants, not like some university program, or even like some deserving race, or some needy group, and of course, not like some scheming abuser of social service privileges who hoodwinked the giver, or in any other way whatsoever that relates to YOU, but by caprice, by whim, by mysterious effluences, or because you are attractive to God ? Such is rubbish. There is NO MERIT in the grantee whatever (as in Ephesians 2, Romans 3), and there is a removal of any opportunity to BOAST in being chosen of God.


If you would boast of selection in terms of His desire for you because of your intrinsic character seen in terms of desirability, for your singularity, then freedom would be nil – your inheritance your ground of selection, so that moral responsibility would be nil, and man could logically accuse God of erratic creation, meaningless love and now bold dictation.


It is a PERSON who is CHOSEN in Ephesians 1:4, not a piece of blank paper or a type of ‘hype’ or generalised image. What is chosen is a distinctive entity, and not another. It is not summary, simply because it is selective, and it is most certainly NEVER assigned in the Bible to granting because of some alchemy between the spirit of the man or woman or child, and the captured heart of God, or the drawing of the recipient’s pleasantness to the divine desire. It is not some sort of spiritual attractiveness (Romans 1-2); and since IT IS A SPECIFIC PERSON as distinct from any other, in selection, is there then some quality, in something other than nullity, which draws the divine favour ?


Certainly not, for all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (far below the divine threshold of acceptance as meritorious for adoption – Isaiah 64:6, and we were ‘children of wrath’ in our natural estate – Ephesians 2:1-3), and we are told in Deuteronomy 7:7-8, that the ground of selection was LOVE and faithfulness. This, however, is vigorously denied in the Biblical revelation, both in the breadth of His love (Colossians 1:19ff.), and in the incapacity of man to boast  - “I was a model X, the best!, so you see, that is how I am where I am today, with the Lord!” Choice is selective, but the love toward man is total as seen in Colossians, I Timothy and II Peter 3, John 3 and their allied reminders.





Indeed, GOD loved in view of the oath to Abraham, just as the total sphere of love in John 3:16 is THE WORLD. To this He is committed. LOVE however is not possessive (I Corinthians 13:5). It is not a matter of setting your heart on something that fulfils yourself, attracts your desires, selectively, and grabbing that. In what way then does God view the sinners who are called man, in making selection for grace by love, so that some become His children ?


We do not have to hypothesise, for our present purpose is to show what the scripture says in order that the depth and wonder of grace be realised, in contradistinction to all other things, and its comprehensive meeting of man’s need be appreciated.


God says almost endlessly in various situations, that it is the WILL of man which interferes with His love so that its fulfilment is not co-extensive with the human races. We considered the depth of the divine heart involved in grief at the finally lost,  in our last Chapter, and in Ch. 7 above, considered the impartial profundity of God’s love relative to things in heaven or on earth, while in SMR Appendix B, this is reviewed at some length. Indeed, we find the quoting of the human will by Christ in the most decisive fashion, as in Matthew 23:37, as the agent in the obstruction of blessings that are eternal. In Ch. 8 above, we saw that there is nothing merely instrumental in the love of God, that it is heartfelt and integumental, just as in Ch. 7, we found that there is no qualification or diminution in the love of God in its extent.


Our present interest is this: Granted that His love is so profound and its extent so undiminished, how is there meaning in the liberation of man (unlike the Communist ‘liberation’ case, only to servitude to the will of the new masters) that relates to man as a being, rather than a mere instrument for somebody else ? In short, how is such love able at one and the same time to be effective in its object and yet pure in its unselfish motivation ?


We have then now a number of elements. Speaking to Jerusalem and its children, or current generation as so often (SMR Appendix B), God indicates, in the lips of Christ, that HE was willing to bring them to salvation, but THEY were not willing, so that desolation was their inheritance. Ezekiel 33:11 shows you the divine questioning in view of the divine quest: WHY WILL YOU DIE ? God is on record that He has no pleasure in that!


In I John 2:2 accordingly, we see that the AMPLITUDE of the offering of Christ is co-extensive with the whole world. Like the sacrificed animal in Leviticus 16, it is for all. It is however ON BEHALF of all (like that animal), so that there is none for whom it is not presented, the recipient being impelled by truth and righteousness, to receive it. Yet a person MAY NOT so receive it (Deuteronomy 29:18ff.), and in that case there is no cure for the curse. Cancer untreated by nature has a deadly aspect. A will to reject it – the cure, not the cancer! - has a fatal function.


The love of God is thus exhibited in this amplitude as in the divine protestations as in Isaiah 48:16ff. (Ch. 8 above), II Chronicles 36:15ff. – where His explicit compassion to deliver them is met by their recalcitrance NOT to be delivered so that His justice sweeps the merciless meander away. He is not thwarted because love does not INSIST and COMPEL, as we all know, this being an absurdity so gross that we hear of efforts in this direction, it is both laughable and horrible. Love is not possessive. Yet it is urgent or even insurgent, because with clarity that is willing to suffer, it discerns the need of its object. Some have tried to protect the sovereignty of God as if He were some Eastern Potentate, determined to grab and fulfil lusts, even if these be spiritual in this instance.


However, such is contrary to divine protestations and all such illustrations. Even Paul was not forced to accept that the kicking against the goads was inappropriate, or for that matter, that even if it were, he should cease doing it. One is reminded of the childish case when a little boy was in some way embracing a broom, as if to mount up on it (perhaps like a witch), and being told to come down, WOULD NOT. After a while, he left the broom to tell the person instructing him this, “I am NOT going to get off the broom.” Clearly the fulfilment of one’s will was the point, not whether or not the thing in question was worth attention anyway. To TELL it he LET IT GO!


Love is not thwarted, but it DOES suffer, this being part of its quality and beauty.


Suppose now grace were mandatory, and you HAD to come in an ULTIMATE sense, because someone WANTED you, like the case of the ferocious tribesman who TAKES his woman, who suffers from the dire incompatibility and sheer disgusting grossness of the unloving man (in such a case) as he fulfils his desire, and could as well have a prostitute. What then ? That is not the biblical case, for the amount of vast pathos in the refusal of the objects of God’s love is all but co-extensive with scripture! Hosea 7:1, Jeremiah 51:9, Proverbs 1, Hebrews 6, 10, Mark 19:17, Luke 19:42ff., Matthew 23:37ff., Hosea 12:10, 11:1-4 and so on.





In Hebrews Ch. 6 case, so near is the spirit of the reprobate to God, that it even tastes of heavenly things, gains glimpses of such matters, becomes aware of some of these issues, and yet, for all that, in the very face of this most summary and essential reality of the sacrificial offering of Christ, stamps on it! (to use the thought in Hebrews 10, or spits it out, to follow the current figure). Obviously, such a thing, removing the remedy, induces the judgment which was there in principle, before any remedy was made available. It is love’s remedy, and it is stamped on. It is not to be done twice, as if mere will were the manipulating factor, for to remove remedy is to find judgment, like removing the offer of protective clothing in a radioactive situation. Such a repudiation, as in Judas’ case, is fatal; yet of course the spirit concerned was never Christ’s any more than Judas was, who was expressly called a devil from an early time (John 6:70).


