People tell me, "I believe every statement in
the Bible." The pity of the situation is, many of them really
think they do. Too many of them depend on their preachers.
If they do not teach certain passages, the people naturally do not know
such passages are in the Bible.
It is not hard to find hundreds of honest people, who
do not know that the Bible, (King James Version), says, in II Tim. 1:8,
9: "Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, nor
of me His prisoner; but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the
gospel according to the power of God, Who hath saved us and called us
with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His
own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the
A brother told me of attending a protracted meeting
for almost a week, and, while the preacher taught salvation by works,
with all the power of oratory at his command, he did not one time use
the word, "grace." When we remember that the people do
not read the Bible, but depend on the preacher to do their reading, we
cannot be astonished that they do not even know that the word says that
salvation in NOT by works, but IS by grace.
The fact that the two words are used in contrast,
should show to any thoughtful person, the meaning of grace. If God
does not give salvation because the people have done works, and,
therefore deserve it, it naturally follows that He gives it to those who
do NOT deserve it. And this is what grace is - it is favor shown
to those who deserve the opposite.
While Paul says more about grace than does any other
writer, yet the subject is not, by any means, confined to his
writings. We find it all through the Scriptures.
After the transgression of Adam, God gave no law to
humanity for hundreds of years. If salvation were by works, it
would necessarily be works of obedience to God's commands. In that
case, no one from Adam to the deluge, or flood, would have had a chance
of salvation, for God gave them no law. But there were people
during that period who were saved, in expectation. That is, they
enjoyed the expectation of salvation, Rom. 8:24. The case of Abel
in enlightening. "And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to
his offering," Gen. 4:4. Notice, the Lord had respect unto
Abel, before He had respect unto his offerings. Abel had not
obeyed any expressed command of God. But God's respect unto him
enabled him to make an acceptable offering. This is grace,
although the word is not used in this passage. Much more
enlightening is the case of Noah: "But Noah found grace in the eyes
of the Lord," Gen 6:8. This grace was extended to him before
he obeyed god in the building of the ark.
In the case of Abraham the same truth is found.
God called him, Gen. 12:1. This was grace, and the later obedience
of Abram, as his name was at the time, had nothing to do with it.
It was grace, and not works, that made Isaac the son of promise.
Grace found the unworthy Jacob in the wilderness, and led him to trust
God and love Him. It was grace that made Moses the chosen one of
God, to deliver Israel from bondage.
The Circumcision scriptures do not feature grace, but
they do mention it several times, and it is implied in many other
passages. When I say the "Circumcision scriptures," I
mean all the sacred writings our side of Paul's. Beginning with
Abel, Heb. 11 mentions by name, no less than 16 persons who lived in the
days before the birth of Christ, declaring that they did certain things
through faith. In addition to those mention is made of the
"the Prophets." While much is said of faith, by modern
preachers, no notice is taken of the fact that faith is based on
grace. But it is so. Paul says, in I Tim. 1:14, "And
the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which
is in Christ Jesus." You may take either rendering, and the
fact remains that faith and love are contained in grace. No one
obtains the grace of salvation because of faith and love. We have
faith and love because the grace of salvation is given to us. If
preachers could grasp this, they would preach differently. They
harass the people with the necessity of believing, and of loving God, as
if folks could do this by their own power. Let them all insist
that grace, the unmerited favor of God, must first be given by the
sovereign act of God, and that faith and love follow as consequences - let
them preach this way, and they will really be "feeding" the
Paul teaches this same truth in Eph. 2:8. Grace
is first mentioned, and then faith is declared to be the "gift of
God," King James Version, or "God's obligation,"
Concordant Version. Take either rendering, and you are yet faced
with the fact that faith does not come by the efforts of man. And,
indeed, how could it? If you believe in me, or believe me, your
faith is based on something I have done. So must your faith in God
depend on Him.
It is significant that "church" people,
(synagogue members), were offended when Christ preached grace to them,
Luke 4. He was preaching in Nazareth, and the people wanted to
kill Him because He spoke gracious words, or words of grace. This
showed that they were no more acquainted with their scriptures than are
many church people of today. His text, correctly rendered, reads
as follows: "The spirit of the Lord is on Me, on account of which
He anoints Me to preach the evangel to the poor. He has
commissioned He to heal the crushed in heart, to proclaim a pardon to
the captives, and the recovering of sight to the blind, to dispatch the
oppressed with a pardon, to proclaim the acceptable year of the
Lord." He read from Isa. 61. How could He preach the
text and not preach grace?
