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BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH.
“It is by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2 v8).
Because God is gracious, we are forgiven, converted, purified and saved. It is not because of anything in us, or that ever can be in us that we are saved, but because of the boundless love, goodness, pity, compassion, mercy and grace of God. This is the pure river of water of life that proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
How vast is the grace of God. Who can measure it ? Like all the rest of the divine attributes it is infinite. God is full of love, for “God is love”. God is full of goodness, and unbounded goodness and love enter into the very essence of the Godhead. It is because “His mercy endures for ever” that we are not destroyed, because “His compassions do not fail” that we are brought to Him and forgiven.
Faith is the channel of salvation, but grace is the fountain and source even of faith itself. Faith is the work of God’s grace in us. “No- one can come to me,” said Jesus, “unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6 v44). So that faith, which is coming to Christ, is the result of divine drawing. Grace is the cause of salvation, and faith, essential as it is, is only an important part of the machinery which grace employs. We are saved “through faith”, but salvation is “by grace”. “It is by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2 v8).
Grace, The Fountain.
Faith occupies the position of a channel or pipe. Grace is the fountain and the stream, faith is the aqueduct along which the flood of mercy flows to refresh the thirsty. It is a great pity when the aqueduct is broken. The aqueduct must be kept whole to carry the water, and faith must be true and sound, leading right up to God and coming right down to us, that it may become a serviceable channel of mercy to our souls.
Faith is only the channel or aqueduct and not the fountain head, and we must not exalt it above the divine source of all blessing which lies in the grace of God. Never make a christ out of your faith, nor think of it as if it were the source of your salvation. Our life is found in “looking to Jesus”, not in looking to our own faith. By faith all things become possible to us, yet the power is not in the faith but in the God on whom faith relies. The peace within the soul is not derived from the contemplation of our own faith, but from Him who is our peace, the hem of whose garment faith touches, and blessing comes out of Him into the soul.
The weakness of our faith will not destroy us. A trembling hand may receive a golden gift. The Lord’s salvation can come to us though we have only faith as a grain of mustard seed. The power lies in the grace of God and not in our faith. Great messages can be sent along slender wires, and the peace-giving witness of the Holy Spirit can reach the heart by means of a thread-like faith which seems almost unable to sustain its own weight. Think more of HIM to whom you look than of the looking. You must look away even from your own looking and see nothing but Jesus, and the grace of God revealed in Him.
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THE EDITOR’S LETTER.
My Dear Friends,
‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.’ How often do we hear those words without realising the wonder of what is being said?
In this edition of The Overcomer we look at some aspects of what the word ‘grace’ means when use as an attribute of our Lord Jesus, and pray that we may all come into a greater awareness of the glory of His grace.
May His grace indeed be with you.
Yours in His service,
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THE THRONE OF GRACE.
By John Bunyan.
The word grace describes God’s free and sovereign good pleasure whereby He acts in Christ towards His people. Mercy signifies pitifulness, or a running over of infinite love to those in a miserable and helpless condition. Grace signifies that God still acts as a free agent, not being overruled by the misery of the creature, but of His own princely mind.
Noah found grace in God’s eyes, not because he was better than the rest, but God acted as a gracious prince towards him, and let him share in mercy of His own sovereign will and pleasure.
In the Old Testament God’s resting place was not called a throne of grace but a mercy-seat, though there is great glory in this name also, for mercy-seat showed not only that God had compassion, but that His continual resting-place was in His goodness. Here He would sit whatever terrible or troublesome conditions affected His people. A seat is a place of rest, and here mercy is called a seat to show that whatever is happening in the world, however dreadful and amazing, yet to God’s people it shall end in mercy, for that is God's resting-place. For as God promised in Ezekiel 16 v60, “Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you . . . and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you”.
