In this article I'm going to discuss the virtue of grace. We are in the dispensation of Grace through Christ Jesus.
As sin took occasion from the commandment to become more exceedingly sinful, so grace took occasion from the transgression of the commandment to appear more exceedingly gracious. God wrought salvation for these sinful people, notwithstanding their sins. It was purely for His own name's sake because there was nothing in them either to bring it about or to induce him to bring it about for them. No merit to deserve it or might affect salvation. He does it himself, exalts himself, and for his own glory. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (Rom. 5: 8, 10).
He took notice of their weakness and wickedness: He saw that there was no man that would do anything for the support of the bleeding cause of religious dysfunctions among them, not a man that would execute judgment (Jer. 5: 1; Rev. 5: 1- 10). However, Christ is the solution to man's predicament (Acts 4: 12). He is the one that brought our redemption from the power of sin. "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly" (Rom. 5: 6). He is our redemption (Eph. 1: 7; Col 1: 13- 14).
God needs a man that would bestir himself in a work of reformation, yet those that complained of the badness of the times had not zeal and courage enough to appear and act against it. There was a corruption of manners, and nothing was done to stem the tide; most were wicked, and those that were not wicked were yet weak. There was no intercessor, none to intercede with God, nor to stand in the gap by prayer to turn away His wrath, or, rather, none to interpose for the support of justice and truth, which were trampled upon and run down. No advocate to speak a good word for those who were made a prey because they kept their integrity (Isa. 59: 14- 16). "And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for… but I found none" (Ezek. 22: 30).
They complained that God did not appear for their needs; on the other hand, God saw them as people that did nothing for themselves or found among them the least motion towards a reformation, except for their self-pleasure. The reformation is "not to smite with the fist of wickedness," but "to lose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke" (Isa. 58: 3-6). God engaged his own strength and righteousness for them. They shall be saved. First, they have no strength of their own, nor any active men that will set to it in good earnest to redress the grievances, either of their iniquities or of their calamities. Therefore His own arm shall bring salvation to them, to his people, or to him whom he would raise up to be the deliverer. Christ is the power of God and the arm of the Lord (Isa. 59: 16). Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1: 24).
The work of reformation, that is, the principal article of salvation, was wrought by the immediate influences of the divine grace on men's consciences. When the magistrate and other societal heads heading for reformation fail to do their part, one will not do justice, nor will the other call for it; God let them know that he can do it without them. Then the work of deliverance shall be wrought by the immediate operations of the divine providence on men's affections and affairs. It was His own arm, which is never shortened, that brought them salvation, not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of Hosts (Zech. 4: 6). Those that regard not the work of God, nor the operation of his hands, he shall destroy them and not build them up (Ps. 28: 5; Isa. 5:12); for there were set free from this operation of God's power through faith (Col. 2: 12). Christians should be to work in the operation of the grace of God, for this is that that brought our redemption. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you and your household shall be saved, but if you do not believe, you are already sentenced and condemned to eternal death (Jn. 3: 18).
They have no righteousness of their own to merit these favors and to which God might have an eye in working for them. Therefore, his own righteousness sustained them. He will punish the enemies of his people in righteousness. "Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thy heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee…" (Deut. 9: 5). Not for thy righteousness, but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord drove them out.
Righteousness by Faith
In our redemption by Christ, we had no righteousness of our own to produce, on which God might proceed in favor to us; he brought in righteousness by the merit and meditation of his own Son- which is the righteousness of God by faith (Phil 3: 9). This righteousness sustained him and bore him out in all his favor to us, notwithstanding our provocations. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2: 8- 9).
He puts on righteousness as a breastplate, securing his own honor, as a breastplate does the vitals, in all his proceedings, by the justices and equity of them. He put a helmet of salvation upon his head. When righteousness is his coat of arms and salvation is his crest, then in allusion to this- the breastplate of righteousness and helmet the hope of salvation (1 Thes. 5: 8). In conjunction with these, we have the armor of God (Eph. 6: 10-18).
