Grace and Government: August 2018

Table of Contents

1. Grace and Government
2. Grace and Government With Adam
3. Grace in Government
4. Grace in Government
5. Object of Grace; Subject to Government
6. The Moral Government of God
7. Sowing and Reaping
8. A Rod or Love
9. A Thorn in the Flesh
10. In Our Favor
11. Jacob
12. Learning In God's School

Grace and Government

Grace pardons—yes, freely, fully and eternally pardons. But what is sown must be reaped. A man may be sent by his master to sow a field with wheat, and through ignorance, dullness or inattention, he sows some weeds. His master hears of the mistake, and in the exercise of his grace he pardons it — pardons it freely and fully. What then? Will the gracious pardon change the nature of the crop? Assuredly not, and, hence, in due time, when golden ears should cover the field, the servant sees it covered with the weeds he sowed. Does the sight of the weeds make him doubt his master’s grace? By no means. As the master’s grace did not alter the nature of the crop, so neither does the nature of the crop touch, for a moment, the master’s grace, nor interfere, in the smallest degree, with his pardon. The two things are perfectly distinct. Also, the principle would still be true even though the master were, by the application of extraordinary skill, to extract from the weed a medicine infinitely more valuable than the wheat itself. It would still hold good that “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 5:7). This verse is a brief but most comprehensive statement of the great governmental principle — a principle both grave and practical. “Whatsoever a man soweth.” It matters not who he is. As is your sowing, so will be your reaping. Grace pardons, but if you sow weeds in spring, you will not reap wheat at harvesttime.
C. H.Mackintosh (adapted)

Grace and Government With Adam

In Genesis 3 we find man a sinner — a ruined, guilty, naked sinner. But here, too, we find God in grace, to remedy the ruin, to cleanse the guilt, to clothe the nakedness. All this He does in His own way. He silences the serpent and consigns him to eternal ignominy. He establishes His own eternal glory and provides both life and righteousness for the sinner — all through the bruised seed of the woman. Now, this was grace — unqualified grace — free, unconditional, perfect grace — the grace of God. The Lord God gives His Son to be, as “the seed of the woman,” bruised for man’s redemption — to be slain to furnish a robe of divine righteousness for a naked sinner. This, I repeat, was grace of the most unmistakable nature.
But then, be it carefully noted that, in immediate connection with this first grand display of grace, we have the first solemn act of divine government. It was grace that clothed the man. It was government that drove him out of Eden. “Unto Adam also, and to his wife, did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Here we have an act of purest grace. But then we read, “So He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the Garden of Eden, cherubims and a flaming sword, which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” Here we have a solemn act of government. The coat of skin was the sweet pledge of grace. The flaming sword was the solemn ensign of government. Adam was the subject of both. When he looked at the coat, he could think of divine grace; when he looked at the sword, he was reminded of divine government.
How was it that the Lord God drove out the man, if he had previously forgiven him? Grace forgives, but the wheels of government roll on in all their terrible majesty. Adam was perfectly forgiven, but his sin produced its own results. The guilt of his conscience was removed, but not the “sweat of his brow.” He went out pardoned and clothed, but it was into the midst of “thorns and thistles” he went.
It too frequently happens that grace and government are confounded, and as a necessary consequence, grace is robbed of its charms, and government is shorn of its solemn dignities; the full and unqualified forgiveness of sins, which the sinner might enjoy, on the ground of free grace, is rarely apprehended, because the heart is occupied with the stern enactments of government. The two things are as distinct as any two things can be, and this distinctness is as clearly maintained in the third chapter of Genesis as in any other section of God’s inspired Word. Did the “thorns and thistles” with which Adam found himself surrounded, on his expulsion from Eden, interfere with that full forgiveness of which grace had previously assured him? Clearly not. His heart had been gladdened by the bright beams of the lamp of promise and his person clothed in the robe which grace had fashioned for him, before he was sent forth into a cursed and groaning earth, there to toil and struggle, by the just decree of the throne of government. God’s government “drove out the man,” but not until God’s grace had pardoned and clothed him. That sent him forth into a world of gloom, but not until this had placed in his hand the lamp of promise to cheer him through the gloom. He could bear the solemn decree of government in proportion as he experienced the rich provision of grace.
C. H. Mackintosh (adapted)