Now our present point, after this short review of some aspects more exhaustively covered before, is this. If grace does not grab the recipient, and if love does not seize its object, as if it were not a person but a piece of blank paper, but LOVES someone, and so does this in a personal way, not some fashion which is so perilously principial that it is mere acquisition, how is it grace in function and fact, as distinct from rapture!


The answer is this. Grace does not FORCE the person, as the constant divine laments illustrate so well. Nor does a person’s will, sunk in a blindness incurable without regeneration (John 3), determine the issue (which in any case would also be contrary to Romans 9:16 and John 1:12). What then is the biblical depiction of this reality ? HOW does grace give, when the gift is a life which is not only granted, but henceforth YOURS! How is such a gift something other than an instrumental use of a person by someone else, albeit the grand and wonderful God of his creation!


SINCE it is not by force, and SINCE it is often rejected, and SINCE God often laments - as may  His servants who speak for Him and describe their own reactions – for the results of such human liberty as is consonant with the NON-USE of divine force, while God nevertheless grants to His own alone, this gift: how can all these things be true simultaneously ? It should be noted that in any case, they are scripturally precise. The difficulty seems to include several elements in the earthly thinker, which is one of the reasons that many remain locked in battle rather than finding the exuberant clarity of the Bible on this point. Some see ONE point, the sovereignty of God (which is absolute, unconditional and complete) and ram it home as if it were comparable with some kinds of human sovereignty, mysterious, private, personal and simply a datum.


That is a vast distortion of biblical depiction. GOD IS LOVE, and there is nothing mysterious about that. GOD DECLARES repeatedly (as seen in Ch. 7 above, and SMR Appendix B), that HIS LOVE is co-extensive with those on heaven and on earth, for their reconciliation to Himself, which includes regeneration as in II Corinthians 5:17ff.. How then are some not reconciled, and yet not abused in their persons, in being merely co-opted, recipients of a life which may not be desired ?


It is not far to seek. SINCE we are chosen in Christ, who are His, BEFORE time began, and since Christ is not alterable, the same today, yesterday, forever, being God as man and God swears He does not change, then what is true of Christ on earth is in PRINCIPLE true of God in predestining election. Hence that divine love, that ‘I WOULD’ of Christ is present, as I Timothy 2 expressly states (cf. Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:42ff., Ezekiel 33:11), and present then because what GOD IS, that is always present. Now since this is NOT a matter of human will, the selection being made neither BY MAN nor in time, and since it is yet made IN CHRIST, who was prepared to love and lose, then past the mere psychology of man, with its transient moods, modes or ways (and where is the BASE!), in the knowledge of God (and not mere knowledge of what would be – for this is expressly excluded in Romans 9:11 as in 3:23ff), there is a divine cognisance.


What does this mean ? It means that He KNOWS who are His. He does not force; He does not merely listen to ramblings, or acknowledge receipt of communication. It is dependent on HIS KNOWLEDGE, and what He knows is the truth.





On what does it depend ? On THOSE WHOM He can FORCE ? Not at all, this is excluded by endless scriptures, direct and in implication. Does it then turn on this, those whom He can receive because of some superiority, some X-factor of greater assimilability to God, because of some more meritorious, more godly aspect in the spirit of the man, so that this becomes a mere divine acknowledgement of greater godliness in some, better character ?


Far from it, by express denial, and this in itself would merely mean that some were CREATED better, so that the divine laments would all be stuff and nonsense, God merely making some to fit, and then, seeing them fit, taking them off, fittingly. It is best not to caricature God or to disagree with His statements in understanding Him!


Being in the image of God necessarily makes you to have a select nature, that is, something not merely instrumental. Hence He does not make you in the image of an object when He predestines! He is not a liar, and knows what He is doing, knowing the end from the beginning. There are no short-cuts. He made the wood.


It is no less important to realise that there are no conditions for a man, as if he would constitute the barrier to God, who would merely have to sit and watch, if you will. God selects without man being created, and without any regard to a man’s works whatsoever; and what he is includes all his works, for his motives and desires are deployed in what he does through what he is. This is the biblical depiction. There IS however a situation which GOD regards, and it is other than a mere blank. It is a PERSON. Since condemnation is based on a person’s PREFERENCE for darkness over light, and since there is no merit in one above another, all having zero merit in the severe light of God’s purity, how then can such preference not be an expression of a latent superiority in man ? whether you think of it as operational in time or discernible by God, before our time ?


It is however not a superior susceptibility which the chosen one has, which led to the divine choice; for a man is not even operational where such things, being inherited, or culturally or even educationally imparted, can work. This is excluded. What then is INCLUDED ? The person. What then do we find here ?  The thing divinely cited being the WILL of the target, man, and the WILL as operational being excluded, then it is clear that the will is included before God, and this not in its own right or action, but in His sensitive NON forcing of it, and UTTER knowledge of it, past all moods and modes. He does not MAKE someone who prefers, in the last essential reality, NOT to have Him, nevertheless to have Him.


This, it is no theory, but the endless parade of the scripture, as He laments.


What He arranges in predestination is what is to be, and what is to be is what He evaluates without such force, or rapture. Yet it IS IRRESISTIBLE, for the one to whom it is granted, gets it. However in fact, that word in John 6 does not say this, but that you ARE WITHOUT IT unless it be granted, not that if it is granted, you will HAVE IT. In any case, there can be no choice by man, since as Christ declared, until you are regenerated you are blind to the actual field, so that of course you could not wittingly choose that to which you are blind (as in I Corinthians 2:14). If the natural man does not receive spiritual things, then of course he has to become something else BEFORE he can receive them, and as a natural man, as unconverted, he does not because HE CANNOT, any more than someone with short-sightedness can without glasses read very fine print!


It is simply a matter of seeing, then, that what God has organised before time, will IRRESISTIBLY be implemented in it. Otherwise the blind would have to see before having operational eyes, which means all go to hell, which is other than the scripture declares. The irresistibility is irrelevant to our quest, since it is a mere result of what was wrought before time. WHAT however was then wrought ? It was a presentation, not in history, and not in enaction, but in foreknowledge (where Romans 8:30 starts its cycle), of life eternal to the person concerned, a presentation seen as non-violent, non-instrumentalist, sincerely accepted, genuine in its action, not contrary to love in its disposition.


HOW could this be known ? There is no limit to the power of God, and just because it is not here obliterating something, this does not mean that it is not operative! In what way however is this not a mere superiority within the breast of the one who so receives this gift, before time, in the foreknowledge of God ?


It is in this way, that if you are chosen in view your distinctive properties, where will is excluded, then these have greater affinity to God, which readily implies a better nature. If however you take what the BIBLE SAYS, that  it is the human preference which excludes, and this in the very face of God’s love for the world, and that those refusing the manner and receipt of its object are excluded BECAUSE OF THIS (John 1-3:19), and so they are damned (3:36):  then you are not in this dilemma. Simply, then it is RELEVANT to human will, because GOD SAYS SO.


