Letters on Profession and the Work of Grace

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 12
My Dear Brother, In Eph. 2, I read, " God who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, 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: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness towards us through Christ Jesus. 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."
Now this Scripture is noticeable, because it puts before us complete salvation entirely as God's work, without the necessity or possibility of anything on our part, and also as a fully accomplished thing for us now. In general in the other epistles we have the salvation of our souls known to us as a present thing by faith, and we wait for the deliverance to be extended to our bodies. Here, however, in Ephesians, we are viewed as already "seated in heavenly places in Christ"-seen as in the full present possession of all that is ours in Him; and it is here, where the whole extent of the work is in view, that salvation is in the most explicit way entirely referred to grace. There is no question of our doing anything in the matter, because we are "dead in trespasses and sins," and it is all His work from that point.
Now, this is a direct illustration of the work of grace as applied to sinners, and it is of course founded upon what we may call the work of grace for them; that is, the death of the Lord Jesus on the cross. No man asked Him to do that work, and it was entirely His own grace which (as Rom. 5 teaches) found in man's sin the occasion for the display of His love. He is sovereign in the acting of His grace towards sinners-" The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit " (John 3:88The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)); and as 1 Peter 1:3-93Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3‑9) teaches, it is both He who is the beginner of the work in us, and the One who maintains us unto the end. " Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time," &c. See also Col. 1:12-1412Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: (Colossians 1:12‑14) and John 10:27-3027My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. 30I and my Father are one. (John 10:27‑30): "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."
Now, all this illustrates what I called the work of grace. There is a divine work wrought for, and a divine work wrought in, man; and it is all outside of merit or work on his part, though of course accompanied by exercises in him, and is therefore entirely of grace. Responsibility to answer in life to it, and to show that it is true, follows the profession of His name who has done this work (as in Rom. 10:10-1310For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:10‑13) and 2 Tim. 2:1919Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. (2 Timothy 2:19), &c); and Christians may be, and are, spoken to in the Scriptures (as I showed in my last) on the ground of what they are responsible to exhibit, leaving out for the moment the question of whether salvation is true of them or not; while, on the other hand, they may be and are spoken to (as these Scriptures herein quoted show) on the ground of participating in that divinely-accomplished work,.
Now, it is quite plain that a person may profess faith in Christ, and yet utterly fail to maintain that character of life and walk which become indispensable to one who stands on that ground; while it is equally plain, that wherever there is true faith in Him, i.e. wherever He is owned in the heart (as in Rom. 10:1010For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:10)), the soul is eternally safe, or, as the Scripture expresses it, "has everlasting life, shall not come into judgment, but is passed from death unto life," and is one of " the sheep" who " shall never perish." (John 5:24; 10:27-3024Verily, 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. (John 5:24)
27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. 30I and my Father are one. (John 10:27‑30)
) To say that one could be right in heart with God, and then fall away from this so as to be lost, is thus to say that a man may have eternal life and lose it; that is, that after all it may prove to be not eternal life. And it is to say also that it is possible for sonic power to catch His sheep out of His hand in spite of His affirming the contrary.
In some Scriptures, as the epistle to the Romans, the responsibility of man as man (God's creature) to live a good and proper life, and even to seek God, is brought up for the purpose of convicting all men that they " have sinned and come short of the glory of God;" and salvation is presented as satisfying the need in hint which this truth when believed is sure to produce. The contrast between the former life of those who are justified and brought "unto Christ," and their life subsequent to this, or to the profession of this, necessarily comes out in this line of truth. Again in other portions, as Philippians and Hebrews, we have the responsibility of Christians as Christians brought out, and this is always measured by the place they are in, either professedly or really.
All these truths have their places divinely given, and are useful and precious parts of divine truth, while that which grace, or God in grace, works remains true, and is the heavenward side, and not the earthward side, of the same truth.
We are told to "hold fast the form of sound words," and there are of course truths which we may convey to one another in expressions, which are not perhaps precisely copied from Scripture, without departing from this injunction. Were we to object to every expression which is not to be found in the Bible, we should have to object to much that is good and true, and used to convey precious truth. For instance, we do not find in Scripture the word "person" applied to the Father, or to the Son, or to the Holy Ghost, and yet what better word have we for conveying the truth of their blessed individuality? "Trinity" is also not a word in Scripture, but does it not convey the truth?
We must not forget who said, "The letter killeth," and we must therefore be careful to hold the truth, and not mistake for this mere acquaintance with correct phrases. Mere effort of human mind can take these up, but the living truth must be received in the simplicity of children by faith; and it sets free no less from error than from the bondage to forms which our minds always seek to bring us into.
F. J. R,