At the outset the reader must be warned to be prepared for some rather hard reading in the first sections of this research; for a word that occurs some 157 times or so, and in such widely different contexts (as charis, grace, does) is sure to require some thought and study if its meaning is to be understood at all fully. Nevertheless, the work can be, and I trust has been, greatly simplified by my analysis of the contexts of the word with the study of each in turn. When this is completed, the task of putting the results together and seeing them as one whole will be found far more easy to accomplish. It is because Dr. Ryder Smith failed to do this thoroughly that his in many ways fine book (discussed later) is so hard to follow and, if I may dare to say it, in many ways so unsound.
Many have written about Grace, yet it is still a subject concerning which most people's ideas are far from clear. In part, at any rate, the reason for this is the exceedingly large area of thought covered by the word. Its root idea is joy, not joy in the sense of pleasure and happiness enjoyed by oneself (chara), but the production of joy in another by displaying kindly good will towards him. In turn, kindly good will leads to favour, felt or given; and on the part of the recipient, thanks. We cannot grant favour to God; but we can do what corresponds as nearly as possible to it in our present state and circumstances, give thanks to Him.
As might be expected in view of these various considerations, the word charis cannot be translated concordantly into English. This truth is recognized by the C.V. as with other words: where, in fact, the compiler was obviously forced to acknowledge that rigid concordance was impossible. The pity of it all is that he was not so willing to acknowledge it when it was not so immediately obvious: as, for example, the word ethnE, which usually means Gentiles, and should be so translated, and only occasionally nations.
As mentioned above, Dr. Ryder Smith's lengthy work, "The Bible Doctrine of Grace" (247 pages), contains many
valuable things. Its most serious blemish is one which, to
some extent, defaces the work of everyone of us: lack of
sufficient insight into Scripture at many points. Here I must
not judge; but as a warning to us all, including myself, I would quote one glaring example. When discussing what the
writer of Hebrews says about the New Covenant,
he says (p. 78):
Nevertheless, Dr. Ryder Smith's book is incomparably the best study of its subject in existence, so far as I am aware, and I would here like to testify to the help I have had from it. My method with it has been unusual, in that I avoided more than a casual glance at it until I had completed the rough draft of this paper. Then I went carefully through it and studied the places where I had covered the same ground and agreed or disagreed with it. I have avoided making any comment on either, for it is not my purpose to criticise, but simply contented myself with checking my disagreements over again. I have also found several places where Dr. Ryder Smith has brought to notice matters which had not occurred to me, or put them better than I had done in the draft. Here I have taken them pretty well as they stand, with the acknowledgment (R.S.p.-), indicating the particular page in his book, as (R.S.p. 58) further on in this paper; so that the reader can verify them for himself if he should so desire, and give the Doctor due credit.
Dr. Ryder Smith makes many important points but some times fails to dig down deep enough. Although he covers most if not all occurrences of charis, he does not classify them thoroughly or subject them to concordant examination. Yet that is the only way to be sure of getting below and beyond the superficial every time, as a wholly adequate study needs to do; and as there is an evident need for such a research, we will embark on it now. I should observe that I have preferred not to touch on the idea of grace in the Hebrew Scriptures, as I do not think I can improve on most of what he has written about this aspect.
The next reference to charis as favour is in Acts 2:47, where we read of all who believe "having favour toward the whole people." Next, God gives Joseph favour and wisdom in front of Pharaoh (Acts 7:10), and David is spoken of as having "found favour before God" (Acts 7:46). In all of these the favour is to some extent deserved by the recipient, even though it ultimately came from God. Yet we must keep in mind still that the contexts are silent about any merit or deserts. In other words, we should not drag that aspect in when God has left it out. Three more are found in, Acts. We have: "wishing to render a favour to the Jews". (24:27); "asking for themselves a favour against him" (25:3); "wanting to render to the Jews a favour" (25:9).
In Romans we find a very different sort of thing: undeserved favour, which we will be able to consider later; but in 1. Cor. 16:3 we find: "to carry away your favour to Jerusalem." In 2. Corinthians there are four: "entreating us as to the favour and the fellowship of the service unto the saints" (8:4); "completing to you this favour as well" (8:6); "abounding in this favour also" (8:7); and "our fellow traveller with this favour" (8:19).
Lastly, in 1. Peter 3:7 we see the final reference to favour without the intervention of any question of deserts or merit: "joint tenants of life's varied favour."
None of these come into the doctrinal parts of Scripture.
Dr. Ryder Smith suggests that "grace of life" in 1. Peter 3:7 is the Apostle Peter's key phrase (R.S. p. 58). This is a very interesting idea, and it is reinforced by the circumstance that if we exclude the opening formal salutation the nine references to charis in 1. Peter form an Introversion Structure, the first corresponding to the ninth, the second to the eighth, and so on, with 1. Peter 3:7 standing in the centre.
Grace as something given is the theme of no less than seventeen other passages; and although in some of them it might be regarded simply as God's favour, and so translated accordingly, such as Rom. 5:17; 2. Cor. 8:1; Eph. 4:7, 29; James 4:6; 1. Peter 5:5; even in these, and certainly in the remainder, it implies something more. For in all these it is not simply a matter of favour received, and gratefully accepted, and left at that; it is favour received in order that the favoured one may be fitted for some special service. In Rom. 1:5 it is obtained "for obedience of faith among all the Gentiles"; in 12:3 and 15:15 it is to support Paul's exhortation; in 12:6 it is for service; in 1. Cor. 1:4 it is for enrichment; in 3:10 for Paul to lay a foundation; in Gal. 2:9 it is for the Evangel of the uncircumcision; in Eph. 3:2 it is for stewardship; in 3:8 it is to evangelize the untraceable riches of Christ to the Gentiles; in 4:7 it is to keep the unity of the spirit; in 2. Tim. 1:9 it is connected with God calling us to a holy calling; in 1. Peter 1:10 it is in connection with Prophecy. We shall enlarge on these in the next section.
1. Peter 1:13 is rather obscure by comparison with the rest: "Wherefore, girding up the loins of your comprehension, being sober, maturely direct your expectation upon the favour bearing along to you in Jesus Christ's unveiling." This may be paraphrased somewhat as follows: "Wherefore, making a definite mental effort to understand, being sober minded; deliberately expect, as mature men should, the grace and favour which Jesus Christ's unveiling is bearing along to you." The previous verses are about the limited understanding of their prophecies of Christ that the original Prophets had. Now the true meaning of these prophecies has been revealed; and it is for those who read Peter's words to make the necessary mental effort to understand that, now, for them Jesus Christ's unveiling has been accomplished, a special grace has borne itself along to them and with it a special responsibility. The succeeding three verses make plain that the main feature of this favour is holiness.
Peter addresses this epistle to chosen expatriates of dispersion, because it is to Israel that Prophecy primarily belongs. But Jesus Christ has unveiled to all of us who believe, now that the saving work of God has been sent to the Gentiles; so the grace Peter writes of has borne along also to us who believe. This passage is Israel's charter for understanding Prophecy in the days to come; and it is our charter admitting us also to an understanding of it, so far as it concerns ourselves at all, now in these times. But in this matter we must stay in our proper place. The theme of the passage is "the salvation of your souls, concerning which salvation the prophets seek out and search out, who prophesy concerning the grace which is for you. . . ." (1. Peter 1:9, 10). This is Israel's affair. We come in only because, by God's choice, Jesus Christ is unveiled to us also; but it is His sufferings and the glories after these that alone concern us in any way. " The consummation of your faith, saving of souls" belongs to those whom Peter is addressing, not to us. We must not read this into Paul's Evangel. This passage must be understood according to its context, so we should refrain from reading into it more than that context demands.
To sum up: our examination of these passages strongly suggests that favour is a misleading rendering for this usage of charis. We have already gone beyond the idea of favour pure and simple and reached the idea of a favour given which calls for and involves a special response from the recipient, the undertaking of some special service by him or the conferment by God of some special standing on him. This grace is an advance on any notion of favour, it is the expanded idea involved in the coming of the fulness of grace and truth with Jesus Christ.
This is what gives its vast height and breadth and depth to charis in the Greek Scriptures, what makes grace more, much more, than favour received or thanks returned, and imparts to it the rich glories of the services for which it has been given, as we noted in the previous section. For in the references from Rom. 1:5 to 1. Peter 1:10 we cover all of the highest services for which God has called any of us in this present time, except only the apostleship of the circumcision which is impracticable while the Evangel of the uncircumcision remains in operation. The reader is urged to turn back and note most carefully those references listed, for they are a veritable mine of richness.
John's Gospel does not, however, leave it at that set out in 1:14; for it goes on to record some of the testimony of John the Baptist which is not found elsewhere (1:15-17): "This was He of Whom I said, 'He Who after me is coming, in advance of me has come to be, seeing that He was my Chief'; seeing that out of His fulness we all obtained, and grace corresponding to grace; seeing that the Law through Moses was given, the grace and the truth through Jesus Christ came into being." Here, "the grace and the truth" are what is referred to in v. 14.
Only once more do grace and truth appear in the same context, in Col. 1:6: "from the day you hear, and realized, the grace of God in truth." To this the 1930 C.V. has an excellent Note: "A true realization of God's grace is the accomplishment most to be desired of all things, for it is impossible to please God without faith and an intelligent grasp of His gracious purpose. Zeal must be directed by knowledge."
At first sight it is rather surprising that no more is said of this conjunction of ideas; but it ceases to seem so when one reflects on the tremendous emphasis these three references actually give. Anyone who will trouble to look through the occurrences of alEtheia, truth and charis, grace set out in Wigram's Concordance (The Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament, published by Samuel Bagsters and Sons, Ltd., London) will see that though the two words touch Only three times, they intertwine through Paul's Epistles. John's emphasis is on truth manifested in the Lord Jesus Himself, Paul's on grace and the truth that is manifested in the knowledge that comes through this grace. But Peter's epistles emphasize endurance in suffering. One cannot read his epistles without getting a strong impression of something being held back. Their message is to Peter's brethren in dispersion now (not explicitly to Israel, because Israel in the strict meaning of the name has for the present ceased to exist) to help and guide them in their sufferings until the dawn of that day when the saving work of God will return to them and the name Israel will once more have meaning and significance. Till then, grace and truth for Israel, as Israel the Covenant People, is held back, and the only grace those in dispersion can possess is in sorrow and suffering patiently endured (1. Peter 2:19, 20).
In this connection, some of the assertions made in the Introduction to Peter's Epistles in the 1930 C.V. are to be deplored. These epistles have nothing to do with the circumcision, and do not even mention either it or covenant. It is untrue that they "have no present interpretation" or that "they doubtless will find their fullest application to the sons of Israel after the present economy of God's grace has passed away"; for Peter plainly refers his readers to what "our beloved brother Paul also writes to you" (2. Peter 3:15)—a very strange proceeding if the intended main audience are people who will be on earth after Paul's Evangel has vanished from It.
Returning to our main subject: the first reference after John 1:17 to grace as something possessed is Acts 4:33, at the height of the first splendour of Pentecost: "Besides, great grace was on them all." The only one of them then mentioned by name is, most significantly, Barnabas, who presently became the first apostle mentioned and named, apart from the Twelve; and who was so notably to be associated presently with the Apostle Paul.
