“It is commonplace in all the churches to call Christianity a religion of grace. It is a truism of Christian scholarship that grace, far being an impersonal force, a sort of celestial electricity received like a battery charge by “plugging in” to the sacraments, is a personal activity—God operating in love toward people.” J.I. Packer
Dr. Packer in his magnum opus book Knowing God sets forth four key truths regarding the grace and mercy of God. They are:
- The moral-ill-desert of man. Sinful man is fallen from God’s image, rebels against God’s rule, guilty and unclean in God’s sight, fit for only God’s condemnation. However, fallen man never grasps this truth. For the most part, he/she believes themselves to be pretty good.
- The retributive justice of God. Modern man additionally never grasps the idea that God is in anyway upset about sin: big or small. We sin, God forgives. It is what we do and what He does. If sin, someone else’s but especially mine, can be ignored as long as possible then that is okay. Punishment should be seen as the last resort. However, the Bible says that God is just and will punish sin and the sinner. God will do what is right.
- The spiritual impotence of man. Fallen man believes he can repair his relationship with God. A little penance if you please. Promises are made, but broken. Resolutions are aspired, but soon forgotten. However, the Bible says that “no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law” (Romans 3:20). Becoming right before God is beyond our ability to accomplish. It is a task we cannot master, no matter how hard we try.
- The sovereign freedom of God. God is in no way obliged to save anyone. Some sinners receive justice, some sinners receive non-justice (grace), but no sinner receives injustice from God. Even though we do not deserve it, fallen sinners believe God should help us. Isn’t that the fair thing to do? Remember, grace is not about being fair. It is about unmerited favor by God towards sinners.
Dr. Packer explains that, “the grace of God is love freely shown toward guilty sinners, contrary to their merit and indeed in defiance of their demerit. It is God showing goodness to persons who deserve only severity and had no reason to expect anything but severity. It is surely clear that, once a person is convinced that his state and need are as described, the New Testament gospel of grace cannot but sweep him off his feet with wonder and joy. For it tells how our judge has become our Savior.”
Hymn write Isaac Watts (1674-1748) wrote the following lyrics. I trust you can identify yourself with these words as I can.
But there’s a voice of princely grace, Sounds from God’s holy Word; Ho! Ye poor captive sinners, come, And trust upon the Lord.
My soul obeys the sovereign call, And runs to this relief; I would believe thy promise, Lord, Oh, help my unbelief.
To the blest fountain of thy blood, Incarnate God, I fly, To wash my soul from scarlet stains, And sins of deepest dye.
A guilty, weak, and helpless worm, Into thy hands I fall; Thou art the Lord, my righteousness, My Savior, and my all.
Soli deo Gloria!