T’was GRACE that nobody wants to know about!
GRACE! In the words of the great Greek scholar Kenneth S. Wuest, no word has uttered itself and all that was in the heart of God more distinctly than in this. ‘Grace’ sums up all that God desires for His frail human creatures, all that He hopes for them, all that He even is by nature. Of course, when we think of nature in relation to the LORD God, we must think in terms of God as the Nature of nature itself. Anything less than such a grasp of the Ground of All Being would be not only inappropriate but would border on the blasphemous. Yet how many Christians, saved by God’s Grace, have failed to grasp the awesomeness of such a sweet sound. Grace!
GRACE! A Christian poet wrote:
‘Grace! ’tis a charming sound,
Harmonious to the ear;
Heav’n with the echo shall resound,
And all the earth shall hear.
Saved by grace alone!
This is all my plea:
Jesus died for all mankind,
And Jesus died for me.’
But the church today has lost the message of God’s Grace. Does this sound absurd?
Listen! Grace and salvation is ever and always linked with Yeshua. His very name with which he was born, Yeshua, literally means ‘salvation of Yahweh.’ It did not take long for this beautiful Hebrew name to be replaced with a corrupt English equivalent of a Greek form (Iesous) of the Hebrew. Jewish Christians have a great number of hurdles to cross when it comes to them accepting a Gentilised churchianity. The very book they consider holy is filled with alien and foreign names like James rather than Ya’akov; Matthew, instead of Mattityahu; John, rather than Yochanan. Even Miriam, the Mother of Yeshua, became Mary, and Our Lord’s brother Judah had his name shortened to a more acceptable, non-Jewish Jude. Why should we wonder with amazement that a Gentilised church should no longer grasp the concept of Grace when it has done its very best to rid itself and its holy book of anything and all things overtly “Jewish”? The miracle is, of course, that God’s precious holy Spirit has insistently, persistently, and consistently brooded upon the lives of disciples, even from the Constantinian period, who have enthusiastically and fervently praised and worshiped God for deep mystical and spiritual insights into His Nature of Grace, and have committed their inspired thoughts to paper. So, the heartbeat of John Newton:
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath bro’t me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
Than when we’ve first begun.
GRACE! A word inextricably linked with Yeshua and his saving mission. The Pauline-influenced two-part Lukan Gospel [Luke-Acts] is emphatic in this linking of Grace and salvation and Yeshua. For, in one place we read, “we believe that we shall be saved through the Grace of the Lord Yeshua” (Acts 15.11). Again, “Of [David’s] seed has God according to promise brought unto Israel a Saviour, Yeshua” (Acts 13.23). God reminds us by the holy Spirit’s very use of the word ‘Saviour’ that we mere mortals do not save ourselves. Luke reminds us that even our turning away from sin and trans-gression is wrought by God in the Messiah. “Unto you first God, having raised up His servant, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities” (Acts 3.26). This ability toward producing repentance is not to be located anywhere in the human heart. This divine gift is itself wrought within the living corpse of man (Ephesians 2.1) as a miraculous, supernatural event purely by God’s very holy Spirit. It is God who grants repentance both toward the Jews (Acts 5.31) and the Gentiles (Acts 11.18). The granting of repentance is an act of divine Grace.
As if to underscore the vitality of a precise biblical understanding of the Gracious nature of Deity, the Spirit inspired “the most representative gathering of Christians described in the whole New Testament” (Leon Morris) to convene as a Council to determine the basis of the foundation of the Christian Faith. Of this Council, a modern scholar writes, “The Council’s verdict was an affirmation that men are saved by grace” (Leon Morris, The Cross in the New Testament, 1965, 122).
Grace thus is the distinguishing factor that grants to Christianity the absolute uniqueness that forever severs it from other religions, including Judaism. For, as Brunner notes, “all other forms of religion – not to mention philosophy – deal with the problem of guilt apart from the intervention of God, and therefore they come to a ‘cheap’ conclusion. In them man is spared the final humiliation of knowing that the Mediator must bear the punishment instead of him…He is not stripped absolutely naked” (Emil Brunner, The Mediator, 1946, 474). Yet we are not saved by Christianity. We must be continually reminded that we are saved by Grace, the Grace of God, the Grace of God alone. And what is such Grace if it is not the revelation of God in Yeshua?