"The death" in Rom. 5:12 is plainly that death which entered into the world through one man; but again, the Definite Article refers back to the previous occurrence without the Article. This is in Rom. 1:32. We are never to forget that, apart from Jesus Christ, mankind is in a vicious circle. All sinned, because the death came through to all mankind. All are subject to death, because of their various sins.
In 2. Cor. 6:1 Paul entreats his readers "not to receive the grace of God for naught." He sets the example in his assertion that" We are giving no one cause to stumble in anything" (v. 3). Verse 2, in parenthesis, emphasizes this by pointing out that" Now is salvation's day."
In Phil. 1:7 Paul says: "You are all joint-participants with me in the grace." In Co1. 3 : 16: "Singing, in the grace which is in your hearts, to God." And then in Philemon 7: "For much grace I have had and consolation on your love."
Finally, the writer of Hebrews (12:28) says: "Wherefore, a kingdom unshakable accepting, we may be having grace through which we may be offering divine service well-pleasingly unto God, with piety and awe, for also our God is consuming fire."
Grace is, therefore, given to us and possessed by us, not that we should simply enjoy God's favour, good though that is, but that we should be enabled to serve Him. Thus grace becomes an inward quality that makes possible works that otherwise would be beyond our power and very often beyond our inclinations as well. We will consider the relation of law to grace in this light later on.
To receive and possess God's grace leads us into the heights of understanding. Yet this is not stressed. Instead, the main thought is of grace possessed for service and for praise of God. This is not simply a Pauline thought. It is implied in John's Gospel, Acts, Hebrews and Peter's first Epistle also. But in Hebrews there is a note of menace, and in 1. Peter of suffering. Only in Paul's Epistles is there unfettered exultation.
As one might expect, it is in Romans that he has most to say about this; for the essence of his Evangel is the idea of pure unadulterated grace in the fullest sense, free from any admixture of law-works or human merit. This comes out vividly in the first occurrence of the idea, Rom. 3:24, which with the essential part of its context reads: "... for there is no distinction, for all sinned and are wanting of the glory of God, achieving righteousness gratuitously by His favour, through the deliverance which is in Christ Jesus." The whole subject, of which this forms so important a part, has been discussed at great length in our earlier issues, so no more need be said beyond drawing attention to the way the point is; repeatedly emphasized that the charis is undeserved. This, and the next two, and 2. Tim. 1:9, are the only places under this heading where I would render charis by favour, because in them alone is Paul's notion a perfectly simple one: complete and utterly free and undeserved favour shown by God to those who do not in themselves deserve any such favour. Apart from the last and apart from the first three, the idea becomes more complex, though not in any sense complicated; for then we find in charis not only favour but other elements, sustaining and ruling power.
The next two Occurrences, mentioned above, read "Now to him who is working, the wage is not reckoning according to favour but according to debt" (Rom. 4:4); and "Therefore (it is) of faith that (it may be) according to favour." Then, having established firmly the key truth that righteousness derives now only from undeserved favour, Paul is able to build up the marvellous theme of reigning grace. These are the first two occurrences of charis preceded by kata, according to. The only other without the Article the is in 2. Tim. 1:9, referred to above: "According to God's; power, Who saves us and calls us to holy calling, not according to works of ours, but according to His own purpose and favour which is being given to us." It is interesting to see how Paul quietly makes this point both at the beginning and at the end of his written ministry. Perhaps one other passage, Rom. 11:5, should be listed alongside these: "Thus, then, in the current season also, a remnant according to choice of favour has come to be." It is of the utmost importance that we should thoroughly understand that favour or grace is far indeed from being the private and exclusive possession of those who are called by that grace from among the Gentiles. Some Israelites out of Abraham's seed had remained faithful to God and had received His grace, even though the bulk of Israel had been unfaithful. But Paul speaks of these as a, remnant, just the few faithful left over after the others had abandoned their Messiah; and has no more to say about them, for there was nothing more to say. They were "a remnant according to choice of favour"; but this choice of favour involves in the current season something altogether other than Israel's hopes and promises. Instead, as v. 6 hints; plainly, the choice of favour leads, for them, into all the glories of Paul's Evangel.
The expression "according to the grace" occurs in Rom. 12:6; 1. Cor. 3:10; 2. Thess. 1:12; Eph. 1:7 has "according to the riches of the grace" and Eph. 3:7 has "according to the gratuity of the grace."
Grace, in its fullest sense as not only God's undeserved favour but also the channel of the riches that spring from it, -does not appear until Rom. 5 : 2, that is to say, after the problems connected with righteousness have been cleared up. So in Rom. 5:1, 2 we read: "Being, then, made righteous out of faith, peace we may be having toward God, through our Lord, Jesus Christ, through Whom also the access we have had, into this the grace in which we have stood. . . ." Here, the grace plainly refers to the previous occurrence of charis, Rom. 4:16, linking it firmly to the theme of the previous chapter. Similarly, "the faith" is linked to Abraham's faith, the discussion of which leads up to Rom. 5:1. But what about "the access"? This is the first occurrence of the word prosagOgE, access, the only others being Eph. 2:18 and 3:12, both of which are preceded by the also. Evidently, then, Paul had no reason to refer to any previous access; for, in fact, there was none. The three occurrences are thus made to stand together in one glorious group, and they should be meditated on together, for they are parts of the very highest revelation of God's grace.
The next references to charis come in the crowning verses of the section of Romans dealing with reigning grace. First comes the original entry, into the world, of sin and of death, and the consequent reign of sin (Rom. 5:12-14). Then come five out of the eight occurrences in the singular of the word paraptOma, the remaining fifteen being in the plural. This word means literally falling-aside. It is rendered in the C.V. by offence. King James' Authorized Version uses trespass in the Gospels, offence and offences in Romans 4 and 5, fall in Romans 11 and faults, sins and trespasses elsewhere. None of these discordant attempts are satisfactory; so, although it sometimes sounds rather awkward, I have come to prefer the literal falling-aside.
In Rom. 5:15 the falling-aside clearly refers to the entrance of sin and death "through one man" (5:12), and we see at the start how completely the charis superabounds over it.
The remaining three occurrences of paraptOma in the singular are in very different contexts. The two in Rom. 11:11, 12 make no direct reference to grace, yet reigning grace is nevertheless the core of the whole chapter, vv. 5-7 of which we shall be discussing presently. The last of the three, in Gal. 6:1, exhibits the personal, practical side of the matter. The whole closing section, from Gal. 5:13 to 6:18, is a summing-up of what ought to follow from the marvellous revelation set out in Romans 1-5 and reasserted in the main part of Galatians. Romans 6-8 displays what follows, doctrinally and in the believer's experience, from what has been disclosed before. The closing section of Galatians sets out what ought to be the practical outworking of the whole revelation in the believer's mode of life.
The word charis occurs three times in Rom. 5:15, and once each in vv. 16, 17, 20 and 21, seven times in all, leading up in the last one to the great tidings of the reign of grace, the supreme climax of Paul's Evangel itself. It is this, because the reign of grace alone makes possible the other glories that Paul reveals both here and elsewhere. First, it implies the conquest of death (v. 15), then for judgment unto condemnation reigning grace substitutes charisma out of many fallings aside unto a righteous standard (dikaiOma, see The Differentiator, Vol. 14, p. 133. Consideration of the word charisma: must be deferred), then for the reign of death we have the reign of the gratuity of the righteousness that comes from faith, then for condemnation there is a making righteous of life, then for the many being set down as sinners the many shall be set down as righteous (C.V. constituted righteous. For a discussion of this and the rendering set down see The Differentiator, Vol. 14, pp. 155-6). Lastly: "where the sin increases, the grace superexceeds; that, even as the sin reigns in the death, thus also the grace should be reigning through righteousness unto life eonian, through Jesus Christ our Lord."
The Definite Articles indicate that it is the same sin and the same death and the same grace as at the start of this passage. In fact, it places the charis, the grace, as not only the exact counterpart of the sin in the scope of its influence but immeasurably greater and more potent than the sin in the scope of ultimate power. Not only is the grace in every respect the antidote of the sin; but, whereas the sin had, so to speak, to eat its way through the whole of humanity one by one, the grace covers all humanity in superabundance.
When we contemplate the way the sin has increased, to permeate the world, particularly in the terrifying times in which we live, it becomes extremely difficult to think of the grace as superexceeding the sin. It is not at all easy to thrust aside the feeling that of all things in Scripture this is by far the hardest to believe wholeheartedly. Probably very few people do believe it. On the surface, it is incredible! In fact, Paul sums up this reaction in 1. Cor. 2:14: "Now the soulish man is not receiving the things which are of the Spirit of God, for foolishness they are to him." But although 1. Corinthians is a development of what follows this disclosure of reigning grace in Romans, it is widely separated from it. Except for those who have saturated their minds with Paul's thoughts, this development is not obvious. So Paul sets out the first consequences of his disclosure immediately after it in a very different form: "What, then, shall we assert? That we may be persisting in the sin that the grace should be increasing?"
His reply seems strange at first sight, but only if we fail to look at it against the background of Paul's whole thinking. He does not reply to his question by considering it on ethical grounds, but by turning immediately to death: our death to sin, and the death of Christ Jesus into which we were baptized; then our entombment together with Him through this baptism into the death; then our resurrection and the crucifixion of our old humanity with Him. Thus Paul comes to explain that we must not allow sin to reign in our body, "for sin shall not be mastering you, for you are not under law but under grace."
Back we are again to the reign of grace; and here note particularly how it has become so much more than simply favour. It is that, and a positive power as well that can rule us. Indeed, so definite and potent is its rule that the further question arises: "Should we not be sinning, since we are not under law but under grace?"
This brings about an abrupt turn in the discussion, which veers away from the subject of grace and its reign back to righteousness. Now it appears that the reign of grace involves something else: the rule of righteousness (Rom. 6:16-23).
Paul does not say that righteousness reigns, for that would not be true if taken quite literally; but certainly from this righteousness appears as an aspect of grace. We might well put it, I think, that righteousness is the outworking of grace. The reason why Paul does not say that the reign of grace involves the reign of righteousness, though he almost seems to imply it, is that the two forms of rule under consideration are not the same, either as regards those under them or in their nature. In Rom. 5:12-21 grace reigns wherever death reigns and sin reigns, but in Rom. 6:16-23 the rule is not that of a king over his subjects but of a master over his slaves. So the word reign is left out and in its place is the different idea of the orders of a master. So, because we are not under law but under grace, sin shall not be mastering us; but being freed from sin we are enslaved to righteousness. Therefore righteousness rules over us. For this we owe "charis to God"—here, plainly, thanks to Him, for it is not for us to presume to tender Him favour. This point will be discussed later on in this series of studies.
This is the last reference to charis until Romans 11, and, most appropriately, it is the Christian's response of thanks to the marvellous grace shown to us by God. To treat the deep and truly wonderful passage Rom. 5:12-21 at all adequately would involve preparing a long paper, most of which would be a digression from our present subject, so only the barest outline has been attempted here. The same applies also to the very brief treatment of Romans 6.
