God’s Free Grace Made the Difference (Henry)

Matthew Henry's Commentary There’s an old hymn called, “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place.” When we sang it last Sunday during worship, the following lines stuck out:

Why was I made to hear Your voice, and enter while there’s room,
when thousands make a wretched choice, and rather starve than come?

‘Twas the same love that spread the feast that sweetly drew us in;
else we had still refused to taste and perished in our sin.

Scripture says it this way: In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:4-5 NIV).  Paul also talks about this extensively in Romans 9, where he says that God’s election of some to salvation has nothing to do with their merit, but his mercy: I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion (Rom. 9:15).  Election is unconditional!  Matthew Henry wrote well on this theme as he commented on Romans 9:

All God’s reasons of mercy are taken from within himself. All the children of men being plunged alike into a state of sin and misery, equally under guilt and wrath, God, in a way of sovereignty, picks out some from this fallen apostatized race, to be vessels of grace and glory. He dispenses his gifts to whom he will, without giving us any reason: according to his own good pleasure he pitches upon some to be monuments of mercy and grace, preventing grace, effectual grace, while he passes by others.

The various dealings of God, by which he makes some to differ from others, must be resolved into his absolute sovereignty. He is debtor to no man, his grace is his own, and he may give it or withhold it as it pleaseth him; we have none of us deserved it, nay, we have all justly forfeited it a thousand times, so that herein the work of our salvation is admirably well ordered that those who are saved must thank God only, and those who perish must thank themselves only, Hos. 13:9.

Applying this general rule to the particular case that Paul has before him, the reason why the unworthy, undeserving, ill-deserving Gentiles are called, and grafted into the church, while the greatest part of the Jews are left to perish in unbelief, is not because those Gentiles were better deserving or better disposed for such a favour, but because of God’s free grace that made that difference.

 

Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2217.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI

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Why Does God Make Us Wait?

Quite often waiting is very difficult.  In our instant culture, most of the time we don’t even like waiting one week for a package to come in the mail; we get impatient if our internet is a tiny bit slower than usual or if our data connection isn’t lightning fast.  Waiting can be frustrating!

When it comes to the Christian faith there is a lot of waiting involved.  God’s people are already justified, but not yet fully sanctified.  We have been saved, but we don’t yet have full and complete deliverance.  We have the promise of eternal life but don’t yet experience it.  God promised that he will glorify all of his people, but that’s something for which we still wait.  Christ will come again to make all things new, but we don’t know when.  Therefore we wait and pray, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!”  Sometimes in the Christian life, waiting is hard and we get impatient.  We even ask: “Why does God make us wait so long?”

William Gurnall answered this question with another question:

Why does God make any promise at all to his creatures?  This may well be asked, considering that God is free from owing any kindness to his creatures; till, by the mere good pleasure of his will he put himself into covenant bonds, and made himself, by his promise, a debtor to his elect.  This shows that the former question is flippant and over-bold, as if some great rich man should make a poor beggar that is a stranger to him his heir, and when he tells him this, the poor man asks, ‘But why should I wait so long for it?’

Truly, any time is too soon for him to receive a mercy from God that thinks God’s time in sending it is too late.

Gurnall goes on to say that impatience in waiting for God’s promises to come true arises from our selfishness since we prefer our own contentment and satisfaction before God’s glory.  Impatience also arises from ingratitude and forgetfulness (Ps. 106.13).

To combat spiritual impatience, we need to pray for more hope and patience.  Here’s Gurnall again:

“Patience is the back on which the Christian’s burdens are carried, and hope is the pillow between the back and the burden, to make it sit easy.”

God wasn’t obligated to make any good promises to sinners like us.  But in his sovereign and free mercy, he did promise salvation and all the blessings that go with it. Therefore, it’s fitting and right to be patient and to say that his timing is best.  And we put on “the hope of salvation as a helmet,” knowing he will keep his promise (1 Thes. 5:8)!  “And this is what he promised us – eternal life” (1 John 2:25 NIV).

The above-edited quote by William Gurnall is found in volume 2 of The Christian in Complete Armor, p. 151-2.

Shane Lems

“The Majesty of the Lover” (Turretin)

Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume 1 In studying for a sermon on God’s love, I found these four excellent points in Francis Turretin’s Institutes – points which I had highlighted around 10 years ago.  This is why I highlight in my books!