What however is the inference from this for our present topic of the nature of grace and the distinctiveness of love from all force and instrumentalism ?







It is this. If you regard will as a mere expression of character, it might be urged that its action similarly and likewise, merely exhibits the superiority of the one who elects to be elected. If however you regard the will as that of one ESSENTIALLY in the image of God, and seen in God as not befuddled, limited or susceptible to inferiority or superiority AT ALL, and THEREFORE, someone regarded in the eye of God outside this whole concourse of the fall, in ultimate reality, then the case has no difficulty. ONLY SIN makes worse, so without this in the equation, there is nothing which CAN be worse, and therefore be BETTER! Hence this consideration evaporates.


Using the criterion the scripture DECLARES is therefore the resolution of the ‘problem’. Grace gives without being mandatory, though in its application in history, where sin breeds folly and blindness, it comes on this our scene, and in terms of the VISIBLE scenario, as irresistible.


Since love statedly, in the Bible, seeks all, but in its own modesty, does not thrust itself on any, however, we know that the fact that a grant is not the same as a forced grant merely reflects the reality of freedom in the image of God in predestination, though it is one divinely superintended and indeed mandated, so that the STATED ground of exclusion, the human will, is not  other than the fact.  


In this way, human responsibility is entire: for if you are not chosen, it is no mere divine caprice or choice of desired implements for special reasons, but rather that entire intractability of desire which puts you where you are to go. ALL the steps on the way are historical expressions, but not determinants, for what determines is the knowledge of God, which is as far above the knowledge of man in its totality and perfection, as the heavens are above the earth.


On the other hand, divine sovereignty is total, for God not only man made in His image because He wanted it that way, but in so doing made the essential option, even if sin removed it from man’s conscious sight, as if he were autonomous. The grace of God is not restricted, as if in some governmental program where there is some shortage of gifts; for it is not contained in some disposing preference, but according to the utmost opportunity which the nature of man admits, this nature itself the creation of God, and moreover in image, like Him! Man as such, indeed, is not DEFINITIVE of the form or nature of God, but constructed in His image, as a creature, so that correlative communication is possible, natural and proper.


He WOULD have all men to be saved, to come to repentance (II Peter 3:9, Colossians 1, I Timothy 2, Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:42, Hosea 7:1, Jeremiah 51:9 and so on). It is a work of GRACE and not the acknowledgement of some kind of spiritual aristocracy. He so loved the WORLD and so it is His very nature, and not some kind of programmatic assignation. Mankind is made of persons, God is personal, and although Arminian and autonomous misconceptions may make human will the determinant or even condition, it is not so.


It is GOD’s knowledge which is statedly the condition (Romans 8:29, 9:16), and where and how He chooses is not based on works at all, and since the works of man are expression of his will, not on the operation of man’s will at all. Man DOES NOT CHOOSE GOD at all. Yet is man’s election wholly concordant with the divine restraint which does not force, and is God’s decision expressive of limitless love and grace, that never moves past the margin that would obliterate the reality of the personal in man.


In short, as shown previously, there is not only no problem in predestination, but there is insoluble problem without it. Moreover, if it were not that man COULD become other than he is, there COULD be no freedom, for you would otherwise always be limited to what you are, and what you are is in the last analysis, the dower of body and spirit which you are given. What liberty is there in expressing what has come to you ? But if you can be OTHER than you are, then there is something outside the mere expression of your being, which is available, and to this you may come.


If however YOU had to choose yourself, then again, it would be a filtered or blind or directed decision, based on a being which, after all, you do not choose, in order that it might be you, including all your sensitivies and sensibilities; and there is no freedom in that. You merely respond as made.


When therefore GOD chooses you, and with restraint KNOWS you, and also BRINGS you to what you were not, beyond the whole ambit of your being, then there is liberty which is co-extensive with responsibility, whilst likewise, in God, there is love which is co-extensive with the field of operation as so summarily declared in Colossians 1.


Love is here GIVEN its meaning, and it is as we find it, though most pure and most effective, and most like itself, not thrusting but zealous. God has what He wants, for it is not His will to dominate frail fealties that are not heartfelt! It is ONLY because of this divine love and grace that freedom is possible for man, and it is in terms which are as much emphasised as any other topic in the Bible, that predestination and human responsibility thus find their only possible resolution. It is normative in Bible study so to find, that what it stresses is what, like the chassis for a car, is necessary, is WHAT IS THERE! Knowledgeability is total, harmony is a colossus, and the joy in beholding it all is boundless.


Yet someone might say, If a man is to be made into something different from what he is, how is this liberty ? How could he possibly know what it would be like, since he is limited to what he is in seeking to know what it would be ? Firstly, this however is merely to ignore the fact that it is scripturally GOD who chooses. We have just seen that in this choice it is not a sovereignty which is foreign to love, but expressive of it, and hence in this milieu, the lack of human imagination is not relevant. It is GOD WHO CHOOSES, but with respect to the nature of man, in whom the meaning of love is intrinsic, but not its operation, because of sin.


We therefore return to this fact, as a mere extension of the impossibility of explanation of the whole duty and nature of man, and of this world and its forces and powers, of liberty such as man expresses, in the restrictions and distortions of it which man has: without God and His love and grace and gifts and action.


This, it too is further verification of the scripture, for in this also, not only does it meet every rational consideration (that is, every aspect of the case with precision and harmony), but it does so in principle in ways not elsewhere available, since:


without God, it cannot be done,

without His love it is not explicative of man, and

without His nature, our nature is a mere confusion of contradictories.


Yet secondly, note how beautifully the nature of His love harmonises with the integrity which does not merely make something ELSE out of a man, but restores him to his own created nature, ex-sin and cum-Christ, so that restoration not innovation is the criterion. WITH the restoration, it is true, there goes an enrichment into an assured eternity and a close-knit correlation with Christ. Yet the result is not beyond man, made by and for God, and at the first realising a relationship of communing and communication; but rather is it that in his restored co-ordination with his Creator, there is renewal to life, the life he lost.


It is thus a passage not to foreign soil, or alien quarters, but to home both to source and situation, a rebuilding and since this is life, a rebirth. Since, moreover, God is God, it is to a glory of wonder in His presence, that man is then moved, one enhanced as dusk to the first full bloom of dawn. Wrought in love, this transmutation has focus on the plight of man as it provides his superb yet apposite deliverance.


In this regard, scriptures such as Colossians 1, considered in depth in the last chapter, with its insistence that it PLEASED the Father to have all fullness dwell in Christ, and through His blood on the cross to reconcile ALL things: these provide attestation of the ground of human responsibility with the utmost clarity.


This, Colossians 1 is the chapter of alls and we move from the firstborn of ALL creation (Christ occupying this on arrival, “FOR all things were created by Him”), a point added in summary, “all things were created through Him and for Him” (1:16). Indeed, in 1:17, further He is “before all things” just as in Him “all things consist”.