Grace in Government

It has often been correctly stated that grace and government are separate aspects of God’s dealings with man, and that while they run together, they do not annul one another. Grace does not cancel government, but neither does government revoke grace. However, there is another most important characteristic of God’s ways with us, and that is that God will never allow government to become more prominent than His grace. Rather, grace will always be paramount, for God delights to bless. Another has most aptly commented that “God is light, and we make Him a judge by our sins, but God is also love, and none have made Him so.” When the necessity for judgment and government has long passed away, grace and love will be celebrated for all eternity.
The Golden Calf
There are a number of occasions in both the Old and New Testaments where we see this precious truth exhibited. When the children of Israel sinned seriously in the making of the golden calf, God’s righteous judgment demanded that they be consumed (Ex. 32:9-10). But Moses, no doubt with the mind of the Lord, interceded for the people, and God acted in grace. His grace did not eliminate His government, however, for we read that “there fell of the people that day about three thousand men” (Ex. 32:28). However, God in His grace was able to go on with His people and pardon their sin, although the tabernacle was no longer in the midst of the camp.
Later, we see the same grace toward Moses himself. His sin of smiting the rock instead of speaking to it (Num. 20:7-11) resulted in his not being allowed to lead the people into the land of Canaan. Yet the Lord gave him a signal honor, in that he took him up to the top of the mountain of Nebo (Pisgah), where he was able to view almost all of the land, from north to south. To view as much of the land as is recorded (Deut. 34:1-4), he would have had to see almost 100 miles in every direction. Since Mt. Nebo is only about 2,300 feet above sea level, this was a miracle that the Lord allowed, as to see that distance naturally from this height would normally have been impossible.
We come to Samson, who was twice delivered from women with whom he should not have kept company, but the third time, when he dallied with Delilah, God in His government allowed him to be overcome by the Philistines. But grace intervened at the end, when Samson requested once more to be strengthened by the Lord (Judg. 16:28). God granted his request, and in breaking the supporting pillars of the building in which he was at the time, “the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life” (Judg. 16:39). Not only were thousands of the Philistines slain at this time, but God’s glory was vindicated, for the Philistines had ascribed their victory over Samson to their god Dagon.
We pass on to David, and we are all familiar with his sin with Bathsheba. God’s grace forgave his sin (2 Sam. 12:13), but God’s government demanded that he restore fourfold. In fact, David himself pronounced his own sentence (2 Sam. 12:6), when Nathan the prophet used an illustration to convey to David the gravity of his sin. David did in fact restore fourfold, as four of his sons subsequently died—the first baby born to Bathsheba, Absalom, Amnon, and eventually Adonijah. However, it is evidence of God’s grace that Adonijah did not die until after David had himself passed away; he did not live to see the final result of God’s government.
Finally, when we come to the New Testament, we do indeed find God’s grace abounding. While we find that God’s government continues to operate, it might rather be called the government of the Father, for we are now in a far more intimate relationship with God in this day of His grace. God’s grace was surely active in the Old Testament, but the whole economy before the cross was one of law, where man was under testing. Now God is dealing with this world in grace, and believers enjoy a relationship that was never experienced before.
Saul of Tarsus
In keeping with this relationship, we find the government of the Father exemplified in the beloved Apostle Paul. As Saul of Tarsus, he richly deserved to fall under God’s government as an unbeliever, for he persecuted the church of God. But grace picked him up and made of him possibly the greatest servant the Lord ever had. However, his life even as a Christian was not free of failure.
After ministering to the Gentiles for many years, he greatly desired to go up to Jerusalem, to seek the blessing of his own nation, the Jews. In spite of the fact that the Lord Himself had told him that “they [the Jews] will not receive thy testimony concerning Me” (Acts 22:18) and that the universal testimony of his brethren was that he should not go up to Jerusalem, Paul went ahead. When in Jerusalem, he even went so far as to take part in a Jewish ritual of purifying, along with four Jewish men (Acts 21:17-26). This eventually resulted in a riot by the Jews and Paul’s arrest by the Romans.
Paul’s Imprisonment
We cannot help but admire Paul’s zeal for his own nation, but he did suffer under the government of God for going against God’s expressed direction for him. He spent over two years in prison in Caesarea, then a further two years in prison in Rome, and between these prison terms he had a most hazardous journey from Caesarea to Rome. Yet in all this we see the abounding grace of God.
First of all, the Lord gave Paul two very special communications along the way (Acts 21:11; 27:23-24), assuring him of His love and care and telling him to “be of good cheer” and to “fear not.” Despite his failure, the Lord confirmed to him that He could, and would, continue to use him in blessing to others. More than this, he was given the unique opportunity of speaking privately and publicly before some of the highest Roman leaders, as the Lord had foretold to Ananias (Acts 9:15). Finally, God’s grace triumphed in that during Paul’s time in Rome, he was able to write the so-called “prison epistles” of Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon. (Second Timothy was also written from a Roman prison, but not at the same time as the others.) God overruled so that the church might in all ages have the benefit of Paul’s ministry, for there is no doubt that what he wrote has had a far more widespread effect than what he preached during his lifetime.
All this was indeed the government of the Father, who on the one hand made His servant feel the effect of his failure, yet encouraged him along the way and used it all for blessing in the end. While there is no excuse for our failure, God looks at the motives of our hearts and does not allow Satan to prevail through that failure. God is indeed a God of government, in keeping with His character of light, but His grace tempers His government and triumphs in the end.
W. J. Prost