These four things in the highest manner commend the love of God towards us:

(1) the majesty of the Lover;
(2) the poverty and unworthiness of the loved;
(3) the worth of Him in whom we are loved;
(4) the multitude and excellence of the gifts which flow out from that love to us.

Turretin then explains each of these four points:

(a) God loves us; He who, constituted in the highest pre-eminence and happiness, does not need us and is not bound to love us; indeed can most justly hate and destroy us if He so willed.
(b) Men are beloved, not only as empty and weak creatures, but as sinners and guilty, rebellious servants, who so far from deserving it, are on the other hand most worthy of hatred and punishment.
(c) He in whom they are beloved is Christ (Eph. 1:5-6), the delight of his heavenly Father and the “express image of his person” (Heb. 1:3), than whom He could give nothing more excellent, nothing dearer, even if He had given the whole universe.
(d) The effects of His love are both many in number and great in value – that is, all the benefits by which salvation is begun in this life and perfected in the other.  Also, what is the crown and sum of all the blessings, the gift of God himself, who imparts himself to us as an object of fruition both in grace and in glory.

You’ll find this paragraph (which I’ve edited slightly) in volume one of Turretin’s Institutes, page 242. 

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Not For Works Which We Have Done (Toplady)

The Works of Augustus M. Toplady (6 vols.) I always like reading the original words of the solid hymns we know and love.  As I was looking through Augustus Toplady’s hymns in volume 6 of his Works I recently came across “How Vast the Benefits Divine.”  Here are the original words, which are based on 2 Timothy 1:9 – He has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time… (NIV).

  1      HOW vast the benefits divine,
Which we in Christ possess,
Sav’d from the guilt of sin we are,
And call’d to holiness.
   2      But not for works which we have done,
Or shall hereafter do;
Hath God decreed on sinful worms,
Salvation to bestow.
      3      The glory, Lord, from first to last,
Is due to thee alone;
Aught to ourselves, we dare not take,
Or rob thee of thy crown.
     4      Our glorious surety undertook
To satisfy for man,
And grace was given us in him,
Before the world began.
        5      This is thy will, that in thy love
We ever should abide,
And lo, we earth and hell defy,
To make thy counsel void.
    6      Not one of all the chosen race,
But shall to heav’n attain;
Partake on earth the purpos’d grace,
And then with Jesus reign.
        7      Of Father, Son, and Spirit, we
Extol the threefold care,
Whose love, whose merit, and whose pow’r,
Unite to lift us there.

Augustus M. Toplady, The Works of Augustus M. Toplady, vol. 6 (London; Edinburgh: William Baynes and Son; H. S. Baynes, 1825), 415.

Shane Lems

Election: Is It Fair? (Cosby)

Rebels Rescued: A Student's Guide to Reformed Theology Rebels Rescued by Brian Cosby is a concise, clear, and easy to read resource on the doctrines of grace and the solas of the Reformation.  The subtitle is accurate: “A Student’s Guide to Reformed Theology.”  I thought the following section on election was helpful.  It starts with an illustration:

“…You find yourself out walking one day and see an elderly homeless man digging through a dumpster.  You have compassion on the man and so you decide to give him a hundred pounds.  He didn’t ask you, but you gave anyway.  Unbeknownst to you, somebody down the street sees you and comes running up to you demanding that you give him one hundred pounds as well.”

“Stop.  Think.  Are you obligated to give this second man the money?  Is he entitled to it?  Absolutely not.  But because of your generosity, there is a false sense of injustice – a false sense of thinking that you’re not being fair to the second man.”

“When we begin considering God’s eternal election of his people, before the foundation of the world, we must step back and ask the question: ‘What is fair?’  Is it fair that everyone goes to heaven?  Is God obligated to send everyone to heaven?  Remember – the wages of sin is death and hell forever (cf. Romans 6.23).  If we are all sinners, which we are, then the payment or the consequence of our sin is death and hell.”