But the name, a throne of grace, is even more glorious, because the word grace shows that God, by all that He does for us in saving and forgiving, acts freely as Lord of His own good-will and pleasure. A throne is not only a seat for rest but a place of dignity and authority. This shows that God rules and governs by His grace. And this He can justly do because, “grace reigns through righteousness, to bring eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5 v21). So then it shows that sin and Satan, death and hell, must needs be subdued, for they are weakness and destruction, but grace is life and is sovereign over them all.
By this God plainly declares that He is resolved to rule in this way, and that He regards sin as His deadly foe, and so, “where sin increased, grace increased all the more“ (Rom. 5 v20), and also “sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace” (Rom. 6 v14). Sin seeks dominion and grace seeks dominion, but sin shall not rule, because grace is king. Grace has the throne and the people of God are not under the dominion of sin but of the grace of God. We are told to come boldly to it for help, “so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4 v16). As from the hand and power of a king comes help and succour to the subject when assaulted by an enemy, so from the throne of grace, or from grace as it reigns, comes help and health to God’s people. As it says in Jeremiah 17 v12, “a glorious throne, exalted from the beginning, is the place of our sanctuary”. Here then the saints take shelter from the roaring of the devil, from the raging of their desires and from the fury of the wicked. In Micah 7 v19 it is written, “you will again have compassion on us; you will tread down our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depth of the sea”. Micah speaks of God as pleasing himself in mercy, and delighting himself in the salvation of his people and says, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression . . . You do not stay angry for ever but delight to show mercy” (Mi. 7 v18). Mercy and grace are the throne of God where He reigns, and will assuredly conquer with a shout, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2 v13). Yes, mercy glories when it gains the victory over sin and brings the sinner to God and to salvation.
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JOSHUA THE HIGH PRIEST.
The symbols of the Old Testament give us glimpses of the grace which has appeared for all, bringing salvation through Jesus Christ. In Joshua the High Priest we have a wonderful picture of the truth of justification by faith, and of our access through Christ into this grace wherein we stand. Not only of full acquittal from condemnation but of fullest acceptance and purification.
Before the angel of His presence, in the light of God, we see Joshua standing without fear and undismayed, yet clothed in filthy garments (Zech. 3 v1-5). Judging from his appearance there was every reason why he should not be accepted. In the same way, we have no right even to the outer courts of worship, and yet because of Another we may find a place of acceptance and nearness. And more, in order that we may have an abiding peace, we must understand that our justification is wholly and for ever outside of ourselves.
Our God is a consuming fire, yet in the centre of the fiercest flame there is a place of still repose and safety. “The Lord said, ‘There is a place near Me where you may stand on a rock. When My glory passes by . . . ‘ “ (Ex. 33 v21-23). That place is reserved for those who have lost all and know no other standing than that of grace.
Where is this place of Sanctuary, the secret place of the Most High, in which sinners may abide ? The Lord showed it to Moses. It was upon a Rock, and within a Rock, cleft apart for safe hiding, and the Rock is Christ. The Lord Himself is that secret-place in the bosom of the Father, He who is our life, in Whom is our standing and by Whom we have access to God.
Once a year, on that great day of atonement, the high priest entered within the veil by the blood that atoned for his sins and those of the people. That was what Zechariah saw in the vision which pointed onward to Him, Who “entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” for us.
Joshua entered as a sinner, acknowledged and undone, and we can enter in no other way. We marvel that he stood before the angel clothed in filthy garments. There may have been times when we have cherished the garments of sin and grown quite proud of the characteristics of our fallen life. Like Job we may talk of our sense of justice and try to fasten around us some rags of virtue, “I will not deny my integrity” (Job 27 v5).
Then there comes a day when God looks at us and we hate ourselves. We try to loose and cast away the vices of our virtues, but our rightness itself is pronounced as filthy rags. What then ? The outer darkness and the fast-closed door ? No ! The open heart of God and the glory of the secret place.