Grace in Government

There are two distinct principles on which God deals with man as such and on which also He deals with His people—grace and government. The former is the blessed characteristic of God, for He is the “God of all grace.” The gospel is the great setting forth of this principle; God takes up a person and blesses him, without any reference to how he has behaved or what he deserves. That this might be done consistently with the claims of righteousness against the sinner, the cross was necessary. Government is the reverse of this. It is cognizant of the behavior of the person under it and regulates its conduct toward him by his merits. We get this principle in 1 Peter 2:14: “Governors. . . are. . . for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” This word applies to human government, but the principle is the same, whatever the sphere in which government is exercised.
Despair and Carelessness
It is most important for us to remember that God acts toward us as His people on both these principles. If I forget His grace when I have failed, I might get into despair. If I forget His government, I might grow careless, not recalling that “if ye live according to flesh, ye are about to die” (Rom. 8:13 JND), and our reaping depends upon our sowing.
We see an example of God’s acting on these two principles in the history of Abram. In the first place, the call of Abram was sovereign grace, and the same is true of every saint of God. But when God had brought him to Himself, He brought him to where government as well as grace would be exercised toward him, and it is the same thing with ourselves when brought to God.
Abram had not been long in the place of favor before, under the severe pressure of circumstances, he gave up acting on the principle of faith and adopted the world’s principle of sight. He had gone to Canaan in faith, but there he met with a famine. Without consulting God, he did what prudence would suggest and left the land of famine for Egypt, the land of supply.
Now Egypt and Canaan, respectively, represent the two principles of sight and faith. Egypt is a country that draws its resources from itself; it has a river that supplies it, as it were, independently of heaven. Canaan, on the other hand, was watered from above. The physical characteristics of the countries are contrasted in Deuteronomy 11:10-12. Thus when Abram went down from Canaan to Egypt, his action was symbolic of what his heart was really doing. He was going from being a man of faith to become a man of the world.
We must notice that Abram got what he sought, for when he came back from Egypt, we find both him and his companion Lot in flourishing circumstances (Gen. 13:2,5). Another thing to be remarked is that the moment Abram was on the path of sight, he renewed an untruthful compact with his wife Sarai, suggested by the principle of human prudence. “Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister” (Gen. 12:13). This does not save him from trouble, but God delivers him. This is pure grace.
Grace Reinstates – Government Separates
But the grace of God is more conspicuously shown in chapter 13, for God did not bring him merely out of Egypt, but to Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning. And there, at the place of the altar that he had made at first, he called on the name of Jehovah. Grace reinstates the soul in its original brightness. But now we must notice God’s governmental ways with Abram in connection with this turning aside. Although his own soul was restored to God and the principle of sight was judged in his heart, yet the mark of Egypt appeared in his family when it no longer is seen in himself. Abram was a man of faith. He had come up out of Egypt without any love for Egypt, but not so his nephew Lot, whom he had taken into Egypt with him. This we see in the end of Genesis 13.
Lot Separated
There was one strip of the land of Canaan that was like Egypt. It was like the garden of the Lord, well-watered everywhere, not by the rain of heaven, but by a river “like the land of Egypt” (Gen. 13:10). Lot had a taste for a land like Egypt, a land that Abram had taken him to see. It was a place where a man might live without dependence upon heaven. What an attractive place for our hearts naturally! Abram could give it up, but not so Lot. Still one thinks that it must have been a bitter day for Abram when he saw Lot taking the path of sight which he, alas! had once shown him. The principle that on one occasion marked the uncle permanently marked the nephew.
They parted, Lot adopting worldly or Egyptian principles and Abram walking still before God; the one sowing trouble for himself because of God’s government, the other treading the path, though trying to the flesh, yet of which it is written, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace” (Prov. 3:17). May the Lord help us to walk in them!
Hagar Cast Out
But was this the end of Egyptian principles in Abram’s family? Alas, no. The next person in whom they appear is Sarai, and here Abram himself falls under them. There was in Abram’s family a handmaid of Sarai, an Egyptian, and we see that the principle that governs Sarai’s mind now is the same that governed Abram’s mind then. She gave her maid to be her husband’s wife. It was an act that seemed the only way out of a difficulty. There was no thought of God in it. The result was long trouble again under God’s government. It was fifteen years before the result of this act was put out of Abraham’s house, in the casting out of the bondwoman and her son. And then it was with a broken heart to Abraham; it was not until this point that the last trace of Egypt disappears from his house.
All this is not the tale of God’s grace, but it is an illustration of His government. If Abram relieves himself by giving up divine principles, we find two results. In the first place, the blessed power of God restores the soul, and in the second, the government of God gives him to taste the bitterness of those principles on which he has acted, when they appear in other members of his family.
It is one thing to go into the world, and quite another to get the worldliness out of the household when once we have got it in. Still, the discipline of God is not in anger, but it is that of a father, in order that we might be partakers of His holiness. “Shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Heb. 12:9). It needs much grace to sustain the spirit in passing through the governmental consequences of our actions. Yet it is here that grace is occasionally displayed in the brightest way, humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt us in due time (1 Peter 5:6).
C. D. Maynard (adapted)

