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GRACE HAS MANY MANSIONS
BUT THE BEST IS SAVING GRACE IN AND THROUGH JESUS CHRIST
If only theologians would keep to what is written, far fewer would be smitten. Tales of divisions at Westminster Seminary, including a dismissal and results of the divergence, are not unexpected, since there was always the allegorising*A of much, and the suppression on the nature of the love of God for the eventually lost, contrary to Scripture, as a trend and at times more than that. See on this, for example the list given*1, *3.
However, when you do not make of Reformed theology (in fact there were different sub-models) some kind of sacred cow (it had vast areas of excellence and nobility of course, but still was not the word of God and erred in some points less central to its appointed mission), but have gratitude for the grace of God then given to help disentangle many from new kinds of idolatry (relatively, that is specific to the New Covenant area of time), there is little problem in the matters of grace.
Of course it differs, just as the laying down of your life for a child and giving your wife a bunchy of birthday flowers differ, though in that case all may be distinguished (depending on the cases) by a foundational love. It thrusts like a fountain into ebullitions of grace, of undeserved favour.
You can then have a definitional grace, in terms of the fact that God gave to man a whole heap of wonderful things.
1) He gave him integral, personal life.
2) He gave him a prepared and wonderful environment for it.
3) He gave man an opportunity to SHOW under test, where his heart lay, in adventitious dreams or in adventurous obedience, accepting restraint.
4) He thus gave responsibility and all the delightful duties and opportunities that it contains.
There was a defined situation of vast grace or unearned favour.
If man had not disobeyed, then it appears from the whole context including the tree (mentioned for a purpose, in terms of the principles of the entire situation created by God), there is no particular, conspicuously clear merit in that. It would show that natural response to supernatural marvels was personally au fait, that distortion and envy were not operative, as indeed one might hope in so wonderful a donation of life and meaning.
God wanted man to have life and to have it more abundantly, as shown in Colossians 1:19ff;, John 3 and I Timothy 2 and of course in John 10, in conjunction; and it would appear patent that the tree of life would represent the bursting grace of God, desiring to ADD this to the wonders already given. It was however not a ground for merit (what on earth is the merit in being grateful for all this!), but a test of integrity. IF man had been obedient, then it seemed MORE grace would have been shown in not only allowing for the significance of man's choices, so that he was no mere puppet or recipient of meaningless sovereignty stripping him of his birth-rite of being in the image of God, but granting what the tree ultimately signified (Genesis 3:22). God ensured that fallen man could not then simply, unchanged have that.
Suppose however that he had not fallen. Even more wonder would from the revealed character of the love of God have been unleashed, like a bigger and bigger and better Christmas present for a child. There is scarcely merit to be gained in receiving it!
This is the second type of grace here considered: operational grace. In this case, God in His loving bounty, adds to the definitional grace of the entirety of what man is and has been given, the joy of operating more, like a child growing up in one way, and using it. This is the use of a second round of gracious enduements, endowments, enablements.
Next, since man DID fall, and that very early, there is saving grace. Like the bunch of flowers love and the dying for a child cases, this is still unmerited favour. However it involves further love in that the fallen estate of man, which makes him repulsive, as if spiritually scabrous, is passed by as by a mother concerned, and remedy is supplied. If the child bites and scratches, this is shameless defilement of reason, in ruthless folly. If, however, instead it receives the fruit of divine grace, what possible merit is in that ? If your brother gives you a cheque for $10,000, could he reasonably call it meritorious of you to accept it. That would befuddle the sweet actualities of the case.
In this case, remedial grace, saving grace its arched height, what is bad is covered to make it good in the sense of right and restored in being; what is bad is also covered to deliver from guilt; what is rebellious is given reason for grace to abound in its reasonable restoration, and the payment made is particular and profound (Hebrews 2, 9). Grace now has moved from giving for equipment and life, into giving for deliverance from damnation and that highly merited. But it is the gift, not the receipt, which now occupies what is becoming fast the acme of grace.
Saving grace however is more than this. It involves in Christ that God Himself in the form of God should lower Himself to the form of man, without distinctive wealth, fleshly power, and with the distinct intent of dying the death sin merited, deserved, which guilt required, of which some would avail themselves as foreknown, and even at that, these things would not be wrought on man forcibly but freely granted eternal life to those who received it (cf. Ch. 10 above). The irresistibility of grace in saving sinners is not a violation of the freedom inherent in the creation of man in His image, a liberty which ONLY God could endow since it is past all relativities of containment, to which the flesh is readily subject, and pathologically susceptible and by which seduced (II Cor. 2:14*2).