Apart from this, and in spite of what I have written about reigning grace in general, I feel most strongly that only the fringe of the subject has been touched. Perhaps only the fringe can be touched; for there is no escaping the fact that the Apostle Paul says directly very little about it and that, if one looks only on the surface of things, what he says is on the verge of complete incredibility. How can one contemplate the world around us, and yet coolly assert that grace reigns? Yet, if it comes to that, how could Paul bring himself to do so? But he did! And he did it in a world that was in most respects much worse than even ours is. In most respects, but not in all; for the civilized world of Paul's day had one outstanding advantage over ours. Reigning grace was being taught and explained throughout it and, at least at the time when Romans was first being circulated, set out pure and unadulterated by dedicated people who not only believed but understood Paul's Evangel. Where there were thousands doing this in Paul's day, there is now at best one here and there, and in most times and places, none at all. Yet grace does reign still. When we begin to doubt this, all we need do is consider what would happen if grace were to cease to reign, what fearful judgment would necessarily follow at once on the fearful sins that defile humanity every where. Relatively, though only relatively, we are living in halcyon days, those days of comparative calm that sometimes occur around the winter solstice before the full fury of storm and cold strikes. When after a deceptive calm the worst winter this poor earth will ever know begins; when judgments start to fall on a world that has defied God, men will look back to our times of strife and stress as something almost like a golden age, so overwhelmingly worse will their times be.
Note, he does not say here "law-works" because, for Israel, as the Covenant People, no other works were possible. They were inseparably bound to the Law by the very fact of being Israel. So, now, God's choice must be of grace and therefore no longer out of works.
The strange thing about all this is the general inability to grasp the point. The fact of reigning grace, now, means that such choice as is by its nature "of works" has ceased to, exist. Rom. 11:6 states as plainly as anything can that now God's choice is of grace and therefore no longer of works. True" works have their proper place, but that is not in the sphere of God's choice. The idea of a special Covenant People is utterly out of the question while God's choice is of grace instead of out of works. But, it may be asked in spite of what we said earlier about this, are not the remnant the nucleus, so to speak, of the Covenant People? The answer must be a plain "No"; for such a nucleus would be (by reason of being of covenant) out of works and not by grace. This remnant has come into being in the current season (11:5). The Greek reads literally in the now season. Lest there should be any possibility of doubt, the next verse has no longer (Greek ouk eti, not-still) no less than four times. This means something that has definitely and decisively come to an end. The other occurrences in Romans (6:9; 7:17, 20; 14:15) bear this out. There is no more any sort of Covenant People, however attenuated, while grace continues to reign. Thus those who talk of "The Remnant" as a group of faithful Israelites, now remaining on earth, are contemplating a fantasy created in their own minds. The word leimma, remnant, occurs here alone in the Greek Scriptures; though one would never think so after reading the amount that has been written around this term by expositors who are more interested in their own theory than in truth itself.
Charis, used strictly in the sense discussed in this section, does not occur again till 2. Cor. 4:15, where Paul speaks of "the increasing grace. . . superabounding to the glory of God." And in 2. Cor. 9:8 he says: "Now God is able to lavish all grace on you that. . . you may be superabounding in every good work." Here is the proper position of work under reigning grace; for work is shown to be out of grace, and not grace as being out of work. If only this distinction were understood, we would hear no more of any conflict between ;grace and work. None exists in Scripture. Conflict arises only when grace is forced by human theorizing out of its proper position in God's purposes; and, as always, there is no discord in them. It is we who produce the discord by thrusting our own false notes into the divine harmony.
In Gal. 5:4-6 the matter takes a new turn: "You were exempted from the Christ, any who in law are achieving righteousness: you fall out of the grace. For we, as to spirit, are awaiting, out of faith, expectation of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision is availing anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith, operating through love." Paul has just explained that "if you should be circumcising, Christ will be of no benefit to you at all." (Gal. 5:2). This amounts to Rom. 11:5, 6 being viewed from the opposite direction, so to speak. Not only is any Israel impossible now, but any behavior which implies that there is any Israel automatically puts the actor out of the reach of Christ and out of the sphere of the operation of grace. This does not imply that grace has ,ceased to reign, that God is once more reckoning their fallings-aside to them; but simply that they are, by their own acts, turning themselves away from His grace. Here, once more, man is creating discord by adding his own note to God's harmony.
When we get to Ephesians we reach a truly transcendent display of God's grace to us apart from any deserts of our own. We will consider the splendour of "the grace of God" under that heading later on; here we are considering it as undeserved. So we read in Eph. 2:7 of Him "in the oncoming eons. . . .displaying the transcendent riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus." In Eph. 3:2 Paul speaks of "the stewardship of the grace of God" which was given to him for us. The secret of Eph. 3:6-12 is "according to the gratuity of the grace of God" (v. 7). Yet it is in the next verse that we find the most noteworthy example of all of charis as something far more than favour, even more than undeserved favour; for here, in the core of the great secret, are we told of grace granted to Paul, "less than the least of all saints," no less than "this, the grace—to the Gentiles to evangelize the untraceable riches of the Christ and to enlighten all as to the stewardship of the secret which has been concealed from the eons in God. . .." To describe so tremendous a charis, a grace as this as a favour is almost to lapse into bathos. It is an act of supreme condescension on God's part to us, an honour so stupendous as to be almost unimaginable. For Paul goes on to explain the supremely exalted service this stewardship involves; no less than this, the immense privilege of being the vehicle through which God is to make known His multifarious wisdom to the sovereignties and the authorities among the celestials.
The last reference in Ephesians to charis simply as undeserved favour is in 4:7, after the great revelation of the sevenfold unity of the Spirit, and leading up to a reference to Christ's ascension and, in consequence of it, His gifts to the body that we should all attain to the mature manhood.
In the opening of his Epistle to the Philippians, Paul tells his readers that they are joint-participants with him of the grace (1:7); and in 2. Thess. 2:16 he reminds his readers that God is giving them eonian consolation and good expectation in grace. In 2. Tim. 1:9 he refers to our holy calling, not according to our works but according to His own purpose and the grace which is being given to us in Christ Jesus before times eonian." Thus he links his final, or almost final teaching to his main theme in Romans. This is also a feature of the other reference here (2:1) and of Titus 3:7: "being made righteous by His grace." His ministry closed as it started.
Once only, outside Paul's Epistles, do we find anything at all like this concept of charis set out in them; and then it turns out to be as much contrast as agreement. Here, in Heb. 4:16, we read: "We may be approaching, then, with boldness unto the throne of the grace, that we may be getting mercy, and grace may be finding, for opportune help." How notably different this is to the access which Romans 5 confers on us. The most the Hebrews can do (as Hebrews), even with boldness, is to be approaching the throne of the grace. Yet, like the other epistles addressed to those who are by race of the twelve tribes, it belongs to this present time, even though it certainly will have an application, and perhaps even its greatest importance, in the days to come after we have been snatched away to meet the Lord in the air. The way to the throne of the grace is still open to the Hebrews, even though very few care to tread it—but it is open only along the path trodden by Paul, and not, under present conditions, as Hebrews. There is mercy for them, they may still find grace for opportune help—but only through "Jesus, the Son of God" (Heb. 4:14). They can approach, they can even approach with boldness, provided they are prepared to recognize Him as "great High Priest, Who has come through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God." Such recognition, under present conditions, implies an open-eyed understanding that covenant is now set aside; so that the true "Hebrew" has to be the kind of Hebrew that the Apostle Paul was.
The ambivalence of this epistle results from the fact that, though it is relevant for all Hebrews in the present situation, it is relevant only if they follow Paul and surrender their covenant standing. It is irrelevant, for the present time, to the situation of the covenant man; for such standing is quite impossible in the conditions that now exist. However, it stands written; first, for all who need its message now, as we do; second, for Hebrews in days to come when covenant will once more be in force.
This is unknown, possibly now unknowable, to the Jews of our day. Some at the first so recognized the Lord Jesus as Paul did, but comparatively few have done so since; yet in the days to come this great Epistle will be a message of vast comfort to Israel. They will obtain mercy and find grace.
(5) GOD'S GRACE We referred at the start of Section (1) to the first occurrence of charis in the Greek Scriptures; now we come to the second, in Luke 2:40: "Now the little boy grows up, and became staunch in spirit, becoming filled with wisdom; and God's grace was upon Him." The word here rendered Him is in the Greek auto, it, and is Neuter, agreeing with paidion, little boy, which is also Neuter; but I have chosen to depart from the text and to avoid "It," as this might offend some. Yet even in English we often refer to a child as "it," so there is actually no impropriety in doing so here.
But why "God's grace" (charis theou, occurring five times only) instead of "the grace of the God," which occurs or is implied some twenty-five times?
The other occurrences of the expression without any articles are in 1. Cor. 15:10; 2. Cor. 1:12; Heb. 2:9; 1. Peter 4:10; and the remarkable thing is that not even one of the five is correctly rendered in the C.V. though, to do it justice, some indication of the truth is given by printing the in light type. On the other hand, Rotherham (2nd edition) renders it correctly every time, so the error is hard to excuse. It is to be hoped that special attention will be given to points of this sort in the new revision of the C.V.
These others read as follows:—1. Cor. 15:10: "Yet by God's grace I am what I am." 2. Cor. 1:2 reads: "not in fleshly wisdom but in God's grace we behaved in the world." In Heb. 2:9 we read of Jesus: "to the end that, by God's grace, for the sake of all He might taste of death" and in 1. Peter 4:10, "as ideal stewards of God's various grace."
In this matter I would be glad to have the views of others. My own impression is that this form intentionally emphasizes that the grace referred to is God's, whereas when the article is found the point is stressed that the grace of God is the particular idea in view, and the emphasis is on the general notion of grace of His rather than any particular manifestation of it.
The foregoing applies also, I suggest, to the occurrence of "Christ's grace" in Gal. 1:6: "I am marvelling that you are transferring, thus swiftly, from Him Who calls you in Christ's grace into a different evangel which is not another." The verb transfer is here Middle in form; so it refers to what the Galatians were themselves doing, not something done to them. It is plain that here Paul is referring to a definite abandonment of Christ Himself by the Galatians, rather than any intentional abandonment by them of the idea of grace itself; though it is hardly necessary to point out that any abandonment of Christ involves an abandonment of grace also.
Acts 20:24 is the only occurrence of "the evangel of the grace of the God." That Paul's Evangel is fittingly so described is evident from our studies of charis in his epistles; yet the question must arise in our minds why this description occurs here only. The answer is, I suggest, to be found when. we consider these four occurrences in Acts already quoted just above. Here is something new being unfolded, first to the Jews, then to Gentile communities; but it is something that cannot appropriately be expounded in a narrative like Acts, which is primarily concerned with the closing scenes, for the present, of Israel's history. Their Messiah had come, full of grace and truth; but collectively they had rejected not only the truth but the grace as well. So the grace and the truth" which were the manifestation and the driving force of the saving work of God which had appeared in Jesus Christ, were sent to the Gentiles, who then no longer had to receive them mediated through Israel. Hence in Acts 20:24 we read Paul's own summing-up of his purpose so far as it relates to the historical point of view, which is essentially that of Acts.
