Free Grace 26

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}

Luke 23:32 Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him. 33 When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left…38 Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” 39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” 40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

If we take a careful look at the text just above, it should strike us that the thief on the cross who was saved was saved by a free-grace that was totally apart from anything he did to move God to show him that grace. The argument that he could have just made an exercise of his free-will and made an act of faith is simply absurd in light of who this criminal was and in light of the biblical teaching on this subject. When Peter confessed Christ he was told by Christ that flesh and blood had not revealed that to him but the Father who was in heaven did this. That was why he was blessed. We simply cannot believe that the thief on the cross was blessed because he came up with the idea that Jesus was the Messiah and trusted in Him of himself.

Can the human soul make any decision for anything but out of self-love and enmity for God before it is regenerated? Any religious decision that the thief would have made before conversion would have been based on the same sinful self-love and self-centeredness that he based every decision on his whole life. This is to say that he could not have made any spiritual act toward Christ and so that act could not have moved God to save him. Not only that, but no spiritual act can move God to save a sinner either. Any spiritual act that a sinner (saved or unsaved) makes comes from God in the first place. The only thing that could have saved this thief on the cross was free-grace and nothing but free-grace.

Can the human soul have love for God before it has a regenerate heart and the Holy Spirit in it? What, then, could this soul do to move God to save it? But again, and knowingly repetitive, what decision or choice can a soul make before regeneration and apart from the fruit of the Holy Spirit that would move God to save it? The soul has nothing but enmity toward God and no love at all. How would that thief on the cross and that soul which hated God without the smallest bit of love be able to move God to save it? Can anything but free-grace save such a wretch or any wretch from the human race? Of course not, there is utterly no way. The salvation of any soul is by the free and sovereign grace of God. Why do men want to wrench some of the credit away from God? It is because they want to control their own salvation and trust in their own work of faith.

Could the will be free from its utter bondage to sin without being cleansed by Christ and in regeneration? But the will is not free and instead it is in utter bondage to sin, self, and the devil. The soul must be delivered from the bondage of sin, self, and the devil before it could even possibly be thought to be free, though of course the will is never free from its mind, nature, and affections. It is the soul as a whole that must be made free before any soul would love God. There must be a new nature before there can be a new love. The love for self and sin as a reigning principle must be taken away and the love of God must dwell in the soul. This is to say, once again, there is nothing that can precede and there is nothing or prevent the grace of God. The true and living God cannot be moved apart from Himself to save sinners. God saves sinners to the glory of His name and based on the work of Christ that He was sent to do and carried out for the glory of God. Sinners must die to self and look to Christ alone. This dying to self and looking to Christ alone is something that only free-grace can do. The thief couldn’t do it.

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