If your heart is crushed can you heal it by
works? If you were in captivity, would it be good news if someone
should tell you to break loose? Would you not much rather hear one
proclaim that you are pardoned? What kind of works would it tike
for a blind person to recover his sight? Does it not require an
act of grace by someone who has the power to restore sight? No
wonder the Lord preached grace!
Since justification now takes the place of pardon,
the preaching of grace is sweeter to poor, crushed, imprisoned winners,
than was the case then. For justification is God's act of
declaring us righteous. It is done, not simply by grace, but IN
Grace, as the correct rendering of Rom. 3:24 will show. It is
through the deliverance which is in Christ Jesus. In other words,
it is based on the blood of Christ.
Israel was placed under the old covenant, but no one
was ever saved by it. If it had been satisfactory as a means of
salvation, why should Christ have become the Mediator of a better covenant,
based on better promises, Heb. 8:6? Under the old covenant, God
said, " I will if you will." Is the new covenant any
better? Is not, if its blessings are dependent on man's
obedience. Under the new covenant, God says, " I will and
they shall." The promises have to be like this, to be better
than those of the old covenant.
In a figure of speech Paul speaks of a new covenant
for us, gentiles, II Cor. 3:6. Thus he shows us it is what may be
called a covenant of grace. All through his writings he is careful
to show us that salvation is not according to works.
While no one was saved by the old covenant, many were
saved during the time Israel was under it. They could not be saved
be it, for they did not keep it. They were saved by grace, even in
those days. Gentiles were under no covenant. God gave them
no law. When He was giving the law, He was extremely careful to
specify that it was for Israel. Gentiles are under no law
now. Whether a person is under law or not, that person is saved by
grace, if he is saved at all. And grace is the unmerited favor of
Let us not think that, because Christ had not
actually died, His blood had no efficacy. In God's reckoning, the
sacrifice is older than sin. The Lamb was slain, so far as God's
propose was concerned, long, long ago. God did not have to wait
until Christ actually died, to begin calling men into fellowship with
The law was written on tables of stone. Why did
some Israelites feel the force of God's commandments, and understand
them? Simply because God had done for them, as individuals, what
He will do for Israel collectively, under the new covenant. He had
written His laws in their hearts, and imparted them to their
comprehension. They obeyed the law. This did not save them;
it showed they were saved, in expectation, of course. No one is saved
beyond that, as yet.
For centuries God was demonstrating through Israel,
that man cannot save himself. In the ministry of Christ, this
demonstration went on. Thousands were baptized, and many on them
turned out to be murderers at heart, Acts 21. This shows that
baptism cannot save. John explains many things that we fail to
grasp as we read Matthew, Mark and Luke. He shows that while
Christ's own nation accepted Him not, some obtained Him. These
were begotten of God. They did not beget themselves. John
shows that if anyone comes to Christ it is because the Father draws him,
and that all these shall come, and none others can, John 6. He
shows that the woman of Samaria was saved, and that works had nothing to
do with it. It was by grace, John 4. He quotes Christ as
teaching the necessity of the new birth, John 3.
For us , Paul teaches the new creation, II Cor.
5:17. But whether it be the new birth for Israel or the new
creation for us, it is bound to be by grace since no one can cause
himself to be either born or created.
The text quoted near the beginning of this editorial
is instructive. God saves us and calls us. This is NOT in
accord with our works. It is in accord with God's purpose, and the
grace that was given us in Christ Jesus before the times of the
eons. This grace was given, and the purpose was formed, before we
were on the scene, and, thereforse, before we could have anything to do
Since salvation is by grace, no one can boast of
being worthy of it. It flows from the love of God, is carried out
in accord with His purpose, and is accomplished by His grace. More
over, it is trough the blood of Christ.
The question naturally arises: If Israel as well as
the ecclesia which is the body of Christ are both saved by grace, what
is the difference between the evangel of the Circumcision, and that of
the Circumcision, and that of the Uncircumcision? Perhaps I will
write on that next time.