Object of Grace; Subject to Government

Among the many names under which it has pleased God to make Himself known, none is sweeter to the heart of the Christian than this: “The God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10). To grace we owe everything; it is the parent spring of all blessing. Exclude grace, and you exclude pardon, peace, eternal life and endless glory, for these are the gifts which grace brings from the heavenly treasury. Let grace go, and nothing remains but our deserts; the light of day is gone, and we are shut up to a night that shall never end. It is the grace of God that brings salvation to all men (Titus 2:11). By grace the believer is justified (Rom. 3:24), by grace he is saved (Eph. 2:8), and in grace he stands (Rom. 5:2). The redemption which he has in Christ is according to the riches of God’s grace, for He is rich in grace (Eph. 1:7). Moreover, in the ages to come, He will show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7). Angels, principalities and powers shall then see grace in its garments of glory. Never will grace look more beautiful than when its handiwork is fully seen in the taking of poor sinners from the lowest depths of degradation and displaying them in association with Christ in the glory of God.
Well might Paul exhort Timothy to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:1). Well might he say to the Hebrews, “It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace” (Heb. 13:9). And well might he declare for himself that his only desire was that he might finish his course with joy and pursue the ministry which he had received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the glad tidings of the grace of God (Acts 20:24). Let us exalt grace. Let us crown her with garlands—the rich, free, boundless grace of our God—for she is worthy to be praised.
But while it is true that every believer is set in the changeless grace of God, that he is always there, and never will cease to be in divine favor, yet let it be remembered that grace does not place him beyond the sphere of divine government. In this connection, his actions, the state of his soul, and the way he carries himself hour by hour acquire an importance not easily exaggerated. Grace and government go on together; they proceed on parallel lines, and if the believer is the object of the former, he is no less subject to the latter. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:7-8). This is an abiding principle of God’s government, from the application of which, either on the side of warning or encouragement, grace does not exempt any.
Examples of the Old Testament
The lives of many of the Old Testament saints furnish striking examples of this great principle, by the aid of which we are able to distinguish clearly between grace and government. And this great principle of God’s government does not change with the change of dispensations. “Them that honor Me I will honor, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Sam. 2:30). Let us not think that because we are the subjects of divine grace, therefore we are beyond the range of divine government. Not so, for in 1 Peter 1:17 we read, “If ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.” Do these words not tell us that if sovereign grace has set us in eternal relationship with the Father, giving us the place of children before Him, therefore the Father observes our ways, judges our actions and their motives, and deals with us accordingly? What a man sows, that shall he also reap. If a saint of God sows to the flesh, what shall the harvest be? Shall he reap joy and peace in the Holy Spirit? Even in natural things, men do not gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles (Matt. 7:16).
God Does Govern
In the face, then, of the fact that God does govern among men, let us ask ourselves, To what are we sowing? What are the things in which our hearts and minds live? Are we sowing to the Spirit? Do we heed the Word of God? Is the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven the One with whom we are increasingly occupied? There is untold blessing in being engaged with Him. “He that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Let us seek the things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God; seek them as one that seeks for hidden treasure. Then we shall taste of heavenly springs; we shall sit “under His shadow with great delight,” and His fruit shall be sweet to our taste.