The sinner and the Father. A sinner, yet accepted and brought near in the Person and because of the work of Another. Fully and eternally forgiven, justified, accepted and brought near as a sinner saved by grace, standing in grace. Not by a slow, ascending scale of merit, nor by a progressive work of grace, but by a finished, complete and perfect redemption, “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus”.
“He showed me Joshua . . . standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him” (Zech. 3 v1). The right side is the place of power, authority and dominion. Who gave to Satan this place of power and standing ? Not God, but we, who had fallen under the power of his lie. But the truth has loosed us from under his power, the truth that “by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is the devil” (Heb. 2 v14). For the Accuser is a usurper and has no standing in the court of heaven . . . “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen ? It is God who justifies, who is he that condemns ? It is Christ who died . . . nothing . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8 v31-39). We are in Him.
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THE TOUCH OF JESUS.
“While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged Him, ‘Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean.’ Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ He said, ‘Be clean !’ And immediately the leprosy left him” (Luke 5 v12-13).
This incident in the life of Jesus, so briefly told is full of the
glory of Divine grace. Against the dark background of human failure
we see the heavenly Christ, in all His spotless perfection, engaging
Himself to free this poor creature from an awful illness. That a man
full of leprosy should be found in a city is evidence of the failure of
the ruling power to contain a consuming disease, which, apart from the
intervention of God Himself in the leper’s behalf, could only result in a
slow and miserable death.
But God was present in the city, in the Person of Jesus. The reports of His ministry of mercy, power, love and grace, had swept through the land. Unlike many earthly religions no one was beyond its influence. Indeed, the deeper the need, the more reason there was to come and seek Him. And yet, all who came to Him for help felt a Divine power and glory radiating from His Person, for He was the Image of the Invisible God, the Firstborn of all creation. It was this that caused the poor leper to fall on his face before Him and the cry, “Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean”. The beggar was a child of fallen Adam, the One to whom he pleaded for help was none other than God appearing in human form, but he knew that no one else than Jesus could help him, the Man in whom all the fulness of Godhead lived.
What did the leper see in Jesus that was so different from others ? He saw One who had come directly from the Father, from a home of Divine light and love in heaven. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and was holy. What had caused Him to leave His Father’s home in the highest paradise to come into this poor world ? Two reasons were God’s glory and man’s deep need. Jesus had taken a servant’s place, taking the form of a man, to a life and death of devoted obedience to His Father’s will, in the place where every other man had failed.
His great heart of love was so deeply moved to see God’s children the slaves of sin that He came to seek and to save that which was lost, and to bring men, women and children back to God as the fruit of His service of love.
Only Jesus possessed the power to make the leper clean, and
the beggar was to learn this by personal experience. Had it been a
matter of casting out a demon, the word of Jesus would have sufficed.
But to demonstrate His love, as well as His cleansing power, Jesus
touched the leper. To his fellow men he was an object to be shunned
at all costs, but Jesus, the holy One, touched, or embraced him freely
saying, “I am willing, be clean”. And immediately his leprosy departed
from him, and he was clean.
What did the touch of Jesus involve ? It involved His Cross, and all the unfathomable sufferings He endured there. By no other means could our sinful nature, typified in this case of leprosy, be righteously removed and we be made clean in the sight of God. Only Jesus could undertake this great delivering work, and He could only do it by way of the Cross. The sinful nature we have all inherited from Adam, manifests itself in a life of enmity against God, and this places us under His just judgment. If we are to be freed from this awful legacy which we have inherited, so as to be clean in God’s sight, our guilty history must be closed up judicially in accordance with the attributes of God’s throne. Jesus accomplished this great work when He, who knew no sin, was made sin for us, and bore the wrath of God which was our due. This is what His touching the leper involved. Glory be to His Name, He has reconciled us in His body, through death, that He might present us holy, without blame and reproach before God. Through this great work of delivering grace, we now have a Saviour in the glorified Jesus. God no longer sees us “in Adam” but “in Christ”, and everything we need to sustain us in our new position is bountifully supplied by Jesus from the glory, for we are united to Him there by the Holy Spirit, so that we become members of His body.
