The Display of the Grace of God
Charles S. Jarrett, Malvern
The grace of God has a richness, Eph. 1. 7, and glory, v. 6, that is in keeping with His Person. He is "the God of all grace", 1 Pet. 5.10, and we believers surely cannot forget the display to us of the grace of God. We have been saved by grace, Eph. 2. 8, and were it not for this grace we never could have been saved. When He who was rich, for our sakes became poor, 2 Cor. 8. 9, there was a display of divine grace that has no parallel. In Christ, the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, Titus 2. 11. The revelation of that grace has opened countless hearts and broken stubborn wills throughout the period of the day of grace. One truthfully confesses that it moves the heart still, although it is more than half a century since one first tasted that the Lord is gracious.
Great as is the grace already shown us, God intends to make a further display of the exceeding riches of His grace in the ages to come, in His kindness towards us through Christ Jesus, Eph. 2. 7.
One can understand that thoughts of God's promises of grace should have prompted the words
Great God of wonders! all Thy ways Display Thine attributes divine;
But the bright glories of Thy grace Above Thine other wonders shine:
Who is a pardoning God like Thee? Or who has grace so rich and free?
If the revelation of God's grace has had such a converting and transforming effect in our lives, how very needful it is that there should be a display of it in us.
When the church at Jerusalem heard of a work of God at Antioch, Barnabas was sent to confirm it, and Acts. 11. 23 records, "Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord". The doctrines of grace, and the perfect embodiment of grace seen in our Lord Jesus Christ, call for an exhibition of grace on our part. No one who is taught of God would belittle accuracy in doctrine and practice, but the testimony of either a believer or a local assembly will be rejected by men if there is an absence of grace. When Barnabas visited Antioch, it was not the number of converts or the high standard of scriptural knowledge that made him glad, but it was the evidence of the grace of God in transformed men and women. If our families, neighbours and colleagues do not see the results of grace in us, they cannot be blamed for thinking, as so many do nowadays, that Christianity is mainly a matter of church services and practices, differing in detail amongst the various bodies, but none of it of any value.
People are meant to see that the Gospel is the power of God, a power that produces great change of character and way of life, a change that cannot be attributed to certain rituals and hymns, but to divine power.
We live in a day of fierce interests, where one section cares very little about the effects of its actions on others, as it pursues material objectives. Majority rule is the order of the day. These principles are not to be brought into the assembly. We are to be of one accord, of one mind. Nothing is to be done through strife or vainglory but we are each to esteem other better than ourselves, Phil. 2. 2-3. Decision in the assembly by a majority or by an influential minority does not fulfil these two verses. The world has no better policy than majority decision. This is how powerful sections in society determine their course of action. Unity of the Spirit is far above majority rule: the former unites, the latter divides, because it overrules a minority and creates resentment and disharmony. We have to work and wait and often pray for unity, and some say it is unattainable and without grace this is often so.
Assemblies have often split over the insistence of some members to disregard the desires and judgment of others. In these differences there is first a lack of grace, then clashes of persons, hard words and feelings and after division there is damage to testimony before local people, and this is felt beyond the lifetime of a generation.
One fears lest ways followed outside the assembly should be brought inside it. The needs, feelings and claims of the weakest oldest, fewest and humblest must be considered, in grace, or there will be breaking hearts where there should be comforted hearts, Col. 2. 2; 1 Thess. 3. 2. "The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee", 1 Cor. 12.21, and it is in practising this teaching that we learn to display the grace of God. Unbelievers, in their contacts with believers or assemblies, are meant to see conduct that is unworldly, the results of the work and grace of God, 2 Cor. 1. 2; 13. 14. We can only claim to hold the truth when it produces the grace of God in our relationships with men. Let us not give ineffectual testimony to the truth by any failure to act and speak in grace.