GRACE is a fundamental characteristic of the present
administration of the secret (Eph.3:2,9). It is the favor of the
previous transitional era continued and intensified and enriched.
Superabundant grace (Rom.5:17) had already been manifested in justifying
the nations apart from the law or works of any kind, through faith, that
it may accord with grace (Rom.4:16). Grace glorious, rich, transcendent,
is our portion now (Eph.1:6,7; 2:7). That which the eye did not
perceive, and the ear did not hear, and to which the heart of men did
not ascend - whatever God makes ready for those who are loving Him - He
has revealed to us by His spirit through His latest revelation (1
Cor.2:9,10). And is not this to he expected? So long as God was hindered
by human help, His heart was restrained. So long as He was thwarted by
creature attainments, His love could not find a free outlet. Grace,
undiluted by law, unspoiled by works, unconfined by aught of man, is the
fullest, freest outflow of God's essence, which is love.
But alas! Our tiny cups are far too small to contain
it. Our unnatural hearts are too full of self to give God His place as
our All. Our pride insists on having some share in the favors He
bestows. How desperately the law-laden Jew clings to his own doings! If
he cannot justify himself by law keeping, he will at least make it his
rule of life after he has been justified. He cannot bear to be bereft of
all merit. God must not be All. Man insists on doing his share in
creating his future bliss. He must earn, he must deserve the blessings
he receives, or lose his self-respect.
Paul found it necessary to devote a whole epistle to
the defense of grace. The Galatians had started well, and had received
the evangel which he had heralded with its abundant grace. But for Jews,
who had been reared under the law, this was entirely too much to accept.
The fact that God Himself had given the law was enough to convince them
that He wished it to be kept. They did not realize that His intention
was quite the reverse, that He wished to humble them and teach them
their own incompetence and need of Him through its enactments. These
Jews did not only try to keep the law themselves, but also sought to
fasten it upon those of the nations who believed. Thus they ran counter
to the grace which God had made the fundamental feature of the evangel
of the Uncircumcision. With stern severity the apostle deals with these
Jews because of the seriousness of their error. Even the Galatians are
not spared. He tells them plainly that they had fallen out of grace
The Galatian repudiation of God's grace is more
virulent today than ever. Almost all "religious" training,
even when definitely evangelistic, is centered in human effort and
attainment. Not only is the evangel tainted with Circumcision
requirements, such as repentance and baptism, which to give the seeker
something he can do in order to assist God in securing his salvation,
but the mint is loaded with duties which are to help God to finish His
But if the superabundant grace of Paul's evangel is
repudiated, what shall we say of the rich, the glorious, the
transcendent grace of this secret administration? Is it not possible,
nay, probable, indeed, inevitable, that we also have repudiated it, at
least to some extent? Alas! how could it be otherwise with mortal men?
Christendom has hardly heard of the present grace, and those of us who
have, are prone to mix in our own efforts and attainments as though
these could procure the gratuities of God. There is a strong current
which is corrupting the grace glorious, limiting it to those alone who
receive, or understand, or think they perceive the higher truths of
Paul's later epistles. It is always some human attainment which merits
this grace, although, in the nature of things, this is impossible, for
then grace is no more grace.
THE FUNCTION OF FAITH
It has been suggested that faith is an act of
merit on our part which procures justification, and all who do not obey
in this way do not deserve it. What a travesty of the truth! Faith has
exactly the contrary action. Because it has no merit, it is the
only requirement in this economy of purest and fullest favor. Any other
condition would clash with it, but faith, having no deserts, is in full
harmony with grace (Rom.4:16). Even faith obedience does not
consist of acts performed in order to deserve God's gifts, but is a
figure in which the obedience to God's law is displaced by faith in His
Word. Faith is merely the channel through which grace may
operate. It cannot act through works or attainments of any kind. These
can only nullify its effects.
Justification is for those who believe God. It
is not a prize awarded to those who believe it, or accept it,
or grasp it. Probably most of the saints have heard little of
justification and understood less. Even Luther does not seem to have
made a clear cleavage between it and pardon or forgiveness. Shall we
conclude, therefore, that Luther and the rest were not justified at all?
Shall we shunt them into the kingdom on the earth because they mixed
much of the Circumcision evangel into their message? But we are not
justified by intelligence or insight, but by faith in God. Abraham was
justified, first of all, not because he understood justification, but
because He took God at His word concerning his seed. Justification is
for all who put what faith they have in God, however feeble it may be.
And they are not more justified later when their faith is strengthened,
for God is the Justifier, not the believer.
