Reformed Witness Hour
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Rev. W. Bruinsma
JOHN OWEN ON GRACE:
1. Grace of personal presence and comeliness (beauty). So we say, “A graceful and comely person,” either from himself or his ornaments. This in Christ is the subject of near one-half of the book of Song of Solomon; it is also mentioned, Psalm. 45: 2 and John 1:14, “Thou art fairer than the children of men;grace is poured into thy lips.” Those inconceivable gifts and fruits of the Spirit which were bestowed on him, and brought forth in him, concur to his personal excellency;
2. Grace of free favour and acceptance. “By this grace we are saved;” that is, the free favour and gracious acceptation of God in Christ. In this sense is it used in that frequent expression, “If I have found grace in thy sight;” that is, if I be freely and favourably accepted before thee. So he “giveth grace” (that is, favour) “unto the humble,” James 4:6; Gen. 39:21, Acts 7:10; 1 Sam. 2:26; Paul introduces most of his epistles or ends them with a doxology that equates grace with Jesus Christ-indeed there is NO GRACE outside of Christ-JK.
3. The power of God producing the fruit of the Spirit, saving, sanctifying and renewing our natures, enabling unto good, and preventing from evil, are so termed. Thus the Lord tells Paul, “his grace was sufficient for him;” that is, the assistance against temptation which he afforded him, Titus 2:10, I Peter 5: 10-12, Col. 3:16; 2 Cor. 8:6, 7; Heb. 12: 28.
There is no grace outside of Christ for mankind in general, specifically the reprobate wicked-JK
“And because the number of the saints is gathered by no preceding merits, as was said, but only by the gratuitous will of God concerning such, correctly John, about to write to the seven churches which are located in Asia, puts forth the heading of his greeting, saying: Grace to you and peace from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:4-5). For, grace is said to be something that has been given freely, not something paid as a reward, but something conferred freely through kindness. For, when this grace shined within us, we, from enemies were led back to friendship with our Creator, from ungodly were made godly, and from servants of sin were adopted as children of righteousness. Every day we are illuminated by this preceding grace so that we may be able to see where we should place our step regarding good work. We are guarded by subsequent grace so that in the end we are not bitten by a serpent in the heel. By this grace we are incited to good work, but having been incited, unless that grace supports what it has incited, we are unable to complete that same work. On this Paul says: The will is present with me, but to do good I do not find (Rom. 7:18). Accordingly, therefore, the will that is present with you, is only because you received it by grace, as you yourself said in another passage: What do you have that you did not receive? (1 Cor. 4:7) Therefore, just as the will was present with Paul because he received this very thing by grace, so he did not find it to do good unless that very grace, which gave him the will, supported it. Accordingly also, the same Apostle says again: It is God who works in you both to will and to do his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). For, John, Peter, and Paul, when they were about to write to believers, put forth this grace in the heading of their greetings in their writings.”
Ambrose Autpert (730-784), Expositio in Apocalypsin. On Rev 1:3
Thanks Andy Underhill (USA)
“Grace alone makes the elect gracious; grace alone keeps them gracious; and the same grace alone will render them everlastingly glorious in the heaven of heavens.” – Augustus Toplady.
Grace according to John Owen:
1. Grace of personal presence and comeliness. So we say, “A graceful and comely person,”either from himself or his ornaments. This in Christ (upon the matter) is the subject of near one-half of the book of Song of Solomon; it is also mentioned, Ps. 45:2, “Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into thy lips.” And unto this first head, in respect of Christ, do I refer also that acceptation of grace which, in respect of us, I fix in the third place. Those inconceivable gifts and fruits of the Spirit which were bestowed on him, and brought forth in him, concur to his personal excellency; as will afterward appear.
2. Grace of free favour and acceptance. “By this grace we are saved;” that is, the free favour and gracious acceptation of God in Christ. In this sense is it used in that frequent expression, “If I have found grace in thy sight;” that is, if I be freely and favourably accepted before thee. So he “giveth grace” (that is, favour) “unto the humble,” James 4:6; Gen. 39:21,Acts 7:10; 1 Sam. 2:26; 2 Kings 25:27, etc.