Messiah was sent to this wayward planet in complete accord with his Father’s will to SAVE HUMANITY! That was his mission — to be the Saviour of the world. Yeshua acted in strict accord with the Father’s GRACIOUS, efficacious, SALVIFIC WILL.
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto me” (John 12.32 Gk).
God’s will is at once salvific. God chooses that it can be expressed in no other way than in salvation. For, it is His nature to be only salvific. It is His nature to be only Gracious. It is His nature to be only Self-sacrificial in His expression of Deity.
GRACE! In the death of Yeshua the entire death cycle of karma was broken. In the cross the burden of the past has been borne by Another. At Golgoleth (Golgotha), two thousand long years ago, a reconciliation took effect which will be ultimately cosmic in its scope. In the pains of Grace and bleeding welts our (w)holistic healing took place. For the wounds must be God’s wounds if they are to heal. Did not the poet write,
“The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.”
Edward Shillito, Jesus of the Scars and Other Poems, 1919.
GRACE! The Gracious Nature of God is also at one with the loving Nature of God which is also at one with the righteous (just) Nature of God, which is also at ONE with the salvific Nature of God. ONE Nature. Not a Gracious and loving Nature opposed to a righteous, just Nature, as if two Natures were in conflict. There is no conflict in the Nature of God as there is in man. It is due to the inner conflict, turmoil and hostility of the nature of man that many Christians emphatically deny Grace in their conversion experience. They want salvation at all costs — their way. They want salvation at all costs — on their terms. They want salvation at all costs — based on their decision to follow the Messiah. And on their decision to repent. And on their decision to worship. And on their decision to praise. And on their decision to adore God. It’s a “salvation” which is entirely man-centered, man-oriented. It’s a salvation based not upon Grace, but on “self-craving” and “self-obsession.” Grace has no part of this “conversion.” It is demonic Arminianism. “I’m not a robot!” “I’m not a robot!” “I’m not a robot!” They robotically protest. After a while the repetitious ring of whinging and whining seems to evoke a rich automaton flavour.
The Christian church has by and large lost all knowledge of Grace. In its place they have substituted an Arminian gospel of free-will. Not God’s free will, but man’s. How often have I heard the story of “The Rich Man and the Gold Watch.” I have heard it so many times in the past 40 years, I suppose I am condemned to hear it again many more times before I finally go to glory. Yet this story, designed to illustrate God’s matchless Grace, in effect denies it. The story, stripped of its accumulated gloss, goes like this:
“There was once a Rich Man (God). He had a gold watch (salvation). One day he went for a walk down this road and ahead of him sighted a poor man lying drunk in the gutter. Walking over to the drunk the Rich Man looked down at (on?) him and then said, ‘Drunk, would you like my gold watch?’ ‘Oh yes, Mr Rich Man,’ replied the drunk (probably thinking for how much he could hock it). ‘Well,’ said the Rich Man, ‘its yours. All you gotta do is to reach out and take it and its all yours.’ The drunk reaches out, grasps the watch, and its now his.” Moral: God offers salvation but we must accept it.
Of course, the truth is a little different to this mythical story. Truth is often stranger than fiction. Consider:
“There was once a Rich Man (God). He has a gold watch (salvation). One day he went for a walk on a predetermined path, one that he has trodden many times in the past. Ahead of him, lying drunk in the gutter, is a man known to the Rich Man from eternity. He is not only drunk, he is beyond medical help (spiritually speaking). He is lying in his own vomit and excrement. His hair is matted, and he stinks of metho (metholated spirits). Stooping alongside this man, the Rich Man says, ‘Sir, you have need of my gold watch.’ Reaching down toward the helpless figure, the Rich Man takes hold firmly of one of his hands, opens it and places the gold watch right within his palm. Then he firmly closes the fingers of the man’s hand around the watch ensuring that it is secure. Then the Rich Man lifts the drunk to his feet, washes the filth from him, and then with his arm supportively about the man’s shoulders he walks down the rest of the road of life alongside him, having intimate conversation as they travel along. The care of the Rich Man toward our reformed and transformed drunk creates a proper self esteem within the heart of the derelict, and he no longer has the need to escape from life through alcohol. Casting aside all aspects of the death cycle, the outcast Man (because of the Rich Man’s loving prosperity) has for the first time really begun to live, now working out his life in a deep reverential response to the Rich Man’s kindness toward him.”
Moral: one word — GRACE.