What is presupposed in Acts is set out formally in Romans. After demonstrating God's righteousness and the fact that "all sinned and are wanting of the glory of God," Paul adds, "achieving righteousness gratuitously by His grace through the deliverance which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24). Acts gives us as background the historical narrative that lies behind all this, but only a glimpse of the foreground revealed in Romans, in the words, "consequently unto the Gentiles also God gives repentance unto life" (Acts 11:18). Throughout the Acts narrative all this was a continuing puzzle to those Jews who clung to their covenant standing in spite of their rejection of their Messiah. What of the truth of Romans 1 to 4 did seep into the public events presented to them in Acts nevertheless failed to enlighten such men. This is because they were of Israel according to flesh, only. The Old Covenant was at that time near to vanishing, the New Covenant far below the horizon of the future. There was then in practise no covenant at all and therefore no Israel in the true sense of the name; for in God's eyes the real name" Israel" has always implied a spiritual entity in and behind fleshly covenant and material promises. Circumcision was nothing unless it implied a spiritual distinction behind the sign in flesh. Consequently, Israel according to flesh, and no more than that, could not understand something that was altogether in spirit, and not according to flesh at all.
If that was so in connection with achieving righteousness, it was and is all the more so in connection with reigning grace, a state which absolutely precludes all the fleshly distinctions implied in Israel's covenants. So there is nothing in Acts even remotely connected with the next occurrence of "the grace of God," in Rom. 5:15. Here one is in an altogether different and vastly higher world of thought and action.
So, too, in the five occurrences in 1. Corinthians (1:4; 3:10; 15:10 three times). This last passage makes a most wonderful tribute to the grace of God, showing it to be, as it were, a three-point support of Paul's apostleship. No references to charis in Scripture are anything like this; and we should take care to keep in mind that the passage forms the prelude to Paul's very great discussion of the rousing of Christ and the resurrection of the dead. Here once more we are in an altogether different world of thought from anything in Acts, an unfolding that becomes ever more wonderful and awe-inspiring as we absorb it into our minds and saturate our thinking with it.
In its four occurrences in 2. Corinthians, also, "the grace of God" is found in solemn and extremely important contexts; the first in Paul's opening words (1:12), the second (6:1) as the close of the main doctrinal section of the epistle, the others at the beginning and close of a most touching appeal to the Corinthians (8:1; 9:15).
In Gal. 1:15 Paul affirms that God calls him through His grace, and in Gal. 2:21 that he is not repudiating the grace of God. Six times do we find, with reference to God, the expression "His grace," but the Greek is not the same in all. In Rom. 3:24 it is literally "to the of Him grace"; so it really comes between this section and the previous one on "God's grace." On the other hand, in the second occurrence in 1. Cor. 15:10 the literal reading is "the grace of Him," as also in Gal. 1:15; Eph. 1:6, 7; 2:7. In the first "the grace of Him" which was unto Paul did not come to be for naught. In the second God is the One Who calls him through it. In Eph. 1:6 we find "unto laud of glory" of it, in Eph. 1:7 "forgiveness of the fallings-aside according to the riches" of it and in Eph. 2:7 "the transcendent riches" of it. These should be studied together. The other three mentions of the grace of God in Ephesians are in 3:2, 7, 8; the "this" in v. 8 being a plain reference back to v. 7. The student will notice that the six taken in order form an introversion, 1:6 corresponding to 3:8; 1:7 to 3:7; and 2:7 to 3:2.
The one reference in Colossians, in 1:6, associates the grace of God with the Evangel. In 2. Thess. 1:12 it appears again, in a gracious and splendid contrast to the scene of vengeance that precedes it. There is a similar graciousness in Titus 2:11, which reads (very literally indeed): "For made its appearance (has) the grace of God, saving-work to all humanity, training us that, disowning the irreverence and the worldly desires, sanely and righteously and devoutly should we be living in the current eon." We will come to this again presently; meanwhile, 2. Tim. 1:9 also is an indirect reference to the grace of God. In the remaining epistles a form of the expression is found in Heb. 12:15; 1. Peter 5:12 and Jude 1:4.
There are three passages, as Dr. Ryder Smith points out, in which grace and all or all mankind are found in the same context, though nowhere is grace said to be given to all men (R.S., p. 60). In the first (Rom. 3:21-24) the all in v. 23. plainly refers to "unto all and on all who are believing," and therefore is obviously not universal. In the second (Rom. 5:17, 18) the" consequently then" denotes a change of subject. The third (Titus 2:11, 12) certainly has a universal aspect. Rendered very literally indeed, to show the order of the Greek, it reads: "For made its appearance (has) the grace of God, saving-work to all humanity." Place this beside Acts 28:28: "to the Gentiles was the saving-work of God despatched, and they will hear on their own account," and the point becomes clear. To all the Gentiles is the saving work now available, even though, as we all know well, not all will listen. Titus 2:11, 12 goes much further. The grace of God is designed as saving-work to all humanity; but not necessarily now, for the context (v. 13) points to the future shining forth of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus. Christ. This passage must therefore be held primarily in its context in the future. It is of the utmost value in that it shows that ultimately the grace of God will affect all humanity, even though, now, it is applicable only to those who accept it.
Perhaps we are a little apt to think of Acts only as the continuation of Luke's Gospel, certainly its primary purpose. Yet it is a little more than that. Between them John's. Gospel and Acts use logos, word more times than Paul in the whole of his epistles. In John's Gospel the Lord Jesus talks. more often of His Word directly than in any of the other three, and 1. John refers to God's Word three times (1. John 1:10; 2:5; 2:14). The Apocalypse does so five times: (Rev. 1:2, 9; 6:9; 19:13; 20:4) and in it the Lord Jesus speaks of His Word once (3:8). Then, Acts speaks of the Word of God eleven times and refers to it three times. By contrast, Paul's Epistles refer to the Word of God only ten times, and Hebrews, and Peter's Epistles, twice each.
The expression "the Word of the Lord" occurs seven times in Acts and is referred to once (4:29) and once with the plural "words" (20:35). By contrast, Paul's Epistles use it twice (1. Thess. 1:8; 2. Thess. 3:1) and "in word of Lord" occurs in 1. Thess. 4:15, and "the word of Christ" in Col. 3:16.
In this use of logos John's writings and Acts come close together; so it is not surprising to find logos, word and charis, grace in juxtaposition five times in the Gospels and Acts (Luke 1:29, 30; 4:22; John 1:14; Acts 14:3; 20:32) and twice only in Paul's Epistles (2. Cor. 8:7; Col. 4:6).
All three references to the grace of the Lord in Acts occur in the section Acts 12:24 to 16:40, which contains by far the highest concentration of references to the Word of God and the Word of the Lord in all the Greek Scriptures. The four references in Paul's Epistles to the grace of the Lord are 2. Cor. 8:9; 12:9; 1. Tim. 1:14; Titus 3:7, and all refer in some way to Christ's humiliation for our sakes: the first to His poverty, the second to His infirmity, the third to His coming into the world, and the fourth to our being made righteous by His grace.
In Rom. 15:15, because of the grace given to Paul by God for him to be minister of Christ Jesus unto the Gentiles, he was able to write to the Romans more daringly.
Of the other four the first is specially significant, being actually an admission by the Apostle Peter himself of the great truth which is the foundation not only of the Evangel of the uncircumcision but of his own Evangel, that of the circumcision. These are Peter's final words in Acts and they mark the final end for the present of all idea of salvation under privilege involved in covenant. He and the faithful of Israel were believing through the grace of the Lord Jesus, not through any law-works or merit of their own or through privileged standing. No more complete reversal of past conditions can possibly be imagined; and this verse alone is sufficient to dispose finally of any idea that Acts is a Jewish or so-called "circumcision" writing, as dispensationalists love to tell us.
The second refers to "those who have believed through the grace," and again thrusts aside for the present the whole concept of privilege. The third emphasizes Paul's standing, at the threshold of the section of Romans concerned with exhortations based on the vastly significant revelation given earlier in this wonderful epistle. The fourth stands at the threshold of the great vindication in Galatians of Paul's Evangel.
Three usages of charis remain, each of which occurs but once. "The throne of the grace" is found in Heb. 4:16, "the spirit of the grace" in Heb. 10:29, and "the God of every grace" in 1. Peter 5:10.
At any rate, something like this is what Paul does in six passages, and in same variety. The first, Rom. 6:17, reads: "Yet thanks to God that (whereas) you were slaves of the sin, yet you obey out of heart (that) type of teaching into which you were given over." 1. Cor. 15:57 is rather different: "Yet to God thanks, to Him giving us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ." 2. Cor. 2:14 is in the same form as this, but 2. Cor. 8:16 reverts to the form of Rom. 6:17. The next, 1. Tim. 1:12, shows yet another form: "And thanks I am having to Him Who invigorates me, Christ Jesus." Lastly, 2. Tim. 1:3 reads: "Thanks I am having to the God to Whom I am offering divine service, from my ancestors, with clear conscience." In the first four of these, Rotherham, 2nd. Edition, has thanks and in the last two gratitude. Although in these gratitude reads best, it will not do for the first four, so considerations of concordance rule it out.
In the remaining four passages, Luke 6:32, 33, 34; 17:9, thanks appears to be the only possible rendering of charis.
In my view, it would be pedantic and quite misleading to render charis by grace in any of these. The C.V. is right in abandoning strict concordance here, but it is a pity that it did not stick closer to the Greek. To us little differences may seem unimportant; but we ought to respect God's Word too highly to allow such feelings to override the duty of coming as close to it in our renderings as we possibly can.
But why waste time on such things? Why not leave God's Word to speak for itself? The answer is simple. It can, and does, so speak; but its voice is so drowned by man's opinions and improvements (so called) that the great majority of those who call themselves Christians fail to hear it at all.
Before me as I write is a most interesting symposium on "The Doctrine of Grace," published by the "Student Christian Movement Press" in 1932. Though it is packed with information, quite remarkably little of it is relevant to what Scripture has to say about its subject, and much of it could never have been written by anyone who had clearly thought through the subject.
At the start, one writer paints out that the term charis is extraordinarily infrequent in the Gospels. This is taken up in the final paper, whose author asks "whether in these later centuries Christian theologians have been right in making a word and a theological scheme which are not part of our Lord's teaching so central?" The only explanation of this curious question must be that its propounder asked it under the influence of the fashionable notion of the time in which he was writing that John's Gospel was no more than a set of meditations written in the Second Century, and not a veracious. account of events seen by the Apostle John himself. Yet it ought to be obvious that the One Who brought grace and truth and was Himself full of them had no need to do more than exemplify them in His own life.
Commenting on the circumstance that "the term Grace. in its full Christian sense is not found on the lips of Jesus," the first writer asserts: "But neither does Jesus anywhere speak directly of the Love of God." This is extraordinary in the face of Luke 11:42 and John 5:42; 15:9-14 and the use of the verb love in John 3:16. This sort of thing is what happens when a man prefers fashionable theories to God's Word.
The connection between God's grace and God's love is a subject which does not appear to have received much consideration, but Dr. Ryder Smith has same interesting remarks. about it. While God loves the world without qualification, His grace needs to be received before it becomes directly operative at all. God's grace is a gift (Rom. 3:24; 1. Cor. 1:4; Eph. 4:7) and "a gift is not a gift until it has been accepted. Charis is agapE accepted and therefore operative." (R.S., p. 61). AgaPE is the Greek word for love.
