The Grace of God – Sola Gratia

The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink. – The Grace of God

Grace is a perfection of the Divine character which is exercised only toward the elect. Grace is the sole source from which flows the goodwill, love and salvation of God unto His chosen people.
Abraham Booth in his book The Reign of Grace he said “It is the eternal and absolute free favor of God, manifested in the vouchsafement (to grant of, give as a favor) of spiritual and eternal blessings to the guilty and the unworthy.”
Divine grace is the sovereign and saving favor of God exercised in the bestowment of blessings upon those who have no merit in them and for which no compensation is demanded from them. It is the favor of God shown to those who not only have no positive deserts of their own, but who are thoroughly ill-deserving and hell-deserving (total depravity). Grace can neither be bought, earned nor won by any creature. If it could be, it would cease to be grace. Grace is eternal, grace is free, grace is Sovereign.

There are three principle characteristics of Divine grace.

  1. Grace is eternal. – It was planned before it was exercised.2 Timothy 1:8-9
    Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.

    – The goal of God’s election and calling is the sanctification of His people as we see in Ephesians 1:4-6.Ephesians 1:4-6

    Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
    This is a marvelous affirmation that salvation is by grace, not by human merit. I’ll get into detail on this when we look at my primary text in Ephesians 2:1-10.
  2. Grace is free – No one can purchase it – “Being justified freely by His grace” (Romans 3:24 KJV).
  3. Grace is Sovereign – God exercises it and gives it to whom He pleases.
    Romans 5:20-21
    And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
    If grace does indeed reign, it is on the throne and the occupant of said throne is Sovereign

Hebrews 4:16
Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.
In page 86 from The Attributes of God, A.W. Pink sums up grace as unmerited favor of God. Pink says “Just because grace is unmerited favor, it must be exercised in a sovereign manner. Therefore does the Lord declare ‘I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious (Exodus 33:19)’. Were God to show grace to all of Adam’s descendants, men would at once conclude that he was righteously compelled to take them to heaven as a meet compensation for allowing the human race to fall into sin. But the great God is under no obligation to any of His creatures, least of all to those who are rebels against Him.”

 

  1. Eternal life is a gift – therefore it can neither be earned by good works, nor claimed as a right. Seeing that salvation is a gift, no one has the right to tell God who he ought to give it to.
    After this A.W. Pink asked a few questions that seemed rather startling to me when I first read them. When I taught the lesson I almost didn’t ask these two questions:
    Is God obligated to force His gift on those who do not value it?
    Is God compelled to save those who are determined to go their own way?
    I think the return answer is “no” simply because God is Sovereign. The answer can be found in Exodus 33:19 KJV, again as it says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious”Therefore, grace cannot be earned or won by any efforts of man is too self-emptying for self-righteousness. Grace singles out whom it places to be for the elect only, raising protest from people who want to rebel against God. The distinguishing grace of God is seen in saving the elect that He Sovereignly chose to be his favorites. By “distinguishing” it means grace discriminates, makes differences chooses some while passing others. It was distinguishing grace that chose Abraham from the midst of idolatrous neighbors and made him a “friend of God”.

In Matthew 15:10-14 the disciples gave quite the opinion to Jesus about the Pharisees. But Jesus did not hesitate and said that no one “has authority that is not planted by God”, and think they can lead others but are blind themselves. The Scripture reads as follows:

Matthew 15:10-14 ESV

And he called the people to him and said to them “Hear and understand; it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a this defiles a person.” Then the disciples came and said to him “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my Heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone, they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
Nowhere does the glory of God’s free and sovereign grace more conspicuously than in the unworthiness and unlikeliness of its objects.
Beautifully said by James Harvey (1751) he said: “Where sin has abounded, says the proclamation from the court of heaven, grace doth much more abound”.

Now the grace of God is manifested in and by and through the Lord Jesus Christ
John 1:17

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.