As total backdrop and creator of anything of which it may be said, “It is created”, and therefore not Himself created, since otherwise He would have had to create Himself without being there, an absurdity equal to that of any such thought, it is Christ who is the One in whom “all fullness dwells”, prior to and beyond time, itself a creation (Romans 8:39). This is both apt and appropriate for the eternal Creator and word of God, and fittingly, though marvelously, what pleased the Father was set  in a sort of all but geometrical totality also.


What was this ? It was that “having made peace through the blood of the Cross” something else should be wrought BY HIM (Colossians 1:19), a phrase repeated for emphasis in this verse! Before we consider what that is, there is a further element to contemplate.


Let us then pause to recall that in 1:18, we learn that “in all things”, He is to have the pre-eminence, just as in Philippians 1 we learn that equality with God was nothing to be snatched at, since He was in the very form of God, before becoming man. Accordingly to His infinite status, then, so is His total fullness in incarnation, even of the Godhead, affirmed: it is expressed as ALL the FULNESS, as declared in 1:19. But to what is affirmed the correlative of all these ‘all’ embracements ?


What is to be revealed to be comrade to all these ‘alls’ and consummation to this large prologue of totalities  in this passage in Colossians ?  It is that not only did it please the Father that in Him should all the fullness dwell, but that having thus made peace by the blood of the cross, it ALSO PLEASED HIM  “to reconcile ALL things to Himself.” Creator of all, pre-eminent above all, having made peace by His blood on the cross, with all fullness dwelling in Him (cf. Colossians 2:9), He is the agent, the pivot, the door, the table, the platform, the foundation on which this particular desire of the Father rests.


In what then does it so rest, and to what is it directed as it rests in Him ? that THUS and in THIS PERSON He might reconcile ALL things to Himself. It is exactly the same in tenor in I Timothy 2, where the scope is GOD on the one hand and MAN on the other, and His desire is that ALL might be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.





It is then precisely a characteristic of divine grace, from which every other may take its name, that it is in terms of TRUTH that it is operative, not mere largesse; it is in terms of embracive totality of concern for ALL, by the Creator of ALL, so that ALL being committed to the task ALL might be reconciled to God. There is no partiality, no indulgence of mere preference and precisely NO mystery about this facet of the matter. God is emphatic, dramatically, repetitively, eloquently so on this point as in a nutshell it is likewise to be found in John 3:16.


HENCE human freedom is co-extensive with the race in this, that it is THIS preference in the ultimate, administered in terms of Christ and His Cross, that is operative where election is operative, before this world (Ephesians 1:4). There is precisely NOTHING else which excludes, and there is this totality of embracement from God, which is positively affirmed.


GRACE it is which operates with such resurgence beyond mere self-satisfaction, the enjoyment of one’s preference and so on, in the divine counsel; and let us be clear, we KNOW this because God has seen fit to TELL it in these eminently clear fashions! Grace has an aim, it has means, it has kindness, it is not selfish, it wishes to donate, it is restrained by love. It is impassioned in its tenor but never stumbling. It is Ephesians 2 which informs us that this action of God is replete with grace, impelled in grace just as it is moved in love, like twin streams converging in some vast junction. Thus in Ephesians 2, it is not enough that it is warmly asserted in v. 8, that


“by grace you are having-been-saved persons,

through faith,

and that whole thing

is not of yourselves,


it is the gift of God”.


Certainly that is a somewhat grammatically sensitive translation, but not one which even slightly distorts, but rather the more accurately expresses for the English ear, what is being asserted (the gender of the Greek term for  ‘faith’ requires this meaning). Thus grace is a point of entry, BY GRACE, this whole thing is occurring. That then is not enough, for Paul insists, or better is moved by the Spirit of the Lord to write this more briefly in parenthesis ALSO in verse 5, when advising us of an important fact. 


It is this:  


“when we were dead in trespasses, {God} made us alive together with Christ,”

is to be read with the fact that

“by grace you have been saved”. It is in verse 8 that this preliminary notation, flowing over like some flush spring, is given its classic and comprehensive expression.


Unmerited favour, in a love of embracive totality, where Christ is the ground and Christ the implement, this is the depiction of divine grace.




2. CHURCH ONE : Revelation 3:7–



Now we turn to Revelation 3:7, the Church of Philadelphia. What then is to be found when a people turn to the Lord, know the Lord, work with the Lord, walk with Him, follow Him ? Naturally, as the work of the supernatural God imbues their lives, inspires their thoughts, directs their steps, grabs their hearts, fashions their delights, there is a solidity, a nobility: it is not in the bluster of any imagined lustre, for the power and the grace is of God. Rather is it found in the reflected beauty of their harbour. There you see the colours of the Son, filled with grace, and filling the willing with it; and HIS children ARE willing, for in all liberty they love. Love does not skimp. It loves to do what it is doing, being born into it, and borne with it.


In the message to this Church from Rev. 3:7ff., they are reminded of the mini-parable of Isaiah 22, where as in Zechariah, God selects a person as a figure for some aspect of the Messiah. There it was Eliakim, as in charge, a figure of the leader and provider, disposer of resources. HE would open and none would shut, shut and none would open. Immediately after this, in Isaiah 22, you see the figure of one like nail in a secure place, on whom all the sacred vestments are placed.


They represent their function, and their function is the work of the priesthood, and the work of the priesthood is a figure of the work of the Messiah, when He Himself shall BECOME the sacrifice (as in Isaiah 53). Thus,  when in this little parable, the nail is cut down, and all the vestments hanging on it, of course fall with it, we see the death of the Messiah. Yet this death is one which swallows up death itself, in victory and forever (Isaiah 25), so that (Psalm 22 – Joyful Jottings 22), life wins over death through the work of grace ministered for love, imposing an impelling mercy (cf. Isaiah 26:19).


Hence in using this figure from Isaiah 22, the book of Revelation at 3:7-8 shows the Messiah who suffered and knows suffering nevertheless using His dreadful sovereign power to overcome whatever resistances afflict this church, just as He did for Peter. This is seen in Acts 3-4, with boldness of speech, pith of point and power of spirit testifying of Christ, in Acts 5 and 12 in liberating them from prison, and in Acts 5:40-41giving them the love and grace to REJOICE when beaten, since the cause was just and endurance in a good cause has good results, and honours Christ, when it is His.


To this Church, then, with a little strength, as in Revelation 3:7ff., to this body, faithful in keeping to His word, which means savouring and applying the truth, there is granted this absolute provision, that its work will be sustained and its opportunities invented, its tour of duty made fruitful, its testimony honoured. Further, its record being clear, it is found fitting to deliver it from a terrible time of testing which is coming: it is almost as if they having VOLUNTARILY suffered and been confirmed in strength with faithfulness and a loyalty delightful to the Lord, will not be required to suffer a COMPULSORY suffering. That task is not required in such circumstances. You cannot guess how the grace of God will work, but you can be sure that in His kindnesss and compassion He will not bring needless suffering or meaningless or pointless trial to His people (Lamentations 3:33).


