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What is Grace?

Posted Feb 22, 2016 by John Penman in Third Angel's Message
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John 18:38. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?.......

After some devotional study I found myself asking another question, what is grace? And how does that relate to the law of God and to Christ and to the plan of salvation and to forgiveness of sins and to our sanctification? Talk about a lot of questions!

I was drawn to a very interesting time in Adventist history. I thought, if Ellen White informed us that the refreshing spirit of Christ referred to as the latter rain was beginning to fall upon God's people around 1888 then would it not make perfect sense to go over with a fine tooth comb all that was preached at that time? Is God going to instruct us in some new way when a most precious message has already been given? And so I would like to share the joy I found in a message given by A. T. Jones sermon 17 1893 GC Bulletin – Sermons on the Third Angels Message

Jones started immediately with the theme of righteous by faith using Abraham as an example.

"What is the blessing of Abraham, then?  What is it?  [Congregation:  "Righteousness by faith."]  How did he get it?  [Congregation:  "By faith."]  The blessing of Abraham is not received except by that man who has righteousness by faith; is that so?  [Congregation:  "Yes, sir."]
Gal 3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that hangeth on a tree:
Gal 3:14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Jones had more to say but I'm only inserting some key points.

"What holds back the outpouring of the Holy Ghost?  [Voice:  "Unbelief."]  Our lack of the righteousness of God, which is by faith--that is what holds it back, for when that is received, it is given in order that we may receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.  Then let us be sure we have the blessing of Abraham and then ask and we shall receive.

Next Jones explains circumcision of the heart. 

"Whoever has not the blessing of Abraham cannot have the Holy Spirit.  Because we read in Rom. 4, "He received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised."  What circumcision really is, you will find by turning to the 30th chapter of Deuteronomy and the 6th verse:  "And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart and with all thy soul that thou mayest live."  Now, put right with that Rom. 5:5.  After telling that we are justified by faith and that "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:  By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God"; then he says, (verse 5):  "And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."....."The only way that we can love the Lord with all the heart and with all the soul, is by the love of God implanted in the heart and in the soul, converting the person to God.  And "love is the fulfilling of the law."

As I read this I began to understand why a false understanding of who God is makes it impossible for a real love response to occur in the heart.  If my God is a mystery how can I love Him? Love can only be found in a literal interpretation of verses such as John 3:16 where a real Father who is the great source of all, gave His real Son for me which demonstrates the real love of both.

"Then, the man who knows that he believes God can ask with perfect confidence for the Holy Spirit.  Not the man who thinks that he believes God..... "But it is not according to His will to give the Holy Spirit to anybody who has not the blessing of Abraham, and just as with the individual, so with the church:  When the people of God reach that place where they know that they believe God, they can ask with perfect confidence for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and wait in perfect confidence and faith that they shall receive it and they will.  That is a fact... "
“We will read first from Eph. 1:3-6.  That takes us to the point where God began concerning us, and that will be as far back as we need to go.  The third verse:
 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ."  What is it He "hath" done?  [Congregation:  "Blessed us."].  Is it so?  [Congregation:  "Yes."]  Has done it?  [Congregation:  "Yes."]  He has blessed us with how many blessings?  [Congregation:  "All spiritual blessings."]  All the blessings He has?  He has given us all?  [Congregation:  "Yes."]  How?  [Congregation:  "In Christ."]  In Christ.  Then in giving Christ, what did God give?  [Congregation:  "All spiritual blessings."]  All the spiritual blessings that He had.  Well, then, when you and I believe in Jesus Christ, are we not blessed?  Have not we all the blessing that the Lord has?..."
"But the fourth verse is the one particularly that I want to read:  "According as He hath chosen us."  Will choose us?  [Congregation:  "Hath chosen us."]  Has He?  [Congregation:  "Yes."]  When did He do it?  [Congregation:  "'Before the foundation of the world.'"]  Thank the Lord!  "Before the foundation of the world" He chose you and me.  [Congregation:  "Praise the Lord!"]
"He chose me because He wanted me and He shall have me.  I am not going to rob Him and disappoint His choice.  He has chosen us, hasn't He?  [Congregation:  "Yes."]  "Before the foundation of the world."  Now the rest of that verse:  "That we should be holy and without blame before Him in  love."  His blessed purpose is, He wants us to "be holy and without blame before him in love."  Then we can let Him have His own way, because it is our everlasting salvation to let Him do It..... . "
Verse 6:  "To the praise of the glory of His grace wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved."  Now what do you say to that?  [Congregation:  "Amen."]  When did He do that?  [Congregation: "Before the foundation of the world."]  Precisely.  "Before the foundation of the world."  That answers all this idea about whether we can do anything in order to be justified or not. He did it all before we had any chance to do anything--long before we were born--long before the world was made.  Don't you see that the Lord is the one that does things, in order that we may be saved and that we may have Him?
 Now see what He has done:  1.  "He hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings" in Christ.  2.  "He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world."  3.  "He hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ."  4.  And "He hath made us accepted in the beloved."  Well, I am glad of it.  I know that that is so.  [Congregation:  "Amen."]
" The thought I am after just now is that no one can have these things and know they are his without his own consent.  The Lord will not force any of these things upon a man, even though He has given them already, will He?  [Congregation:  "No."]  This is a cooperation, you see.  God pours out everything in one wondrous gift, but if a man will not have it, the Lord will not compel him to have a bit of it.".... There is where the cooperation comes in.  The Lord has to have our cooperation in all things.
 Now let us turn to Titus 2:14, speaking of the Lord it says, "who gave himself for us."  That is the past tense too is it not?  That is done.  He did give Himself for how many people?  [Congregation:  "All."]  How many people on the earth can read that text and "say that means me"?  Every soul on the earth."
Gal. 2:20:  "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
"Now, friends, let us make this a real practical, tangible thing.  He has bought us, has He not?  He has paid the price for us.  We are His by His will.  Now then, when our will is there, whose are we then? [Congregation:  "The Lord's."]
..... the Lord has bought every one and any man who refuses to let the Lord have him, he is robbing the Lord of that which he bought and for which he paid the price and he is counting the price which bought him as worth less than himself.  Is not that the same satanic spirit that sought to put itself above God in heaven?  The Lord gave Himself for us; then when I will not let Him have me, in that very thing I count myself worth more than the price that was paid--that is, worth more than the Lord, and that is the same self that puts itself above God all the time.  Oh let this mind be in us that was in Christ, who emptied Himself that God and man might again be united in one.
 "Ye are not your own," are you?  [Congregation:  "No."]  Are you not glad of it?  Are you not glad you are not your own?
" Here is another text--Titus 3:3-7:  "For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient,  serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.  But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saves us, by the washing to regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour: that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."  He did it; He says so.  Then do you know that that is so?  [Congregation:  "Yes."]
" He will not take our sins--although He bought them--without our permission."
"He gave Himself to me, for my sins?  [Congregation:  "Yes."]  Then the choice is forever with me as to whether I would rather have my sins than to have Him, isn't it?  [Congregation:  "Yes."]  That is the living choice before me, is it?  [Congregation:  "Yes."]
" Then from this time henceforth can there be any hesitation about letting anything go that God shows is sin?  Will you let it go when it is pointed out?  When sin is pointed out to you, say, "I would rather have Christ than that."  And let it go  [Congregation:  "Amen."]  Just tell the Lord, "Lord, I make the choice now.  I make the trade.  I make Thee my choice.  It is gone, and I have something better."  Thank the Lord!