The writer who makes the odd remarks referred to above also confuses grace with mercy, an entirely different idea, associated with compassion rather than kindly goodwill, a negative disposition to treat an offender less severely than he deserves rather than a positive kindliness that heaps undeserved blessings and benefits on another. To confuse the two is to degrade language. Grace and mercy occur together in the opening salutations of 1. and 2. Timothy and Titus and and in Heb. 4:16. This last is extremely illuminating. Israel had rejected the Law which was given through Moses and they rejected the grace and the truth that came into being through Jesus Christ. Yet the author of Hebrews could tell them of Jesus the Son of God, great High Priest Who has come through the heavens, able to sympathize with their infirmities, Who has been tried in all respects alike, apart from sin. With boldness, then, they may be approaching the throne of the grace. To what ends? Two, that they" may be obtaining mercy, and finding grace for opportune help." Their sins against the Law and against the grace which came into being through Jesus Christ had so far separated them from God that, for them, a High Priest was needed. And from Him their first requirement was to obtain mercy. This achieved, they could then obtain grace.
This epistle is to Hebrews. Its main purpose is therefore the guidance of those who are Hebrews, that is to say, those of Israel in the days to come who will be seeking to return to their God. It is for them that a High Priest will be needed. These are they who will want mercy and, having it, grace for opportune help. Yet the epistle does not exclude any Jew now who repents and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. It does not even exclude the Gentile who is mistakenly seeing himself as a covenant man, one who imagines himself as being in a place of special favour with God, whether on the ground of belonging to a "Church" or of good works. All these can have mercy; but only on terms, which are, in fact, that they start to learn the rudiments of the beginning of the oracles of God. And the essential rudiments are what Paul sets forth in the first four chapters of Romans. The core of this, at the present time, is set out in Rom. 3:9-23. In this day, no Jew can believe these things and imagine himself entitled to retain his Jewish privileges. That is why he needs mercy before he can obtain grace.
The truth is, such assertions as the Roman Catholic pronouncement quoted above are no more and no better than a mass of words put out to hinder thinking and to hide the truth, as they very effectually do. Some of those who trade on this sort of thing also speak of grace as "a completion and complement of Nature," and others set the two ideas of "grace" and "nature" as in some sense in opposition.
These curious notions can be put to the test by the same infallible means as before: direct appeal to the words of Scripture. The word phusis, nature is one of the most misunderstood words in the Greek Scriptures, though it occurs only fourteen times, not even one of which comes into contact at all with charis. So to associate grace and nature or to place them in opposition to one another is simply to treat Scripture with scornful contempt. However attractive such ideas may seem to those who regard themselves as "catholic," they have nothing whatever to do with Christianity.
One of the finest things Mr. A. E. Knoch ever did (and personally I regard it as his masterpiece) was the way he dealt with the delusion of the vast majority of Christendom regarding this word nature. This was a paper entitled "Sin in Act and in Fact" in "Unsearchable Riches," Vol. 17, pp. 69-84 (March, 1926). He pointed out that there is nothing, in the original Scriptures to correspond with the word sinful, which therefore ought to be struck out of our vocabulary. The ideas expressed in the words" fallen nature," "old nature," "new nature," "the two natures" are also wholly foreign to Scripture. It is not our nature itself that urges us to commit sin but the influence of our mortality on our nature. That is the alien influence that urges us to do wrong, not our nature. Sin" is never presented as an intrinsic part of man's nature." It is "essentially outside and alien to human nature. Humanity is not essentially sinful but subject to sin. Conscience is instinctive, but it is against sin." It is impossible to praise Mr. Knoch's paper too highly. It is worthy of the most concentrated study.
One further statement in it I must quote, for it bears on a paper of mine which I hope to have in our next issue: "One of the greatest difficulties connected with the incarnation vanishes once we see that the mother of our Lord did not have a sinful 'nature.' If she had, no amount of sophistry could convince the honest heart that she did not impart this 'nature' to her Son. . . . We have no reason to believe that Mary was free from sin. But the power of God is the effectual corrective of sin, so that her Offspring was holy, harmless and undefiled."
Yet there is a measure of truth behind the misunderstanding which has led the "Catholic" theologians into their association (by contrast) between grace and nature that is so prominent a feature of their system. In fact, it is just this measure of truth that gives their error its power; for no error is so potent and dangerous as a distorted truth. This misplaced truth is the main theme of Rom. 5:12-21, the contrast between the reign of sin in death and the reign of grace through righteousness unto life eonian. This contrast exists in the sphere of rule. In our lives we are not wholly free agents. This is on account of our mortality, of the fact that we ourselves and everything we do are tainted with that death which came in through the sin of Adam. "And thus into all mankind this death came through, on which all sinned." (Rom. 5:12).
The various developments of this contrast of rule are the theme of the next six chapters of Romans, the first three being connected with the individual himself, and the next three collectively, with Israel and the Gentiles. Here it should be noted that grace and sin occur in the same context only in Rom. 5:20, 21; 6:1, 14, 17. This will be enlarged on later.
The moment we start reading the writings of other men, we have to be continually on the watch against distortions of Scripture. All the elaborate talk about the contrast between grace and nature is a distorted form of the Apostle Paul's teaching in Romans. There is only one way to avoid the mental confusion induced by such distortions. It is perfectly simple, yet few manage to find it: keep close to the actual words of the Scriptures themselves in the originals.
That is what we are attempting to do in this paper. We are making use of the best translations we can find, and checking them by comparing them with a concordance of the Greek itself. In every problem that arises this key process can open up the truth and at the same time blow away whole masses of speculation. The whole complex of "Catholic" notions about grace and nature is seen to be an unsubstantial cloud-castle the moment we have ascertained by simply consulting the concordance of the Greek that God nowhere associates the two words. Yet it is very hard to say which is the more extraordinary: the queer mentality of the so-called theologians who painstakingly build up such cloud-castles on the foundation of their own exuberant imaginations, or the pusillanimity of the ordinary Christian who allows himself to be intimidated by this show of bogus learning when by a quite simple operation he could destroy it utterly. We have already referred to this when comparing the entries under dia, through with the entries under charis, grace in Wigram's Concordance; but there is no harm in enlarging on the point. Let us realize that there is nothing in any way abstruse about this process; all it requires is a little care and patience, and a pencil and paper for noting down one's, findings as one goes along. Yet it can be guaranteed to solve many of the problems we encounter whenever we come: across theological matters, whether in the Scriptures themselves or in men's writings about them.
As if sufficient difficulty and confusion had not been manufactured already, we find in many theological writings a further perplexity in the term "supernatural grace." Here is a word that is totally absent from God's Revelation. If He could manage to express His Revelation of Himself to humanity without even suggesting, let alone using, the word supernatural, why should it be necessary for us to correct Him? Yet some are so presumptuous that they do this thing without any trace of misgiving, let alone shame. This is a matter that is very difficult to submit to intelligent discussion; for I have yet to find any user of the word supernatural who attempts to justify its use. Such men appear to be particularly fond of it as a convenient substitute for precise thinking and also as a cover for this misuse of, the word nature. For if our nature is inherently sinful and bad, we certainly need something beyond "nature" to remedy it.
To be fair, however, it must be said that supernatural is often loosely used for Divine, so that by what is called "supernatural grace" is really meant "God's grace." But why be loose and slovenly in handling God's Holy Word? Such casual, careless writing is horribly irreverent in itself, and it cannot fail to induce casual, careless irreverence in those who read it idly and swallow it uncritically. It would not be tolerated in any circumstances in a scientific treatise. That it should be the rule rather than the exception in "religious" writings is a measure of the terribly low estate into which Theology has fallen. Nor is this particular decadence a modern matter, for it is in "Catholic" writings that the word supernatural is most often to be found.
Actually, it springs from his concept of "the Church" as a visible, universal communion of all the baptized. This ~concept involves the possibility that a man may be within "the Church" without partaking in any way of God's grace or its effects; for nobody, even among the Roman Catholics, would contend that every single person who has ever been baptized visibly displays God's grace in his mode of life. Such a notion as this concept is simply another way of confusing the visible Kingdom of God as it exists in this period, composed of wheat and tares, with the wheat itself; that is, those who are truly God's people and therefore members of the church which is Christ's body. For faith-righteousness Augustine substituted baptism; so it is hardly surprising that he engulfed himself in a veritable quagmire of error.
With the inaccuracy which one has come to regard as usual among traditionalists, Augustine identifies grace with love. Once again the concordance test delivers us from any danger of succumbing to this illusion. Charis and agapE, love come in proximity with one another in three places only: 2. Cor. 8:7; 13:14; 1. Tim. 1:14, and in each they are kept quite separate. So we should keep them separate, too; for only harm can result from joining together what God has kept apart.
Such men as Augustine do not scruple to lump together ideas which God has made distinct; so, naturally, since the balance has to be restored somehow, compensatory distinctions have to be invented. Consequently we get such oddities as "actual" contrasted with "sanctifying" grace, "efficacious" with "sufficient" grace; and no doubt there are others. It is unnecessary to attempt to explain these distinctions, as, being unreal, they are quite unimportant.
The reason why we should refrain is plain enough. It is not possible for the human mind to place two ideas in contrast or in opposition without comparing them, and we cannot attempt to compare them without assuming some points of contact. But we have no right to assume that God's mind works within the limitations imposed on ours by the weakness. of our mortality; and in a matter of this kind it is evident that His mind does not so work. When God thinks of favour,. grace, He does not automatically, as it were, set wrath, indignation, beside it for comparison, for such contrast is not needed to express His meaning. So, if we compare the occurrences of the two words in the Greek Scriptures, we will find that when one is in view, the other is cleared right out of the way. Both orgE and charis occur more frequently in, Romans than in any other epistle—twelve and twenty-four times respectively—yet the closest approach they make to one another is in Rom. 4:15 and 16; the former near the close of a lengthy argument, the latter at the beginning of a statement of the conclusions drawn from that argument.
Luther was concerned to make the point that there was no gradualness about God's grace, no in-pouring of partial
instalments of grace, as the Roman Catholic tradition insisted; and to this end
he compared God's wrath with His grace thus:
So Luther opened the door wide to error simply through inventing a seemingly plausible argument without troubling first to investigate whether it was based solidly on the facts of God's Word.
The plain truth is—and we cannot impress it too strongly— that no appeal to Scripture, however plausible on the surface, has any real validity and worth unless it is the fruit of accurate study and takes into account all the relevant facts within its terms of reference.
As regards assurance of the completeness of God's grace, there is no need to look further than Romans. The promise could not be confirmed if it were according to a sort of "grace" liable to withdrawal, nor could we have stood in it (4:16; 5:2), nor could it reign in any intelligible sense of the word. Grace now reigns, but nowhere are we told that wrath can ever reign. But someone may ask, how could a complete "grace" be "increasing" (Rom. 6:1)? Here the C.V. rendering of the Greek verb pleonazO may prove misleading. It means make greater in quantity, not greater in size or bulk or importance, as the English word sometimes may mean. Increase comes from the Latin cresco, grow; so increase may lead us to the mistaken idea of an incomplete grace swelling up so to speak, till it becomes complete. The correct idea is further grace coming into being. Even so, there is actually no excuse for misunderstanding, because just before, in Rom. 5:20, Paul had written: "Yet where the sin increases, the grace super-exceeds"; and plainly this cannot mean either sin or grace increasing in size, but in quantity. Apart from the three occurrences in these two verses, this verb occurs also in 2. Cor. 4:15; 8:15; Phil. 4:17; 1. Thess. 3:12; 2. Thess. 1:3; 2. Peter 1:8. Of these 2. Cor. 8:15 is specially significant for our purpose, as here the verb is contrasted with oligos, few.