The message however to this Church, it is this: HOLD FAST what you have. You possess the truth, so then display the flag. This is your part now: KEEP AT IT. Do not waver as you wave. Do not let complacency compromise your stand, or subtlety beguile your efforts. A Church can be moved by someone coming to new power, wealth, or being most difficult. Yet it must not yield to force or blandishment alike, but hold fast its heritage, its place, its work, its function.


In one sense, this is easy, for it means merely a continuance on a winning game, if you will; but in another it is hard, for it is SO easy -  when you are winning on all sides, when the strategies function like ripe fruit on orange trees, scarcely able to contain their own abundance, to slacken, to become proud, or even arrogant, unfeeling, self-assured, unwatchful, gross in insensitivity and so on. Nevertheless, to each his own test, his own place in the orchestra. Let it be well filled, and kept so.


What, further, is the blessing given to this Church ?


A pillar in the house of the Lord will the one who follows become, and he “will go out no more.” Here is an ineffably beautiful grace, one which would mean prison to the unloving, but to the lover of God, an irenic bliss. What ? no more to have to fight the dragon, the devil, the subtle, the scheming, the slanderers, the proud, the arrogant, the betrayers ? What, no more to venture into battle, loving the lost but reviled by them ? Misrepresented no more, in a peace which is wholesome, holy and functional! What bliss!


“I will write on him My new name” – it continues, the word of the Lord to those who being planted by God, continue to the end as those who are of God. A new name ? Like petros for Peter ? Is it some kindly and personal mode of appellation so that you feel a part of the will and way of Him who so familiarly addresses you, perhaps rather in the way friendly school children call each other by highly individual names in pleasantness or even pleasantry. In this case, however, it iswith no admixture to cloud the love or mist the grace.


Here then is the personal and intimate, not at all automated, the challenging and the continually real situation in which nothing is mere routine or form, nothing is mere duty; for in love the excellence is achieved and from love it is motivated, and for love it is completed (cf. John 13:1). The texture of individuality is preserved, the possibility of flaw (as with David and Bath-Sheba) exists, and the necessity of receiving challenge with sharp attention is a delight, for it is an occasion for strengthening and discerning the pure wonder of the co-operative thrill of working not only FOR but WITH the Lord. It is with FAITH in Him who is known NEVER to leave one (Hebrews 13:5), in one way, as in a doubles match! It is here that the intimacy of faith moves past the universality of challenge, for the Lord KNOWS His sheep and HIS sheep know Him, and they shall never perish.


This does nothing to reduce the challenge or to diminish the thrill of service, and its utter assurance given to this church, does nothing to render merely automatic its progress; for even if you have doors open before you, you must not stumble on the appointed track.


Such is grace in its liberality, liberty in its challenge and love in its assurance, that it covers the cases, stimulates the heart, rests the spirit and brings peace to the soul. It is worthy of man since it is made FOR him by the One who made man in His image, and now presents him with that vast entourage of wonder and delight, that equally vast peril of folly, and that overwhelmingly grand provision of redemption, that in security one may learn, and in peace one may war, even with the Enemy of Souls.



3. CHURCH TWO – Revelation 3:14:



Now readily comprehended is the case of the lukewarm church, its city waters at Laodicea historically likewise warm and evidently capable of producing something like nausea. Thus the comparison with what evokes expulsion from the mouth, as if the very body made protests at such water.  incisively etches the state of this more than indifferent church! We see it as in a picture. Indeed, its own intolerable attitude of indifference, self-assurance (not God-assurance), self-regard, self-congratulation, appears well known; but not to itself!  Here then is the church of Laodicea.


The Lord advises this body of people, in the format of a church, to buy a gold which is not material (as in Proverbs 8:18, where there is in eternal plenitude, a spread of riches in view, even those enduring ones of righteousness),. There is an evident irony here. Buy ? buy riches which endure, spiritual
riches ? How ? It seems then that this is a tweak at their pre-occupation, an exposure of their preoccupations with buying, so that if you want the word, buy righteousness, at least get the right objective! get yourself pardon, cleansing, spiritual acceptance, holiness from God. It is as if to say this: If you replete with riches and self-satisfaction from your commercial exploits, then see if you can lay hold of this!


 Get gold which is that of faith tried and sure, tested and authentic (as in I Peter 1:6-7, cf. the different imagery of similar portent in Isaiah 55:1-4 and 54:6-14),  gain white garments, if purchase is in view, if acquisition, not mere sensory clothes. These clothes are the expression of the washing of sin by the double action of God’s pardon and regeneration (as in Titus 3:5), so that there is not merely a justification, but, what is impossible to sever from it, a sanctification, so that the entire process of life, radically changes. The irony is rendered the more intense by the description of their actual (spiritual) state, for they are deemed blind, miserable, poor and naked, thus being without means to buy anything of value!  How much less the divine prodigy of infinite value, ransom by Christ!


Then, that miracle, for fortunately it is freely obtainable and entirely sure (as in Romans 3:23ff., 5:15, 6:23, Isaiah 55, Genesis 15:1ff., Psalms 16-17), it would come as from days of yore to the present; then their church life would cease to be a dreary farce of form without power or light, and become instead a drastic change displaying a wealth of riches in God, a divine co-operation in the freely founded new life, something worthy of life because it is alive with the life of God.


Get your eyes anointed! comes the cry. In other words, you need to have eyesight, not this blinded pretence. You are blind for all your vaunting, and indeed blind as shown by all your vanity and unseeing preoccupation with products of the Almighty, replacing zeal and zest in Himself, as seeing Him who is invisible (Hebrews 11:27).


Now we come to the part which is relevant, in this context, to our present purpose, the exquisite nature of grace in meeting the needs and interpreting the reality of man with sensitivity.


I LOVE ? I chasten, the Lord declares (Revelation 3:19). If I love, it is not to encourage sluggishness, fraud or falsity (as in Jeremiah 7:9ff.) that He acts; for rather does He purge this. Listen to Jeremiah’s apostrophe from the Lord:


“ ‘Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know,

and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say,

‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’?

‘Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,’ says the Lord.”


What then is the message ? It is in thrust as if the Lord is saying this, or something like it:


I chasten my children, I bring them up, I do not fiddle with a form which is not faith, but operate in lives which being alive, are susceptible to and movable by discipline. Yet it is not a discipline which is mere force or power, but one which, rooted in love, with tenderness in its heart, and the fulfilling of the meaning of the life individually in its eye, brings out what ought to be, in those who if sincere, desire just the very same thing!
Zeal ?


Yes, this is relevant, but FIRST in leading to nothing other than REPENTANCE. It is not MORE works that are required, but SOME faith! It is the connection, transformative and transcendent, that is needed, as of a baby in the womb. A dead residue, post-mature and poisoned, lingering, afraid of life, is not the point; it is BIRTH. I am knocking on your door, open and I enter with fellowship abundant for you, restorative and kind.