Grace and truth were fully revealed and perfectly exemplified when Jesus came to this earth and died for His elect upon the cross. It is through Christ the mediator alone, that the grace of God flows to His elect as we see in Romans 5:15-21.
Romans 5:15-21

But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand, the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression by the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. So then as through one transgression there resulted in condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted in justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the any were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the any will be made righteous. And the Law came in that the transgressions might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

I think it’s extremely crucial as we focus on the take away from what Paul is saying in the above text in Romans 5. It’s a presentation of the word justification. Without justification, grace would no longer be grace and it would cease to exist. The Greek word for justification is dikaiôma, which means an equitable deed. But in this passage, it’s meant as doing right or justice for someone, in a favorable sense. Without being acquitted of our sins, we are still held under the punishment of the Law, and grace wouldn’t exist, thus the importance of the justification of our sins.

 

  1. The grace of God is proclaimed in the Gospel – In Acts 20:24, it announces that unless we are saved by grace, we cannot be saved at all. It declares apart from Christ, the gift of God’s grace the state of every man is desperate, irremediable (no hope for a cure), and hopeless. The Gospel address men as guilty, condemned, perishing criminals. THANK GOD FOR GRACE. Grace is our only hope.
    Every person stands before God condemned as sinners of His Holy Law. Merely awaiting a death sentence, but because of grace, the sentence has passed from them as we see stated in John 3:18 and in Romans 3:19.
    Our only hope is grace, relying on the mercy of God.
    The Gospel sets us free. It is the publisher of grace, the Holy Spirit is the bestower and our guide.On page 90 from The Attributes of God, Pink ends the chapter with a quote by G.S. Bishop about why we need grace and how totally and utterly depraved we are without it.Grace is a provision for men who are so fallen that they cannot lift the axe of justice, so corrupt that they cannot change their own natures, so averse to God that they cannot turn to Him, so blind that they cannot see Him, so deaf that they cannot hear Him, and so dead that He Himself must open their graves and lift them into resurrection.


The scriptures are full of verses about God’s grace, and even though it’s something we don’t deserve, God in His loving kindness wants the best for our lives. As we discover God’s riches for us written in the Scriptures for our lives through grace, we come to realize how amazing the gift of grace truly is. The scripture I chose to go more into detail in was from Ephesians 2:1-10. The primary context of the point Paul is trying to get across climaxes at verses 8-9. But I felt it was extremely necessary to go to the start to find out the reason of what he meant by “for by grace you have been saved” and why we are made alive in Christ because of grace.

Ephesians 2:1-10
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the Heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

There is a lot being said here, so with the help of William Barclay and the ESV Reformation Study Bible, let’s break this down into laymen’s terms.

(v 1-3) When Paul speaks of “you” in verse 2 he means Gentiles; when he speaks of “us” in the other passages he is speaking of the Jews. In this passage, Paul was showing how Christ’s life was like for Jews and Gentiles alike bringing them together is one in Christ.
(i) When Paul says that life was filled with sin and trespasses, the Greek word for sin is hamartis. It’s derived from a shooting word (as in archery) and it literally means a miss. Sin is a failure to hit the target of life. Hamartis, brings us face to face with what sin is, the failure to be what it ought to be.

When we come to realize what sin is, we see that it’s not something that theologians made up. It is something with which life is permeated. It is a failure in any sphere of life to be what we ought to be and could be.

The word Paul uses for trespasses is paraptoma. It Greek it literally means to slip or fall. Trespass is taking the wrong road when we should have taken the right one. It is missing the truth that we should have known. Therefore, it’s a failure to reach the goal we are striving for.
The central idea of sin is failure, failure to hit the target, failure to take the right turn on the road, and failure to make life what it could become.

There are five points that can be summed up in these three verses:

First, the natural state of all human beings is spiritual death.
Second, in our natural state, we are active in rebellion against God.
Third, we are subject to the evil rule of Satan (v2)
Fourth, We are fully unable to cease our rebellion against God
Fifth, we are totally exposed to the just anger of God.

(v4-10) In verse 1 Paul began by saying that we are dead our trespasses and sins, now he is saying that God in His love and mercy, made us alive in Jesus Christ. So with that being said, what did Paul mean by that?

We see three things involved in being dead in sins and trespasses.

