The Gospel of the Grace of God
An address by Dr. Herbert W. Bieber at The Moody Church during the first week of the opening of the new church building in 1925.
I have with a great deal of thought chosen my subjects for these three nights. I suppose you believe with me that there are favorite sugar sticks that we Bible teachers like to suck, but I want to bring you messages from the Word of God which I believe would be helpful. My own desire is that in this magnificent church there shall never anything be preached but the gospel of the grace of God.
For that purpose I have selected that one word as my subject, “Grace.”
Only once in the Word of God do you read about the “gospel of the grace of God.” It is in Acts, the twentieth chapter and the twenty-fourth verse: “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.”
When you have gone to church in the morning, at the close of the service you have heard the minister pronounce the words which, if you will refer to them in Numbers 6:24-26, you will find that they are the words of God himself: “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you, the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” We call this the Old Testament benediction. I don’t know why the word “Lord” is repeated three times, but if you see in the three-fold repetition the adorable Trinity, I want to call your attention to the fact that the second time you mention the word “Lord” you mention the word “grace.” The word “gracious” in that Old Testament benediction is linked with the Second Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, of the Trinity.
I don’t know what the customs are of you Chicago people, but there are a lot of folk in the East who do not go to church Sunday nights. You see their cups are small and they get them full Sunday mornings and they are afraid to have them overflow, so they stay at home. But if you ever go to church on a Sunday evening and the minister gets through with the Sunday evening service you will find him usually, if he has repeated Numbers 6:24-26, in the morning, repeating 2 Corinthians 13:14 at night. That is what we call the New Testament benediction. Now notice: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God (meaning the Father) and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” I want you to see that the word “grace” is again linked with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now we have not gone very far but I believe we already see that the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s grace. I want you to understand that grace is the characteristic word of the New Testament. In our meditations tonight I wish we might find out what grace is.
Many Kinds of Grace
I find that in 1 Peter 5:10 God calls Himself the “God of all grace.” I don’t know whether you are curious, but this is the way my mind works: Why should God call Himself the God of all kinds of grace? How many different kinds do I need?
When you go to Romans 3:24 you read these words: “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Why, beloved, I am told that I am justified by His grace! What does it mean to justify a man? It means to take a man who is a sinner and deal with him as though he had never sinned. A human government could not do that, but God in His government can do it with a Christian consistently with His holiness and with His righteousness, for it is by His grace.
Note that word “freely.” Your goodness will never take you to heaven and your badness will never keep you out. If you ever want to get in you will have to get in by grace. I believe if I quote another passage of Scripture you will understand what it means by the word “freely.” It translates a Greek word dorean and Jesus Himself used it in John 15:25 when He says they hated Him “without a cause.” There was no reason why any one should hate Him. There was no cause. Now there is no cause why He ever should have justified me: “Being justified freely”—justified without a cause. There was no cause for His doing it, but He did it. Being justified without a cause by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
An Illustration of Grace
Now folk today want to have everything defined. There is no definition in the Word of God for grace. But if you were to ask me for an illustration I would say that there is a wonderful one in the ninth chapter of 2 Samuel.
The story is a very simple one. There were two young men that were in love with each other and God says that their friendship passed the love of women—whatever that means. One’s name was Jonathan and the other was David. Jonathan was the son of Saul at it was his right to become king by the law of primogeniture. This man Jonathan used to say to David that he would rather have David king than himself. In that friendship he was going more than fifty-fifty. You can’t have any friendship when it is all take and no give.
You remember the day came when Jonathan and his father died on the same day, and then David had his hands full. After he was established in his kingdom he sent an inquiry to find if there were any descendants of Jonathan left that he might show unto them the kindness of God. Look here—that was unusual. If he had been looking out for his own interests he would have said he wanted to inquire whether there were any descendants of Jonathan that he might kill them that he might have an uncontested right to the throne.
Grace Gives the Highest Place
He was told that Mephibosheth, the son of Ammiel, was in the house of Machir in the land of Lodebar. When Mephibosheth was a baby and the nurse fled with him she dropped him and ever after he was lame in both his feet. They brought him to Jerusalem at David’s request and of course Mephibosheth thought he was going to lose his life. I can tell that from the narrative, for we are told that he fell on his face and did reverence. David said to him, “Fear not.” And this is what followed: David took that man and he put him into the palace in Jerusalem. There was no higher place in Jerusalem than the palace of the king.
This man David brought Mephibosheth from Lodebar and established him in his own house. Then not only that, but he put him at his own table with his own children and there he kept him. He did not do it for the sake of Mephibosheth. He did it for the sake of Jonathan, his father.
