The Grace of God in Salvation

The Grace of God in Salvation

The boundless grace of God is one of the great themes that permeate scripture. When we speak about ‘grace’ in this context, we refer to the lavish, unlimited, unmerited favour that God has been pleased to bestow upon sinful man. This is something that will never cease to fill us with wonder and worship whilst here in this world, and it is the theme that will be song for all of eternity. As is found in the well-known hymn ‘Amazing grace’ of the onetime slave-trader JOHN NEWTON,’

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,

Bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing his praise,

Than when we first begun.

In our day, one feels that we are in grave danger of losing sight of the grace of God in relation to the salvation. Perhaps this is due to an over-emphasis on the sovereign purposes of God, to the exclusion of the grace of God in the matter of a truly universal offer, or opportunity. This has created a deep divide among the Lord’s people, where the issue is seen to be one of sovereignty versus grace. This is unfortunate, because each has its place in the matter of salvation. One has no desire to acerbate the divided that exists, but one feels compelled to emphasise the involvement of the grace of God in relation to salvation, to protect the integrity of the gospel.

THE SOURCE OF GRACE:

The grace of God in relation to the salvation of man, finds its source in the eternal counsels of God. Scripture gives us to understand that even before the universe had been created, God, anticipating the Fall, conceived the plan of salvation for ruined man through the giving of His only begotten Son to the Cross of Calvary. Not only so, but ever since the first man sinned, it is God in His grace who has reached out to man with a view to restoring fellowship with Him. Man in his unregenerate condition has no thought of God, nor does he seek after him. It is God who takes the initiative to reach out to man in salvation. The hymn writer JOHN KENT put it well when he wrote:

A monument of grace,

A sinner saved by blood,

The streams of love I trace,

Back to the fountain God,

And in His sovereign counsels see,

Eternal thoughts of love to me.

THE SCOPE OF GRACE:

Such is the love of God for His benighted creature man, that He has placed the possibility of accepting His grace within the reach of all, without exception. Scripture abounds with insights to the will of God in relation to man’s salvation. We read “The Lord… is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Again, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.’ Again, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” Perhaps one of the most eloquent statements regarding the grace of God in salvation is contained in the statement of the Lord Jesus when He said “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” In this latter verse, two words emphasise the limitlessness of the grace of God. We learn that it embraces the ‘world,’ and that the offer is made to the ‘whosoever believeth.’ These few statements regarding the grace of God must dispel any idea that any human being on the face of the earth is excluded from receiving God’s grace in salvation. SIR ROBERT ANDERSON has written “There is no shuffling of the cards; There is no deception in it; If forgiveness is preached to all, it is because all may share it.” And again he writes “He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son – and he adds, not as a cold formula which the initiated know to be overshadowed by the doctrine of election – ‘ that WHOSOVER believeth in Him should not perish by have everlasting life.”

THE RECEIVING OF GRACE:

We have already shown that the will of God is that all men should be saved, and we have shown the work that God has done in order that the ‘whosevers’ can have eternal life through believing in Him.

In other words, such is the grace of God, that He has done all that He can do to bring men salvation, and now man is responsible to believe, to accept, to receive, the terms of the Gospel. The New Testament abounds with exhortations to men to do so. Indeed the exhortation to ‘believe’ is predominant in the evangelical gospel of John. From this we learn that while it is the will of God that all should be saved, man must now bend His will to the will of God in order to be saved. Unfortunately, man can, and does, resist the will of God, and the same freedom given Adam to cede to, or resist the will of God in the garden of Eden, is still in vogue today. Men, like Adam, have been given freedom of choice, and the ability to accept or reject the grace of God in Salvation.

A word must be said about the role of the Holy Spirit in the matter of salvation. Scripture makes it clear that no one can be saved apart from the convicting work of the Holy Spirit leading to conversion, and those of us who have been saved can testify to this fact. However, we must avoid the notion that the Spirit of God is selective in His dealings with men, thus giving opportunity to some, whilst denying it to others. This would be a reprehensible thing. One can testify from personal experience in evangelizing, that we have seen some come under the conviction of the Spirit, yielding to it, and being saved. We have also seen others come under the deep conviction of the Spirit, and then sadly turn away from it, and to be lost.

PRAYER AND THE RECEIVING OF GRACE:

One of the important factors in relation to the salvation of the lost is to engage in prayer for them. In doing so we are in harmony with the will of God who desires that all men should be saved, and our prayers must be offered with this in mind. The apostle Paul could say “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” We remember the story about the paralytic whom the Lord Jesus healed. His friends made valiant efforts to bring him before the Lord, to the extent of letting him down through the roof. We then read, “And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.”   So also we must make valiant efforts to bring the lost before the Lord, and to do so with the confidence the Lord will respond. One recollects hearing the late HARRY BELL of Jarrow, UK telling how that he prayed for his sister’s salvation for over 40 years. Upon receiving news that she was dying he hastened to her bedside, only to be told that she had passed away just minutes before he arrived. His heart sank upon hearing this. However, those present told him, that just before she died she made a clear confession of Christ as Saviour. Prayer had been answered. Brother Bell told this story as an encouragement to the saints to continue in prayer for the lost.

In concluding, the mysteries relating to the interaction between sovereignty and grace may only be fully understood when we have the capacity to do so upon reaching heaven. But in the meantime, we must never limit the scope of the Gospel nor flag in our efforts in both preaching and prayer on the understanding that both of these are an essential part of our responsibility before God, and to the lost around us, and to do so with the understanding that the ‘whosoever’ may come.

The grand word, whosoever,

Is ringing through my soul,

Whosoever will may come.            W.H.BURNETT, Oakville, Ontario

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William Burnett

William Burnett was born and raised in Scotland, and spent his entire professional life in the Oil refining industry. He was seconded to Canada by his employer in 1972, and accepted early retirement in 1994. He has been a "tentmaker," - working in business, whilst ministering among the assemblies - since his late teen years. Early retirement has enabled him to undertake a much wider sphere of itinerant ministry throughout North America, and abroad. He also sits on the board of Counsel Magazine, and contributes regularly to various publication, including Uplook, Precious Seed and the Choice Gleanings Calendar. He and his wife Beth reside in Oakville, Ontario, where they are in happy fellowship in Hopedale Assembly. They have three married sons, and eight grandchildren.