And if there is in our souls the humbling consciousness of having declined from Christ, we must remember that we have to do with the God of all grace. However low we may have sunk, however great and grievous our declension, the thought of God as the God of all grace may encourage us to return to Him with a heart softened by the recollection of grace so unchanging, loathing ourselves that we could have ever turned away from One whose grace is unwearied and inexhaustible.
Christian Truth (adapted)

The Moral Government of God

In the first few verses of 1 Peter 3, the Apostle enjoins upon us the beautiful Christ-like character that should mark the Christian company, but then encourages us to embrace wholeheartedly the Christian life and to refuse evil, by reminding us of the unchanging principles of the moral government of God. The essence of government, whether human or divine, is to protect and bless those who do good and punish those who do evil. With man, corruption and violence may too often mar his government, so that the good may suffer and the wicked escape. With God all is perfect; His government is exercised without respect of persons, rendering to every man, believer or unbeliever, according to his deeds.
The grace of God does not set aside the government of God; we do not escape the government of God by becoming Christians. Though we are the objects of grace, it is still true that we reap what we sow; we cannot use Christianity to cover evil.
A Life of Blessedness
Christianity sets before us a life of blessedness lived in communion with God. This life was lived in perfection by the Lord Jesus, as set forth in “the path of life” traced in Psalm 16. It is a life which has its deep spiritual joy, for the Lord can say of this life, “The lines have fallen unto Me in pleasant places.” If, then, the believer would live this life and “see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it” (1 Peter 3:10-11). In so doing, he will find, in the government of God, that he is blessed, whereas the one that does evil will suffer, for, according to the immutable principles of God’s government, “the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (vs. 12). Moreover, “who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” (vs. 13). Even the world can appreciate the man that quietly pursues his way doing good.
Moral Government
It may, however, be asked, If doing good leads to prosperity and doing evil to punishment, how is it that in this world so often the godly suffer and those who do evil appear to prosper? How is it that in this very epistle that tells us that God’s favor is upon the righteous we have the sufferings of God’s people brought before us in greater detail than in any other scripture? How is it that, immediately following the passage that promises “good days” as the outcome of doing good, we read of the possibility of suffering for doing good?
Such questions are answered if we remember that during this day of grace the government of God is moral, and not generally direct and immediate. It is truly a moral government in the sense that good is rewarded by spiritual blessing rather than by material prosperity, so that, while the Apostle puts before us the possibility of suffering for righteousness’ sake, he can still add, “Happy are ye.”
God’s government is not now generally direct, for the sorrow and punishment that are the consequences of evil are not always immediate and visible. To see the final outcome of God’s government—whether in the blessing of those who work good or in the punishment of the evildoer—we must look beyond the present time and wait for the world to come.
Hidden Government
While the government of God goes on in all its absolute perfection, it is at the moment largely hidden, and as another has said, “It needs faith to accept the fact that God’s moral government prevails above all the confusion.” Let the believer remember that, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, it always remains true that doing good will lead to blessing and sorrow. Both the blessing and the sorrow may be experienced in measure now, but the blessing will be fully known in the world to come.
H. Smith (adapted)