There are a number of lessons which lie right on the surface of that story. May I bring them to you tonight? The first lesson I would bring to you is this, that grace, which is unmerited favor, as we have seen, which gives that which I do not deserve—this grace gives the highest place. It put Mephibosheth into the palace of the king. Who occupies the highest place tonight? The Lord Jesus Christ occupies the highest place in the universe. You say, “How do you make that out?” He came from heaven and lived our life. He died a sacrificial, atoning, propitiatory, expiatory, vicarious, substitutionary death on the cross (is that orthodox enough?) and on the third day God the Father raised Him from the dead. Then He went to heaven and He is now seated on His Father’s throne. And He is my Head, for His resurrection life is in me. The same life that is in the Man in the glory is in me. There is a unity of life. “I am a member of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.”
Now grace gives a man the highest place in the universe. Therefore, if I have received the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour my standing in the sight of God tonight is as high as the standing of Jesus Christ Himself.
Faith and Works
I come to God and accept Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour. I am never going to be saved by working. I am saved by resting on the finished work of Jesus. I work because I am saved. I am a preacher because I am devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ for what He has done for my soul.
The moment you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour you get thirty-three positions in the sight of God. How long would it take us to go over them?
In the first place, they are not experienced. Regeneration is. If there is any one before me who professes to be a Christian and has not had a religious experience I would not stop until I had one. I would want to know that I had passed out of death into life, old things passing away and all things becoming new. Regeneration is an experience.
These positions are not experienced. They are not progressive. When I accept Jesus as my Saviour I become a son and I am no more a son tomorrow than I am today. I was as much a son the first day I was born again as I have been ever since. They are not related to human merit. They are eternal. I would not know anything about these thirty-three positions unless I got them through a divine revelation.
Now this Mephibosheth did not have to worry where he would get food to eat and a house over his head. Really, aren’t those the things that folk worry about? You don’t have to. Grace keeps you. As soon as you talk about keeping you will have to talk about different kinds of keeping. Let’s begin here. Grace keeps one spiritually. I am so glad that I don’t have to keep myself. I would not guarantee to be good thirty minutes in Chicago. You have got plenty of openings to wrong here. First Peter 1:5: “Kept by the power of God.” Kept? Yes, I am kept.
We Christians are a company of men and women who are kept. I have often wondered (I wonder whether you have) when I get to glory whether I will still need the Holy Spirit to keep me straight. I have often wondered if the time would ever come when I can stand on my own two feet and God can send me to Neptune and I will keep myself. I wonder whether I will ever be confirmed in holiness. I don’t have any holiness through the flesh. I don’t believe in eradication. I am holy because I have the Holy One dwelling in me.
This grace keeps me physically. Do you find any comfort in Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”? Do you find any comfort in Romans 8:32: “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” In Philippians 4:19 we read, “My God shall supply every need of yours.” Does that mean my living expenses? Is God interested in my bank account? Well, I should say He is! He is interested in everything that concerns me. “My God shall supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I rejoice that I am a kept one. Grace gives the highest place and grace keeps.
Kindness for the Sake of Another
David was kind to Mephibosheth not for the sake of Mephibosheth but for the sake of Jonathan. Now we have our definition of grace. Those two things were what grace does. Grace gives the highest place and grace keeps. Now we have the definition for grace. Grace is kindness to a helpless one for the sake of another. Now I must show that we are helpless. Transgression forfeits every claim to the divine favor. You and I are helpless. Let me go to the Word of God for just one definition for sin. In 1 John 3:4 we read that “sin is the transgression of the law.” Sin is lawlessness.
God has a house. You read about it in Hebrews. God has house laws and when you keep the rules of the house you are lawful and when you do as you please, regardless of the laws of the house, you are a Bolshevist. Every un-regenerated man is a spiritual Bolshevist. Sin is lawlessness. Sin is living in God’s house and not caring anything at all what the laws of the house are. You will do as you please. The world is full of folk like that. That is the reason we have so much trouble. The nearer you get to this Book the more cosmos; the farther away you get from it the more chaos.
There are some problems that trouble statesmen that never trouble me. You talk about universal peace. That is easy to me. You talk about the problems of mankind. That is easy to me. You want a solution? I am not a statesman; I am a preacher, but I want to tell you that you are never going to solve the problems of men and women without God. You will never have peace on earth until there is one sovereign will and everybody bows in submission to that will. Now whose will will that be?
