The Attributes of God
by Arthur W. Pink
The Gospel of the Grace of God
"To testify the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24)
formed part of the farewell address of the apostle Paul to the leaders of
the church at Ephesus. After he reminded them of his manner of life among
them (vv. 18-21), he tells them of his forthcoming trip to Jerusalem, which
was to culminate in his being carried prisoner to Rome. He says, "And now,
behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that
shall befall me there: save that the Holy Spirit witnesses in every city,
saying that bonds and afflictions await me" (vv. 22-23). And, then, in a
truly characteristic word he says, "But none of these things move me,
neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course
with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to
testify the gospel of the grace of God" (v. 24). Wherever the providence of
God might take him, whatever his circumstances might be, whether in bonds or
in freedom, this should be his mission and message. It is to this same
ministry that the Lord of the harvest still appoints His servants: to
"testify the Gospel of the grace of God."
There is a continual need to return to the great
fundamental of the faith. As long as the age lasts the Gospel of God's grace
must be preached. The need arises out of the natural state of the human
heart, which is essentially legalistic. The cardinal error against which the
Gospel has to contend is the inveterate tendency of men to rely on their own
performances. The great antagonist to the truth is the pride of man, which
causes him to imagine that he can be, in part at least, his own savior. This
error is the prolific mother of a multitude of heresies. It is by this
falsehood that the pure stream of God's truth, passing through human
channels, has been polluted.
Now the Gospel of God's grace is epitomized in Ephesians
2:8-9, "For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of
yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast."
All genuine reforms or revivals in the churches of God must have as their
basis a plain declaration of this doctrine. The tendency of Christians is
like that of the world, to shy away from this truth which is the very sum
and substance of the Gospel. Those with any acquaintance with Church history
know how sadly true this is. Within fifty years of the death of the last of
the apostles, so far as we can now learn, the Gospel of God's grace almost
ceased to be preached. Instead of evangelizing, the preachers of the second
and third centuries gave themselves to philosophizing. Philosophy took the
place of the simplicity of the Gospel.
Then, in the fourth century, God mercifully raised up a
man, Augustine, who faithfully and fearlessly proclaimed the Gospel. So
mightily did God empower both his voice and pen that more than half of
Christendom was shaken by him. Through his instrumentality came an
heaven-sent revival. His influence for good staved off the great Romish
heresy for another century. Had the churches heeded his teaching, popery
would never have been born. But, they turned back to vain philosophy and
science, falsely so-called.
Then came the Dark Ages, when for centuries the Gospel
ceased to be generally preached. Here and there feeble voices were raised,
but most of them were soon silenced by the Italian priests. It was not until
the fifteenth century that the great Reformation came. God raised up Martin
Luther, who taught in no uncertain terms that sinners are justified by
faith, and not by works.
After Luther came a still more distinguished teacher,
John Calvin. He was much more deeply taught in the truth of the Gospel, and
pushed its central doctrine of grace to its logical conclusions. As Charles
Spurgeon said, "Luther had, as it were, undamned the stream of truth, by
breaking down the barriers which had kept back its living waters as in a
great reservoir. But the stream was turbid and carried down with it much
which ought to have been left behind. Then Calvin came, and cast salt into
the waters, and purged them, so that there flowed on a purer stream to
gladden and refresh souls and quench the thirst of poor lost sinners."
The great center of all Calvin's preaching was the grace
of God. It has been the custom ever since to designate as "Calvinists" those
who emphasize what he emphasized. We do not accept that title without
qualification, but we certainly are not ashamed of it. The truth Calvin
thundered forth was identical with the truth Paul had preached and set down
in writing centuries before. This was also the substance of Whitefield's
preaching, which God honored so extensively as to produce the great revival
in his day. Let as now consider:
The Gospel is a Revelation of the Grace of God.
The "Gospel of the grace of God" is one of the Holy
Spirit's appellations of that Good News which the ambassadors of Christ are
called upon to preach. Various names are given to it in the Scriptures.
Romans 1:1 calls it the "gospel of God," for He is its Author. Romans 1:16
terms it the "gospel of Christ," for He is its theme. Ephesians 6:15
designates it the "gospel of peace," for this is its bestowment. Our text
speaks of it as the "Gospel of the Grace of God," for this is its source.
Grace is a truth peculiar to divine revelation. It is a
concept to which the unaided powers of man's mind never rises. Proof of this
is in the fact that where the Bible has not gone "grace" is unknown. Very
often missionaries have found, when translating the Scriptures into native
tongues of the heathen, they were unable to discover a word which in any way
corresponds to the Bible word "grace." Grace is absent from all the great
heathen religions—Brahmanism, Buddhism, Mohammedanism, Confucianism,
Zoroastrianism. Even nature does not teach grace: break her laws and you
must suffer the penalty.
What then is grace?
First, it is evidently something very blessed and joyous,
for our text speaks of the "good news of the grace of God."
Secondly, it is the opposite of Law: Law and grace are
antithetical terms: "The law was given by Moses—but grace and truth came by
Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). It is significant that the word "Gospel" is never
found in the Old Testament. Consider a few contrasts between them: The Law
manifested what was in man—sin; grace manifests what is in God—love, mercy.
