Total Divine Grace
BY WILLIAM H. HEINRICH
AS A YOUNG MAN, I was told
more than once, "Bill, you're too gracey." You see, I came out of a background that believed in the humanistic approach to salvation, that we have to do something on our part to get to heaven. I had trouble reconciling that with those passages in the Bible that say that we are saved by grace. And when I asked the preachers of my background about it, that was the answer I typically got.
Then one day, God led me to Romans 11:6. Speaking of a remnant saved by the election of grace, it says, "And if by grace, then it is no more of works. Otherwise, grace is no more grace." I read it over and over, and as I finally understood what grace really was, tears of gratitude came to my eyes.
Indeed, there is no subject more important than the grace of God. Unless we understand it, we can never fully appreciate the love and mercy of God. And so, I would like to discuss this supremely important truth with you, using Ephesians 2:4-10 as our text.
"But God"the Great ContrastEphesians 2 begins by pointing out in the first three verses that man is enslaved by the world, Satan and the flesh. It is a horrible bondage from which man cannot on his own break loose, a bondage that is taking him to eternal damnation. We then read in verse 4:But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us.I'm really struck with those first two words: "But God." We are by nature children of wrath. But God graciously reached down, even when we were dead in sins, and did what was necessary to make us alive. None of us would be saved if it wasn't for "But God".
Wrath brings eternal death. Grace brings eternal life. Wrath comes because of man's sins. Grace comes because of God's goodness. Wrath is a payment for our works. Grace is free. Surely in this context, grace stands in stark contrast to wrath. And "But God" is the difference in the middle.
What a precious, wonderful truth. If you don't see it that way, then you'll have trouble in eternity singing, "Grace, grace, amazing grace." You'll always want to get in there somehow, saying: "But I accepted Him; I invited Him to come into my heart." That's not grace; that's grace plus works.
Rich in mercy. Verse 4 goes on to say that God is rich in mercy. When He looks down at us sinners, He doesn't say, "What you're doing is awful; I can't stand you for that." Instead, He pities us and pardons us.
Sometimes we don't even do that with our kids, do we? Our own flesh and blood. But God does with us. He does with the most wretched individual you can think ofif that individual is one of His elect. He does. Yes, He does.
That pity stimulates His rich mercy and is followed by salvation. Not by works of righteousness that we have done nor by any righteous decision that we have made, but by His mercy He saves us.
Indescribable love. It says further that He loved us with His great love.
I can never fully explain the love of God. I might say it involves intense concern for us, deep personal interest in us and a warm attachment to us. But let's be honestI'm just stammering. God's love passes our knowledge.
How could I, a finite person, possibly describe a great love that comes from the infinite God? A God that would give His Son to break the shackles of my sin? A God that would love me while I was His enemy? A God that chased after me while I was running away from Him? You want me to explain that kind of love? I can't.
Impartation of lifeLet's go on to verses 5 and 6:Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.To quicken means to make alive. The impartation of life. The picture here is: Together with Adam, we died; and together with Christ we live. See again the stark contrast between being children of wrath and children of grace? Even when we were dead in sins, God imparted life to us.
The contrast Paul uses all through here is between dead and alive people. "Ye who were dead in trespasses and sins hath he made alive." Now I ask you, could a person who is dead physically come to life by his own free will? Of course not. To make sure we get the point, God inserts parenthetically in the midst of this passage: "by grace ye are saved." If God had not saved us by grace, we will simply remain dead in trespasses and sins.
This imparted life from God is ours right now. Jesus says in John 5:24: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." Right now, in this life, we who know Jesus Christ have passed from death to life.
But that is only partial. Right now, it's the spiritual life. The immaterial is alive but the material is dying. Romans 8:11 assures us, however: "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."
This material body will He make alive also. And that will take place when Christ returns at the last day.
Imputation of salvationThe impartation of life comes solely by grace, so is the imputation of salvation. This imputation can be looked at in a number of ways. First, our identification. God has quickened us together with Christ. Co-quickened, co-made alive, co-raised, and co-seated. Do you see it all there? It's all because we're in Christ. He has raised us up together. We are identified with Christ.