Faith is the channel of justification and should
exclude all works, yet in these days even faith has been degraded to a
meritorious act. To show the real character of grace as well as to guard
the sense in which we fall out of it, we should closely follow the
apostle's argument in Romans, especially the astonishing question asked
in the sixth chapter. "Shall we declare that we may be persisting
in sin that grace should be increasing?" That grace is increased by
persistence in sin is quite the contrary to the teaching of Christendom.
Alas! very few of us are able to realize it in our daily lives, and, as
a consequence, we are still seeking something in ourselves and are
dissatisfied with our attainments, and actually do persist in sin
without the sense of grace which should relieve us of this load. This
question tears away the veil which is between our hearts and grace, and
reveals it in all its comforting and captivating loveliness. We think
that sin increases judgment, and so it does for the unbeliever. But for
us sin increases grace. This is the great emancipation
proclamation which so few of us have ever taken to heart.
If this is true, we might ask, how can we fall out
of grace? This, like all figures of speech, is limited in its scope. In
fact, since sin only increases grace, it is impossible to escape the
sphere of grace by any act of ours, even by circumcision, which was the
sin of the Galatians. If the Galatians were no longer in grace Paul
could not even have written to them. But in their experience and
realization and appreciation they were no longer in grace, seeing that
they sought to add meritorious acts of their own to perfect God's favor.
This is the case today with almost all of us, but it is a sin, and
therefore, on God's side, only increases grace, though, on our side, it
robs us of the enjoyment of God's gratuities.
Even as the grace now regnant is richer and more
glorious, and transcends that which brought justification, so also is
the need for it. Who has fully grasped the grace which is ours in this
administration? Paul, perhaps, and a few in his days. For centuries it
was almost entirely unknown to men. The Reformation did not recover it.
Since then only a comparatively few have been occupied with it. Alas!
some who seek to make it known commit the fatal error of annulling it by
making it a matter of attainment for the few, instead of a gratuitous
gift for all who are hallowed by contact with God. If only those who
understand the secret or "mystery" are embraced in it, how few
will there be in this company! I would not care to be in it, for there
would be enough of human pride and boasting to spoil it for one who has
learned to distrust himself and look only to God. In it God will not be
All. But blessed be God, all who are His now, no matter how ignorant,
however wanting in attainments, all will be embraced by the grace
glorious, just because it is grace! Let us thank Him at the bottom of
our hearts for this marvelous truth!
(IN) to-GRACE (chariti)
One form of the word grace is particularly rich in
its implications, yet it is rather difficulty to carry over into good
English in some connections, especially the verb be. It is simple
when the verb will allow the use of the preposition to, as when
Paul and Barnabas were given over to the grace of God (Acts
14:26). Webster's dictionary says that the dative "is generally
indicated in modern English by to or for." Much
experiment convinced us that to is the best standard for the
sublinear of the CONCORDANT VERSION, and subsequent experience has
confirmed this. It is the best uniform rendering. In the version,
however, the matter is far more complicated, for each verb has an
influence on the following connective. We have tried specially hard to
get a good rendering for the parenthesis in Ephesians 2:5.
We cannot say "to grace you are saved," so
we used Webster's second choice and rendered it "you have been
saved for grace." This comes close to the sense, yet seems
to limit it to the future. In some passages, as Galatians 5:1, for
is fine. "For freedom Christ frees us!" And so it seems here,
yet, for the sake of uniformity, we have considered adding a word thus:
"to (enjoy) grace are you saved." These renderings, however,
do not fit well in similar passages, so we have adopted a regular
rendering for such cases, by inserting the connective in in place
The dative case, as shown on the chart, on page 10 of
The Greek Elements in the CONCORDANT VERSION, answers the
question Where? and indicates rest in the object named.
Hence the characteristic connective is IN, which cannot be used for any
other case. If we add in, then, for the dative, we are not likely
to introduce any false relation. Hence we have thought it well to
translate the dative "in grace" in all of those
marvelous passages where this has to do with our present position. We,
and other translators, have used by, which is, perhaps the most
agreeable English. But by is so wide in its usage that it may
also denote agency and efficient cause. Its nearest equivalent, in Greek
hupo is never used with the dative. We seek to restrict this
connective to the efficient cause in the CONCORDANT VERSION. This is
especially clear in such statements as, "that which is declared by
the Lord through the prophet (Matt.1:22). Grace is not the efficient
agent (by) or the channel (through), but the sphere in
which God operates in this and the preceding administration.