3. The fruits of the Spirit, sanctifying and renewing our natures, enabling unto good, and preventing from evil, are so termed. Thus the Lord tells Paul, “his grace was sufficient for him;” that is, the assistance against temptation which he afforded him, Col. 3:16; 2 Cor. 8:6, 7; Heb. 12:28. He calls these latter two purchased grace.
In New Testament usage God’s grace usually means the sovereign powerful, irresistible work of his unconditional, undeserved love towards his elect that saves and keeps them (Eph.2:8-9, Ex.33:19, Titus 2:11). It inevitably saves it’s recipients and goes on working throughout their lives (II Cor.12:9, Eph.4:7, Acts 4:33), hence Paul’s repeated salutations and doxologies like “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all ” (II Cor.13:14 and also Peter’s (I Peter 1:2, II Peter 3:18). The elect are looked upon with grace which is also favour and is the beauty of Christ.
But when we come to Christ, the source and communicator of that grace, we cannot say that it was anything undeserved or merciful or needful for him. He was full of grace (John 1:14). So what was he full of? The beauty of holiness! God, in Christ is a being of absolutely perfect beauty, which is reflected in his creation and which is lauded in Scripture and which is communicated to his people (Ps.149:4, 90:17, 29:2, 96:9, 110:3,27:4, Is.33:17, Ezek. 16:14). It was not outward beauty people saw (Is 53:2) it was inward! The spotless Bridegroom makes his bride beautiful (II Peter 3:14). Lord let this beauty be upon us!
“He gives us habitual grace; — a principle of grace, opposed to the principle of lust that is
in us by nature. This is the grace that dwells in us, makes its abode with us; which, according to the distinct faculties of our souls wherein it is, or the distinct objects about which it is exercised, receiveth various appellation, being indeed all but one new principle of life. In the understanding, it is light; in the will, obedience; in the affections, love; in all, faith. So, also, it is differences in respect of its operations. When it carries out the soul to rest on Christ, it is faith; when to delight in him, it is love; but still one and the same habit of grace. ”
Owen in Communion with God.
Colossians 1:19: “ For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell;” and John 1:14: “ And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
Hear John Owen: For the fountain of grace, the Holy Ghost, he received not him “by measure,” John 3. 34; and for the communications of the Spirit, “it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell,” This is the Beloved of our souls, “holy, harmless, undefiled;” “full of grace and truth;” — full, to a sufficiency for every end of grace, — full, for practice, to be an example to men and angels as to obedience, full, to a certainty of uninterrupted communion with God, — full, to a readiness of giving supply to others, — full, to suit him to all the occasions and necessities of the souls of men, — full, to a glory not unbecoming a subsistence in the person of the Son of God, — full, to a perfect
victory, in trials, over all temptations, — full, to an exact correspondence to the whole law, every righteous and holy law of God, full to the utmost capacity of a limited, created, finite nature, — full, to the greatest beauty and glory of a living temple of God, — full, to the full pleasure and delight of the soul of his Father, — full to an everlasting monument of the glory of God, in giving such inconceivable excellencies to the Son of man.”
And by his cross and resurrection we are the recipients of some of this fullness all our days.
Christians who believe grace is unmerited favour have only part of the answer and Christians who believe in “common” grace, that God in the gospel offers it to all men are very mistaken as definition 4 below shows. Only God’s elect are the objects of his saving, particular grace.
The word grace in Scripture has a variety of meanings:
1. Grace as an attribute of God has the fundamental meaning of pleasantness, attractiveness, and gracefulness. God is the perfection of all beauty and attractiveness and gracefulness, because He is the implication of all infinite perfection of goodness in the ethical sense. God is perfectly lovely and beautiful.
A graceful dancer
2. Grace in Scripture denotes the attitude of graciousness or pleasantness, the gracious disposition of God to the creature. This is undoubtedly the meaning of the phrase, “to find grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8; Gen. 19:19).
3. In close connection with the preceding, the word grace has the meaning of undeserved or forfeited favor. In this case, the favorable attitude of God is accentuated and enhanced by the condition of the subjects who receive the grace of God. The word of God uses the term grace as standing opposed to obligation and, therefore, as being opposed to works.