Now that Jesus is exalted to the right hand of God He is available to any poor sin-stricken person in the world who comes to Him and says, “Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean”. He will cleanse us immediately, for only Jesus can !
From: ‘Things Concerning Himself’.
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“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all” (Titus 2 v11).
What a thrilling statement this is. God’s grace is seen in the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ wore a human body and in that body bore our sin on the Cross and now lives for ever, the God-Man on the Throne. He is our representative in the glory and our Great High- Priest. Grace then is not just a system of doctrine, it is God’s loving kindness towards us revealed in His Son, and His love for helpless sinners is full and free.
Grace is a discovery. To realise the free, pardoning love of God is the most revolutionary thing that can happen to us. To find that we have favour in the sight of God is the solution to every problem. Noah lived in a day when evil was so rampant that the judgment of God was literally poured out, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6 v8), and the grace of God operated powerfully in his life.
The Hebrew word in the phrase “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” is the common word for finding by searching. It is used in Exodus 5 v11 where Pharaoh refused to give the Israelites straw with which to make bricks and tells them, “Go and get your own straw wherever you can find it”. Again it is used in Exodus 15 v22, when the children of Israel “travelled in the desert without finding water”. This seems to show that the grace of God has to be humbly sought. There are many who talk about grace who do not live in the actual enjoyment of the wonder of God’s gracious caring for them. The knowledge of God’s grace must be sought and the Saviour’s own promise can surely be relied on here, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7 v7-8). It is to the lowly that grace is given. “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1 v17), and “having been justified by his grace’’ (Titus 3 v7).
Our approach to the wonders of God’s grace is often too intellectual when what is required is a steady, quiet, search into Scripture to discover that in Christ “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom” (Eph. 1 v7-9). What joy fills our hearts when out of the greatness of our need we have gone out to seek and have found that we are indeed “accepted in the beloved”. God’s grace and favour are extended to us in Christ and nothing but our own unwillingness to receive it can shut us out of the wonder and joy of this undeserved favour. Either we walk the treadmill of doubt and defeat, or rejoice in the discovery that God is “a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86 v15). We can rejoice continually through “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ”, and walk with Him and learn to do His will.
The Fruit Of Grace.
Moses once faced a tremendous crisis. The people of Israel had made a golden calf and declared “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt”. Judgement had followed, and worst of all, God had refused to go with His chosen people into the Promised Land. In his dilemma Moses based his intercession on God’s grace. He cries “You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favour (grace) with me’ . . . teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you (find grace in your sight). Remember that this nation is your people” (Exodus 33 v12-13). Moses’ concern is not just for himself but for the people, for God’s glory and the well- being of His people. He was ready even to be blotted out of God’s book of life if only Israel could be forgiven — a foreshadowing of Him who alone could give His life a ransom for us. Such an attitude is the direct fruit of grace, working in the depths of our being. Moses was inspired to plead with God Himself until the assurance was given him of the Lord’s continued presence with Israel in the promise, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest”. Grace triumphed and God’s tender mercies were promised to those who had so grossly sinned against Him.
The Evidences Of Grace.
We do not always realise that grace can be seen by those who observe our lives. This is stated plainly in Acts 11 v22-23. News had reached the Church in Jerusalem of the steady advance of the Gospel in Antioch, “and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad”. It is important that we too should have our eyes open to discern the evidence of God’s grace in the lives of others. The only valid evidence a Christian can give to others is that of God’s grace operating in their lives.
Speaking of the Lord Jesus, John wrote in John 1 v14, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”. The Jewish people saw the grace of God in Christ and rejected Him. They also saw His miraculous grace in the apostles. “When they saw the courage of Peter and John, and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4 v13). In themselves they were very ordinary men, but their relationship with the Incarnate Grace of God could not be denied, and yet the Jews rejected them as they had rejected their Lord. It is the same today.