Justification is by God as the efficient cause
(Rom.8:33), and in Christ (Gal.2:17), and therefore in grace. We
are justified gratuitously in His grace, through the deliverance which
is in Christ Jesus (Rom.3:24). It is not that grace is in the past, and
exhausts itself in vindicating us, leaving us stand in law or works, as
the Galatians thought, nor is it merely the channel through which
justification came. It is the element, the province in which
justification is effected, which remains, not only to maintain our
righteousness, but to form a fit field for the further outflow of God's
favor. This is the glorious feature which we seek to unfold in this
essay. The dative form of the word grace (our word charity is a close
transliteration), is not only bursting with gifts for us, but an
apprehension of its nuances will preserve us from the prevailing
tendency to make His gratuities attainable by means of human efforts or
In the next passage in Romans where this precious
form occurs, we have an example of the expansive force of grace.
In comparisons you cannot simply confine it to the limits of the
corresponding term. Therefore we read: "But not as the
offense, thus also the grace. For if by the offense of the one the many
died, much rather the grace of God and the gratuity in grace,
which is of the One Man, Jesus Christ, to the many superabounds."
The offense brought death. To counteract and restore the damage wrought
by Adam would only require that death be nullified by life. But being in
Adam and being in Christ are not mere counterparts, one the exact
equivalent of the other. We have heard much of this in some
philosophies. But these reckon without grace. The gratuity we receive is
in grace, and therefore it does not balance the evil, nor does it
simply abound. It superabounds. What an intimation there
is here of the untold treasures of grace which were still unknown when
Paul wrote to the Romans!
Another helpful contrast is given us in the
administrational section of Romans. Speaking of the few faithful ones
who were left in Israel, Paul compares it with the time in Elijah's day
when God still had seven thousand men left for Himself, who had not
bowed the knee to Basal. "Thus, then, in the current era also,
there has come to be a remnant according to the choice of grace. Now if
it is in grace, it is no longer out of works, else the grace is
coming to be no longer grace. Now if it is out of works, it is no
longer grace, else the work is no longer work" (Rom.11:6). Note the
change from out of works to the dative of grace. Works are the source
in one case, but grace is the sphere in the other. Israel sought
her salvation and worked to attain it, but failed. The chosen, however,
in grace, merely encounter it. They find it without seeking or
working. God's favor is unspeakably more efficient and practical than
all human exertions.
Even service, in the last analysis, is a question of
grace. Grace is the sphere in which it reaches its richest fruition.
Paul, in comparing himself with the other apostles, does not appeal to
his superior training, his greater faith, or any of his undoubted
attainments, but to grace alone. He says: "Yet, in the grace of God
I am what I am, and His grace, which is into me, did not come to be for
naught, but more exceedingly than all of them toil I - yet not I, but
the grace of God which is with me" (1 Cor.15:10). The usual, and,
at present, more agreeable formula, "by grace," is not wrong,
yet it does not express the idea as well as "in grace,"
which, we hope, will become so precious to those who grasp its
significance, that they will soon find it more pleasing to the ear than
"by grace." Service performed in an atmosphere of
divine grace is sure to be more fruitful and exceed all that is done by
the constraint of law or to attain merit. Grace is the ozone in which
our faculties are vivified and leads to labors extensive like itself.
In Paul's latest and highest revelation a double
appeal is made to the fact that salvation through faith
(Eph.2:5,8), as heralded in Paul's evangel, is in grace, hence is
the proper atmosphere for the further favors now revealed. The usual
rendering is much used to prove that salvation is not of works, and
suggests to most minds that the efficient cause of our salvation was
grace. This is blessed, of course, yet seems rather incongruous in such
an epistle as Ephesians, where it finds no close connection with the
context. The point is that the condition of salvation which is theirs
through faith, apart from works, is in the sphere of grace, hence they
were vivified together with the Circumcision recipients of Paul's
evangel when Christ was vivified. Such a blessing could not come to any
mortal on the ground of attainment, and is possible only to those Whom
Paul had previously put "in grace."
This is enlarged upon in one of the most precious
passages even in this precious epistle. "For in grace are you
saved, through faith, and this is not out of you; it is God's oblation,
not of works, lest anyone should be boasting. For His achievement are
we, being created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God makes ready
beforehand, that we should be walking in them. "The scene of our
salvation is not in ourselves or our deeds, but in God's favor. He is
the one Who is working and even prepares the good works which we may do.
GRACE INVOLVES JOY
Grace, in Greek, comes from the stem joy, for that is
its fruit. And so it is that we are exhorted, with psalms, hymns, and
spiritual songs, in grace, to sing in our hearts to God (Col.
3:16). Grace can tune our heartstrings as nothing else can. Our vocal
cords may not be able to voice the harmony within. Some of us cannot
make music on an instrument or in our throats so as to enchant our
fellow men. But all of us can make music in our hearts to God.
And it will be found that songs which celebrate ourselves, our
superiority and attainments, are rare, for these claims are not in
grace, and put a damper on our joy.