This conclusion is confirmed when we examine another verb perisseuO, exceed, superabound, which occurs in the same context as pleonazO in two passages: 2. Cor. 4:14, 15; 1. Thess. 3:12. In the latter Rotherham gets the idea excellently by rendering them: "to abound and become pre-eminent."
This other verb perisseuO carries in itself the idea of increased or even excessive size, bulk, eminence or importance. In the first occurrence, Matt. 5:20, the idea is that the disciples' righteousness is to be pre-eminent over that of the Scribes and Pharisees. In Matt. 13:12 the idea is the quality, importance of disciples' understanding, not the actual quantity of knowledge they had obtained. In Matt. 14:20 the surplus is the overflow in bulk, the actual number of fragments being unimportant. The same holds good in Matt. 15:37. In Matt. 25:29 number comes into the reckoning on account of the nature of the parable, yet it is not the important consideration. The addition of one to twenty makes very little matter in terms of quantity, but it is a mark of eminence and importance. In Mark 12:44 the contrast is between superfluity and want.
Already this digression, though necessary, has become over-bulky, so the student must be left to work out the matter for himself with the aid of a concordance of the Greek.
Until I read Dr. Ryder Smith's chapter, it never occurred to me that any difficulty could arise over this. While the Evangel of the uncircumcision is in force, the more the sin brought by Adam increases, the more it is met and superexceeded by the grace of God. Yet, at once, Paul puts us on guard against any idea that, in order to increase the grace, we should contribute in any way to an increase of the sin; and he tells us why sin should not be mastering us. And that is all he has to say about grace and sin in the same context. Why are so few of us wise enough to keep silent where God has decided not to speak?
Silence, I believe, would here have commended itself to Dr. Ryder Smith also; but evidently he felt constrained to speak, because others had talked so much and silence would be misunderstood. I find myself in the same predicament; so now something has to be said to clear up the artificial problems which have been induced by ill-advised talk.
The first question arising is: "Does grace co-exist with sin in sinners?" Instantly we perceive that in this we are right outside the ambit of revelation, and involved in man-made speculation; so all attempts to answer it must needs be speculative too. I therefore decline the invitation, and confine myself to a few general comments, enough to clear the air for us.
We are told that the writers of the Greek Scriptures "believed that sinners sometimes do good things" (R.S., p. 124), Acts 17:26-29 and Rom. 2:14-16 being quoted in support. Then we are switched over to an entirely different matter, righteousness, Rom. 3:9-11 being correctly quoted as showing that none are righteous, and Matt. 23:35 and Heb. 11:33 set over against it. Yet there was no need to go so far afield, for in 3:10 we read that "Not one is righteous" and in 3:21-26 that all who believe achieve righteousness through Jesus Christ's faith. A contradiction manifests itself only if we ignore the fact that those referred to in 3:9-20 are those who do not possess Jesus Christ's faith. That being so, there is no contradiction in the other passages, provided we use a little intelligence and deduce that Abel and those whose faith is set out in Hebrews 11 possessed the same true faith that the Apostle Paul speaks of. Unfortunately, Dr. Ryder Smith does not declare this quite plainly; but credit is due to him for pointing out so well that this faith shows that God's grace was at work with those saints of old.
This point does not in any way contradict John 1:14-17. The Word was full of grace and truth, the grace and the truth came into being through Jesus Christ. Just as there was a measure of truth given before the Word became flesh, so there was given also a measure of grace—but the fulness of both came in Him alone.
A fine passage follows (R.S., p. 126), in which attention is drawn to the fact that in Heb. 11:26 we are told that Moses deemed as "greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, the reproach of the Christ, for he was looking away unto the reward." This is rightly associated with the pre-incarnate Son (Heb. 1:2; Col. 1:16; John 1:3) and with "Christ's spirit" in 1. Peter 1:11 and Paul's comment in 1. Cor. 10:4. " Now the Rock was the Christ."
The next speculative questions are whether sin co-exists with grace at the moment a sinner is saved by grace, and in his. subsequent life? Here is another false issue based on the use of an unsound form of words; but, instead of standing on this fact, Dr. Ryder Smith regards the matter as a "lacuna in Apostolic teaching" (R.S., p. 126). This idea I am not prepared to entertain for one moment! If God has failed to supply us with all the teaching He considers we need, we had better drop the whole business at once. In fact these questions. being based on a fallacy, are meaningless. We know that we all sin from time to time. We know that God's grace works in us from time to time. What the Doctor has not even attempted to prove is that the sin and the grace operate at the same moment of time. And, indeed, the four passages we have quoted, especially Rom. 6:14, support the rejection of any such idea as that.
But instead of appreciating the point, the Doctor talks about something in the believer's nature being sinful—a totally unscriptural idea. He cites certain texts in which "the Apostolic writers seem to think that at conversion believers are not only forgiven for all past sin, but that they are altogether cleansed from sin" (R.S., p. 127). These are, he states:—in connection with baptism, Rom. 6:3; 1. Cor. 6:11; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:12, and with baptism not mentioned, Rom. 6:6, 8; 2. Cor. 5:17; Gal.2:20; 5:24; 6:14. To all this there is a convincing objection: none of these passages present the notions attributed to them.
Much of what is written about all this matter (R.S., pp. 127 140) is of great interest; but it is, in fact, irrelevant to our theme and must be put aside for the present, at any rate. One point, however, must be mentioned, as it is claimed to be "generally believed": "that the work of grace is incomplete in every Christian even though Christ's 'grace is sufficient' for him—i.e. that grace is sufficient but faith is insufficient from the beginning of the Christian life onwards" (R.S., p. 127). Bearing in mind that the subject being discussed in the context of this quotation is "Sin in believers," there is a very important observation to be made: faith is nowhere stated in Scripture to make anyone sinless, but to make him righteous. This fact really closes the discussion.
Another notion which is forced by some expositors into association with charis is in the word aPhesis, remission, pardon, forgiveness and its corresponding verb aphiEmi, forgive. In actual fact, the former comes into contact with charis in one place only, Eph. 1:7, "the forgiveness of the fallings-aside according to the riches of His grace." There is no contact of the latter with grace at all.
Another Reformer, Melanchthon, appears to have been the first to introduce this particular confusion by setting grace with forgiveness and mercy. Though we owe a great debt to these men on account of their tremendous struggle against Roman error, it has to be admitted that from them we have as well derived other great confusions. Some of these concerning "justification" have already been cleared up in earlier papers in The Differentiator; and we must hope that opportunity may be given for similar research into the remainder. Yet the Reformers did at least hammer home the fact that we know God only through His grace, His favour; this dealing of God in bending down to save us and to aid us in our walk. For what they thus achieved we owe them grateful thanks.
The trouble with the Reformers was that they were reacting against errors already centuries old; and, as often in such circumstances, tending to swing too violently and too far in the opposite direction. The mischief against which they were protesting started actually with the so-called Fathers, whose ideas have ever since dominated the churches that reckon themselves "Catholic."
He sought to prove that our salvation comes from no merits of our own, but only from the Divine grace which is given us. Hence, good works done by those who are not in "a state of grace" are valueless. Men fail without grace, and only by means of it can they do any works acceptable to God; hence they are able to become righteous only through an infusion of "the grace of faith." Observe the unscriptural words needed to set out even this bare summary.
Aquinas elaborated this doctrine, refusing the Apostle Paul's doctrine that grace is the kindly favour of God to man, and substituting the heresy that it is simply a gift given by God to man. This is claimed to be based on Rom. 3:24, which is interpreted to mean" made just by an infusion of grace."
He further argues that the effect of God's love on us is the production of grace by which a man is made worthy of "eternal life," and that therefore remission of guilt cannot be understood unless it is accompanied by the infusion of grace. Again we are moving wholly outside the thoughts of God's Word, yet nevertheless Aquinas by this introduces the doctrine of "merit" directly in opposition to the Apostle Paul's clear demonstration that such merit does not exist. From these strange ideas, Aquinas derives the further teaching that in a sense we can deserve something from God and, in fact, that one effect of our "justification" is that by it we are put into the position of deserving Divine blessing. He supports this by arguing that the fact that we have become sons and heirs involves the consequence that the inheritance is owed to us, Rom. 8:17 being misused into supporting this very strange argument.
In order to provide an altogether adequate answer to this
system it would be necessary to answer
Is Divine grace in any sense a gift of God to us; and if
so, what is the precise meaning of the idea of "grace" as
What is the meaning of Rom. 3:24?
What is the true doctrine of our sonship in Romans 8?
The first of these brings us back again to Section 2 (pp. 80-82), at which we must now take a closer look.
Three times in the Greek Scriptures, apart from Paul's Epistles, is grace spoken of as something actually given, namely, Acts 7:10; James 4:6; 1. Peter 5:5. The two last are identical in form: "God is resisting the proud, yet is giving grace to the humble"; quoted from Prov. 3:24. The context of the former is an exhortation against envy and speaking against one another, friendship with this world and other evil passions; that of the latter is an exhortation to humility, soberness and shepherding the flocklet of God. Nowhere is there the least suggestion that grace is given to any Israelite as the means whereby he can attain to salvation. Ultimate salvation is not in view; still less is making righteous. If either of these ideas had been that for which :grace is given, James would surely have mentioned the point in Chapter 2 of his Epistle.
While James' Epistle is essentially hortatory and practical in spirit, it conforms to the lay-out usual in the epistles of having the main doctrinal matter at the beginning. Grace is required for the ordinary conduct of life, for living a life well.pleasing to God; there is no hint of need for grace to be infused in order that men may be able to earn salvation. The Roman Catholic system can find no support in this matter from James or Paul.
The first mention of grace as a thing actually given, in Acts 7:10, in both King James' version and the C.V. is rendered favour. First occurrences in Scripture of words of this kind often indicate the basic meaning, and this is a good example. Stripped of the rich fullness it has in Paul's epistles, it is here seen simply as causeless, undeserved favour. That favour is freely and fully dispensed to the people of .God; but, like God's love, it is not something given as one might give a coin to a beggar, but given as a mother gives her love and devotion to a child. Nor can it be passed on as a coin can. Grace is poured on us as the noonday sunshine of midsummer. We cannot in our turn pour it likewise on others, but we can revel in the joy of its warmth, and it will evoke a corresponding grace in our hearts which will impart to our conduct towards others, in some measure, a corresponding grace.
POSTSCRIPT. My attention has been drawn to the fact that my remarks about grace and love are open to misunderstanding.
I should certainly have added to the three references I gave Eph. 2:4,5 and 2. John 3, and I apologize for the over sight. In seven other passages the words are not far apart, but not, in my opinion, so close that they influence one another, as they seem to do in the five now cited. I hope to write fully about this matter in the next instalment.
Similarly, if we re-examine the references to grace as something possessed, we will find it evident that when God confers on us His grace, the primary idea is His favour. We, who do and have done nothing to deserve favour, receive it freely from Him. It is not given us in the same sense as one might give a coin to a beggar, or even as tools and materials might be given to a workman; it is given as His love is given, free causeless and complete. It is something in Himself directed: towards us, not something in ourselves derived from Him.