God puts on the garments of vengeance for clothing and clothes himself with zeal as a cloak (Isa. 59: 17). He will make his justice upon the enemies of his church and upon them that live in sin. This jealousy is for his own glory and the honor among men, to appear evident and conspicuous in the eye of the world, and in these, he will show himself great. Those who are not zealous against sin and zealous with good work. God will take vengeance on them for all the injury it has done to his honor and his people's welfare, and this was the business of Christ in the world, to take away sin. "Since then the children have shared in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same, that through death he might bring to nothing him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might deliver all of them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb. 2: 14- 15 WEB).
Vengeance against His Enemies
Salvation is wrought by the righteousness and strength of God himself. From Isaiah 59: 18-19, we see that God will reckon with his enemies and will render to them according to their deeds, to the enemies of his people abroad, and to the enemies of justice and truth at home that have oppressed them. They also are God's enemies, and when the day of vengeance shall come, he will deal with them in accordance with the law of retribution (Isa. 59; 18; Rev. 13: 10). He will repay fury to his adversaries, recompense to his enemies. He will repay recompense for his hands shall find out all his enemies, and thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee (Ps. 21: 8). Though God's people have behaved so ill that they do not deserve to be delivered, his enemies behave so much worse than they do deserve to be destroyed; thus, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against them (Isa. 59: 19).
Whatever attempts the enemies of God's people may afterward make upon them to disturb their peace, they shall be baffled and brought to naught. When the enemies shall come in like a flood, like a high spring-tide, or a landflood, which threaten to bear down all before them without control, then shall the Spirit of the Lord by some secret undiscerned power shall lift up a standard against him, and so put him to flight. Your enemies shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways (Deut. 28: 7). The Lord shall be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries (Ex. 23: 22; Lev. 26: 7- 8)
When God's people are weak and helpless and have no standard to lift up against the invading power of the enemies, God will give a banner to those that fear him (Ps. 60: 4). "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness… intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Rom. 8; 26 ESV). He will by His Spirit lift up a standard that will draw multitudes together to appear on the church's behalf. The mountain of the house of the Lord shall be exalted above other mountains. People, nations, tribes, and kingdoms shall flow unto it saying the Lord will teach us of his ways and we will walk in his paths; for the law shall go forth of Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Micah 4: 1-2). When the enemies shall come like a straight river, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift Christ up for an ensign for the church.
Earth is full of the knowledge of God.
Christ, by the preaching of his gospel, shall cover the earth with the knowledge of God as the waters of a flood, the Spirit of the Lord setting up Christ as a standard to the gentiles. "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious" (Isa. 11: 9- 10; Hab. 2; 14).
In the dispensation of the fullness of the knowledge of God's glory, which is the time of grace and the gospel of Christ to the world. This shall bring the glory of God and the advancement of Christianity in the world. They shall fear the name of the Lord and His glory in all nations that lie eastward or westward. The deliverance of the Jews [Christians] out of the enemies' captivity [the influence of the world- worldly lusts], and the destruction brought on their oppressors, would awaken multitudes to enquire concerning the God of Israel and induce them to serve and worship him and enlist themselves under the standard which the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up.
God's appearance for his church shall occasion the accession of many to it. This has its full accomplishment in gospel times when many came from the east and west to fill up the places of the children of the kingdom that were cast out when the church was set up in the four corners of the earth (Matt. 8: 11- 12). The children of the kingdom that were cast out were the rebellious children, children that refute the truth and obey not the word of God. The children that live in secret sins and hypocritically profess Christ while there are not of Christ. There are wolves in sheep's clothing. "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing. But inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Matt. 7: 15). The children are under the influence of the Spirit, yet there are not of the Spirit of God. Acidulously working for God, but there are not working with God. Workers of iniquity there are called (Matt. 7: 21- 23).
