The doctrine of the grace of God

1. General and Special Grace

WE BELIEVE that God is gracious in his very nature. Grace is that perfection of God in which he shows unmerited and even forfeited favour in a general way to all mankind and in a special way to the elect.

Ex. 22:27; 34:6; Neh. 9:17 and 31; Psa. 86:15; 111:4; Isa. 30:18; Jonah 4:2.

There is that grace which is general, in that God is good to all. It appears in the natural blessings which God showers upon all in this present life, in spite of the fact that man has forfeited them and is in a state of condemnation. It is seen in all that God does to restrain the devastating influence and development of sin in the world, and to maintain and enrich the natural life of mankind in general. It is entirely due to this general grace of God that human existence is possible and life bearable, useful and of value.

Psa. 145:9; Mat. 5:45; Acts 14:17; Rom. 1 :24, 26, 28; 1 Tim. 4:10.

Special grace is that which secures and brings salvation to the elect of God. This is the crowning work of God’s grace and is manifest in the whole scheme of salvation and its application to the individual believer in his life here on earth and in eternal glory. Thus it is that all true christians owe everything to the grace of God.

Rom. 3:24; 5:2 and 17-21; 1 Cor. 15:10; Eph. 1 :6, 7; 2:5-8; Col. 1 :6; Titus 2:11; 1 Pet. 5:10-12.

2. The Covenant of Grace

Having regard to man’s helplessness as a sinner, God, being both righteous and gracious, has taken the initiative to save his people by his own act of mercy. He has done this by means of a covenant, known as the Covenant of Grace.

By this covenant God himself provides the surety in the person of the eternal Son who, by his passive and active obedience in his holy life and in his sufferings and death, merited a righteousness which is imputed to the elect. By this same covenant God himself imparts new life through the Holy Spirit to those who are by nature dead in sin, and brings them to the knowledge and experience of salvation.

On the grounds of this covenant sinners are made partakers of all the blessings of the gospel being, as to their standing before God, completely freed from the guilt of sin; and as to their experience, delivered from the dominion of sin though its presence and influence are still with them.

This covenant is entirely of grace, because it is produced by a unilateral and voluntary act of God and depends only upon the divine activity of the Trinity for its fulfilment. It is also eternal, being once and for all secured to the believer by the sacrificial death of Christ, and particular because its benefits are bestowed personally and individually upon the elect.

Isa. 42:6; 49:7-8; Jer. 31 :31-34; Rom. 4; Titus 1 :2; Rom. 1: 1-2; Heb. 8:6-10; John 17:2, 9, 10, 24; Heb. 7:22.

3. The Person and Work of Christ the Mediator

The nature of God’s covenant of grace necessitates the office of a mediator to bring about the reconciliation of sinful man with a holy God. This need, God in his wisdom and grace, has met in the person of Jesus Christ, who, truly God, became also truly man, yet without sin. He was born of the virgin Mary by the agency of the Holy Spirit whereby the two natures, divine and human, are mystically joined in one glorious person, called in the Scriptures the mediator of the new covenant.

This office the Lord Jesus willingly assumed and perfectly fulfilled. He was crucified and died, and remained in the state of the dead, yet saw no corruption. On the third day he arose from the dead, with the same body in which he suffered. Afterwards he ascended into heaven, where he sits at the right hand of the Father, and from whence he shall return to be the Judge of all at the end of the world.

Psa. 40:7, 8; Heb. 10:5-10; John 10:18; Mat. 1:23; Luke 1:35; John 1 :14; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 8:6; 9:15; Acts 2:23, 24, 32, 33; 1 Cor. 15:3, 4; John 20:25-27; Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9-11; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 9:24; Acts 10:42; Rom. 14:9, 10.

The work of the Lord Jesus Christ as mediator is exercised in all phases of redemption. In him the elect were chosen before the foundation of the world, and were predestinated to be conformed to his image. By his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself which he by the eternal Spirit offered up unto God in their stead, he has fully satisfied the justice of God, propitiated his wrath, and obtained for the elect redemption, reconciliation to God and an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven. By him they have access into the grace of God, and to God himself, and by him are assuredly called and kept.

Heb. 9:15; 1 Tim. 2:5; Eph. 1:4; Rom. 8:29; Heb. 9:14; Rom. 3:24-26; Eph. 1:7; 2 Cor. 5:18-19; 2 Pet. 1:3-11; Rom. 5:2; Eph. 2:18; John 14:6; 10:3-5 and 27-29.

As mediator the Lord Jesus Christ combines the offices of prophet, priest and king: As prophet, both before and after his incarnation, he declares to men the nature and will of God.

As the great high priest, who in his perfect humanity is touched with the feeling of the infirmities of his people, he has passed into the heavens, offering his own blood, and ever lives to make intercession for them. The thanksgiving and prayers of the elect are presented to God through him.

As king, all power is given unto him in heaven and earth; the dead, both just and unjust, will be raised at his summons, and he shall reign until he has put all enemies under his feet.

Deut. 18:15-19; 1 Pet. 1:11; John 17:8; 1:18; Heb. 4:14-16; 9:11-15; 7:25; Rom. 1:8; John 14:13-14; Mat. 28:18; John 5:26-29; 1 Cor. 15:25.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the one and only mediator whom God has appointed between himself and man, and only he, by his dual nature of God and man in one holy person, can possibly fulfil this office. Every soul that thirsts for the benefits of his mediatorial work has direct access to him without the exercise of any other intermediary, and all who thus come are assured of a gracious reception.