Sowing and Reaping

Whatever may be the almighty power of God’s grace, we need to be reminded that He always maintains His own moral principles. Whatever God’s love and mercy in embracing a soul, He never leaves that soul in its evil, nor deals lightly with ungodliness. However, the blessed truth of the gospel is that God is for us, although against our evil. Thus, in His love, He maintains His authority in our souls, His hatred of sin, and His delight in what is good. He undertakes to produce the reflection of His own holiness in every soul that He delivers from coming judgment. Because God is true, He continues the watchful work of His love in changing our souls into the image of Christ as we pass through the wilderness.
God’s Unchanging Moral Principles
It is important for us to bring our souls continually to this standard. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of grace and our knowledge of it, but the more we value it, the more we will take care not to sacrifice the moral principles of God because of the grace that He has shown us. It is in view of this that we find the following words at the end of the epistle to the Galatians: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:7-10).
If we are not founded in grace, we may find these verses somewhat startling. If taken out of their context, they may seem at first glance to support the thought that our salvation depends on our walk. It is clear from other Scriptures that this thought is utterly false and that the only foundation on which we can stand is Christ. This foundation is not the work of the Spirit in us, but the work of Christ for us. It is entirely outside of ourselves. But there is a work of the Spirit in us—a constant and serious work. Practically it may be interrupted or even eclipsed from time to time, but God never allows His child to escape the government and discipline of His heart and hand, so as to produce a moral conformity to His own will. He would not be treating us as sons if He let us escape it.
A Mixed Crop of Good and Evil
This principle is universally true, whether of the unbeliever or the believer: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” The unbeliever sows to nothing but self and reaps the judgment of God on self, where there is not a single good thing that will stand before God. But what about the believer? That is where the difficulty comes in, for the believer has a mixed crop of good and evil. Satan takes advantage of the unjudged evil of our hearts to lead us into sin. It may not always be gross sin, but the lawless evil of our nature that prefers a little present gratification of self rather than the obedience and glory of Christ. What does God do? Wherever we indulge ourselves, God deals with us in that very thing. We suffer in the thing in which we please ourselves, and the very thing for which we spare ourselves becomes the rod of our correction. Let us be thankful that this is so, for then we have the assurance that we are indeed sons of God.
If it were not so, what would the consequences be? I would have to suffer in hell for it. What is contrary to God must be judged. If God did not carry on His discipline in my soul now, it would have to be judged in hell. “But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor. 11:32). The world will feel God’s judgment in a coming day, but the believer feels His hand of chastening now. No matter what it is—I might think it to be only a little sin—it is impossible that God can have communion with that which is not of Christ. What a mercy that now is the time when God deals with what does not flow from His Spirit! It may have to be manifested later at the judgment seat of Christ, but now is the time when the rod is upon us. If it does not appear, for the moment, that God is taking notice of our ways, He is only waiting to deal with us in a more effective way.
God’s Dealings With Our Practical State
Let us not think our Father hard. Can anything too hard come from such a God—the One who gave His own Son to die that we might be redeemed? We know that we are sons of God forever, and nothing can alter this precious truth. But as to God’s dealing with our souls at this present time, a great deal depends on our practical state and conduct. It is impossible that God can sanction what is contrary to Christ, and we should thank Him for it. It is part of the scheme of His perfect goodness towards us.
Thus we see that grace and government are parallel truths, and one does not take away from the other. Thank God, His grace never changes, whether in saving, keeping or restoring us. But a sense of that grace in our souls will make us abhor the evil that God abhors. The contrast between that grace and what it was in us that called forth that grace will draw us toward God and all His goodness. If we fail in this (and the tendency is in each of us, to a greater or lesser degree), God deals with us in His government.
May our desire be that Christ be formed in us in everything, not only that we should have life everlasting, but that our hearts should be according to His heart. This is what God has before Him, and it should be the object of our souls. Accordingly, “let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
J. N. Darby (adapted)