GRACE! The Gospel of God’s Grace (Acts 20.24) reveals the righteousness which God Himself provides for fallen humankind. The devitalising power of mortality, indeed death, which is operating in man makes it absolutely impossible for him to attain to righteousness by his own efforts. Note carefully the positively clear picture given in Scripture: “Through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin death, and thus DEATH PASSED THROUGH INTO ALL MANKIND, ON WHICH ALL SINNED…Sin reigns in death” (Romans 5.12-21 Gk). It is not some “Original Sin” that was passed from Adam to his progeny and then ultimately to us and our children — it was death. Furthermore, because “sin reigns in death,” man is as helpless to cure himself of his sinfulness as he is to cure himself of the death that is working relentlessly in him.
We have written that the wounds must be God’s wounds if they are to heal. Yeshua bore those wounds, not only on the tree but in his perfect life and obedience toward his Father, with whom he was truly One. God’s cure for death, and His remedy for unrighteousness is the life and the righteousness of Yeshua haMashiach [Yeshua the Messiah]. “For if by the offense of the one DEATH REIGNS through the one, MUCH RATHER, those obtaining the super-abundance of Grace and the gift of righteousness shall be REIGNING IN LIFE through the One, Yeshua the Messiah” (Romans 5.16-17; 6.1-23). “A righteousness of God is manifest…through the faith of Yeshua the Messiah, for all, and on all who are believing for there is no distinction, for all sinned and are wanting of the glory of God. Being justified gratuitously by his grace, through the deliverance which is in Messiah Yeshua… toward the display of his righteousness in the present season, for him to be just and a justifier of the one who is of the faith of Yeshua” (See Romans 3.19-28). “Now to the worker, the wage is not reckoned as a favour, but as a debt. Yet to him who is not working, yet is believing on him who is JUSTIFYING THE IRREVERENT, his faith is reckoned for righteousness” (Romans 4.4-5). “Having been now justified in his blood, we shall be saved from indignation, through him. For if, being enemies, we were conciliated to God through the death of his Son, much more, being conciliated, we shall be saved in his life” (Romans 5.9-11).
To those who believe in what Yeshua the Messiah has accomplished on their behalf, the scriptures declare: “Yet you, O GOD, are in Messiah Yeshua, who became to us wisdom from God, besides righteousness and holiness and deliverance, that, according as it is written, He who is boasting let him be boasting in the Lord” (See 1 Corinthians 1.18-31).
GRACE! This Gospel of Grace reveals the righteous basis upon which God ASSURES the ultimate salvation of all human-kind (Romans 5.12-19; 1 Corinthians 15.20-28; Philippians 2.5-11; Colossians 1.20-27; 1 Timothy 2.3-7; 4.9-11).
Because of Messiah’s fully satisfied work on Golgoleth, which was — if it was anything at all — a reflection of his salvific Nature, the righteousness of God assures the salvation of all “in due time.” This term as located in the Authorised Version of 1 Timothy 2.6 is better translated by the great Greek scholar Professor Kenneth Wuest as “in strategic seasons having a unique character of their own.” The sacrificial work of Mashiach has been finished on the cross (John 19.28-30).
The saving work of the risen Son of God, by virtue of his resurrection from the dead, is only just beginning. It will continue until ALL in Grace have been delivered from sin and death. For, “Messiah died for the sake of all, consequently all died… God was in the Messiah, conciliating the world to himself, NOT reckoning their offenses to them” (2 Corinthians 5.14-21). “Who gave himself a ransom for ALL to be testified in [future] strategic seasons” (1 Timothy 2.1-7). “For even as in Adam, all are dying, thus also in Messiah, shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15.20-28). “For even as, through the dis-obedience of the one man, the many were constituted sinners, thus also, through the obedience of the One, the many shall be constituted righteous” (See Romans 5.18-19).
Those who are conscripted by Messiah as the FIRSTFRUITS in this life are saved for eternity. The FIRSTfruits are justified by God’s Grace (Romans 3.24). The FIRSTfruits are reconciled to God the Father (Colossians 1.21). The FIRSTfruits receive the Spirit of God, and are set free from the dominion of sin in their lives (Romans 6.1-23; 8.9-11). The FIRSTfruits will experience the ultimate deliverance of their bodies at Our Lord’s Advent (1 Corinthians 15.50-58). The FIRSTfruits shall share the glory and the labour of their Saviour during the coming aeons [ages] (Ephesians 2.1-10; 3.8-11).