The Law speaks of what man must do for God; grace tells of what Christ has
done for men. The Law demanded righteousness from men; grace brings
righteousness to men. The Law brought out God to men; grace brings in men to
God. The Law sentenced a living man to death; grace brings a dead man to
life. The Law never had a missionary; the Gospel is to be preached to every
creature. The Law makes known the will of God; grace reveals the heart of
In the third place, grace, then, is the very opposite of
justice. Justice shows no favor and knows no mercy. Grace is the reverse of
this. Justice requires that everyone should receive his due; grace bestows
on sinners what they are not entitled to—pure charity. Grace is "something
Now the Gospel is a revelation of this wondrous grace of
God. It tells us that Christ has done for sinners what they could not do for
themselves—it satisfied the demands of God's Law. Christ has fully and
perfectly met all the requirements of God's holiness so that He can
righteously receive every poor sinner who comes to Him. The Gospel tells us
that Christ died not for good people, who never did anything very bad; but
for lost and godless sinners who never did anything good. The Gospel reveals
to every sinner, for his acceptance, a Savior all-sufficient, "able to save
unto the uttermost those who come unto God by Him."
The Gospel is a Proclamation of the Grace of God.
The word "Gospel" is a technical one, employed in the New
Testament in a double sense: in a narrower, and in a wider one. In its
narrower sense, it refers to heralding the glorious fact that the grace of
God has provided a Savior for every poor sinner who feels his need, and by
faith receives Him. In its wider sense, it comprehends the whole revelation
which God made of Himself in and through Christ. In this sense it includes
the whole of the New Testament.
Proof of this double application of the term Gospel is
found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-3, a definition of the Gospel in its narrower
sense: "that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again." Then
Romans 1:1 uses the term Gospel in its wider sense: there it includes the
whole doctrinal exposition of that epistle. When Christ bade His disciples,
"Preach the Gospel to every creature," I do not think He had reference to
all that is in the New Testament, but simply to the fact that the grace of
God has provided a Savior for sinners. Therefore we say that the Gospel is a
proclamation of the grace of God.
The Gospel affirms that grace is the sinner's only hope.
Unless we are saved by grace we cannot be saved at all. To reject a
gratuitous salvation is to spurn the only one that is available for lost
sinners. Grace is God's provision for those who are so corrupt that they
cannot change their own natures; so averse to God, they cannot turn to Him;
so blind they cannot see Him; so deaf they cannot hear Him; in a word, so
dead in sin that He must open their graves and bring them on to
resurrection-ground, if ever they are to be saved. Grace, then, implies that
the sinner's case is desperate, but that God is merciful.
The Gospel of God's grace is for sinners in whom there is
no help. It is exercised by God "without respect of persons," without regard
to merit, without requirement of any return. The Gospel is not good advice,
but Good News. It does not speak of what man is to do, but tells what Christ
has done. It is not sent to good men, but to bad. Grace, then, is something
that is worthy of God.
The Gospel is a Manifestation of the Grace of God.
The Gospel is the "power of God unto salvation to
everyone that believes." It is the chosen instrument which God uses in
freeing and delivering His people from error, ignorance, darkness, and the
power of Satan. It is by and through the Gospel, applied by the Holy Spirit,
that His elect are emancipated from the guilt and power of sin. "For the
preaching of the cross is to those who perish foolishness; but unto us who
are saved it is the power of God . . . But we preach Christ crucified, unto
the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto those
who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the
wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:18, 23). Where evolution is substituted for the new
birth, the cultivation of character for faith in the blood of Christ,
development of will-power for humble dependence on God, the carnal mind may
be attracted and poor human reason appealed to, but it is all destitute of
power and brings no salvation to the perishing. There is no Gospel in a
system of ethics, and no dynamic in the exactions of law.
But grace works. It is something more than a good-natured
smile, or a sentiment of pity. It redeems, conquers, saves. The New
Testament interprets grace as power. By it redemption comes, for it was by
"the grace of God" that Christ tasted death "for everyone" of the sons (Heb.
2:9). Forgiveness of sins is proclaimed through His blood "according to the
riches of his grace" (Eph. 1:7). Grace not only makes salvation possible but
also effectual. Grace is all-powerful. "My grace is sufficient for you" (2
Cor. 12:9)—sufficient to overcome unbelief, the infirmities of the flesh,
the oppositions of men, and the attacks of Satan.
This is the glory of the Gospel: it is the power of God
unto salvation. In one of his books, J. H. Jowett says: A little while ago I
was speaking to a New York doctor, a man of long and varied experience with
diseases that afflict both the body and mind. I asked him how many cases he
had known of the slaves of drink having been delivered by medical treatment
into health and freedom. How many he had been able to "doctor" into liberty
and self-control. He immediately replied, "Not one." He further assured me
that he believed his experience would be corroborated by the testimony of
the faculty of medicine.
Doctors might afford a temporary escape, but the real
bonds are not broken. At the end of the apparent but brief deliverance, it
will be found that the chains remain. Medicine might address itself to
effects, but the cause is as real and dominant as ever. The doctor has no
cure for the drunkard. Medical skill cannot save him. But grace can! Without
doctors, drugs, priests, penance, works, money or price, grace actually
saves. Hallelujah! Yes, grace saves. It snaps the fetters of a lifetime, and
makes a poor sinner a partaker of the divine nature and a rejoicing saint.
It saves not only from the bondage of fleshly habits, but also from the
curse of the fall, from the captivity of Satan, from the wrath to come.
What effect has this message on your heart? Does it fill
you with praise to God? Are you thankful to know that salvation is by grace?
Can you see and appreciate the infinite difference between all of man's
schemes for self-betterment and the "Gospel of the Grace of God?"