A Rod or Love

Recently a young mother approached me with the question of how she was to raise her children during the dispensation of grace. The obvious difficulty she faced was how to show grace to her family and at the same time carry out discipline or godly order in the home. This issue has perplexed parents for many years. The answer comes in tracing how God combines His grace with His government. The one does not interfere with the other; they run parallel to each other.
We will refer to an example the Apostle Paul gave in 1 Corinthians 4. The Corinthians had been acting in fleshly ways and needed correction. Rather than humbling themselves, they were puffed up about the matter. “Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you” (vs. 18). It seems they thought they could get away with their carnality without any correction. But Paul reminds them that he would not let this go. He would come to them and “know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power” (vs. 19). He would take them to task about their behavior.
The Kingdom of God
He then continues with the words, “The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” God has given power to carry out the administration of the principles of His kingdom. Paul was assured that when it was necessary to exercise discipline or some kind of governmental rule, he had authority or power to do it. God was behind him and would support the action deemed necessary. Such an action was not to destroy God’s grace but rather to enforce it. If the Corinthians would abuse grace, Paul reminded them that he would not allow them. He would come to them with a rod. The rod would be used in a governmental way to make them realize they could not get away with such practice. The rod that Paul would use was to keep them from falling under an even more severe discipline from the Lord if they continued in their ways (1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Cor. 11:31-32).
The Reason for the Rod
So the Apostle lays the options before them of how they wanted him to come to them: “What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” (vs. 21). This verse brings out the reason for government. There is no question concerning his motive of love and grace. It is evident that Paul wanted to show love and grace, but he would not shirk from dealing harshly with them in a governmental way if they refused to repent. Grace was paramount with him, and the governmental discipline was his “plan B” means to bring them to self-judgment. Otherwise grace could not freely flow to them. In such a case he would have to go to them with a rod.
May the Lord help us to understand the interplay that grace and government have with each other so as to carry them out in our homes and assemblies. Were it not for God’s governmental ways with us, who of us would have come to lay hold of His grace? Does not the real appreciation of His grace make us thankful that He has dealt with us in governmental ways! “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn Thy statutes” (Psa. 119:71). “I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right, and that Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me” (Psa. 119:75). “It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace” (Heb. 13:9).
D. C. Buchanan

