You hear people saying, “Get busy for GOD, and the rest will take care of itself.” Even in evangelistic services, even in revivals where the Blood of CHRIST is rightly being pointed to as the only way of salvation, you have heard that mistaken emphasis, the call to “Be a man” if you would get saved.
In a great evangelistic revival where souls were being saved, I have heard the evangelist cry out, as he called upon men to hit the trail and come up and acknowledge JESUS CHRIST as SAVIOUR, “Be a man! Don’t be a milk-sop! Don’t be a jelly-coddle! Be a man!”
But there is no such call in the Bible to the unsaved; GOD never tells one to “assert his manhood” by accepting CHRIST. The offense of the Cross is just the opposite. It is a degrading thing, a humiliating thing, to recognize why the Cross saves. I do not mean that the Cross degrades us, but that the cross exposes our degradation; it humiliates us into the dust. There is no Scripture appeal to the unsaved to “be a man and accept CHRIST”; but there is a clear declaration from GOD that, because you are less than a man, less than a woman, because there is no hope in you, because you are dead in trespasses and sins, you must let GOD save you through the death of CHRIST as your slain substitute.
You can’t do anything for yourself.
No, salvation is not asserting our manhood; salvation is recognizing our utter lack of manhood and womanhood, our hopelessness, our worthlessness; recognizing that, if we are to be saved, it has got to be done for us by GOD.
This mistaken emphasis of today looks in exactly the opposite direction from grace. It looks in the direction of works. Not that works have no place in the Christian’s life. You know they have. But they follow the grace of GOD; they do not precede it: and, they are never the condition of GOD’s grace.
What is grace?
It is GOD’s beneficent work for us, wholly independent of what we are and what we do. It is not merely GOD’s attitude toward us, but His activity in our behalf. Grace does not mean that GOD stands off and smilingly looks in our direction. Grace means His tremendous, omnipotent activity; the dynamite of Heaven accomplishing things in our behalf, wholly independent of what we are and of what we do.
And what is GOD’s threefold work of grace for us?
I am going to take the third first, of three great things that GOD’s grace does for us.
In Romans 8:21 we read this: “Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
In I Corinthians 15:51, 52 we read: “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
And in I Thessalonians 4:16, 17: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Those three passages tell us one thing that GOD’s grace accomplishes for us; and here are three great facts about the same work of grace — creation shall be delivered; the dead shall be raised; and we that are alive shall be caught up. The resurrection of the body; the deliverance from the general bondage of corruption in which all creation is at this time; and our blessed hope of being caught up to meet the LORD in the air.
Now did you notice that all three of those great verbs are in the passive voice, not the active? It does not say that creation shall deliver itself from corruption. They shall be delivered. The verb is passive. Nor does it say, “The dead shall raise themselves.” It has to be done for them. And it does not say, “We shall spring up in the air to meet the LORD,” but, “We… shall be caught up.” It all has to be done for us; it is GOD’s grace, not man’s works.
There is another wonderful thing that GOD’s grace does for us. It is the second of our three. We noted the last first; now let us take the first second. We find it in Ephesians 2:1: “You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; . . . 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.”
“Hath.” The first word of grace that we noted, GOD is going to do in the future. He will raise up the dead and change the living. But now Paul says, He “hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward 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” (Ephesians 2:6-9).
That seems to be grace according to GOD’s idea. Thus the dead man is saved by the grace of GOD, by the work of GOD for him, not by anything he does; through simple faith in that finished and completed and unimprovably perfect work of GOD, he is born again.
How much of that work does GOD do? The most of it? Pretty nearly all of it? No! All! Grace does not share anything with man. Grace is not a joint effort. Grace is not cooperation. Grace is jealous — as GOD is a jealous GOD, grace is absolutely exclusive. Grace means “GOD does it all!” And it was done for us centuries before we were born.
Grace shuts out our works, so far as our having any share in the work which grace accomplishes.
Grace results in our works, in a most wonderful way, but our works do not help grace a bit.
I remember how startled I was when I first had called to my attention those words in Romans 4:5, “To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
To him that worketh not –
–Just keeps absolutely still and simply believes on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. We had nothing to do with bearing the sins of the world, did we? And we had nothing to do with bearing our own sins. They have been borne for us, taken away.
“Behold the Lamb of GOD, which taketh away the sin of the world.” That’s grace.
That’s why grace says,