INVIGORATED IN GRACE
At the very close of Paul's career he writes to
Timothy, "You, then, child of mine, be invigorated in the grace
which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim.2:1). That is where real vigor and
efficiency and power lies today. The whole tendency of our times is
against it. Our youth is trained to be self-confident, self-assured,
self-reliant. It is taught to depend on it's own resources. Body and
mind are developed so as to assure success. Power is sought from within.
This is only a substitute for God's law and is useful only to prove its
own fallacy. The saint should have no confidence in the flesh and expect
nothing from it. But we have unbounded confidence in God's grace. The
joy of the Lord is our strength. Let us be invigorated, in our weakness,
by a practical realization of the grace which is ours in Christ Jesus.
We are in grace. Let us make use of it and enjoy it. Timothy was
frequently infirm in the flesh. But he was also continually invigorated
in grace. May we never fall out!
FALLING OUT OF GRACE
Perhaps the best reason for choosing in to
indicate the dative case of grace is the direct contrast which it
presents, to Paul's graphic figure, when he described the Galatian
apostasy. He said, "You fall out of grace!" (Gal.5:4).
They had been in grace, or they could not have fallen out of it.
In these days, when there is such a strong tendency to depart from the
faith, it will be found that a falling out of grace usually accompanies
error. Those who divide the saints into groups according to something in
them have fallen out of grace. One who claims to belong to the 144,000
and leaves others in the great company" proclaims his own merit,
denies the one body, and has fallen out of grace. If we claim to belong
to a higher and more privileged group in this administration, we destroy
its very foundations, for it is based upon the unity of those far
and near, the oneness of those privileged with those who had no
covenant or claim on God. It is noteworthy that no one claims to belong
to an inferior group. Let us not exalt ourselves at the expense of God's
most precious exhibition of grace!
Falling from grace used to be a phrase applied to one
whose conduct contradicted his profession. The reformed drunkard was
said to fall from grace if he took to his cups again. It was freely used
of so-called "backsliders," and carried with it the loss of
salvation. But, of course, all this is entirely foreign to the context
where it is found in the Scriptures. The Galatians did not lose their
salvation, but their liberty (Gal.5:1-4). They still remained brethren.
They had the spirit (Gal.3:2,3). They were disturbed, but not lost. All
of us fail in doctrine or deportment. This, however, does not affect
that which we have in grace. It was only in their thoughts and practices
that the Galatians fell out of grace. Failure in these can only make it
abound. In law failure is fatal, but grace is stimulated and multiplied
GRACE THE TOUCHSTONE
Since grace is the fundamental feature of this
administration, which is especially designed to exhibit God's grace to
the universe, all doctrine and all deportment may be tested by it. If we
have drunk deeply of grace we intuitively shrink from all that involves
merit on the part of man. Salvation with the slightest tinge of works,
no matter how reasonable or how ably defended, or "proven" in
the Bible, finds no response in our spirits. Destiny dependent on human
attainment is utterly repugnant to us, for it is a falling out of grace
and a repudiation of the very basis of this secret administration. And
we will find that our conduct usually agrees with our teaching.
Graciousness goes with truth: ungraciousness with error. Not that it is
merely sentimental and will not rebuke and expose where this is needed,
especially in these last days, but even this will be done in harmony
Here is where the spiritual saint is safer than the
learned scholar. The question of truth may seem difficult in our present
ignorance and the strange variety of interpretations which abound, but
if God's grace has gripped us, this will be our guiding sun in the midst
of the prevailing gloom. It will enable us to steer clear of all the
sunken rocks of human merit that threaten to make shipwreck of our
faith. We will refuse to deduce from one set of passages what God
plainly denies elsewhere when our reasoning leads us to lean on man
instead of God, because this conflicts with the spirit of grace. O that
our hearts were established firmly and finally in the freedom of His
favor! Much as we value a knowledge of the external facts of God's
revelation we have found that these are not acceptable to us in this
administration unless our hearts are prepared by an appreciation of
The most subtle danger for those who have seen
universal reconciliation, is to make it depend in some measure on human
merit. This glorious truth may easily degenerate into universalism.
There seem to be no doubt that it has done so in the past, and there are
indications that it will do so again. Indeed, there are already
strenuous efforts being made to show that Romans 3:10-19 is not true. It
is implied that every mouth is not to be barred, that some are
just, that some are seeking, that all will not be
condemned at the great white throne, that God's grace is not
needed for good men. How close this comes to salvation by character!
Such is said to be the teaching of universalism. It makes my heart bleed
to see this trend, and how some who are dear to me are dallying with it.
I blame myself for this falling out of grace, for, if I had magnified
God's grace as I should, they would never even consider such destructive
teaching. Let us repudiate everything that slights His glorious grace,
with all our hearts!