Practical Grace

Hebrews 12:18‑29  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
In Heb. 12, two mountains are spoken of—one that speaks of law, and one that speaks of grace. And it is an important question for our souls, to which one of these mounts we are brought; for, in connection with one, we have to do with God as making demands upon us; while in connection with the other, we have to do with God as acting in grace.
"Ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (for they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) but ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel."
God had spoken the law to Israel at Mount Sinai, and their responsibility was according to the just requirements of that law. In this they failed, and utterly broke down; and in the days of Eli, the ark—the only remaining link between Jehovah and His people—was taken by the Philistines. At the end of this career of failure, God came in in grace, and chose David the king, who, with his son Solomon, founded the temple on Mount Sion. This was the expression of God's grace to a failing people, when all was over on the ground of responsibility under the law.
And this is the grace according to which God had visited the Hebrew saints who accepted the Messiah. It is the same grace that has taken us up, and that goes on with us day by day. And on this principle only can we get on with God. God acts toward us in grace. This is an immense truth for our souls to grasp; for only as we lay hold of this can we realize the character of our relationships with God and with one another as Christians, and the principles that are to govern us in our ways with one another. Our sins have been purged through the blood of Christ. This is pure grace.
But is not holiness required? Without holiness no man can see the Lord, we are told in verse 14. Is this grace also? The need of holiness surely is not grace; but if God's character. and nature are such that none can be in His presence without holiness, He furnishes it to us in grace, blessed be His name! We have it not of, or in, ourselves; but He makes us "partakers of His holiness," even if He has to chasten us in order to break our wills, and bring us into that exercise of soul in which we can receive all from Him. All blessing flows down from Him in perfect grace, and our place before Him is that of subject receivers.
But now if God acts toward us on the principle of grace, we are to be imitators of Him, as dear children. Grace is the principle on which we are to act toward one another. Do we sufficiently realize this in our souls, so as practically to act according to divine principles? We find in the beginning of Heb. 12, that we are in the race course, and weights are to be laid aside, and sin which entangles the feet; and then God comes in and helps us by chastening, making us partakers of His holiness. Now we are not alone in this path. There is a company—the whole company of God's people—moving on together toward Him who has finished the course of faith, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, but who will soon rise up to receive His own. With this company we have to do. It is not a mere selfish running where only one receives the prize. We all journey on together, and, as in a flock of sheep, there are the weak and the lame, not to be left behind, but to be helped on. There are "hands that hang down," and there are "feeble knees." How are we to act toward such? The passage is plain: "Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather b' healed." This is not the terrible mount that burned with fire; it is the pure grace of God.
On the one hand, grace leads us to minister help to the weak and the faint. On the other hand, it will lead us to be watchful, taking heed to our own ways, lest the lame be turned out of the way. There are lame ones in the flock, and they do not get on well; but the whip would be no remedy for such. We must not act toward them on the principle of Pharaoh's taskmasters with the bond slave children of Israel. This is not God's way. He acts toward us in grace, and helps us in our infirmities; or if He chastens, when needs be, it is "that we might be partakers of His holiness." What should we think of a shepherd taking a whip to a poor, weak, lame sheep? Yet how often is this done among the flock of Christ! The whip instead of grace! Mount Sinai, instead of Mount Sion! God's word is, "but let it rather be healed." It is not that holiness can be dispensed with, and therefore it is written: "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Only let us remember, the whip and the burning mount will neither heal nor produce holiness. Grace only can do either; and so it is added, "looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God." If I lose in my soul the sense of that grace in which God is ever acting toward me, I shall fail in manifesting grace toward my brethren. And who can tell the loss and damage to the saints? Some root of bitterness springs up, and trouble arises, and many are thereby defiled. What sorrow is sometimes caused in the assembly of God, just because some one—a leader, it may be—has failed of the grace of God, and acted in the spirit of the law, rather than the Spirit of Christ! or some one, through greed of gain, has driven a hard bargain, or defrauded his brother! or some word has been unadvisedly spoken, and an evil seed has been sown in some heart, which springs up as a root of bitterness, producing trouble, which passes from tongue to tongue, thereby defiling many; Surely such conduct is most sad, utterly contrary to the Spirit of Christ; and if not unsparingly judged by those who so act, will bring down the hand of the Lord in discipline.
Oh to realize in our innermost soul that we are saved by grace, and stand in grace, and that it is grace every step of the way to the end! and to realize that we are called to live, and act toward one another, in the power of the same grace in which God has acted, and ever acts, toward us.
A. H. R.