Thus, in Revelation 3:20, we see the picture of the Lord at the door of the life, knocking, and offering to those who receive Him, alive, listening and ready for discipline, development or enduement, fellowship in repast.


Those who may open are those who HEAR. The point: INVITE HIM IN! But what of the deaf ?



It seems therefore here just to point out that this is an invitation to those individuals in a shamefully weak church, who are PROFESSING Christians. It would therefore be entirely apt and appropriate if the call is to those who are in FACT what they profess in word, and so CAN hear, and when hearing, may come. If, in some degree of spiritual torpor, to take a case, they need awakening (as in Song of Solomon 5, when the sleeping one is not alert enough to bother to come to the literal door to admit the Prince, his brow wet with the dew of acquired in service, but disdains the use of her feet), then will they do as she did, and failing to heed, have a drastic involvement in pain and sorrow, shame and confusion, in order that they might learn the meaning of diligence, and acquire anew the soft delight of true love that does NOT disdain reality, but seeks it with ardour ?


Or will they sleep on, needing more awakening  yet! Indeed, will they in long decrepitude of spirit, not hear ? Are some of this body “like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them” – Luke 11:44). Yet some may be alive, and so hear and invite and be enlivened (Ephesians 3:16, 5:18).


Thus we are in the realm of the converted, selectively hearing, because they are new creations, but like Jonah, needing a thrust of the grace which begot them, like yachts which are temporarily becalmed, in order that once again they may get under way. The call is tender, the church rebuke is truculent, the opportunity is not automatic, the opening of the door this time, is to restoration of true fellowship with the Lord, from which sin has temporarily wrought some rupture, perhaps because they are in so wayward a church: and in this there is warning to those who insist on staying in frankly rebellious denominations! (cf. Romans 16:17, and Separation).


Our present concern however, topically, is this. There is no force, EVEN to impose deepened fellowship at this time, even when the soul is in some false church, in danger of eternal severance (that is, the church) from the Lord, It is so even when the people in that church are in danger of sleeping in the soporific stupour. There is therefore is a certain responsibility.



Thus there is a grace and liberty which is not present only before conversion, but after it. To be sure, after conversion, the new nature, the new knowledge and the abiding of the Spirit of God (Romans 8:9) does not permit some new adventure in transformation; but neither does it admit some replacement of individuality and opportunity, with a monotone of mere dictation, or an impress of a dictator’s thrust. God is not like that; His grace is not like that: His love is not thus.










But man can show kindness that is not grace. Aboriginal peoples can be given large quantities of money which many of them turn into alcoholic drink, drunkenness, brawling, violence, domestic upset, drugs, reduced powers of concentration, incentive not to bother to labour, and the like. This is not to say that many white people do not do as much; but rather that in such indigenous cases as these, there is a special kind of vulnerability in the welfare area. Often is found not a mixture any one part of which might not ignite,  but one which does so when all components are present.

Thus the combination of

a non-literary culture, in the presence of one which involves effort and individual concentration and divergence from many in order to qualify in various ways,

a welfare system which gives special attention to making the non-effort to change far less difficult to bear,

a measure in many of resentment which some people fan by distortion of the admittedly less than delightful past for them, with

possibly a degree of sensitivity in efforts to meet what many others can meet rather easily in the literary medium and so on:

all these things can make of simple monetary pay-outs  - for some multiply augmented -  a match for a fire. Assuredly other combinations for other peoples and sub-groups exist, it is just that this one is used for illustration. What then of such a case as
this ?


Thus a certain type of welfare procedure can tend to destroy most readily, as the author has seen in detail, often enough. The children at first show some promise, then often are found engaging in drugs abuse, or early sexual relationships or child-bearing, or multiple productions or in brawls with non-husbands, or in combination with other children from other matches with varied pressures and co-ordination problems and so on. Such a procedure, amoral and liberal (at times)  is not effective. It is not here our intention to suggest a way that is better, other than the Gospel as base, or its ready availability, or that other groups may not have their own complex psychological and social furies; for this is a simple political problem, which like so many others without Christ, does not have an answer, just as some mathematics would fail if you did not have room for the number 1. Improvement of course is possible but in view of the restless, amoral, ostensibly neutral but in fact invasive spirit of the Age, here as often elsewhere, welfare needs more emphasis on the “well”. (Cf. SMR pp. 374ff..)


What is our point is this, that what Biblically is called GRACE is not of this kind. Nor on the other side, is it at all like some economically demanding focus or program, with the aim of much output, minimal input from the producer’s perspective, in a little and out a lot, and this in affairs including people. Maximised productivity procedure, with human beings tossed in, like new bits of wood on some blazing fire, with only one object, to make it burn better, this is nothing to do with the grace of God, any more than is the opposite, bits of fuel tossed into burning wood, because the fire is fun, or enjoyed by its components before it is ashes. People are not bits of wood for such antics.


Neither of these extremes is grace, is humanly fitting, effective, just, wise or functional. You may get this and that out of the distortion; but in the end you tend to pay because what is NOT the case is being treated as if it were. Thus the hardening inside England in the Industrial Revolution is reminiscent of the hardening of criminal life, the enormous export to Australia of hardened people, and the necessity of renewing and leavening the socially compressed lump in the motherland, growing tougher and less attractive, like old bread in the sun.


This need was seen by many Christians at various times, such as Shaftesbury, and Wilberforce, the former in industry, the latter in the particular matter of NOT treating slaves as faggots of wood for the fire, which he in singular measure helped to extinguish altogether. The wheel turned, and the nation met one yet more ruthless than she had been, in Hitler’s Germany, just as one as proud in Kaiser’s Germany. In two World Wars she lost much of her illicit gain, from  trafficking in souls. This is not to comment on either war. It is to correlate preliminaries and resultants.


So too the opposite approach in welfare has  seen destructive vacuities induced or solaced, not in indigenous people only by any means, but in an AMORAL SOCIETY, one which is EXPLICITLY such, with divorce in express terms which include NO BLAME (readily leading to hideous injustice, such as the giving of support to a wife who has left her husband for some other man, so that the children with her in that home must be supported to some extent by the husband whose home has been pirated, prior to or during adultery). In such an amoral frame are these and other endeavours to let people who do not physically damage others, have treatment as merely individual in their thought processes, slicing or severing spiritual realities at will. This leads to anomalies, enormities, frustration and gross bureaucratic intrusion into life –and such an intrusion can become paganising and in no small measure, forcible pollution.


How marvellous it would be to be forced to contribute to the upbringing of your own children in the presence of a proud adulteress, or adulterer, who has chosen someone else as partner to violate the integrity which produced ONE set of children from TWO people. Its indifference to spiritual, personal and value realities looms darkly,  as profound as the pit!



From such things as these,  much help is given to  the cult and culture of pleasure-seeking indifference to education, or the rigours of it, or vigour in ANYTHING (of which the comic cartoon ZITS appears a good, sardonic and at times, satirical  example), so that there being some sort of reasonably adequate  provision for the material means of life, nothing one does needs too much thought.


