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Monday, September 01, 2014

The Means of Grace?

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor[g] and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[h] that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Matthew 5:43-45

Such as is described above is often called 'common grace', but can the Grace of God ever really be called 'common'? More importantly, should it?! Sure, you could say that it is that grace which He shows, as above, to all, regardless of their position before Him, and that it is only His Sons & Daughters that receive His Special Grace ( whatever that is )! The Grace of God, though common to all men, is by no means common!

The Means by which we receive this Grace, whether it be the so-called 'common grace' ( common to all ) or that Special Grace, reserved for the Children of the King, is the same; the Free Gift from our Heavenly Father! So why do we claim that certain things which we observe ( and others do not-Lord's Supper, water baptism, etc. ) are a Means of Grace? If we can receive that Special Grace only through certain Means ( such as those named ), then is it truly a free gift, or must we earn it by our obedience to these questionable commands?

The commands to observe the Lord's Supper & Water Baptism are admittedly somewhat ambiguous! Given, for one, that we live in a Fulfilled Eschatology, the Lord's Supper, which was ( traditionally ) commanded to be observed 'till He comes' ( I Corinthians 11:26 ), is now no more, if ever it was, than a feast in His honor. While Scripture does make clear that Jesus was whelmed with water, History tells us that this form of baptism was merely a symbolic washing, used from ancient times to symbolize the cleansing of an object or person by the Holy Spirit, an anointing, if you will! Both of these signs, but water baptism in particular, were meant to serve till the Reality was Present, the Revelation of God with Men that theses signs pointed to! Though these ritualistic signs may have served up until that point, the Time of the End, as a sort of means through which God revealed His Grace to His People, they serve a such no longer!

The Grace of God is Grace, pure & simple; it is neither common nor does it come through any means but One, that is, through the Free Gift of our Heavenly Father! We do not earn it or merit somehow by observing certain ritualistic signs which simply pointed to the Reality. The rain, one of the many blessings of Communion with our Heavenly Father, does not fall commonly ( alike ) on the just & the unjust because they both did a rain-dance ( as some seem to believe ), nor does the sun rise on one group and not on another because the first group prayed for it to rise, and the other did not!

It might well be argued that there is a difference between the Grace ( Sun, rain, etc. ) that is common to all,  and the Special Grace which seems to be reserved for God's People! For instance, the sun & rain might be thought of as natural blessings, while that Special Grace might include Spiritual Blessings ( like belonging to the Family of God, Communion with our Heavenly Father, etc. ). Though His sun does rise on the just & the unjust, and His rain falls on the evil & the good, there is very often a harked difference too, not only how and when it falls, but in how those different groups receive it. A wicked or evil person may have an altogether different view of those blessings, the Grace, than a good & just person might; to the first group it may be more of a curse than a blessing, while the latter group receives it with joy!

The disciples of Jesus were told to do what is right & good, that they might be ( know as) sons of our Father in Heaven. We should do the same to show that we are Sons of our Heavenly Father, so that our Light may thus shine before men! Do we shine that light by observing ritualistic sign, or do we reveal Who We Are by doing what is just & right & good?! By doing, before men & women ( and to them ) what is right & just & good,, we thus show them that Grace which our Heavenly Father has shown us!

In a sense, then, one could say that WE are a Means of Grace!

Charles Haddon Shank


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