A Thorn in the Flesh

In other articles in this issue, we have spoken mainly about the government of God “after the fact,” so to speak—a reaping of what we have sown. That is, we have spoken of how God in His goodness and wisdom exercises government in our lives as believers when we fail. All this is in love, yet also in keeping with His holy nature, because we belong to Him. However, there is an aspect of God’s ways with us which is anticipative—a wisdom that foresees how a set of circumstances will provoke the flesh to act and, in a combination of grace and government, brings in that which will prevent the failure. We see this exemplified in the thorn in the flesh that was given to Paul.
As the vessel chosen of God to be given the special revelation of the truth of the assembly, Paul had a unique place among the apostles. In keeping with this revelation, he was “caught up to the third heaven” where he “heard unspeakable words” (2 Cor. 12:2,4). All this was a most amazing experience, and as far as we are told, an experience that no other was privileged to have. While Paul was enjoying this experience, he was not even conscious of whether he was in the body or not, and the flesh could not be active in such a scene as this. Rather, he speaks of himself as “a man in Christ” (2 Cor. 12:2).
A Prevention
However, when Paul came back to earth, God foresaw the danger that he might well “be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations” (2 Cor. 12:7). The experience in the third heaven, while most uplifting, did not change the flesh in Paul at all, and he was just as prone to being lifted up in pride as he was before. The Lord foresaw this in His faithful servant and, in both His grace and His government, gave him a thorn in the flesh to prevent it. Paul at first was greatly distressed by this thorn, and three times he asked the Lord to remove it (2 Cor. 12:8). We are not told exactly what it was, but evidently it was something physical that he felt was a great hindrance to him. Yet later, as he saw the effect of this thorn in keeping the flesh from acting, he could say, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).
So it is with us today, except that we are often unaware of it in our lives. Often we do not see as clearly as Paul and discern the grace of God in His governmental ways with us. Another has put it very well:
I think we confine our thoughts to the removal of distance between us and the Lord, when the activity of our flesh has brought it in. We do not sufficiently think of how often He prevents a distance between Himself and us. It would throw light on many circumstances in our history—many a sorrow, many a trouble, many an untoward circumstance that we had wished otherwise—if our hearts were in the divine consciousness that there was One who knows that there is in us fleshly material to be worked upon, so that distance would come in, and who knows exactly when to interpose. What light would shine upon us in many a dark day! Oh! what a blessed sort of love that is which not only can stoop to remove the defilement when it is there, but anticipates the working of that evil nature in me and puts a hindrance in the way of it! It gives me the blessedness of learning what the flesh is, in communion with God, instead of learning it in company with the devil, and you must learn it in one of these two ways. If you do not learn what sort of a creature you are in communion with God, as Paul did, then you will have to learn it in company with the devil as Peter did! How very solemn! There was, then, on the Apostle’s part, the learning of himself in communion with God, and there was the anticipative love of the blessed Lord.
We need not say any more, except to wish that our hearts were more in tune with the Lord’s heart, so that we might learn the flesh in us in communion with Him, instead of by having Satan get an advantage of us. The bitter experience of a thorn in the flesh is much to be preferred to the bitter experience of seeing the activity of the flesh, for then the power of Christ rests upon us, and in our human weakness we have His strength.
W. J. Prost

In Our Favor

Grace introduces us to the life of godliness, devotion and true piety, and it teaches us that such a life of piety is the secret of a path wherein we are truly guided of God and where we come under His holy government, acting in our favor and not in correction against us.
F. B. Hole


Although Jacob had to suffer in the government of God for his sins, the blessing of God in grace had triumphed over all that he was naturally, and it was this that filled his heart as he spoke to Joseph at the end of his life.
Deep down in the heart of Jacob there had ever been the desire for God’s blessing. He prized it very highly, but took his own way to secure it. Esau who had despised his birthright was denied the blessing; but Jacob received it, not only from his father, but at Luz, from the God of all grace who, knowing the true desire of Jacob’s heart, would grant him his desire, though dealing in faithfulness and righteousness with His wrongdoing.

Learning In God's School

Why this pain, and sorrow, sadness—
Are we reaping what we’ve sown?
There is healing, light and gladness
When our failures we can own;
God in grace so loves to bless us,
Working for our good each thing—
Turning selfish acts to channels
Flowing blessings, hearts that sing.
It’s not always God’s displeasure—
Sometimes, just a training ground;
Lessons learned through thorns and trials
With His love and grace abound;
Sinners, prodigals and pilgrims
Learn through government with grace—
What a heart God has … who teaches
When we look into His face.