Jones reasoning here has really helped me see the inseparable relationship with law and grace. It's impossible to see them as opposing forces or that one becomes obsolete so the other can take its place. Is it not grace that works through the law to bring guilt to our soul because of transgression? Is it not grace that has enabled us to know that God is love? Is it not grace that brings us to the feet of Jesus to confess our sins? Is it not the same grace that lifts the burden of guilt from us? Is it not grace that empowers us with the promise, "Go and sin no more"?

Jones continues ..." Then where in the world is the opportunity for any of us to get discouraged over our sins?   Now some of the brethren here have done that very thing.  They came here free, but the Spirit of God brought up something they never saw before.  The Spirit of God went deeper than it ever went before and revealed things they never saw before and then instead of thanking the Lord that that was so and letting the whole wicked business go and thanking the Lord  they had ever so much more of Him than they ever had before, they began to get discouraged.  They said, "Oh what am I going to do?  My sins are so great."  There they let Satan cast a cloud over them and throw them into discouragement and they get no good out of the meetings day after day.  Isn't that too bad?  Isn't it too bad that a person whom the Lord has loved so much as to give Himself for Him at all, should act that way with the Lord when the Lord wants to reveal more of Himself?  Brethren, if any of you have got into discouragement, let us quit.  If the Lord has brought up sins to us that we never thought of before, that only shows that He is going down to the depths and He will reach the bottom at last and when He finds the last thing that is unclean or impure and that is out of harmony with His will and brings that up and shows that to us and we say, "I would rather have the Lord than that," then the work is complete and the seal of the living God can be fixed upon that character.  [Congregation:  "Amen."]

From these few quotes I hope you can see the wonderful manifestation of the Spirit of God speaking through the human agency.  Knowing some of the weaknesses of Jones and Waggoner only helps to enhance that it is the Spirit of God speaking through them. It saddens me when some people focus primarily upon the character of God's feeble human messengers or try to gloss over 1888 in a way that discourages people from focusing their attention to that time again, and thereby subtly undermine the importance of the messages given. The more the Spirit of Christ works upon our hearts and we see that no righteousness comes from us, then the more we become attuned to the voice of God in the bible and through His messengers.

Here is a summary of some statements given to Seventh Day Adventists by our Lord in and around 1888 through the messengers, Jones and Waggoner.

Ellen White labelled it many things including:

a “message from heaven”, “the loud cry”, the “Latter rain message” ,the “matchless charms of Christ,” “waves of truth,” “God’s working,” “true religion of the Bible,” “message of His grace,” “the call of the Spirit of God,” “every fibre of my heart said amen,” “manifestations of the Holy Spirit,” “meat in due season,” “Christlike spirit,” “like a Christian gentleman,””the voice of the true Shepherd,” “divine credentials,heavenly credentials,” “large morsels from the Lord’s table,” “rich lessons” “lips touched with a live coal,” “feast of fat things” “Heaven-sent refreshing,”

Let us pray for wisdom and understanding, for spiritual discernment, for meekness, gentleness, steadfastness and courage. I pray that the Law will keep doing its wonderful work of convicting me of sin. I pray to be set free from the curse which indeed when completed, will be the kingdom of God.

1Jn 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

1Jn 5:15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

One final statement from A. T. Jones

"And we can know that that work of sanctification is going on in us.  If the Lord should take away our sins without our knowing it, what good would it do us?   That would simply be making machines of us.  He does not propose to do that; consequently, He wants you and me to know when our sins go, that we may know when His righteousness comes."