God has shown in His approach to man, that He knows the liabilities and has granted the deliverance on all sides, here in this, that He knows His own, freely His through an absolute foreknowledge, in which all His divine principles are operative (as in Colossians 1:19ff.), and thus there is no stopping its flow when history exhibits its wares. The grace of God is irresistible to His own in this world, because its depths have been applied before its very existence, and truth is not allowed to shrink.
What then ? The saving grace of God is irresistible to His own in this world (John 1:12) because He has before time, creation and human sin and before man was even there to perform it, in His own integrity already known, and foreknown each one, enabling to be predestined, all who are His own (II Timothy 2:19).
The awesome wonder of this grace is not simply that it is very large, only, or unquestionably unique, or that it is God the Maker who so acts for man the made, so that salvation is even available or relevant at all. Nor is it, though this is a vast grace, that God the glorious is He who so works for the repugnant residue of life left in the tainted spirit of each one of mankind. It is not ONLY all these things. And though this is an acme of grace, it is not ALONE that He, my Lord should die for me, my incandescently glorious, triumphant, omniscient, almighty, imponderably lovely God should do so, in a humiliated state brought to perfection in even enduring the contradiction of and crucifixion amidst the mockery of the spiritual dead, quivering into acrid pseudo-life.
It is all of this and far more. Yet It is ALSO that it does not forcibly MAKE people receive Him, this grace of His in instituting the plan of salvation and executing all of it, from beginning to end. He would have ALL reconciled,, and says so, loved that the world be not condemned and says so, but He does not take them all. He came not only that the world be not condemned and that it might instead by saved, in the context of God, world, man, salvation, but in a direct, deliberate and deliberative thrust that knows no bounds but truth, no containment but love with it, no boxed in qualifications. He did this, with this in view; yet the world will be condemned. such is the perfection of His restraint, the purity of His love, of Him who is described AS love in I John 4:7-10. If in the first as in the last, some reject Him and this, His grace and love, the grace that IN ITSELF issued in I John 2:1ff. as a categorical result in sincere offer, then since He knows and foreknows all, these as in Romans 9 are already envisageable in their final lost condition and so depictable in their attainment of odium; just as Judas was so seen as a devil as in John 6:70, though the love remained attested long past this.
He does not make simplistic affairs as if His overall love were not specifically accredited. There is a consequential residue for those who reject even this grace, as in John 3:15-19,36, but this in no way compromises the love or its scope for the world, in the context of God, man and the world, as expressed with such peculiar force both in Colossians 1:19ff., and Romans 5, in both I Timothy 2 and in Ezekiel 33:11, as in phases almost beyond count in practical remonstrations, laced with grief to the uttermost. Nor does it annul His own statements of scope in His pure desire for the reconciliation of all.
Sin not only soils but spoils; so even in foreknowing man, God applying the principles of restraint and love, knew man as Christ knew and exhibited that He knew, so that as in John 9 and 15 (see Ch. 10 above). WITHOUT this exposure, or its equivalent, man is not damned as there found from His word. It is very explicit. It is only when it is there, the words, the deeds perceived, the things wrought in their integrity, wonder, power and compassion, fulfilment and function, and yet for all that, still there is no return to Him by those so exposed, that the ultimate destiny is shown as negative, in terms of being exhibited in history. IF I HAD NOT ... YOU WOULD HAVE NO SIN (in the relevant sense of being now freely on the path of eternal judgment). Such were repeated statements.
Christ does not change and the same principles stated by Him on earth, are in principle applicable in heaven. It is in his endeavour to exegete Matthew 23:37 that Calvin shows so sharply his error, for his statements on this episode has his theology even his christology at this point, go astray*3. It is better not to patronise Christ, alter God, impose divisions in the truth amidst the deity. The truth does not change. It is best not to tutor God. He knows better.
Hence before sin or creation or fall, GOD FOREKNEW His own and did so in the entire integrity of His STATED love and desire, and thus His own stood out, for love does not force - that is why God so often laments for those insisting on being lost (as in Jeremiah 48, Jeremiah 9, Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:41ff.,, Jeremiah 13:18ff., Isaiah 48:15ff., both prospectively and retrospectively). He WOULD have it otherwise, but that would contradict WHO HE IS (john 4:7-10), and by no means does He divide from Himself, allowing some kind of lust to lasso the lost. There is question of merit where sin has not come, in the foreknowledge, but of fact. Where there is no comparison there is no gradation; where reality is exposed, there is no operation of what is not yet made. But there is sight on the part of God; and there is that incomparable combination of grace and love, tenderness and compassion, appeal even though there is might, which is so often found as we read the Bible. If this were not so present, so often, in so many ways, so that it is characteristic of God, the Bible would be a different book, the truth have a different look and force would be the enormity in these areas which dictators so often display to the horror of those who watch.
