Part 3: What Is Grace?

To the guilty far and wide God is offering “the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).

What a wonderful message to proclaim! What a privilege to be able to tell sinners that “God was in Christ [at Calvary], reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (II Cor. 5:19). How glorious to whisper into the ears of the condemned that they may be “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus!” (Rom. 3:24).

Do you believe these facts and rejoice in them?

This message was fully proclaimed by Paul, the apostle of grace, but was practically lost again for many centuries. Legalism, ritualism and superstition almost wholly obscured the wonderful message of salvation by grace, through faith alone. Thank God, it is being recovered again today. As the days grow darker the light of His Word shines brighter and men of God all over the world are rising to proclaim once more the mystery revealed to Paul—God’s purpose of grace for a lost, ruined world. Once again this blessed truth is commanding widespread attention.

Those who proclaim the gospel of the grace of God in its fulness may, of course, expect to have dealings with Satan, for Satan hates grace. He is bitterly opposed to the recovery of the mystery. See how relentlessly he opposed and persecuted the one to whom God first revealed it! But if Paul could “suffer trouble as an evil doer, even unto bonds” (II Tim. 2:9)—if he could willingly lay down his very life for the proclamation of this glorious message, surely we too should be willing to partake of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God (II Tim. 1:8).

It must not be supposed, however, that Satan always opposes the truth in the same way. If he cannot succeed as a roaring lion he will appear as an angel of light. He will suggest that surely a God of love would not condemn even Christ rejectors forever. Indeed, he will contend that sinners are not entirely responsible, for does not Ephesians 1:11 tell us that God “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will?” Therefore, it is argued, He will save them all.

A humble but balanced believer once said to me, “If Satan can’t keep you from accepting the message of grace, he’ll try to push you clear through!”

This is exactly what he is doing today. As the grace movement grows all over the world, Satan would supplant God’s gracious offer of reconciliation (II Cor. 5:20), with the unscriptural teaching of universal reconciliation—the delusion that all, without exception, will be saved. “This,” he says, “is grace—wonderful grace.”

But universal reconciliation would most assuredly NOT be grace. Indeed, it is Satan’s attempt to overthrow the whole doctrine of salvation by grace. This is done, not by denying the Scriptures, but by perverting them.


There are two significant phrases in Ephesians 2 which shed clear light upon the character, the nature, of grace. They are found in Verses 2 and 3, which speak of the unsaved as “children of disobedience” and “children of wrath.”

Meditate for a moment on these phrases: “children of DISOBEDIENCE”—”children of WRATH.”

It is against this dark, black background that we read further,

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us,

“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved),

“And hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

“That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-7).

According to these plain Scriptures grace is God’s mercy and kindness to the undeserving.


We can hardly appreciate the meaning of grace unless we recognize the guilt of man and the wrath of God upon sin.

Because Ephesians 1:11 states that God “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” it is supposed by some that there may be some excuse of the sinner. This verse and others like it are frequently used to relieve man of his responsibility before God.

The Universal Reconciliationists use this as a basis for their arguments that all will be saved. They argue that man is simply manipulated by God, though they are careful to avoid stating it so plainly. The free will of man is called a “phantom” since everything, even sin, is the outworking of God’s will. Sin, they say, was brought in by God so that we might know the joy of salvation. And, it is argued, since sin had its origin with God it is only just that He should save all men from it.

But if this is true, then—God is the only sinner in the universe! Then all the vile, horrible sins that blot the pages of history and the more monstrous ones which even base historians could not record for very shame—all these outrages have been acts of God, who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.

Furthermore, why should He charge me with sin when all the cruelty and injustice, all the adultery and unfaithfulness, all the envy and murder came not from my heart, but from His? How unjust to condemn me when all these things are the products of His will and I have no will in the matter!

Such conclusions are most shocking to the spiritual mind. Who could trust in such a God?—a God who actually conceives and produces the vilest sins in His creatures so that they may learn to praise Him for delivering them from them!

We are well aware that Universalist literature does not state the matter so plainly but let no Universalist deny that this is the inevitable conclusion, if not the obvious interpretation of their teachings.

Thank God, not all who accept Universal Reconciliation do so intelligently, but we warn sincere believers lest they fall for this perversion of the Scriptures and so dishonor God. It is an old heresy which Satan has revived in an attempt to shift the blame of sin from the creature to the Creator. It is Modernism in another cloak. It is called grace, but it is surely not the grace of God as taught in the Bible, for grace is God’s mercy and kindness to the guilty—the blameworthy.


Who would have thought that a wonderful teaching that everyone will be saved could make God the only sinner in the universe? Yet that is the inescapable conclusion at which a sincere Universalist must arrive. Such heresies come from trying to subject divine revelation to human reason.

It is argued that if God works all things after the counsel of His own will it must necessarily follow that man does not have a free will of His own. But that is placing reason above revelation. They forget that, as someone has said, “The opposite of one truth is not necessarily an untruth. It may be another truth.”