Just as His love, when realized by us and in some measure returned, evokes in our hearts love towards others; so does. His grace evoke grace in us. This is the secondary sense of the word. Nowhere, however, do we find that this grace in ourselves is in any sense a means whereby we can earn further favour from God. Far from it! The love which His love' calls forth in our hearts is our spontaneous reaction to His. love; it would not truly be love if there were any merit of ours in it. The same applies to grace; and so we see that Paul contemplates this love and this grace as devoted to selfless service. Such service as this is brought about by pure love and grace; and if it is the real thing, there is in it no more expectation of reward than there is on God's part an expectation of reward from us when He bestows His grace upon us.
There is no room for self in service pleasing to God; and human nature being what it is—as God indeed made it to be—the only way to remove all trace of selfishness in us is first of all to pour upon us unstinted grace. The moment we begin to imagine we can do anything of ourselves to please Him, even if we appreciate that we can do it only with His help, self comes into the foreground. Our service, our work, our salvation must then necessarily take first place in our thoughts, rather than His purpose, His grace, His love.
Here it is that the error attributed to Augustine lies. He is quite correct in arguing that it is only through God's grace that we can do any works acceptable to Him; but he entirely fails to grasp that righteousness is the first consequence of the active operation of God's grace and that it is only those who are already made righteous who are in the position to do works acceptable to God.
That this is no subjective opinion but unquestionable fact is seen in the explanation of how a man may become righteous with God. First, a lengthy proof that by works of law no flesh shall be made righteous before God (Rom. 3:20). Then, at last, grace is mentioned—and what does the Apostle Paul say? "Being made righteous gratuitously by His grace" (3:24). The same pattern appears in the wider context of the first eight chapters of Romans. First, as we have just seen, the explanation of how a man is made righteous will God, then the pre-eminence of faith and grace over works and over law (Romans 4), then peace and access (5:1, 2). Not until all this is dealt with do the superabundance of grace and the reign of grace come into focus and all they imply in a life well-pleasing to God.
We do not in any way disparage grace by putting it in its proper place; and it is very clear from the first half of Romans that grace cannot in its fullness appear in us until the question of righteousness has been settled. The Roman Catholic error is, as usual, at first one of emphasis rather than of fact. Once proportion is distorted the way is open for errors of fact to insinuate themselves more easily.
The central occurrence of the five (Rom. 9:4) is the central fact that "the sonship" is one of the eight blessings belonging to Paul's kin according to flesh who are Israelites. And it is set out as the first of them. But we look in vain either in Romans or in the Hebrew Scriptures to find any suggestion that any of these eight blessings are in any sense at all owed to Israel by God. The idea is simply not there.
The first and last of the five occurrences are right outside the realm of what is according to flesh. The first (Rom. 8:14-17), rather freely translated, reads: "For as many as by God's Spirit are led, these are sons of God. For you did not get slavery's spirit leading again unto fear; but you got sonship's spirit, in which we are crying 'Abba!—O Father!' The Spirit Itself is witnessing together with our spirit that we are children of God. Yet if children, heirs also—God's heirs indeed, yet joint-heirs of Christ. . ." The last occurrence (Eph. 1:5) is the second of our blessings "with every spiritual blessing among the celestials," thus: ". . .in love designating us beforehand unto sonship through Christ Jesus, according to the delight of His will, unto laud of glory of the grace of Him which graces us in the Beloved."
The contrast of these with Rom. 9:4 is tremendous; for in these two the emphasis is all on spirit, whereas in it all is according to flesh. But, again, no question appears of any of these things being owed to us by God.
Finally, in the second (Rom. 8:23) and the fourth (Gal. 4:5) the sonship is something awaited, but definitely not something owed.
Let us try to clear the ground by considering another word that comes into proximity with grace quite a number of times, namely, eirEnE, peace. The combination grace and peace, with some variants, comes into the opening salutation of everyone of Paul's epistles and also in 1. and 2. Peter, 2. John and Revelation, seventeen in all. This unmistakeably associates the ideas.
In addition, there are ten places where they come into proximity, but do not actually meet, as above. These we will examine in order. The first is Rom. 5:1, 2. Here peace comes first, but in order of experience grace has the priority. The salient points are righteousness, peace, access, faith, grace, glory.
Next, Rom. 15:13, 15. Here there is a change of subject at the start of v. 14, so there is no real contact between the two words.
Peace comes in Rom. 16:20, followed by grace in a benediction. The same thing occurs in Gal. 6:16, 18; Eph. 6:23, 24; 2. Thess. 3:16, 18. Peace and grace, in this order, occur in Co1. 3:15, 16 and in Heb. 12:14, 15; but in the closing salutation in 1. Peter 5:12, 14, grace is followed by peace in the benediction.
Lastly, in 2. Peter 3:14, 18 peace comes first and grace at the close; but, again, there is no real contact between the two.
These should be carefully pondered over; and I think it will become apparent that though these words are plainly associated in their texts, there is no such definite doctrinal association or contrast as there is between faith and works, righteousness and law, grace and righteousness.
We turn now to another combination, grace, charis and truth, alEtheia. These meet in four places: John 1:14: "full of grace and truth"; John 1:17 "seeing that the Law through Moses was given, the grace and the truth through Jesus Christ came into being" ; Co1. 1:6 "the grace of God in truth" and 2. John 3: "With us will be grace, mercy, peace from God, Father, and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love." In these four the two words are closely linked together; and in the last, with three other words: mercy, peace, love. The doctrinal significance of the four is profound, much more than with grace and peace.
Besides the four, there are ten places where the words are within a few verses of one another. In seven of these Acts. 4:27 and 33; Rom. 15:8 and 15; 2. Cor. 6:1 and 7; 12:6 and 9; Gal. 2:5 and 9; Eph. 4:24, 25 and 29; 2. Thess. 2:10, 12, 13, and 16 they do not really affect one another at all. In three; Gal. 5:4 and 7; Titus 1:1 and 4; Heb. 10:26 and 29 it is perhaps arguable that there is some association between them.
Next, the conjunctions of agapE, love and alEtheia, truth present themselves. Their close approaches are in 1. Cor. 13:4 and 6; 2. Cor. 6:6 and 7; Gal. 5:6 and 7; 2. Thess. 2:10; Heb. 10:24 and 26; 1. John 2:4 and 5; 3:17 and 18; 4:6 and 7; 2. John 3. In the first, fourth, sixth and seventh of these the connection of thought is very close and sheds a strong light on the relationship of the two words to one another. We might even say that this relationship is the main theme of John's epistles. The words approach less closely than in any of the above in Eph. 1:13 and 15; Phil. 1:16 and 18; Col. 1:4 and 5; 3. John 4 and 6 and the relationship is much slighter.
Finally, we come to the pair that occasioned this discussion: charis, grace and agapE, love, which come close together in 1. Cor. 16:23, 24; 2. Cor. 8:7; 13:14; Eph. 2:4, 5; 2. Tim. 1:14; 2. John 3. They approach one another, but do not come into real contact, in Eph. 1:4 and 6; 6:23 and 24; Phil. 1:7 and 9; Co1. 1:6 and 8; 3:14 and 16; 2. Thess. 1:2 and 3; 1. Peter 4:8 and 10. Grace and the verb agapaO, to love, come close together in Luke 6:32; 2. Cor. 9:7 and 8; Gal. 2:20 and 21; 2. Thess. 2:16; 1. Peter 1:8 and 10. In none of these do the words meet quite as intimately as grace and peace, grace and truth, or truth and love do.
I would urge the reader to study these occurrences very carefully, and then ask himself whether we learn very much about the relationship of grace and love from them. However, I must insist that what I was pointing out on p. 271 of our December, 1960 issue was that grace and love are not identical, not that they are not related in the Greek Scriptures.
This process, examining the points of contact or approach of pairs of words, is not, and does not claim to be, any sort of magical short cut to truth; but it is of the greatest value as indicating in what direction truth lies. Certainly it shows very dearly that Scripture does not regard grace and love as identical or interchangeable terms—and that was all I was trying to accomplish. In general the method has greater value for detecting and refuting error than for establishing. truth; but it is not to be despised on that account, for a powerful tool for detecting certain types of error can be of immense value. I should add that I got my information about Augustine at second hand, and cannot verify it for myself, so it may be untrue. Nevertheless, it is as well that the idea should be refuted, even if it is not genuinely Augustine's.
For anyone who would care to dig deeply into the matter by using a method that is likely to give more positive results, I suggest the following experiment. Go through every occurrence of charis and mentally substitute love for grace. Then go through every occurrence of agapE and mentally substitute grace for love. This will not only prove beyond doubt that the two ideas are not identical but also give a far clearer understanding of what they have in common and in what way they differ.
It is not hard to see that the first occurrence of grace, Luke 1:30, would have sounded very odd if the angel had said" for thou hast found love with God." The same can be said about the next, Luke 2:40, "and God's love was on Him" and 2:52, "And Jesus progressed. . . in love with God and men"; and also in John 1:14 "full of love and truth" and in 1:17, "the love and the truth came through Jesus Christ." The inappropriateness of all these changes can readily be felt, but is not so easy to explain. I suggest that grace is essentially love in action, the out-working of love. Because God loves, He displays His grace. When love of God dawns in our hearts, we start also to be moved to show our love by thanks to Him and some measure of grace to our fellow Christians.
When the word grace begins to be used in a doctrinal context, we see love in action implied, and grace itself linked to faith. This is plainly seen in the first place that the Apostle Peter uses the word, Acts 15:11; and it is particularly noticeable how his developing love of the Lord Jesus comes out in grace developing in himself. Perhaps he might have said that Gentiles might be saved according to the same manner even as the Twelve and the faithful Israelites with them; but already God's grace had so worked in his heart that he could say: ". . .we shall be believing—to be saved—in what manner even as they." Not only so, but truth has come in with grace too. Peter had already said (Acts 10:34): "Of a truth" (literally, on truth) "I am grasping that God is not partial"; and by now, through God's love working in grace, he had realized something of the great new truth imparted to Paul. This aspect is even plainer in the first doctrinal reference in Romans (3:24). On God's side we are made righteous by,His love in action, displayed in His grace. Similarly, in Eph. 1:6, 7 and 2:5, 7, 8 we see grace as essentially the active display of God's love.
Yet none of these things mean that we can ever properly substitute grace for love; for love is the firm base without which there would be nothing from which grace could grow. Grace could not exist without love; but love needs not necessarily imply grace or always be accompanied by grace. This will become apparent if one tries to substitute grace for love in the various occurrences of the latter. The first occurrence of love, in Matt. 24:12: "the love of the many will be cooled," would lose much of its point. If such cooling were to happen only to their grace or their thanks to God, it would not matter so deeply; but their trouble goes far deeper; it is their love that will be cooled. The position is similar in Luke 11:42. Passing by judgment and the love of God is a more serious matter than passing by His grace, bad though that is. The same applies in John 5:42 and elsewhere in his Gospel also. The same notion is found in Paul's first reference to the word, Rom. 5:5. The fact that it is God's love that has been poured out in our hearts means even more than the precious fact that His grace has been given to us. The same idea is seen in v. 8.
The foregoing four paragraphs are all I propose to say about this aspect of the matter, as I feel assured that all readers would benefit by pursuing it themselves.
