Gospel Preaching 8

You will say to me, alas, here is my misery, to wit, although God propounds Christ upon gospel terms to poor sinners to me among others, I have no power of myself to receive Christ and to believe in Him and accept of Him. True, it is not {as I said} in him that wills, or him that runs, but only in God who shows mercy. {Rom.9:16} It is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe. Which must be put forth in your hearts to make you believe also according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead. {Eph.1:19,20} And you ought to wait on God in the diligent use of means until the day of His power come upon you and then you shall be a willing, a believing people. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” {Ps.110:3} I may exhort you to repent of your wickedness, profaneness, &c., as Peter did in Acts 8:22, but God alone must give you repentance unto life. {Acts 11:18} It is my duty to preach the gospel to you and to exhort you to seek Christ, Acts 17:22,27, but it is the mere mercy and free grace of God to drive you to Christ, which nothing, but His everlasting love can move Him to do. {Jer.31:3} Hanserd Knolly (Baptist, 1645)

The world is full of deceptions based on the foundation (false) that man must be free and that it is man who must move toward God in some way. We cannot imagine the true notion of free grace and how God saves sinners quite apart from any merit or worth that they have. God saves sinners for the glory of His own name and to the praise of the glory of His grace. God saves sinners because of who He is and not because of anything in the sinner or what the sinner can do. One reason this is so hard to get across to people is because of the fall man is so focused on himself as the reason he does all things and he cannot imagine that God is moved within Himself to show mercy and save sinners by grace alone. Even among those who claim to hold to this glorious teaching it is common for something less than grace alone to creep in.

The glorious Gospel of grace alone is completely and totally of grace and grace alone. There can be no merit, no ability of man, no power of man, and no choice or act of the will of man that moves God to save a sinner. These is a verity that must not be moved from and there must not be an attempt to balance it out with something called the responsibility of man. The sovereign grace (the only kind of grace that there is) does not need balancing with anything regarding the ability of man. Man is obligated to God, yes, but man has no ability to do anything spiritual or saving. Man is obligated to God, but that does not mean that man can fulfill those obligations. We can also say that man is obligated to look to God alone for faith and do what He does in the strength of grace. Away with free-will and the ability of man so that the wonders and fullness of God’s grace may be declared.

The Scriptures are so clear that “it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Rom 9:16). When preachers “preach” in a way that men look to themselves or anyone else instead of the mercy and grace of God, those preachers have moved away from grace alone. Yes, it is very easy to do and so many fall into the trap of various forms of legalism. But again, it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs. I am not sure how much clearer that could be said. What salvation depends on is the mercy and grace of God and nothing of what man is or does. There is nothing that can depend on the man because all depends on God alone. There is nothing that depends on the will of man because it all depends on the will of God. There is nothing that depends on the man who runs and works, but instead it all depends on the grace of God who gives Christ to run and work all for His good pleasure and He has left no meritorious good works for man to do.

Yes, to certain ears this will sound like hyper-Calvinism in which the sovereignty of God is stressed and the responsibility of man is denied. Yes, to certain ears this will sound like antinomianism. However, this is not a denial of the obligation of man to live totally upon Christ and to do all he does by grace. This is not a denial that man must be holy, but instead it is saying that holiness comes from Christ and out of love for God that is given to man as a free gift. It is a denial that man can be holy apart from Christ and apart from His working holiness in man. It is a denial that a man can have any holiness apart from that which is given to him by God and that there is any merit in the holiness of man in any way. This is an assertion that man is completely dependent on the grace of God for salvation and that man can do nothing apart from Christ at any point. This is an assertion that it is Christ who lives in His people and it is the divine life that moves in us to do and to work as He pleases. This is an assertion that the Gospel of grace alone must not be turned into sanctification by works, but instead the believer is to feed and live upon Christ all his days by grace alone. Preaching must stress this at all points in order to be Gospel preaching.

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