James wrote, “He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’ ” (James 4 v6). There is nothing like pride, and resting in our own efforts and works, for shutting our eyes to the beauty of grace. As it says in Ephesians 2 v8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not of works, so that no-one can boast”. Reliance on the grace of God that brings salvation is the only way of life that is acceptable to God.
The Responsibilities Of Grace.
God answered the longing of Moses’ heart, expressed in Exodus 33 v18, “Show me your glory” . . . “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God’ ’’ (Exodus 34 v6). There is nothing like God’s marvellous grace for making us bold in prayer. Verses 10-28 make it abundantly clear that the God of grace enters into a covenant with those who accept His favour. There must be two parties to any covenant. God made His covenant of law with the nation of Israel and He always kept His side of this covenant, but the people continually broke theirs, and having set aside their responsibility came under the judgment of God. To put it in another way it seems that they despised His grace and deliberately went their own way of disobedience.
The New Covenant.
The Epistle to the Hebrews tells the story of God’s new covenant. In chapter eight we find the Mosaic covenant set aside, and then concerning the Lord Jesus Christ the writer says, “but the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and is founded on better promises” (Heb. 8 v6.). The terms of this new covenant of grace are then set out in verses ten to twelve, in words taken from Jeremiah 31 v31-34, ending with the wonderful promise, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (v12). The reason for this promise and the sign of God’s gracious favour extended to us is clearly set out in the following words, “For Christ did not enter a manmade sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence” (Heb. 9 v24). All our hope rests on our crucified, risen Saviour.
The first obligation that the new covenant of grace lays upon us is seen in the words of Hebrews 10 v19-22, “since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water”.
When we enter into this new covenant we are told that we have come, “To Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Heb. 12 v24).
Finally in Hebrews 13 v20-21 a responsibility is laid upon us, “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen”. The Grace of God lays quite definitely on us the obligation to submit to the working of His Holy Spirit within us, so that we may live in a way that is pleasing to Him. This will mean that others will be able to see Him creating a new, Christ-like life in our daily walk and behaviour. This is not a teaching of sinless perfection. We can never be perfect until we “see Him as He is” and are then made fully “like Him” (1 John 3 v2).
1 John 1 v5 to 2 v2 is a marvellous picture of what it is to live a life conformed to the grace of God. Note the fact that “God is Light”, and then read on seeing how although warning us against any claim to perfection, they open up to us the great provision of God’s mercy. Then look at the objective set before us who have entered into God’s new covenant of grace, “That you will not sin” (1 John 2 v1). Surely this is to be earnestly pursued, and then in case we should be dismayed at so high a calling we read, “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence - Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world”.
Here our obligation is underlined. This is not to propagate Christian doctrine, nor even to found churches, but to see that “the grace of God that brings salvation to all” is proclaimed far and wide, and that the world may have the opportunity to “know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich”. What a privilege we have to be allowed to co-work with God the Holy Spirit in His fulfilment in others of the purposes of the God of Grace.
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By Sophia Nugent.
It is wonderful to recall the way in which, during His earthly life, the Lord Jesus seemed to be watching for opportunities of coming into close contact with those He had come to save. On every possible occasion He was claiming identity with them, making every need a means of using the nearness which He had descended from heaven to win, and was going to retain for ever by His death.
One of His miracles is described like this. “A man with leprosy came to Him and begged Him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean’. Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing’, He said, ‘Be clean’. Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured” (Mark 1 v40-42). Jesus need not have done it. His word would have been cleansing enough, but He chose to touch, that each of us who are willing to take that awful place before Him, owning ourselves unclean, outcast and vile, may expect this, to be touched by Jesus.