Our imputation of salvation is seen also in fellowship. Notice it says that God has seated us with Christ. Wonder why everybody's going to be sitting around? Among other things, I think there's an aspect of fellowship. After Lazarus was raised from the dead, they went in the house and had fellowship. Likewise, once we have become saved, we sit and fellowship together with God. Where has God made us sit together with Christ? In heavenly places, in the heavenlies. We no longer belong to this world. We are in the heavenly Kingdom of Christ.
Exhibition of GraceNotice that all this is in past tense. These acts of grace have all been done for us already. In verse 7, God tells us what grace will accomplish in eternity:That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.In human culture, we have many ways of exhibiting things, talents, abilities and so on. Well, in the ages to come, God will exhibit the exceeding riches of His grace. Did you know that? One of the great aspects of eternity will be the exhibit of God's grace.
It means that throughout eternity, we will be awestricken at the grace of God. We will never cease to be tired of it, we will never cease to be amazed by it. And if that's true in the ages to come, then how does the grace of God grip you now? Do you take it for granted? Or does it grip every part of your being?
Holy angels. There's another aspect to this exhibition of God's grace in his kindness toward us. After the angels had fallen, God never rendered any grace to them. There was no possibility of their ever returning to a position of acceptance by God. So, the holy angels will spend all eternity marveling at the grace that God has extended to us.
We read about this in verse 10 of chapter 3: "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God." And in verse 21: "Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end."
In other words, throughout eternity will the church be bringing glory to God. And He shall be glorified the most for the grace He has extended to the body of believers.
Expression of new birthIn verses 8 and 9, God comes back and talks about the accomplishments of grace in the present:For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.Here, God goes out of the way to make sure we keep grace pure. He's putting up a huge warning sign saying: Beware of the Big Stumbling Block. We by nature want to hang onto something, so we hang onto our faith. We claim that it is our faith that has gained us salvation. But God says: "No, no, no! Even the faith you have is a gift of God."
So many times I heard people quote John 1:12: "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:" And they say, "The ball is in your court. God has done all He can. To become saved, you have to make a free-will decision to receive Him."
Half a sentence. The problem is, they don't read verse 13, which is the second half of the sentence. It says it so clearly: "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." There's that same "But God", "But of God." When someone quotes you verse 12, therefore, tell him to be sure to read verse 13 also.
What verse 13 emphasizes is that new birth comes from God. If you have become born again, it's not by your will nor the will of man. It can't happen. Man was dead in his trespasses and sins. Dead men don't have a will. It's only after God has made them alive that they can have a will.
If you are able to receive God, it's because He has given you the gift of faith. Salvation is by grace through faith and that saving faith is a gift from God.
Sinful pride. It says further that it's not of works, lest any man should boast. Abraham believed God and that was counted for righteousness. If anybody had an opportunity to boast for good works, it was Abraham. But boasting was excluded. God doesn't save anybody by paying him for good works. God never owes anyone anything.
You see, works and faith are incompatible. Why? Because works brings pride and pride brings boast
ing. Pride objects to doctrines like unconditional election. They say, "Oh, yes, I believe in election. But God chose me because He foresaw that I would choose to believe in Him." Be careful with that. When you take away "But God" as being the difference, you're denying the credit that is due only to God.
The difference between what I was and what I am is God, not me. That's right. Pure grace excludes worksanything I do or willas a means of obtaining salvation.
God's workmanship. But grace does include works as an expression of salvation. Hence, we read in verse 10:For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.That's the "But God" again. Whatever good works we do as a believer, whatever fruit we bring forth in our new life, it's not our workmanship. It isn't something that we do on our own. We are God's workmanship. Remember what Jesus says in John 15? "Without me you can do nothing." We can do good works only because we have been created in Christ Jesus.
Not only can we now do good works, being in Christ we must do good works. As we live our new life, we long to please God because He has before ordained that we do so. This is how we glorify God with our life. This is how we demonstrate to the world and to the holy angels in the heavenlies the wonders of the pure grace of God.
May we never boast that we have somehow contributed something to our salvation. Instead, may we forever thank and praise God for His mercy, His love and His amazing grace. o
Rev. William H. Heinrich is pastor of First Baptist Church, 2351 North Street, Ceres, CA 95307.
Back To Top
Back To Previous Page