  • We see that sin kills innocence. Not even Jesus can give man back his innocence, because by nature we are still yet sinners, but what he can do is take away the guilt and shame associated with the sin and we are no longer guilty.
    The first thing sin does is creates a feeling of estrangement between us and God. As we see in Isaiah 6:5 and Luke 5:8, both Isaiah and Peter have a similar reaction when they realize they are unworthy of coming before God because of their sinful nature.
    Isaiah 6:5 “Woe is me, for I am ruined! I am a man if unclean lips.”
    Luke 5:8 “Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”Enter Jesus. He takes away this estrangement. He tells us, despite our sinful nature, through His saving Sovereign grace the door is open, the veil is torn, and we have full access to the Holy of Holies. We can enter into the presence of God and the only sacrifice we have to offer is ourselves.
    This is a HUGE paradigm shift when you break down what it means for the veil to be torn between us and God. When you look in Leviticus 16-23, we can see the Law and the Day of Atonement it’s extremely crucial to know just how important it is that we no longer have to go through the veil to have complete access to the presence of God. The Law is extremely detailed and every single step is very important. If one step is missed, the high priest would fall to his death before the presence of God because he was not worthy to be in God’s presence.
  • We see that sin kills the ideals by which men live. Jesus regenerates this ideal in the hearts of His elect. The grace of Jesus rekindles the ideals which repeated failing to sin has extinguished. And by that, we are free from sin and we can live life again in freedom.
  • Greater than anything else, Jesus revives and restores the lost will. Sin slowly destroys man’s will, Jesus recreates our will.
    This is what Christ does for us. When we love Him, that love restores and regenerates our will towards goodness.Finally, Paul closes this passage with a great exposition with an interesting two-sided paradox. This is where Paul really drives home the real meat and potatoes of this passage.Paul insists that it is by grace that we are saved. We have not, and cannot earn our salvation. It is a gift from God and our job is to accept the gift. This is true for two reasons
    – God is perfect. Therefore, only perfection is good for Him. In our fallen nature, we cannot bring perfection to God. So if we can ever earn our way towards God in our fallen nature, it must always be God who gives the gift of perfection through saving grace.
    – God is love. Sin therefore is a crime, not against law but against love. Now it’s possible to make atonement for a broken law (but it’s also a vicious never ending cycle), but it’s impossible to make atonement for a broken heart. Sin not only breaks God’s Holy and Perfect Law but it also breaks His heart.

    The only thing that can restore this relationship between God and man is free forgiveness and the gift of grace.

In conclusion to this text, works have nothing to do with earning salvation. Yet Paul goes on to say we are recreated by God for good works. Now this where the paradox climaxes and it results of a major paradigm shift.
While it seems rather contradicting, all the good works in the world cannot put us right before God. Good works can never earn salvation. Yet the paradox here is there is something radically wrong if our salvation does not produce good works. (I can imagine a dog turning its head to the side after I read that. So let me explain a little better.)

It is not that our good works put God in our debt, rather its God’s love that lay on us the obligation through a regenerated heart to try throughout all of our life to be worthy of it.
This is our relationship with God.

We know that God wants us to do. God has prepared the life before us the life He expects us to live as chosen people. He tells us how to do so in his Holy Word and through His Son Jesus.

Only faith, not works can bring acceptance with God. God good works are vital and are evidence of a life with God. Our good works are a fruit of salvation, not its cause, those who do not produce good works show that they do not have a saving faith. If we look at James 2, it explains this paradox more in detail about faith and works.

James 2:14-26
What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can that faith save him? If brother or sister is without clothing and need of daily food, and one of you says to them “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled”, and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our faith justified by works, when he offered up Isaac; his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of he works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says ‘And Abraham believed God, and I was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, and not by faith alone. For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

In final conclusion: We cannot earn Gods love, but we can and must show how grateful we are for His saving grace. We do this but seeking with our whole hearts, to live the kind of life that we are commanded to live. Daily we must come before God with empty buckets asking God for grace. Jesus doesn’t just deconstruct but He reconstructs us through grace, therefore we must DAILY renew our mind with our empty buckets.  And that brings true joy to the Father’s heart.

 

**All scripture is from NASB 1977 unless otherwise noted

***All commentary and notes are derived from The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink. William Barclay and the ESV Reformation Study Bible

 

 

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