After cleansing comes the longing for service. Often, like Peter’s wife’s mother, something hinders, fever holds us and we need to be healed of all feverish restlessness. The only thing to still us into the quiet restfulness of true health is renewed contact with the Master, whose touch cleansed us. But He is ready, and if we will let Him, and not be ashamed to reveal all our helplessness, His cooling, restful hand will impart to us His own rest. “He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on Him” (Matt. 8 v14-15). Do you think any ministry is as welcome and as precious to the Lord Jesus as that from the hand He has touched ?
We have perhaps been deaf to His voice. Over and over again
He has mourned our hardness of hearing, “Do you have . . . ears but
fail to hear ?” (Mark 8 v17). We too have had cause to sorrow that we
have often missed His voice or lost it among so many others, but now
we long to catch the slightest whisper of His will. We shall find it
through personal contact with Him. “Some people brought to Him a
man who was deaf and could hardly speak . . . Jesus put His fingers
into the man’s ears; . . . looked up to heaven . . . and said , . . . ‘Be
opened’. At this the man’s ears were opened” (Mark 7 v32-35). “He
touched the man’s ear and healed him” (Luke 22 v51). Will you miss His
touch because you are too proud to own yourself deaf ?
Then, because we are deaf, there is an impediment in our speech. It is not that we cannot speak for Him, but there is such a lack of clearness in what we say that others cannot understand and go away. We are too vague to be of real use, and all because we cannot hear well. But now we want this removed, we want to be unmistakable in what we say. “Jesus . . . touched the man’s tongue, . . . At this . . . his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly” (Mark 7 v33-35). We need His touch before we can freely say, “He loved me”.
Also, we cannot do without having Him in continual sight. We need an unclouded vision of Him, and this too comes from the touch. Three times Jesus’ touch opened blind eyes to see Him. Once He repeated it, till the glad testimony rose that the blind saw “every man clearly” (Matt. 9 v27-30, 20 v34 & Mark 8 v22-25). He does not tire of having to put His hands upon us, He wants us to speak and see clearly, and both come from His touch.
The hand has been touched and made capable of serving Him, the ear made quick to hear Him, the tongue made able to speak for Him and the eyes opened to see Him clearly, but what about the feet ? “He . . . began to wash the disciples’ feet” (John 13 v5). No part untouched, unclaimed.
Do we want to know His touch in all its fulness, tenderness and power ? It seems too good to be true, but there is only one condition, it is the leper who was cleansed, the fevered, the deaf, the speechless, the blind who were healed. Are we willing to take their place ? To be touched of Him means to acknowledge our utter helplessness. Perhaps this is just the reason why we seem so often to miss out, that we will not stand still before Him. We need His touch, and He is longing to bestow it, watching for us to lay before Him our need, listening for our “Yes, Lord”, to His power. Then comes immediate cleansing (Matt. 8 v3), ministering (Mark 1 v31), hearing, speech (Mark 7 v35), and sight (Matt. 20 v34).
But we must remember what is involved. The touch of Jesus is the touch of the Master, and what He lays His hand upon now belongs to Him for ever. If He touches hand or ear, it is that they may be His own, for what He touches He claims as well as cleanses. Are we ready for His claiming touch, as well as His power giving touch ?
There is nothing vague or mysterious about His touch. When He touched, He spoke. His Word always accompanied His touch and does so still. It is in His Word that we meet Him and gain that close contact we need. To be touched by Jesus does not mean some new, wonderful revelation which few are shown. Each one who reads His Word may and ought to meet Him there. But how humbling to think how often we have missed Him and risen from our reading without knowing anything of the near, intimate contact with Him He longs for us to have. Of course, we find His touch through and in prayer, but prayer in which we feel His touch, is based on His Word. We have no other ground to kneel upon than, “You have promised these good things to your servant” (2 Sam. 7 v28).