1 Tim. 2:5; John 7:37; 6:37.

4. The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is revealed in Scripture as the executor of the counsels and purposes of the Godhead. He is seen at work in the control of the material universe; in the inspiration, preservation and interpretation of the Scriptures; in relation to the Church and its witness in the world; and especially in his gracious dealings with the children of God.

The Holy Spirit is the divine agent in convicting men of sin, in the new birth and in all that follows in the christian life through saving faith, communion with God and power in prayer, and sanctification and transformation of character. It pleases God to give to believers or to churches, from time to time, unusual seasons of awakening and refreshing by the Holy Spirit.

Isa. 32:13-17; Zec, 12:10; Acts 3:19; 4:31.

It is the supreme work of the Holy Spirit to reveal the things of Christ, to guide into all truth and to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.

Psa. 104:29, 30; 1 Pet. 1 :11; Acts 1 :16; 2 Tim. 3:16; Johc 3:5-8; 1 Cor. 2-12; Eph. 2:18; 3:5; Rom. 8:26, 27; Rom. 8:2-4, 11; John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14.

5. Regeneration

Regeneration is the implanting of spiritual life of which the Holy Spirit is the source and agent. By this new birth all the elect are made, in God’s appointed way and time, a new creation in Christ Jesus. There is conveyed in the new birth, in which man is entirely passive, that grace by which the sinner is enabled to receive a respond to the saving revelation of God in Christ, and without which no man can receive the things of God.

At the new birth the various graces of the Spirit such as repentance and faith are conferred, and by means of these the recipients are brought to an experience of salvation in Christ Jesus.

The new birth, effectually uniting the sinner to Christ gives possession of eternal life.

Titus 3:5; John 3:5; 1:11-13; 3:8; Rom. 8:30; Psa. 110:3; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:1-6; John 1:12-13; 1 Cor. 2:14; Rom 6:17-18; John 10:27-28; 17:24; Rom. 8:14-17.

6. Effectual Calling

Those whom God has predestinated unto life he effectually calls by his Word and by the Holy Spirit, their minds being spiritually enlightened and their wills being renewed, so that, being effectually drawn to the Lord Jesus Christ and enabled by His grace, they come most willingly.

This effectual call is of God’s free grace alone, not from anything foreseen in man nor from any power or agency in the creature, being dead in trespasses and sins until quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit.
All men being dead in trespasses and sins neither can nor will truly come to Christ for salvation unless effectually drawn by the Father.

Rom. 8:30; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23; 1 Cor. 1:9; 1 Thess. 1 :5; Eph. 1:17-18; Ezek. 36:26; John 6:37; Psa. 110:3; Eph. 2:8; 2 Tim. 1 :9; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:1-6; John 6:44.

7. Justification

Those whom God effectually calls, he also freely justifies by pardoning their sins and by accounting and accepting them as righteous. This he does, not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself but by imputing Christ’s active obedience in his life unto the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their complete and only righteousness.

Faith, receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the sole instrument of justification.

Rom. 3:24; 8:30; 4:5-8; Eph. 1 :7; 1 Cor. 1 :30-31; Rom. 5: 17-19; Phil. 3:8-9; Eph. 2:8-10; Rom. 3:28.

Christ by his obedience and death has fully discharged the debt of all who are justified; and did by the sacrifice of himself – undergoing in their stead the penalty due to them – make a proper, real and full satisfaction to God’s justice on their behalf.

Believers, being justified, have a standing in Christ which cannot alter, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure and so mar their state, losing the light of his countenance until sin is confessed and pardon assured through the continuing forgiveness of God.

Heb. 10:14; 1 Pet. 1 :18-19; Isa. 53:5-6; Rom. 3:24-26; 1 John 4:10; John 10:28; Psa. 89:31-33; 32:5; 51; Mat. 26:75; 6:12; 1 John 1 :7-9.

8. Adoption

God undertakes, in and for the sake of his Son Jesus Christ, to confer the grace of adoption on all those who are justified.In this way they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges, of the children of God. They have his name put upon them, receive the spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are entitled and enabled to call God, Father. They are pitied, protected, provided for, and disciplined by him as by a father, yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption, and inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation.

Eph. 1 :5; Gal. 4:4-5; John 1 :12; Rom. 8:17; 2 Cor. 6:17-1 Rev. 3:12; Rom. 8:15; Gal; 4:6; Eph. 2:18; Psa. 103:13; Prov. 14:26; 1 Pet. 5:7; Heb. 12:6; Isa. 54:8-9; Lam. 3:31; Eph. 4:30; Heb. 1 :14; 6:12.

9. Sanctification

Those who are united to Christ are sanctified in him. The work of sanctification in believers is, however, carried on through Christ’s Word and the Holy Spirit dwelling in them.
The effective ground of this sanctification is the blood of the covenant shed by Christ for his Church.

1 Cor. 1:2 and 30; Heb. 2:11; John 17:17; Eph. 3:16-19; 5:25-27; Heb. 9:13-14; 10:10 and 14 and 29.

Believers are commanded to be filled with the Spirit. As responsible beings they ought, through the Holy Spirit, to put to death the deeds of the body and, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, they should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; yet in this life they are never completely freed from the corruption of sin and from this corruption there arise a continual warfare between the flesh and the spirit. Nevertheless through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ the new nature does overcome and so believers grow in grace, perfect holiness in the fear of God, pressing after a heavenly life, in obedience to all the commands of Christ.

Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5; Titus 2:12; Rom. 7:18 and 23; Gal. 17; 1 Pet. 2:11; Rom. 6:14; 7:22-25; 2 Cor. 3:18; 2 P et. 3:18; 2 Cor. 7:1.