What tendencies can be exalted here! As industriousness is replaced by studious contempt for effort, or righteousness, or integrity, and as attainment is belittled as conformist, so does the social cost increase from the sheer force of indolence and immorality, increasingly inspired by political  amorality, expressed in various social programs, as it spouts out now this way, not that on its downward course in the drains to the sea of discontent and violence.


Biblically, GRACE is not of either of these kinds. It is not the searing seeking which destroys the soul, or allied to the indolent indifference which merely attests its motion towards destruction. It is kindness with concern, provision with realisation, undertaking with understanding, expenditure with specialised and godly purpose, activity with awe, godliness with thoughtfulness, and especially is it EXPLICITNESS about truth as the background and basis for intervention for deliverance. It is not that FUNDS or THINGS are given as if this were the main thing. Instead, they are given in a NAME and a MILIEU,  in a MORAL FRAME and in a PERSPECTIVE which is articulated, active, assured and inspiring, that of the Lord. God intervenes in God’s name.


You see this in II Corinthians 12, where Paul afflicted in the eyes wishes to be healed (as he healed many in the name and power of God). THIS prayer was answered in the negative, but not with negativity. It was explained to the apostle that with his visions and  provisions, the sheer dynamic of the divine in his life in this way, there was need for a “thorn in the flesh” to remind him of the personal need of holiness, of humility.


Not only was there a PRECISE  and unpropagandised understanding given, which did not shield from the truth, but was even given in terms of it, but there was a softening in this, that the Lord ALSO gave a gracious and blessed undertaking to Paul, one which his life proceeded to show in vast measure, that “MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR YOU.”


This was a personal, powerful presence as well as an articulated word, and it WORKED for and in Paul as stated. Further, Paul felt a certain onset of graciously oriented power in his life in this very ‘weakness,’ for it made him focus on God all the more, just as in God came the power, the direction, the guidance, the gumption, the vision and the company which made his work what it was. As the apostle then stated, showing how wonderful had been this WITHOLDING in and through grace on this occasion, “I will rather boast of my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”


This showed that the message at Jeremiah 9:17 was not lost on the apostle. Let us ponder it.


“Thus says the Lord:


‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,

Let not the mighty man glory in his might,

Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;

But let him who glories glory in this,

That he understands and knows Me,

That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness,
judgment, and righteousness in the earth.


For in these I delight,’ says the Lord.”




Paul continued in II Corinthians 12:10,



“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake.


For when I am weak, then am I strong.”


Not only however is this GRACE OF GOD a matter of articulated understanding, or understood provision with the heart of the receiver in view, person to person relationship the criterion, but you find in such places as Psalm 106, 78, Ezekiel 20, a special divine feature. What is that ? It is the way despite the foolish rebelliousness or lack of faith on the part of the people in this and that manner, in varied historical circumstances, that God laboured when He “acted for My name’s sake …”


This refers to a divine action of great weight, a withholding of judgment, a tempering of justice in a passion for mercy, a help which does not compromise the proclivity for purity, but gives more scope for its attainment. On such occasions, God acts with mercy, expanding patience, fine-tuning love, providing scope, not with laxity but with latitude for a time.


It often means that His intention to teach them and all the world through their evil, that God does not accept this moral abasement and spiritual laxity, that He is not interested in mere formalism, is given a broader time scope, but is not cancelled. It is not even deferred so much as adorned with a depth and a liberality which puts the reality concerned past all cavil. In exquisite patience which is vastly removed from indulgence, He repeatedly allows the situation to call forth  the uttermost depths of compassion, yet this with wisdom;  of pity, yet this with determination for a purity which will and must be present in the end.


In Ezekiel 20, we are alerted to the extreme scope of that patient pitifulness, that gracious forbearance which neither surrenders truth nor fails to provide the utmost scope for opportunity. We see it working, and labouring to deliver them in mercy and concern, as in 20:8-9, 20:17, 20:22, so that several times you see this some phrasing, “I acted for my name’s sake” distancing judgment, and extending mercy.  You see a similar thing, for example, in Psalm 106:44-45ff..


“Nevertheless He regarded their affliction,

When He heard their cry;

And for their sake He remembered His covenant,

And relented according to the multitude of His mercies.



“He also made them to be pitied

By all those who carried them away captive.

Save us, O Lord our God,

And gather us from among the Gentiles,

To give thanks to Your holy name,

To triumph in Your praise.


“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel

From everlasting to everlasting!

And let all the people say, “Amen!”

Praise the Lord!”



This presents us with a further gravely important feature of grace. You will notice the words, “when He heard their cry!”

There in pity, in intervention, He gave them opportunities, the prophets attesting these things, the King in His graciousness, acknowledging that what could constitute overflowing grounds of condemnation, He would suffer to be bypassed, not for ever but in new and gracious kindness, while in mercy there came new opportunities. When these flourishes and exultances of grace pass to a point near where it becomes a question of mere deployments of rejected conviction, amid mutiny, then temporary or permanent judgment may follow.


In II Chronicles 36 as in Psalm 78:56-64, you see the movement, in the former case to utter desolation at last, and in the latter, to a vast discipline which may at times have seemed interminable, but yet it was one even in the exile which WAS INTERPRETED explicitly, even being given a 70 year limit announced in advance.


In these instances you further find attested the fact that the provision of grace is WORK. God worked for His name’s sake, or wrought for His name’s sake (AV), and this meant that a just anger, or action was deferred, or perhaps if meeting repentance, realisation and return, deleted in terms of a major labour in the divine heart.


You see this most dramatically in a long historical review in Ezekiel 20. Many a time we find the Lord in anger at gross and even chronic wastage of His provisions, rebellion against His truth, departure from the way of abundant life, befuddling convergences of His word with other alien words, like so many automobile accidents, yet HOLDING BACK in grace.



This action of grace is referred to as something which He did, which He WORKED. In the AV, expressively, we read this sort of pattern of words, repeatedly:


“Then I said,

‘I will pour out My fury on them,

  • and fulfil My anger against , them in the midst of the land of Egypt.  


  • ‘But I acted for My name’s sake…’ 


This example is to be found in Ezekiel 20:8-9, but similar words occur in 20:13-14, 30-32, and a further less precise parallel appears in 20:16-17.



REPEATEDLY God tempered justifiable wrath on a long-term betrayal situation, or an acute and astoundingly insensitive case of evil on the part of Israel, with LABOUR or WORK or TRAVAIL or something being WROUGHT, by ACTION WITHIN HIM, thereby removing the impact Israel otherwise would have received. Why ? It was GRACE, unearned merit attributable to His patience, self-control and determined, enduring kindness which always is looking for the fulfilment of good despite set-backs: and with this, Israel was GIVEN, together with instruction about the case, its reprieve!