Long ago He drew near to one of His lonely servants. Daniel had been three weeks in mourning and searching after the mind and meaning of God. Then at last the Son of Man appeared, and, like every one who sees God, Daniel’s comeliness was turned to corruption. Then came the touch, which set Daniel upon his knees. He touched again, for He wished to hear His child’s voice, and with the second touch came power to speak to the Master, for we cannot truly pray until He has brought us into contact with Himself. It was when the lips of Daniel had been touched that, “I opened my mouth and began to speak”. But our speaking to Him is only half, for real conversation needs two, and so a third touch was given that Daniel might be able to listen, and after it he could say “Speak, my Lord ! ” (Daniel 10 v2, 8, 10, 16, 18-19).
What a Lord we have, who does not weary with repeated contact with one lonely child, who had waited three weeks to know His will. Perhaps we recognise the need of our lips being cleansed to speak to others. After the touch which has strengthened us to hear Him, comes the touch which enables us to pass on the received message to others (Isaiah 6 v7-9). And He is so rich that He touches, not only to give power to speak, but the very words to use. “Then the Lord reached out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘Now, I have put MY WORDS in your mouth” (Jer. 1 v9).
Let us look at one more proof of the intensity of His desire for intimate contact with His children. Years after His ascension, He came down in His Majesty to another of His lonely children, and “His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance”. As John saw and fell at His feet as dead, the same hand which touched him before the Cross was laid on him now, with all the tenderness which being wounded had given it, and the same voice said, “Do not be afraid”.
He is “this same Jesus” still. Just as His ascension is our right to claim the full and perfect contact with Him, so His power to touch His children is widened beyond the narrow limit of the hills of Judea. To all who in every place call upon Him, longing for a deeper personal contact, His ear is so intent to hear and respond to.
What the Master touches He uses. Instantly the touched leper praises, the touched hand ministers, the ear listens, the tongue speaks, the eye sees Him and follows.
But before we leave the thought of His touch, there is just one more thing it involves. Jacob knew it when, long ago, the touch of the angel broke him down in helpless suffering. For this is not only a contact of infinite tenderness but of irresistible power to subdue. Can you face this ? This touch leaves you maimed for life in all you had held as your best strength. Job knew it when he cried in his agony, “Have pity upon me, my friends, have pity, for the hand of God has touched me" (Job 19 v21).
Do you say, ‘Yes, Lord’ ? Then, like Jacob, the touch shall
subdue you into the place of blessing, where the name of power is
bestowed and you shall rise a “ Prince with God ”, or like Job, your
latter end shall be more blessed than your beginning. As your
trembling hand was stretched to Him you found it clasped, and you
knew that He had only been waiting for you to yield, to touch you with
His mighty hand. And, as you said, ‘ I will not let You go ‘, He answers,
“I will never leave you”.
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“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2 v8).
In our modern religious language the word grace occurs less frequently than in the past, but the word is too precious to be surrendered. Among the Greeks it stood for all that is most winning in personal loveliness, for the fascination of a beauty which is not cold and remote, but irresistibly attractive and charming. It was also used for that warm, free-handed and spontaneous generosity which is kind where there is no claim or merit and without hope of return, lovely in itself and winning the admiration and affection of all who witness it. To some of us that beautiful word has been spoiled and tainted by contact with corrupt forms of religious thought. Grace has been represented in forms which dishonoured the righteousness of God. But this beautiful word, with all its beautiful associations, has been exalted and transfigured in its Christian uses.
Grace transcends love. Love may be nothing more than the fulfilment of the law. We love God, who deserves our love. We are required to love our neighbours, but grace is love which passes beyond all claims to love. It is love which, after fulfilling the obligations of the law, has an endless wealth of kindness.
Grace transcends mercy. Mercy forgives sin and rescues the
sinner, but grace floods with affection the sinner who has deserved
anger and resentment.
The eternal righteousness of God is that which constitutes His dignity and majesty, but His grace adds to His dignity infinite loveliness, to His majesty, charm, and blends with the awe and devout fear with which we worship Him a happy confidence, and with our veneration a passionate affection.