Grace makes possible the highest blessing from God because we have no claim on Him at all to demand it; but it is quite impossible, even for God, to make us deserve anything which in actual fact we do not deserve; for the very idea is a contradiction in terms. Nevertheless, Romish theologians attempt to smooth over this difficulty in the minds of their dupes by inserting a sort of verbal gusset to separate the two conflicting ideas. The way this is attempted is to state that by an infusion of God's grace we are gratuitously brought into such a condition that we have become able, by works acceptable to God, to become righteous. Stripped of the verbiage and ambiguities with which its exponents surround it, this becomes an open avowal that through grace a man can by works of law make himself righteous before God.
Here there need be no wavering; for the Apostle Paul repeatedly insists that it is not in any circumstances possible for us to become righteous by law works. (Rom. 3:20; 4:5, 13-15; 5:20; Gal. 2:16, 21; 3:2, 5, 10, 11). Moreover, he guards against any idea of obtaining righteousness by "works of grace" by explicitly contrasting grace with law and works. And we should always keep in mind that though faith is an act that we perform ourselves it must not on any account be classed among works. This fact is absolutely explicitly set out in Rom. 11:6. The reason for this is set out in Rom. 3:22, 26. The efficacy of our faith springs from the fact that God is both righteous and One Who "makes righteous the one out of Jesus' faith" (literally, out of faith of Jesus). So faith to be efficacious is not simply faith, but faith originating in Jesus by His grace.
Few errors, if any, are entirely devoid of truth. Their strength lies in this element of truth, their weakness in the fact that this truth is invariably incomplete or misapplied. Not for us in righteousness by works by any means or in any sense; even if men try to cover up error by using such expressions as "the infusion of grace," "the grace of faith," "remission of guilt," and other departures from the pattern of sound words. Such expressions do not occur in God's Word; and we bring them into our Theology only at our peril.
This conspiracy of confusion works in two ways. First, as indicated above, every conceivable device is employed to divert the enquirer from the right way. The chief weapon is the lie: that "Science" has proved that God's Word is not what it claims to be. The fact that this is wholly and demonstrably untrue matters not to the exponents of this lie. They carry conviction by shouting down the facts and hiding the truth from their victims. Second, the most subtle sorts of propaganda are employed to convey the notion that spiritual truth is in some way a different kind of truth to the sort we deal with in material things. In an era when the material truths disclosed in the physical sciences are achieving triumphs beyond anything imaginable less than a lifetime ago, this notion is bound to be horribly effective. Anyone can readily perceive that some particular scientific or mechanical device embodies truth, because in practise the device works. But spiritual truths do not "work" in the immediate sense that physical truths do. You cannot see a person being made righteous as you can see the screen of a television set light up. Spiritual truths do "work" as well as physical truths "work," even better; but their working has to be spiritually apprehended. They invoke and produce spiritual growth, which is not a thing measurable with a foot rule. So the subtle lie is put about, and readily bears fruit, that spiritual truth is wholly subjective and not objective at all, and therefore not open to investigation by scientific method. And there is a subtle and even more cunning line of attack: spiritual things are often spoken of as objective in a false context, so that anyone can see (in the false context) that they are not really objective at all. This false objectivity is thus a most powerful agent for killing true objectivity.
This is not an easy point to understand; so I give an example from a relatively modern development of our present theme. Schleiermacher (A.D. 1830) based his theory of Grace on the opposition of sin and grace: that first the development of the consciousness of sin is given, and then that of the consciousness of grace. Now mark the cleverness of this! Consciousness of sin is almost the first step to Christian faith. No spiritual illumination is needed to make anyone conscious of sin—the thing forces itself on everyone's notice daily and even hourly—though consciousness of one's own sin does not necessarily follow, though it has to do so before repentance can take place. Yet, even so, this need not always, and does not, result in repentance. But these circumstances are not true of "consciousness of grace," not at all. God's grace is not like the sight of a jet plane passing over or like the roar it produces. No man has ever seen it or heard it. God's activity in grace is wholly spiritual, it is known solely in its spiritual effects and is not subject to apprehension, still less to measurement, by any physical means whatever. No one has ever had any "consciousness of grace" in the same objective way as we all have consciousness of sin, in some measure at least. Thus, to talk of it in such a way is to destroy its reality, to reduce it to a mere subjective dream; and so to reduce grace itself to a mere subjective dream.
Here is the evil seed that has grown from what was probably no worse than a misunderstanding and flowered in the almost complete subjectivity of what almost universally passes for Christianity in these days.
Apparently Schleiermacher regarded grace and faith as correlative notions and never intended to involve himself in subjectivism; but one cannot play with fire without running any risk of being burnt. To substitute an imaginary " consciousness" of grace for faith in God's grace is to destroy all objectivity.
Not for nothing did John in his Gospel associate grace and truth, and assert that the Word and His glory are "full of grace and truth" and that "the grace and the truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:14 and 17). Both were seen objectively in Him. Now that He is risen and ascended, they are apprehended objectively in His Spirit, spiritually. To deny this, and to say instead that they are subjective in any sense at all, is to tear out the heart of Christianity.
Once we start making grace subjective, trying to work up some "consciousness" of it, we cut adrift from reality because faith becomes subjective also in our thinking, and a subjective faith is a contradiction in terms. It is meaningless to tell a person to "believe," just that. Either you believe something or somebody, or you do not believe at all. True, you believe within your mind, but what you believe is some reality outside it. To believe some proposition simply because it appeals to you, because you want it to be true, because it suits your ideas of how things would be if you had the arranging or planning of them–that is to be subjective. And subjectivity means that instead of looking outwards to things as they are you are turning inwards into yourself, the petty world of self-sufficiency and therefore self-worship. To search into your own mind and to pin your faith to what you see, or think you see, there is not faith. It is the beginning of lunacy.
Truth itself is always something outside ourselves. Even when we apprehend it and take it into our minds so that it becomes something inside us, it still remains unaltered outside us as well. This reception of truth is faith when that truth is not directly perceived by us but apprehended on trust. What happens solely inside a person may seem true enough to him, but as it is not communicable to others directly it is not objective truth. The doctor cannot experience the pain in your arm that causes you such distress; he may be able to detect that something is amiss and so deduce that the pain exists for you; but only to that very limited extent is your pain objective to him, and it is not subjective to him at all.
This digression is intended to make the vitally important point that God's grace appears to us in this sense like your pain appears to the doctor–not something that can be experienced subjectively or even seen objectively, but only to be apprehended objectively by deduction from its effects. To talk about "being conscious of grace" is to talk in terms of utter unreality. Eventually, as we grow in faith and experience of God's ways with us, we may reach the stage of experiencing the results of God's grace in our lives; but never in this life here can we become conscious of the grace itself.
We have had to examine this rather difficult matter at some length not only on account of its importance but also because it illustrates so well how readily our thinking can surrender to subjectivity if we do not continually strive to be objective. Moreover, it shows that the subjectivity which, in its systematized forms constitutes "Modernism," "Modern Thought" and practically all popular religious movements, is no new thing; though in these days we are seeing its fruits ripen as never before. Perhaps the strangest feature of modern subjective religion is the way that the more subjective it is, the more "practical" it pretends to be. So one modern writer calmly informs us that God's grace "always takes shape in the supply of our immediate need." Presently he enlarges on this by telling us that "grace and its ways are first manifested in earthly blessing." The best way to evaluate this is to read John 1:15-18 and then pass right on to the account of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ through Whom that grace came. After this writer's astonishing effort of the imagination we are led into a veritable maze of subjective guessing. We are told that" it is for the Israel of God that the Christ dies, rises, and becomes the bestower of the spirit." This abruptly disposes of Acts 11:1-18 and our unlucky selves, who supposed that the saving-work of God has been sent to the Gentiles. Yet suddenly the grim picture conjured up by this man's imagination changes, and we find that, after all, it is the Body of Christ "which is the primary object of God's grace." One wonders what on earth will happen next; but not for long, because immediately it turns out that the real objective of all this guessing is the virtual suppression of the individual in favour of the community as the recipients of God's grace.
Characteristically, this person's subjective thinking now takes another wild twist, and he tells us: "But it is in the individual soul that we can trace the workings of grace most clearly" The only thing that emerges plainly from this confusing assertion is that, after all, it is the individual who matters, not the collective mass–but what can anyone who is capable of clear mental processes think of such a jumble of confusion?
Why do the minds of some people work in this queer way? The answer is that their minds are essentially subjective, they feel rather than think. This man is obsessed with his concept of "the Church"; and what he wants to establish is the proposition that the individual matters only in and through "the Church." As Scripture, most regrettably from his personal point of view, fails to do it for him, he is reduced to picking and choosing bits of it that can perhaps be reassembled to suit his purpose and then by mental excogitation to building up with their aid some sort of scaffolding for the system he desires to establish. This process is purely subjective and wholly irrational and unscientific.
An example outside our theme but illustrating quite perfectly the point I have made above, is provided by this man, thus: "God may bestow His justification by sacramental means," with "Acts 19:5, 6, etc." cited as the proof text. The "etc." is an exquisite example of utter intellectual dishonesty, an even more perfect one than the proof-text, which could hardly be more irrelevant to what he claims it proves.
We may well doubt whether anyone would write such nonsense but for the "catholic" practise of trying to accept two different authorities at once, "the Church" and Scripture. The latter has to be accommodated somehow to support the tradition of the former. One can only marvel that they do not write a "Bible" of their own to replace the one they are so busy trying to discredit.
Yet it is still no easy task to define charis in away that adequately takes account of its many sidedness; and I do not propose to make the attempt, but, rather, to leave it to others. If they think they are able, I trust they will make use of the analysis I have attempted in this series of papers. If they think they can better it, I for one will welcome their efforts.
Perhaps two criticisms of my attempt may appear. First, that it is too compendious and detailed. Second, that there is very little of what is generally called "devotional" writing in it. To have deliberately attempted to meet the second would have enhanced what grounds there are for the first. What I have aimed at is to set out the facts so far as I can ascertain them. Such an aim should be carried out as thoroughly as possible, or it is best not attempted at all; for superficial treatment is unworthy of so vast a subject and grossly irreverent to God's Word. In this respect, my only fear is that I have failed to be as thorough as I hoped.
As regards the devotional side, surely this should be left to those called and specially equipped for it—that is, assuming that any sincere attempt to provide a thorough examination of one aspect of God's Word is not devotional? Yet I would not press this point. Anyone who feels called to use for devotional study the abundance of material provided by this subject is more than welcome to do so. What I would press is that detailed investigation into God's Word, wholehearted desire to think God's thoughts as He thought them, honest endeavour to eliminate the speculations and errors with which mortal men have sought to dilute and distort them: all this actually is "devotional" in the truest sense of the word. There is a wide spread tendency to overrate the importance of what we say to God and what work we do for God. Far better is it to contemplate what He says to us and what He has done for us; for that directs our attention towards Him and diverts it from ourselves. Nobody ever needs any exhortation to centre his thoughts on himself, on what he thinks and does and knows and hopes and fears. Only when we turn away from ourselves and from our idols to serve God living and true do we even begin to live that life which is the only real life. Such life can grow towards perfection only as we turn our eyes away from self to Him, its only true source and fountain; and away from our own thoughts and ideas to the glories revealed in His living Word.
This is the splendid goal towards which our studies of grace have sought to lead. His grace is light and glory which pour from Him. Our thanks, poor and weak though it be, is the best and truest response we can give to Him in return. Feeble though it be, it is our reflection of His grace. R.B.W.