Moreover, it is all grace, there is no merit involved in reaching the heights of divine approbation, just as it precedes the operational facilities for it: having done all, you have done no more than is to be expected (Luke 17:7-10). WHEN, however, and ONCE one becomes a Christian through faith, the whole thing as in Ephesians 2, a work of utter grace, contrary to merit, an example of acceptance of what in itself has demerit, that there is question of the ultra-grace, the pinnacle, in that it may confer in the glory of love, some reward.
To be sure, it is more in the form of the intrinsic than the extrinsic, and is solely and exclusively in the field of the grace of what needs no conferment, but yet may be given. Is God to be circumscribed! But there is no necessity or earning; rather the blessing of that divine yearning and desire which pours out in the abundance of kindness. There is no question of citable merit as a right, here to secure what is already granted (Ephesians 1:11,13). The PLACE in heaven is now already given as at the outset (John 5:24, Ephesians 2:1-12, John 10:9,27-28), and what is now in view is NOT a striving and a straining for maximal reward (like the 'Gentiles'), for personal satisfaction. God loves to give and IN love gives. If there is reward this does not tarnish the truth. It may adorn it. It may be gratifying, enjoyable, but it is not the motive UNLESS as with Jesus the Christ, it is intrinsic to His task, that love's reward is the salvation and blessing of what is loved. Love is like that. God is like that. God shows and tells us that He is like that.
If there is ever any merit, it is left to the Lord to determine it, and any purely selfish reward sought is mere shame in hypocrisy IF it is the motive, NOT the deliverance of what is loved, or the glory of the ONE loved. Love is not concerned with its selfish motivations, but with the One who gave it, made it appear, and just as it wants to deliver the lost, so it loves the One who made this His specialty, this together with all His other wonders. Its focus is the love of God and hence of his neighbour, and what is lost, since God also loves this and went so far to gain it.
When the entire scriptural coverage is taken, and not some tradition of selected verses, where is the problem ? It vanishes like morning mist.
On allegorising, it needs to be noted that this trend is found in much of theology that is often called reformed, and as found by this author as a student at Westminster, it appeared heavily entrenched, though the professors concerned normally showed personal grace in this field, there being only one notable absentee in that quality, when it came in this case, to the predestinative area, which appeared to follow normal or frequently found reformed error as shown in *1 and *3 below, and this in that case, could be intemperately thrust forward without logical ground for the truncation in the field of divine love for those to be lost, as so often shown so intensively in the word of God known correctly as the Bible, the sole authorised, infallible written word from God to mankind (cf.
DEITY AND DESIGN, DESIGNATION AND DESTINY
LIGHT DWELLS WITH THE LORD'S CHRIST).
When a kind of theology begins to get merit in and of itself, it is almost like the unpleasant case when this is to be attributed to an individual! It tends to grow too big, to move too weightily. When this occurs, you are already not too far from the traditions of man which annul or nullify the word of God, to which fault Christ addressed Himself rather more than crisply! (Mark 7:7ff.).
Some of the kinds of upset and distortion which have resulted in the field of allegorising and eschatology are noted in such Chapters as
Department of Bible ... Vol. 5, Ch. 4, and Vol. 1, Ch. 10,
Why Not Believe the Lord's Christ! Ch. 5,
SMR Appendix A,
Galloping Events Ch. 8, *2,
Bay of Retractable Islands ... Ch. 19.
See also Questions and Answers Ch. 7, esp. *1.
This list would include the following.
Great Execrations, Great Enervations, Greater Grace Chs. 7 and 9,
A Time to Praise God, Appendix 1, with
Message ... Ch. 9,
Marvels of Predestination ... Ch. 4, Ch. 6, Supplement 6,
The Spiritual Sagacity of Predestination in Love Ch. 4,
The Pride of Life ... Ch. 7,
Dizzy Dashes, Heady Clashes and the Brilliant Harmony of Inevitable Truth Ch. 6, esp. *3
Massifs of Pure Splendour Ch. 7.
As seen in Hebrews 6:4ff., GOD makes a difference when natural law or inhibition applies, whether the scope and realm be astronomy or spirituality, condemnation or approbation: in fact all the difference. This is additional to the grace shown in the purity of love in the foreknowing that logically precedes predestination as well as creation and the actual enduements with individuality.
See, for example:
Massifs of Pure Splendour Ch. 7. To Know God ... Ch. 1, Celestial Harmony for the Terrestrial Host Ch. 2