Our salvation is the central thought of the Epistle to the Ephesians and is the achievement of God’s grace. God’s free, spontaneous love for us, resolved that we who sprang from the dust, and might have passed away and perished like the falling leaves after a frail and brief existence, should share through a glorious immortality the sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ. God chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. He blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. This was the wonderful idea of greatness and destiny which was formed by the grace of God. According to the Divine purpose, which we are able to accept or reject, the very righteousness of the Son of God is to be ours, His access to the Father, and the eternal peace and blessedness of His own eternal life. The human race fell from the lofty path designed for it by the Divine goodness, but as by the grace of God, Christ was to be the root of our righteousness and blessedness, so in Christ God has revealed the reason for our redemption. We are redeemed through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins according to the riches of God’s grace. All our possible righteousness is to be the fruit of the perfection and energy of His eternal life.
All Things In Christ.
The original idea of the Divine grace, according to which we are to find all things in Christ, and Christ is to be the root of a perfection and glory surpassing all hope and thought, was in the death of Christ for our salvation. In the Divine thought and purpose we are to be inseparable from Him. The union between Christ and us must not be broken, because separation from Christ means eternal death for us. Christ was drawn down from the serene heavens to the shame and sorrow of the confused and troubled life of our race, to pain, to temptation, to anguish and to the cross. In His sufferings and death, through the grace of God, we find forgiveness, and in the power of His righteousness and His great glory, we find the possibilities of perfection. Through His death we receive forgiveness, through His death we die to the sin which brought death on Him, and in His resurrection and ascension we see the eternal life which we have received, and which will some day be revealed in Him.
Grace and Faith.
Paul asserts and re-asserts, with triumph, that we have been saved by grace. If we have been saved by grace, then it must be through faith and not by works. If our salvation has its origin in the infinite grace of God, if by that grace it is carried through to its eternal consummation, then our true position is one of trust and hope. If on God’s side everything is of grace, then on our side there can be nothing of merit. We have only to receive the infinite blessings of God’s love. We have to surrender ourselves to that stream of blessing which has its foundations in the eternal depths of the Divine nature. We have to make way for the free unfolding, in our life and future, in the Divine idea and purpose.
The apostle is not content with stating the great truth once. He states it positively and then negatively. “By grace you have been saved”, and to exclude the possibility of misunderstanding, he adds “not of yourselves”. But this was not enough and he adds, “it is the gift of God”, and to make it clear that the gift is absolutely free he adds, “not of works, so that no-one can boast” (Eph. 2 v9). Even now he is not satisfied, the good works which are possible to us now cannot be the ground and condition of salvation, for they are its result. “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”. As the branch is created in the vine, we are created in Christ, and as the fruits of the branch are determined by the laws of that life which it receives from the vine, so our good works, which are the result of our union with Christ, are determined by the laws of the life of Christ, which is our life and the strength of all our righteousness.
The doctrine of justification by faith is here, but is included in truths of a wider range and a loftier order. We have passed from the region of law to the region of a free personal relationship between God and those who were created to share the life and glory of His Son. But in this region too our position is one of dependence and of faith.
When the discovery of God’s infinite grace has once been made, and as long as the vision of it is unclouded, the infinite and eternal God does not cease to be great, but His greatness is softened with a tenderness which forbids all fear. He does not cease to be our King, but His authority has an infinite charm. To many of us in our earlier days the life of God was an ocean — an ocean which no line could fathom, an ocean without a shore and without an horizon, without a tide and unvexed by storms. There is something monotonous and oppressive in this immensity. That understanding of God is unfriendly and causes us to think of Him as an infinite force, rather than a living Person.
The Living God.
When we discover the Divine grace, the life of God is no longer an ocean but an infinite stream flowing from eternal fountains. He is a living God, and we can find in Him a spontaneous personal affection for us individually. Grace transcends law, and the energies of the Divine nature are no longer governed by necessities of righteousness, nor even, the necessities of love. These necessities exist, but beyond and above them is free Divine grace.
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