Friday, November 5, 2010

The Sovereign Grace of God

Grace is for the Undeserving


"But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." James 4:6

The key to receiving the grace of God is to be humble, which is why God repeatedly commands man to humble himself (Exodus 10:3; Deuteronomy 8:2, 12; II Chronicles 7:14; 34:27; Jeremiah 13:18; Matthew 18:4; 23:12; James 4:10; I Peter 5:6).

The opposite of this is pride, which is the root of why Lucifer fell.  It stands in stiff-necked contention against God and against His ways.  Pride hardens the heart so that we cannot receive the things of God...even His grace (Daniel 5:20; Obadiah 1:3).

We have spoken previously on the topics of eternal security, predestination, and free will.  However, in the following video, David Pawson discusses the topic of God's sovereignty and His grace.  What is sovereign, irresistible or unconditional grace? What does it mean to be "saved by grace"?  Minister Pawson examines what a Scriptural understanding of grace is so that we can truly appreciate God's gift.

To expound upon this topic, he evaluates the 5 points of Calvinism - which not only did not come from John Calvin, but also contradicts some of his own beliefs.  Commonly called by the acronym TULIP, these points include:
  • Total Depravity
  • Unconditional Election
  • Limited Atonement
  • Irresistable Grace
  • Perseverance of the Saints
A great illustration that Minister Pawson uses in this discussion of grace is the story of the Potter and the clay.

"THE WORD which came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.  Then I went down to the potter's house, and behold, he was working at the wheel.  And the vessel that he was making from clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he made it over, reworking it into another vessel as it seemed good to the potter to make it.  Then the word of the Lord came to me: O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does? Says the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel." Jeremiah 18:1-6 [Amplified Version]

This Scripture is often used to justify a perverted understanding of God and His grace.  The text does not show a potter arbitrarily determining to make some vessels of honor and others vessels of dishonor.  The potter desired to make a particular type of vessel, but the vessel itself became spoiled in his hands.  Yet we know that this was not the potter's plan because had to change his intended use of the vessel and make it into another vessel.  

In the next chapter, God instructs Jeremiah to shatter the perverted vessel as an illustration of how God will deal with Israel.  Why?  "Because the people have forsaken Me.." (Jeremiah 19:4).  It is the vessel which became perverted in the hands of the potter; the potter did not willfully create it to be so.  What God had created to be a vessel of mercy, now became a vessel of judgment; not because God chose it to be this way, but because the vessel was spoiled.

The video starts off as a rather academic discussion, but soon gets into a question and answer session as he addresses common questions about God's grace and how we experience that in our lives.

3 comments:

  1. I cannot understand Jeremiah 18 at all. That's a tough verse.

    It begs the question: When does the clay become spoiled?

    Do we become spoiled during our lifetime? This could be so, but the interpretation would suggest that God became surprised when we did and then changed His use of us from a vessel of honor into dishonor. I believe God knows all - past, present and future - so it's a hard interpretation to accept.

    The other option seems that we become spoiled before birth, but suggests that we are around in spirit before we enter the world (a false, Mormon belief).

    As said, tough verse that I can't quite understand.

    I do believe, though, that once we receive the Holy Spirit we are destined for eternal life. I believe the question is not whether we are doing enough to inherit eternal life, but whether we have the Spirit that guarantees us eternal life.

    As Jesus said: Without me you can do nothing AND those who abide in me bring forth much fruit.

    As James said: Faith without works is dead - thus you don't actually have faith and thus the Spirit.

    This also makes sense of "Those He foreknew (would receive the Gospel) He predestined (to eternal life), those He predestined He called (to the Gospel of Christ), those He called He justified and glorified(through His Spirit)"

    I'm a finite mind, but every time I hear someone question eternal security it simply raises the question: Well, does that mean my works actually save me? I always say: No, they are merely the proof of your salvation.

    Anyway, end rant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi JesusRemainsKingofKings,

      I personally believe that there are many layers to Scripture, and often times many applications. One way that I look at Jeremiah 18 is at what happened to His creation of man (made of clay himself). What God created in the Garden became marred through sin, but by being born again we can be remade according to God's purposes.

      However, the question you seem to be asking is whether we can become spoiled after being born again. That answer would be, "Yes." The bottom line is that God gives man free will, and being born again doesn't remove that will. This is why "we" must pick up our cross..."we" must reckon ourselves dead to sin..."we" must follow Christ..."we" must go on to perfection..."we" must keep ourselves in the love of Christ... God doesn't force these things on us.

      The answer - it seems from Scripture - is that we are eternally secure as we abide in Him (just as you stated).

      The thing I think which trips people up is that obedience is not a "work". It is our yielding to the work of the Spirit (Acts 5:32). And to the extent that we yield in obedience to His work, we will not grieve the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a seal for us, but so also was circumcision a seal for the Jews; yet it could become uncircumcision through disobedience (Romans 2:25; I Corinthians 7:19).

      It is not that God doesn't know all or that He is surprised. Remember, God knew what would happen in the Garden of Eden, but He still let man fall. So man becoming spoiled in the Garden is no more a slight against God's omniscience than man becoming spoiled after being born again.

      Neither do I think that God changing His use of the vessel speaks of surprise. In fact, it is very practical. It reminds me of what my husband often says to our son, "You act like a young man and I will treat you like a young man. You act like a baby, and I will treat you like a baby." That is essentially what God is saying in Jeremiah 18:7-10. And again, the issue is not works, but obedience (verse 10). God wants to bless Israel (and us), but we must be willing to receive that blessing (Luke 13:34).

      Consider as well the analogy God puts forth. If the clay is yielded to the potter, then the potter is able to tenderly mold it as He sees fit. However, if the clay resists the potter, than the potter has to be harsher and the end product is marred. Have you ever tried molding clay that was pliable compared to clay that had been dried out in the sun? It is virtually impossible to mold hardened clay for doing so will result in breaking it. Is the clay receiving the washing of the water of the word to remain pliable or is the clay becoming more hardened by continued exposure to the light of the word? We are indeed the "living" vessels of clay as this treasure is hid in earthen vessels (II Cor. 4:7). The clay must be pliable in His hands (which represents our yielding to Him), as indicated by our response to His word (again, obedience).

      No, works do not save. Works are simply the outward fruit of the life of Christ residing within us as His works are done while we rest in Him. However, that requires our yielding or obedience to that work of the Holy Spirit within; and obedience is not a work, it is merely the evidence of our love for Him.

      So now I am rambling too. LOL But maybe it is food for thought in your own prayer and study time with the Lord.

      Have a blessed day!

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