There shall be more glorious salvation wrought out by the Messiah in the fullness of time, which salvation all the prophets, upon all occasions, had in view. Firstly, the Son of God shall come to us to be our redeemer (Isa. 59: 20). Thy redeemer shall come inferring to Christ, our deliverer (Rom. 9: 26). The coming of Christ as the redeemer is the summary of all the promises of both the Old and New Testaments. The place where the redeemer shall appear; He shall come to Zion, for there, on that holy hill, the Lord would set him up as his King (Ps. 2: 6). In Zion, the chief cornerstone was to be laid (1Pet. 2: 6) when He came to His Temple (Mal. 3: 1). Their salvation was to be placed, and the law was to go forth (Isa. 46:13; 2: 3; Mic. 4: 1- 2). Zion was a type of the gospel church, for which the redeemer acts in all his appearances.
The redeemer shall come for the sake of Zion. Therefore, the persons that shall have the comfort of the redeemer's coming shall then lift up their heads, knowing that their redemption draws nigh (Luke 21: 28). He shall come to those that turn from the ungodliness in Jacob to those that are in Jacob in answer to their prayers. Yet not to all that are in Jacob, that are within the pale of the visible church, but to those only that turn from transgression, that repent, and reform, and forsake those sins which Christ came to redeem them from. The sinners in Zion will never fare better if they go on still in their trespasses when the redeemer comes to Zion.
The Spirit of the Lord shall come to us to be our sanctifier. "He is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness" (Mal. 3: 2- 3). Christ has come to make us purer before God. There was a new covenant made with us in the redeemer plan. A covenant of promises, and this is the great and comprehensive one, that God will give and continue His word and Spirit to the church and people throughout all generations. God is giving the Spirit to those that ask him, including the giving of them all good things (Matt. 7: 11; Luke 11: 13). This covenant is made with those that turn from transgression, for those that cease to do evil shall be taught to do well.
My Spirit that is upon thee, being directed to an individual person, first to Christ as the head of the church, who received that, he might give. The Spirit promised to the church was first upon him, and from his head, that precious ointment descended to the skirts of his garments, and the word of the gospel was first put into his mouth for it began to be spoken by the Lord. And all believers are his seed, in whom he prolongs his days (Isa. 53: 10). Secondly, the promises to the church and so it is a promise of the continuance and perpetuity of the church in the world to the end of time, parallel to those promises that the throne and seed of Christ shall endure forever (Ps. 89:29, 36; 22: 30).
By observation, the church shall be kept up, in succession, as the seed and the seed's seed keep up the world of humanity. As one generation passes away, another generation shall come. Instead of the fathers shall be the children. Secondly, how long it shall be kept up—henceforth and forever, always, even unto the end of the world. The world stands for the sake of the church; Christ will have a church in it, though not always visible. Thirdly, it shall be kept up by means of constant residence of the word and Spirit of God in it. The Spirit that was upon Christ shall always continue in the hearts of the faithful. There shall be some in every age on whom he shall work and in whom he shall dwell. Thus the comforter shall abide with the church forever (Jn. 14: 16).
The word of Christ shall always continue in the mouths of the faithful. There shall be some in every age, who believe with the heart unto righteousness, shall with the tongue make confession unto salvation (Rom. 10: 9- 10). The word shall never depart out of the mouth of the church, for there shall still be a seed to speak Christ's holy language and profess his holy religion. The Spirit and the word go together, and they are keeping the church. For the word in the mouths of our ministers, nay, the word in our mouths, will not profit us unless the Spirit works with the word and give us an understanding. But the Spirit does his work by the word and in concurrence with it, and whatever is pretended to be a dictate of the Spirit must be tried by the scriptures. On these foundations, the church is built, stands firmly, and shall stand forever, Christ himself being the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2: 20- 22).
Extract from "Workers of Iniquity"
Uchechukwu K. Ozua
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