All Are Included
I am told in Romans 3:22, 23, “There is no difference; all have sinned.” Say, I have been to school. I know that A-L-L does not spell S-O-M-E, and when God says all that means me. He says I am godless and I am to go into the second death where I will be in torments forever and forever because I lived in His house and I did not pay any attention to the rules of the house. I lived a lawless life. I am told in Romans 3:19, “That every mouth might be stopped and all the world become guilty before God.” I am told in Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray.”
I am interested because I am concerned. The Word of God testifies that I am godless. The Word of God testifies that I am lawless. The Word of God testifies that I am to go to the second death. I am interested because the Word of God includes me.
I would not want to go to hell because there is no companionship in hell. I like friends. In heaven everybody loves God and because everybody loves God everybody loves one another. There are not two kinds of love, the love of God and the love of man. There is only one kind. When you love God you will love men because the love of God is the love of men.
You say, “why do you say that?” For this reason: I don’t want to go to hell and I ought to go to hell. I want to go to heaven and I don’t deserve to go to heaven. How am I going to get there? Beloved, it is by grace. There is one thing true. I am going to tell you that I know more about myself than many folk. I know where I belong. When you begin to talk to me about a holy heaven and a holy God and holy angels and their intercourse there—don’t talk to me about that. I know where I belong.
I belong in hell and I don’t want to go there. How am I going to get into heaven? Do you think God needed a heaven? I wonder why you think God created the human race. Do you think He was lonely and wanted companionship? Don’t you think it. He created the human race by grace. And now, beloved, how am I saved? God Himself comes down from the heaven and takes a body in order that He might die and He dies on the cross. What for? He dies for my sins. That is grace. Now God is able to deal with me, so as not to give me what I deserve but to give me what I do not deserve. How do I go to heaven? Your goodness won’t take you to heaven and your badness won’t keep you out. If you ever want to keep from going to hell where we belong, and if you want to go to heaven where you don’t belong, you will go there by grace. Oh, beloved, grace! It is wondrous grace. Ten million years from now I will go up to God and say, “If it had not been for Thee I would not be here.” I am going to get what I don’t deserve. I am going to heaven, but I am going there by grace.
Somebody Knew About Grace
Beloved, I don’t believe the gospel of the unadulterated grace of God is preached very widely. If it is true that I am saved by grace surely somebody must know about this wonderful grace of God. Oh, yes, the writers of the Bible knew about it. We have a New Testament composed of twenty-seven books. We have four books which are biographical. We have one book, the Acts, which is history. We have one book, the book of the Revelation, which is prophecy. We have twenty-one books which are called epistles. The epistles are the most intimate form of literature. There are twenty-one love letters written by God to us born-again ones. Where do I live as a Christian? I don’t live in the gospels with Jesus after the flesh. I live in the epistles. I am living up in the glory.
Who wrote those epistles? If Paul wrote Hebrews he wrote fourteen of the twenty-one. Five books of the New Testament were written by John. That accounts for nineteen. Peter wrote two. That accounts for twenty-one. Paul is the apostle of faith, Peter of hope and John of love. Look at the first chapter of Romans and when you come to the seventh verse you read, “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints; Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” I thought he was talking about faith! I go back to the sixteenth chapter of Romans and twice there I read in the twentieth verse, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” Then I go down to the end and I read about grace in the twenty-fourth verse. When I go to 1 Corinthians I find the apostle speaks of grace. When I get to the end of the epistle I find it closes with grace. Paul does that with every epistle but Hebrews, which ends with grace but does not begin with it. Why does the Apostle Paul open and close his epistles with grace? Because he knew he would have gone to hell except for grace.
The Apostle’s Swan Songs
When a man comes to die we call his last words his swan song. If this Apostle Paul was the apostle of faith he will talk about faith. The last words of the Apostle are found in 2 Timothy. I will go to the last chapter, the fourth, and I will look at his swan song in the twenty-second verse, “The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you.” He doesn’t say anything about faith. He says, “Grace be with you.”
I go to this man Peter and I want to hear his swan song. This is the apostle of hope. In the last verse of 2 Peter, (3:18) I read this, “Grow in grace.”
I go to John, the only apostle who died in bed; all the rest were martyred. When he could no longer preach he was carried in through the aisles and he would say to the Christians on both sides, “Little children, love one another.” His swan song is going to be about love, surely, for he was the apostle of love. But I open my Bible and in the last verse of the Bible, Revelation 22:21, I read, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”
Say, those men knew how they were saved. It is by the grace of God, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the unmerited favor of God. I am a hallelujah Christian tonight because I am not going to get what I deserve, or I would get hell, and I am going to get what I don’t deserve; I am going to get heaven. I don’t go there because I merit it. I only go there by the free, unmerited grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.