Free Grace 21

Nothing in man doth precede or prevent the grace of God. The light and beams of grace do dispel the clouds of our sins. Not for our sakes, but for his Name’s sake he covereth our sins. It is God’s prerogative to free us from sin by grace, and to remove them far from us. “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” {Ps.103:12} He only can remove sin against whom it is committed. He only can cast sin into the depths of the sea, who hath an ocean of grace in himself, in which he swalloweth them up. John Simpson {Perfection of Justification, 1648} Obtained from

Acts 16:25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; 26 and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27 When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” 29 And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34 And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.

If we look at the biblical narrative about the conversion of the jailer with the distinctly different ideas between free-grace and free-will (conditional grace) in mind, there is no question which side the Bible teaches. There is nothing in this text that teaches a conditional grace (free-will) and yet we see free-grace exalted and set forth in all that happened. Were Paul and Silas in prison based on their “free-will” or because God had a plan to save the jailer by grace alone? Were Paul and Silas praying an singing hymns of praise to God because of their free-wills or because God had saved them by free-grace and so they were now slaves of righteousness who recognized that God owned them and was sovereign over all that happened to them? Were the prisoners listening to Paul and Silas because they were free to do so or because as part of God’s sovereign will they were in prison with Paul and Silas?

The earthquake, clearly and without question, could only happen because God had decreed it and it happened at the precise moment God decreed it to happen. How could a mindless and “natural” earthquake open all the doors to the jail and also unfasten the chains of all the prisoners? Even more mind-boggling, not one of the prisoners took the opportunity to escape. We can see the power of God over all the prisoners. Whether God saved some or all of the other prisoners we may not know, but we know that part of His plan for this whole event was the salvation of the jailer by free-grace.

The wonder of the free-grace of God is put on display for those who have eyes to hear. Did this jailer deserve to have Paul and Silas be put in his jail? Did this jailer deserve to hear Paul and Silas pray and praise God? Did this jailer deserve to have his heart awakened to his sin? Did this jailer deserve to have an earthquake set the prisoners free from their bonds and yet not have one of them escape? Did this jailer deserve to have Paul crying out to him not to harm himself? Did the jailer deserve to be able to ask Paul and Silas what he had to do to be saved and then to have them tell him the Gospel? Did the jailer deserve to have his heart opened in order to hear the Gospel and be regenerated by the sovereign grace of God?

In simply asking all the questions above it is quite clear that nothing preceded the plan of God and the grace of God toward this jailer and his household. It was all from a sovereign plan and free-grace. The same is true of all those who are saved or will be saved. No sinner deserves to have sovereign circumstances and sovereign actions to bring him or her to an utter humility and brokenness of heart. No sinner deserves to even hear of Christ Jesus much less hear of the glory of Christ in the Gospel and of free-grace. How awful and wicked it is to tell sinners that they must trust in their free-will choice when in fact it is all of free-grace. How deceptive it is to point sinners to themselves when the circumstances around them and the Gospel points to free-grace. Let us never ascribe anything that comes from our sovereign God on the basis of free-grace to ourselves even if it is ever so slight. Let us learn to abhor all the glory and ability of man and exalt free-grace. All the conditions that men set out are opposed to free-grace and so if we stand for free-grace we must oppose conditions as well. In our day it appears as if few stand for free-grace. Nevertheless, there is no other Gospel. May God send forth preachers of free-grace in our day that His glory would shine.

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