To the contention that the term “free will of man” is not found in the Bible, we reply that neither is the term “sovereign will of God” found in the Bible, but both doctrines are clearly taught there, and it is the part of faith to bow before that blessed Book. Reason with men out of the Scriptures as Paul did (Acts 17:2), but do not try to reduce the Scriptures to human reason or you will rob your message of all its vitality.

How can we reconcile, in our little minds, the humanity of Christ with His deity, or the human and divine in the Bible, or the fact that God is three Persons yet indivisibly One, or the constant change in creation with its fixed changelessness? We cannot explain or perhaps even understand these paradoxes, yet they are facts, and strangely, these opposites are like the negative and positive currents in electricity. They make the Book throb with life and power. But try to explain one or the other of these opposites away and the Book is no longer the living and powerful Word of God.

Of course we believe Ephesians 1:11. God is working all things after the counsel of His own will. But to use this verse to deny the free will of man would be as unscriptural as to use Mark 3:35 to deny the sovereign will of God. There the Lord Himself said, “For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.”

If man is not free to exercise his will, obviously he cannot be charged with disobedience, for even in his sin he is obeying God’s will. If the maker of a machine presses a button and sets it in operation, that machine, having no will of its own, obeys its maker’s will. The shuttles which fly backward obey him as well as the shuttles which fly forward. If the machine fails him that is his fault. It cannot disobey him for it has no will of its own.

If this is man’s position, what does God mean by “children of disobedience,” and what reason would He have to be angry with man? Why should the unsaved be called “children of wrath?”

But man has a free will. He is responsible. He has been disobedient. Lest any should deny this God gave the law “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19).

Ephesians 1:11 should be read in connection with Psalms 76:10, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee, the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.” Man’s will is free but God’s will is sovereign. In the final analysis His will is done. Even a wise employer will use the blunders and wrongs of his employees to advantage. Will not God?


There is an important fact here which has generally been overlooked. The word children implies parents. Even when it is not used concerning blood relatives it still implies parents.

Those who speak of God bringing sin and death into the world should remember that Romans 5:12 says that “by ONE MAN sin entered into the world and death by sin.” Now, Paul prays that believers might have the spiritual perception to appreciate and appropriate their oneness with Christ. That fact, though blessedly true, is not easy for us in our present condition to grasp. But there is one truth which should be very easy for us to grasp—our oneness, as human beings, with Adam. As a human being I am as much a part of Adam as my finger is of my body. I am branch of Adam. I came from him. I was in him. When he sinned I sinned. When he fell, I fell. I have not just sinned in the last few years. I have not just recently become guilty. I sinned in Adam. I am part of Adam. I was born guilty (not unfortunate, but guilty). My sinful nature is not an accident, something that recently came into being—it is the nature of Adam.

Thank God, it is a wonderful fact that “I am crucified with Christ.” I have been baptized into His death and resurrection. “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature” (II Cor. 5:17). But “the flesh” is part of Adam and has the sentence of death upon it.

Some years ago, speaking of a poor drunkard, a friend said to me, “But how can you blame him? Just look at his parents,” “Yes,” I said, “But you should have known their parents!” Of course, I was merely trying to point out the fact that it all goes back to one man. But that does not relieve man of his responsibility and guilt; it establishes and emphasizes it. If in Christ I am a new creation, a member of His flesh and of His bones (Eph. 5:30), then it is even more apparent that in myself I am a member of Adam, of his flesh and of his bones. My sin and guilt dates back to Adam.


But there is another remarkable fact which we ought to notice—a fact which does not appear on the surface of these verses in Ephesians 2. The word for children in Verse 2 is different from that used in Verse 3. The word for children in Verse 3 is “teknon” which means simply “born one.” We have no word for it in the English, but the Scotch have a word—it is “bairn.” Now God says in Verse 3 that we were by nature the “bairns of wrath.” But the word in Verse 2 is “huios” which means a “grown son.” This immediately suggests understanding and responsibility. Note that this word is used in reference to man’s disobedience. Where human disobedience is concerned men are called “grown sons.” God will leave us no excuse. He says “You knew what you were doing.” “You were disobedient.” “You are responsible.”

Have you ever noticed the construction of Romans 5:12? “By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin and so,”—So what? We would expect it to go on “And so death passed upon all men by one man’s sin.” But it ends quite differently: “And so death passed upon all men for that [because] all have sinned.” After telling us that by one man sin entered into the world, he places the guilt directly upon the children as well as the parent because all have sinned! Do you see it? They all sinned in him. They all sinned out of him. Collectively and individually all are sinners. There is no escape! We regret that some Universal Reconciliationists have tampered with this verse to make it fit their theories.

Is it not a fact that when it comes to disobedience, we are grown sons? We knew what we were doing. God emphasizes this fact, for we must see our guilt before He can reveal His grace.

Romans 5:12 reminds us that in all essential particulars the fall of Adam has been re-enacted in every human life. We show that we are from Adam because we are all individual Adams. Just as in Adam’s case there was the violation of the known will of God. This violation wrought to separate us from God. Then came the vain attempt at self-justification! This is why Ephesians 2:2 calls unbelievers “grown sons of disobedience.”

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The Spirit Within

(From a message given October 9th, 2003, at the Fall Conference of the Berean Bible Fellowship in Evansville, Indiana).

