Gospel of Grace Alone 56

Galatians 1:6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

As newness of life is necessary, so it is as necessary that we should put ourselves into the hands of God for it. It is this sense and conviction which brings us to him hungering and thirsting, and casts the soul upon him with all the strength of its desire, for that change when he alone can work in it. It is the knowledge and belief of this, which makes Gospel mercy and Gospel power so welcome and seasonable a relief to us. It is the hearty persuasion and inward feeling of our helpless state in sin, which constitutes the very life and spirit of prayer; and if it is not working at the bottom of all our prayers, they will be no better than a fruitless, dead formality, and can never work us one jot nearer to God, “Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Little children are without strength and without knowledge, weak and ignorant, have every thing to learn, receive what is taught them with undisputing simplicity, and are incapable of thinking, acting for, and governing themselves. Just thus we should judge of ourselves. We are mere children in respect of any knowledge we have of our proper happiness, or ability to attain it. And this child-like, humble disposition is our necessary preparation for receiving the salvation of God—so called, because it is all his gift and his work. And neither the book of our own heart nor the book of Scripture has been opened to us, till we are brought to this conviction—“that we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” (Thomas Adam, Sermons)

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

The sinfulness of man is not just an easy fix as it appears that so many believe. It is thought that as long as man stops his outward sin and starts doing some good things or becomes religious that that is all that can be expected. However, Scripture teaches something totally different. The Scriptures teach us that man is dead in sin (spiritually dead) and completely unable to do one thing spiritual or pleasing to God in his own strength. The Scriptures tell us that something dramatic must happen to man and that it must be done by God rather than man. While so many tell men to believe today as if men could do that in their own strength, men must know that God must work His work in them so that they can believe. It is only in this way will men know that they are saved by free-grace alone.

Without the converting work of God men will not be changed and they cannot believe because they have an unbelieving heart. They need a new heart in order to have a believing heart. This is set out in Matthew 18 (above) and it starts off with the word “except” in the KJV and “unless” in the NAS version. Both of these set out the same point. Something must happen to the sinner or that sinner cannot and will not enter the kingdom of heaven. What the text tells us must happen is that the sinner must be changed or turned or converted and become like a little child or that person will not enter the kingdom. The disciples were asking about who was the greatest in the kingdom, but Jesus severely rebuked them and told them that they must become like a little child to even enter the kingdom.

While there are several things that stand out in this text, one thing that stands out is that sinners must be changed by an external power. The power to change them cannot be caused by them as they have no capacity to change themselves from a proud heart to a humble heart. Sinners have no ability to turn themselves from seeking greatness out of pride to seeking His glory out of a humble heart. Sinners have no ability to turn themselves from trusting themselves to trusting in Christ alone.

What we see with great clarity, then, is the hand of sovereign grace working according to His people and His own glory. All are born dead in sin and by nature are children of wrath, so only a Divine hand can change the heart of those people and cause them to be born from above and make them children of the living God and children of love. This can only happen by a grace that cannot be helped, merited, or earned in any way, shape, form, or fashion. It is free-grace that takes sinners and converts them and makes them children who rest in Him and His grace. This does not deny the use of means, but it does say that it is His work alone that can do this and He will only do this by grace alone.

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