4. The word grace frequently is used in Scripture to denote the power of God whereby the sinner is actually saved and delivered from the bondage of sin and corruption, whereby he is regenerated and sanctified, and thus is made pleasant in the sight of God. It also includes all the spiritual blessings and virtues that are bestowed upon the objects of God’s favor.
5. Grace is used in the sense of thanks, as we read in the original of 1 Corinthians 15:57: “Grace be to God, who giveth us the victory.” The meaning is most probably that grace is ascribed to God by those who are the objects and recipients of the power of God’s grace, in order that He may receive praise and adoration as the only God of all grace.
(Reformed Dogmatics [Grandville, MI: RFPA, 2014], vol. 2, pp. 280-281)
We heard this morning at church (CPRC Ballymena) from Rev. Ron VanOverloop with Micah 7:18-19 as his text, about “The Supreme God Delighting in Mercy”.
Bartimaeus whose cry was , “Jesus Son of David have mercy upon me.”
We learnt that mercy is something deep in God, one of his immutable attributes and something he has eternally which is his deep desire to bless himself. It is expressed in time by his mercy towards his elect miserable sinful people whom he saves in Christ and blesses eternally. The truth that he is mercy in himself apart from creation and the expression of it, has to be held alongside the fact that all his eternal, immutable attributes coexist with his eternal decree and covenant in Christ to be merciful and bless his people. So in reality his mercy never existed outside of his covenant—it is covenant mercy.
It is incredible that such a great, holy and powerful God should show mercy to miserable sinners like us and in fact I believe were it not for the work of the Holy Spirit convincing us NO-ONE would believe it! We couldn’t and we wouldn’t!
His mercy in Christ is exhibited in the Good Shepherd seeking his sheep which was the subject of the evening sermon (Luke 15) where incidentally the self-righteous Pharisees and the elder brother were actually goats who thought they were sheep! Being found by Christ is simultaneous with repenting which we do initially upon conversion and continually throughout our Christian lives.
Preserve me—keep me from my enemies and from sin. I trust thee. I can add nothing to thy being but I may do good to thy people (fellow Christians) in whom I delight. All who make an idol in which they trust, whether money, sex, drugs, alcohol, fame or power will have multiplied sorrows. Jehovah is my inheritance, he is all I need, he has blessed my life, he guides me and his Spirit moves me deep within. I pray about everything future. He is there for me continually so I am glad and one day he will redeem my body and make it incorruptible. I am confident he will show me the right path in life. He (and nothing else) is the source of fullness of joy and pleasures for ever (John 15:11, John 16:24).
This is the joy of the COVENANT—intimate friendship with God.
What is grace?
Many believers, even Reformed ones, believe it is “undeserved favour”, in other words, the blessing of God that redeems elect fallen humanity through the atonement of Christ. This is true but it is only part of the meaning.
If grace only means undeserved favour how can it be said of Christ that as a child the grace of God was upon him (Luke 2:40) and that he was full of grace (John 1:14). He needed no undeserved favour! It has to have another meaning! From Psalm 27:4 and 90:17 we learn that God is beautiful. His multifaceted character comprising all his communicable and incommunicable attributes make for one absolutely, infinitely beautiful and desirable being. He has to be! He is love. He is good. He is holy. He is righteous. He is just. Yes he is altogether lovely (Song of Solomon 5:16). The triune God and our Lord Jesus Christ in his adopted humanity are full of grace, full of divine beauty, and this beauty is given us in salvation from regeneration to glory till the day we awake with his likeness!
“This is the grace of God. Grace, which carries out the work of redemption, is divine power that blesses and saves guilty, depraved sinners. The power of grace originates in and is controlled by the counsel of predestination, which purposes the salvation of the elect church (Eph. 1:3-12).” David J. Engelsma. But that grace blesses the elect by progressively infusing into them by that power the beautiful image of his Son. Grace is power and beauty! The everlasting covenant of grace is what unifies and governs all God’s dealings with mankind from before creation to the new heavens and earth. Praise his beautiful grace!