GRACE! But what of those who do not accept Yeshua the Messiah during this current aeon — from the cross until now? If they are DEAD in sins (and they most certainly are) how can they accept him? Recall that salvation is all of God, and none of us.
Salvation is a free gift. Salvation is all of Grace. It is NOT in man’s nature, which is hostile and antagonistic toward God, to choose to follow Yeshua (John 15.16). You cannot get life out of a CADAVER, out of a CORPSE. That’s exactly what we were, before we became BY A MIRACLE OF IMPOSING GRACE, believers (Ephesians 2.1).
The Scriptures clearly reveal that humankind in general will be resurrected to physical life and judged during an aeon referred to as the age of THE GREAT WHITE THRONE (Revelation 20.11-15). Because theologians early rejected the Gospel of God’s Grace, making salvation contingent on man’s supposed free will, this Judgement has been consistently viewed in an entirely negative light, an aeon of utter hopelessness. Yet a little thought will cause us to reflect on the fact that we in the Messianic Assembly are now being judged and this present judgment has beneficial side-effects. It is evident, then, that the God whose character never changes will judge these multiple BILLIONS the same way He judges us — entirely in love and in GRACE (Hebrews 13.8). For these BILLIONS to be judged according to their works (Revelation 20.12) — their works during the Great White Throne period, NOT their works during this present life — it is imperative that they must, like us, be given a time period (“a strategic season having a unique character of its own”) during which their own salvation, like ours, is to be worked out (Philippians 2.12-13; 1 Peter 4.17-18). God, after all, is not a respecter of persons. He treats all people alike as far as salvation is concerned (2 Chronicles 19.7; Romans 2.11).
Those who, for whatever, reason, perish at this time in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20.15) will be made alive again at the conclusion of God’s plan of the aeons. How do we arrive at this conclusion? Because we believe in God’s Grace! God’s justice is ever rooted in His salvific Nature of Gracious Being. Death, both Paul and the Apocalypse tell us, will be “swallowed up” in life. Death will be annulled. The “Death of Death” will one day be a wonderful reality. That’s what the term “salvation” originally meant: TOTAL HEALTH even “the health of Yahweh.”
Was the judgment experienced by Messiah on the torture tree INSUFFICIENT? Didn’t the complete wrath of God fall entirely on him — on God Himself in the Person of His Son? When God directed His judgment toward Yeshua He directed His Judgment ON HIMSELF! He condemned Himself! After all, the plan of God has God playing ALL the PARTS in this Dream-drama. He became YOU. He became ME. He became the WORST OF US. He became SIN itself.
- Adam may have been accountable, but God was entirely responsible.
What we see about us IS, after all, God’s Plan. What, then, would be gained in a second total destruction of the human personality, and that for all eternity?
It is at the very conclusion of the aeons that DEATH as the LAST ENEMY TO BE DESTROYED is ABOLISHED (1 Corinthians 15.25-26). If ONE person remains dead in their sins at this time then the DEATH STATE will remain a constant DEFIANT ENEMY of God. Rather, because the entire world was justified at the cross, all who remain alive in the flesh at that time will recognise that justification (Romans 5.18-19), be reconciled to God (Colossians 1.13-20), finally being made immortal (Romans 8.18-23; 1 Corinthians 15.22; 2 Timothy 1.9-11). The sequence must follow that of the FIRSTfruits. The FIRSTfruits in the Jewish agricultural and festival cycle was indicative of the harvest to come, which would include SECONDfruits, THIRDfruits etc. This ought to be plain enough if words mean anything. But Gentile Christians have become FAR REMOVED from the Jewish sentiments contained in a Jewish holy book. At the culmination of Messiah’s earthly rule ALL will be subjected to God the Father and it is promised that God will be ALL in all, not ALL in some (1 Corinthians 15.27-28).
Finally, there are those who believe and teach that Yeshua the Messiah cannot or will not save all. It is a source of sad-ness that so many who profess to know him and the power of his love should so slander him in this manner. There is no human choice in relation to whom God eternally elects, chooses, and saves (John 1.12-13). On the other hand, if there is a predestination to damnation, there is no salvation by Grace. After all, salvation by Grace is granted precisely to those who, without God’s Grace, would have been lost. God has already saved one who thought of himself as the “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1.15). He therefore does not lack the ability to save. “He died for all.” He therefore does not lack the love.
We all need a new flush of enthusiasm for the Grace of God. What He has promised in His word He most certainly will accomplish.