There is a limit, for man is slenderly made, but it is not reached in a moment, nor is it divine patience which wears out, but the human availability; for like an old tooth, there is a limit for it! Meanwhile, grace intervenes (cf. Isaiah 57:15), and its hold with the impetus of love, continues for a period with the nation, as so often with His land.


When it is with a person, however, who is His own, where faith has come into it (unlike many another case –cf. Hebrews 4:2ff.!), then of course, there is no end, for the limit on mere excess is now installed, and there is no way that the newly engendered nature will be permitted so to exceed as to surpass restoration, and His promises are sure, His hand is ready, and His Spirit indomitable. Thus we read of the redeemed individual, God has not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation (I Thess. 5:9-10).


Nevertheless, it is all GRACE, in whatever resources and applications, whether in providing the grand scope of divine willingness for man’s salvation, or the vast reaches of divine mercy within it!; and this grandeur of articulate kindness enables man both to find his peace in God, and to know that wherever he goes in this vast turmoil of test and sin, grace and love, with the foundation of the blood of the Cross, it is himself who is RESPONSIBLE, just as GOD IS SOVEREIGN. It is this God who arranges the application of His own principles, mercy and grace so that what HE HAS SAID, is WHAT HE IN FACT DOES, for as the book of the Lord declares,


“He has exalted His word above all His name.”


Let us see this in its context (with added emphasis to demarcate this statement).


“I will praise You with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto You.
I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and for Your truth: for You have magnified your word above all your name.

“In the day when I cried You answered me,
and strengthened me with strength in my soul.

“All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O LORD,
when they hear the words of Your mouth.
Yes, they shall sing in the ways of the LORD: for great is the glory of the LORD.


“Though the LORD be high, yet has He respect unto the lowly:
but the proud He knows afar off.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You wilt revive me:
You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and Your right hand shall save me.

“The LORD will perfect that which concerns me:
Your mercy, O LORD, endures for ever:
forsake not the works of Your own hands.”


(Psalm 138).

There you see His will, word and deeds bound like a trilogy! With it, you see the educated trust of the Psalmist, who by experience, in faith, finds God so reliable that he can speak in principle of His provisions, as well as in terms of repeated episodes, just as a child, if so moved and enabled in mind, could rehears his dealings with his own earthly father, were such a one a loving and gracious man of great wisdom, grace and self-control. Nevertheless, in this case, we have the imperfect and the limited: while with God, we find One whose actions never have difficulty keeping pace with His word, whose word is truth without qualification!




As to  this domain of love and grace, so far from God’s rule invalidating man’s responsibility, that rule is ITS NECESSARY CONDITION, preventing both the disabling limitations of cultural blindness and any error in matters of eternal significance!


Biblical grace thus has a BASIS, a COST to God, an UNDERSTANDING in truth; and in essence, it is not just that someone wants to be kind (which as noted is easily subverted into mere dissipation, when amorally performed), but includes a PERSPECTIVE in the divine, an ASSIGNATION of WHO is giving it and why, and a sense of uplift, of challenge, of stimulus, of opportunity, of an OPEN DOOR by which one may enter and pursue the goodness of things provided, the excellence of His name and the MEANING of life. Nor is it limited to the work of sinful man, but involves the very operation of Christ, the Truth, the Way and the Life, overarching matters with accuracy, informing them with love, realising them with restraint.

¨     This grace is so unlike anything that politics or sociology can provide, so utterly distinct and distinctive, so arresting and informative, so different either from oily handed gifts or mean-minded demands, indeed so dependent for its very operation on DEITY as the agent, 

¨     that it FITS the human heart as nothing else does. 

¨     It may lead to conversion; it may lead to the salvage of the ship of someone’s life which, already launched in Christ, needs major and drastic repair at once; and when it is the life of a child of God, this is, as with Paul, something to be relished, as if one had one’s prow stripped of barnacles. 


Hurtful ? yes. Humiliating ? probably. Understood ? of course. Cleaner, better lines and better movement resulting ?  Naturally. A testimony as if a dentist were removing decay, of the value of health and cleanness of heart ? Not a doubt of it. A valuable operation as if one were in hospital for a short stretch and came out with renewed heart ? Indubitably.


This grace is productive, personal, valuable, informative, instructive,  stimulating, educative, developmental and purifying. This is the grace seen in the EXHORTATION to the good church at Philadelphia (which had to avoid COMING pitfalls with HUMILITY AND ALERTNESS), and the CHALLENGE to the exceedingly bad Church at Laodicea, which was only a step (like spitting out of one’s mouth) away from final death as a corporate body.


As to that, the Lord who made man individual in the first place (though with social proclivities and opportunities), in His great grace made explicit and explained provision for INDIVIDUALS in that Laodicean Church: HE KNOCKS, they MAY open! Each such disciple, responding,  may indeed receive dry-dock treatment, the deep and intimate renewal of their spiritual lives, which might indeed have led them, if the Church were not soon reformed, to seek another one. like that blessed body at Philadelphia, and this not in terms of physical location location, but of its spiritual nature!


This all-encompassing grace is one of the wonders of God, and in terms of Christian reason for faith, it is one more verification. The WAY God treats man is so much better than the way unconverted or secular man treats man, at the personal level, that it attests the reality of the Creator, in the work of maintenance and purification of His product, man, not as a mere product, as if acting from man’s own limited repertoire, but intensively personally, and with due respect to the whole array of man’s faculties and potential, including understanding and wisdom, knowledge and holiness, so that the result if directed towards development, is neither mere duress nor laxity.


Instead, the spiritual focus in Christ is growth into the image of God. It is fulfilment of what man IS, and not of some amorphous, dull non-vision of instrumental man, directively dealing with problems for himself, or for forcible application to his fellows, with necrotic philosophy and dead thought.



This is most excellently illustrated by one Social Worker (senior, as the author was informed ), who indicated that in the departmental dealings with indigenous people in the land in question, one went through a routine of providing this and that, and instructing a little on this and that (not moral of course), and then naturally enough, it might have to be repeated, again,  and  again, and again. The moral of the amoral tale: there is neither beginning nor end to the story.


Immersed in an amoral muddle, you apparently are disposed to provide some elements that enable the continuation of the muddle, of the dog in the puddle, and thus, to pursue the image, without any flea powder (too moral) or any instruction (too directive), any towelling (too intrusive) which might lead to too specialised an understanding. It goes on without limit, life or hope, the servitors and the served to this extent, swirling in meaningless currents on the way to unchartered sea, with its typhoons and its teeth.


Divine grace by total and absolute contrast, is vision directed, truth commanded, peace-productive, individual-tailored, systematically constant, Christ-centred, not in words only, or in power alone, but in personal control from the ONLY doctor who knows the heart, the ONLY personality technician who understands His subject totally and the ONLY One in whom possibility of error does not exist. (Cf. SMR Chs. 1, 7). Man will never be able to compete with God, and when he so forgets himself as to play God minus morals, minus truth, in a sea of relativity, we come near to the ‘appalling horror’ of Matthew 24; for is not man, at least in a symbolic sense, then putting the State idol in the temple of God!