We are all like the boy who had no ability.
God graciously puts us on the team, not because of our own ability, but purely by His sovereign grace. And He gives us the ability to play the game.
So get in the game and give thanks for the holy privilege of serving Jesus Christ.
~ JOHN MACARTHUR
John MacArthur explains the ins and outs of it in The Truth about Grace. His proper definition:
Grace is “the free and benevolent influence of a holy God operating sovereignly in the lives of undeserving sinners.”
What is grace not?
- It’s not “some kind of ethereal blessing that lies idle until we appropriate it.” God initiates it, not us (Ephesians 1:5-6).
- It’s not a one-time event and then it’s over. We stand in it (Romans 5:2).
- It’s not something we control. We are stewards of it, but it’s not subject to us (1 Peter 4:10).
MacArthur explains two kinds of grace: common grace and special grace. Common grace is God’s goodness to all mankind. Special grace, also referred to as saving grace, is “the irresistible work of God that frees men and women from the penalty and power of sin, renewing the inner person and sanctifying the sinner through the operation of the Holy Spirit.” This is the grace referred to throughout this book.
Who receives this special grace? Believers. “Every believer receives the grace of God as a result of responding to the good news. And the good news is that salvation is by grace.”
Until this salvation brings us to life, we remain spiritually dead in our total depravity, unable to please God with even our good—and religious—deeds.
I agree, although I don’t agree with all of MacArthur’s interpretations in this book. Sometimes he comes across harsh (he admits it too):
One well-known evangelical friend thought he was complimenting me when he introduced me by saying, “This is John MacArthur, who is much nicer in person than he is in his books.”
I smiled and said, “In person it’s much easier to demonstrate the love of Christ.”
But I appreciate his fidelity to scripture and his consistent message that grace saves.
The choice we all make is this: either we’re good enough on our own, through our belief system and morality, to make it to heaven; or we’re not, and we have to cast ourselves on the mercy of God through Christ to get there.
Those are the only two systems of religion in the world. One is a religion of human merit; the other recognizes that we find true merit in Christ alone, and it comes to the sinner only by grace.
He also makes me think:
I’ve heard preachers say the narrow way is the way of Christianity that people choose when they want to go to heaven, and the broad way is the way people choose who are content to go to hell.
But they are misinformed or confused.
It is not a contrast between godliness and Christianity on one hand and irreligious, lewd, lascivious pagan masses headed merrily for hell on the other. It is a contrast between two kinds of religions, both roads marked “This Way to Heaven.”
Satan doesn’t put up a sign that says, “Hell— Exit Here.” That’s not his style. People on the broad road think that road goes to heaven.
And he always comes back around to glorifying God in all things.
God’s ultimate purpose in our salvation is to exalt His sovereign grace in order “that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (v. 7 NASB).
So our loving Father glorifies Himself even as He blesses us. His grace is the centerpiece of His glory.
From the first moment of salvation throughout “the ages to come,” we never stop benefiting from His grace and goodness to us. At no point does grace stop and human effort take over.
Is this a book worth reading about grace? Yes, it is.
True grace is more than just a giant freebie, opening the door to heaven in the sweet by and by, but leaving us to wallow in sin in the bitter here and now.
Grace is God presently at work in our lives.
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What book on grace would you recommend?
My thanks to Thomas Nelson
for the review copy of this book.