“Therefore, in answer to our question, it would only be fair to send everybody to hell.  The fact that God elects some people for salvation points to his grace and love.  That God doesn’t elect others points to his holiness and justice.  Or to put it another way: by choosing some, he demonstrates his perfect love and grace.  By not choosing others, he demonstrates his perfect holiness and justice.  He is not obligated to save anybody.  But because he wanted to demonstrate the greatness of his mercy, he poured out his grace upon the beloved bride of Christ, the church.”

Brian Cosby, Rebels Rescued, p. 34-5.

Shane Lems

There Are No Degrees In Justification

https://reformedreader.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/30f39-holinessbyjcryle2.jpg?w=81&h=122 Christians sometimes have a tendency to make the “gate” or “way” more narrow than Jesus made it (Matt. 7:13).  Not only is this sinful and arrogant, it also portrays the Lord as strict, harsh, unmerciful, and unkind – when in reality he is gentle, meek, merciful, and full of loving-kindness beyond our comprehension.  I appreciate how J. C. Ryle said it (emphases his):

“Never, never let us curtail the freeness of the glorious gospel, or clip its fair proportions. Never let us make the gate more strait, and the way more narrow than pride or love of sin have made it already. The Lord Jesus is very pitiful and of tender mercy. He does not regard the quantity of faith, but the quality: He does not measure its degree, but its truth. He will not break any bruised reed, nor quench any smoking flax. He will never let it be said that any perished at the foot of the cross. “Him that cometh unto Me,” He says, “I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).”

“Yes! Though a man’s faith be no bigger than a grain of mustard seed, if it only brings him to Christ, and enables him to touch the hem of His garment, he shall be saved – saved as surely as the oldest saint in paradise – saved as completely and eternally as Peter, or John, or Paul. There are degrees in our sanctification.  In our justification there are none. What is written is written, and shall never fail: “Whosoever believeth on Him,”- not whosoever has a strong and mighty faith –  “Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed” (Rom. 10:11).”

Mark well the above phrase, and memorize it to help you press on through those doubt-filled times in the Christian walk:

“Jesus will never let it be said that any perished at the foot of the cross.”

J. C. Ryle, Holiness, chapter 7.

shane lems
covenant presbyterian church
hammond, wi

We Need Discipline Like We Need Daily Bread

Proverbs (Geneva Commentaries) Because God is our heavenly Father and we (Christians) are his adopted sons and daughters, he disciplines us when we sin and disobey (Prov. 3:11, Heb. 12:5-6).  However, in Christ we understand this discipline to be full of love, not hate; we view the rod as evidence of God’s care, not his curse.  God disciplines his children to keep them away from danger and close to himself.   I like how Charles Bridges discussed this in his commentary on Proverbs 3:11-12.

“Nowhere, indeed, are our corruptions so manifest, or our graces so shining as under the rod.  We need it as much as our daily bread.  Children of God are still children of Adam; with Adam’s will, pride, independence, and waywardness.  And nothing more distinctly requires Divine teaching and grace, than how to persevere in behavior the just mean (middle) between hardness and despondency; ‘neither despising the chastening of the Lord, nor being weary of his correction.’”

“Let it be a solemn remembrance to thee, that thou art under thy Father’s correction (Lam 3:28, 29; Mic. 7:9).  Receive it then in good part.  Instead of being weary of it, hang upon his chastening hand, and pour thy very soul into his bosom (1 Sam. 1:10-15).  Kiss the rod (Job 34:31, 32; 1 Pet. 5:6).  Acknowledge its humbling, but enriching benefit (Ps. 119:67-71).  Expect a richer blessing from sustaining grace than from the removal of the deprecated (belittling) affliction (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

“After all we must add, that chastening is a trial to the flesh (Heb. 12:11), yet (it is) overruled by wonder-working wisdom and faithfulness to an end above and contrary to its nature.  This very rod was sent in love to the soul.  Perhaps we were living at ease, or in heartless backsliding.  The awakening voice called us to our Bible and to prayer.  Thus eyeing God in it, we see it to be love, not wrath; receiving (us), not casting (us) out.  We might perhaps have wished it a little altered; that the weight had been shifted, and the cross a little smoothed, where it pressed upon the shoulder.  But now that our views are cleared, we discern blessing enough to swallow up the most poignant smart” (p. 27-29).

These selections were taken from Charles Bridges, Proverbs (Edinburg: Banner of Truth, 1846).

shane lems