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (I Cor. 6:19).

It is the teaching of this verse of Scripture that the physical body of each individual believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is the temple of Almighty God, who dwells within us in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Just think for a moment of the magnitude of this doctrine! The God who declares, “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool” (Acts 7:49) dwells in you. This God of unimaginable greatness, this God of infinite proportions resides within the confines of your finite being.

And He dwells in every believer regardless of conduct! It is significant that God picked the carnal Corinthians to receive the clearest declaration of the indwelling of His Spirit. Thus we know that the indwelling Spirit is not a reward for good behavior, but rather a blessing of which we should always try to walk worthy (I Cor. 6:20).

Note that Paul does not say that your body is the tabernacle of the Spirit, for the tabernacle was only the temporary dwelling place of God. Rather he affirms that your body is the temple of the Spirit, signifying God’s intent to dwell in you permanently.

Some would object that our text refers not to the personal indwelling of each individual saint, but rather to the corporate indwelling of the Body of Christ as a whole. However, the context here, both before and after, deals with our individual physical bodies (I Cor. 6:15-18; 7:1-4). That being said, it is true that the Spirit also indwells the Body as a whole. I Corinthians 3:16 says:

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”

Here the context is the Body of Christ in general. Paul says that “ye are the temple of God,” and the previous “ye” in this passage refers to the Corinthians collectively (v. 9). This corporate indwelling is more clearly set forth in Ephesians 2:21:

“In whom [Christ] ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

God dwells in us corporately as well as individually to impress upon us that no believer is an island unto himself, and that every believer is part of a larger building in which the Spirit also dwells. This larger building is “the church which is His Body” (Eph. 1:22,23) and manifests itself in the local church. Paul told Timothy that the purpose of his letter to him was…

“…that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God…” (I Tim. 3:15).

Here Paul speaks about Timothy’s behavior in the local church, which he calls “the house of God.” Thus we know that the Spirit of God indwells each local church in a collective sense. This is interesting, since the first Bible reference to “the house of God” is found in Genesis 28, where Jacob dreamed and saw…

“…a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (v. 12).

When he realized that these angels were ascending and descending to receive orders from God and then carry them out, Jacob concluded that that location was the command post of God on earth, and he exclaimed, “this is none other but the house of God” (v. 17). Today, however, God’s bidding is not done on earth by angels but by members of the Body, and the local church is God’s command post. We gather together in the house of God to hear God’s Word taught, thereby receiving orders from Him, and then we leave to carry those orders out.

Speaking of this collective dwelling place of God, Paul says:

“…all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:21).

Paul states clearly that the corporate dwelling place of God is growing, and a glance at the Greek text tells us how. The Greek word for “fitly framed together” is sunarmologeo, a compound word meaning “with joint speech.” Thus Paul is saying that the Body of Christ “groweth” only when we all say the same thing—and not just any thing. The Body grows only when our speech joins with what Paul said. It grows numerically only when the pure gospel of the grace of God is preached, and we “grow up into Him” (Eph. 4:15) only when Pauline doctrine is taught.

But we mustn’t leave I Corinthians 3:16 without commenting on the following verse:

“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (v. 17).

Here we see that it is possible to defile the corporate dwelling place of God. If it be asked how, we need only look to see how the Corinthians defiled it. I Corinthians 1:10 says,

“Now I beseech you…that ye all speak the same thing, and…that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind….”

The Corinthians were not practicing sunarmologeo. They were not all saying what Paul said. Some were saying what Apollos, Cephas and Christ said (v. 11,12). And while the kingdom gospel taught by these leaders was edifying in its day, it is defiling when applied to the Body of Christ. And so it is today. The “health and wealth” message that is taught by so many these days was edifying when it was part of God’s kingdom message for Israel, but it is positively defiling when applied to the Body of Christ today.

God vows to “destroy” men who defile the temple in this way (I Cor. 3:17). But when? Certainly not in this life, else fire and brimstone would fall regularly on non-Pauline pastors. No, the context here is the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is then that the “fire” of God’s Word rightly divided will “try every man’s work of what sort it is” (v. 13). Pauline builders will see their work “abide” (v. 14), but of the non-Pauline builder we read that God will destroy “the things done in his body” (II Cor. 5:10).

But it is also possible to defile the individual temple of God. The context back in I Corinthians 6 teaches clearly that sin defiles the temple of our individual body, and particularly the sin of fornication. Verse 13 says:

“Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.”

It would seem that some of the Corinthians were saying that just as it is unnatural to suppress the body’s appetite for food, it is also unnatural to suppress the body’s appetite for fornication! Paul agrees of course that the body is for meats and meats are for the body, but strongly disagrees with the conclusion that the body is for fornication and fornication is for the body, adding:

“And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by His own power” (v. 14).

Some of the Corinthians no longer believed in the resurrection (15:12-19). This led them to conclude that it didn’t matter what a believer does with his body, for it will someday die and be buried. Paul insists that it does matter what we do with our physical body, for God honors the temple wherein He dwells, and plans to raise it from the dead. No wonder he thunders:

“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid” (6:15).

We are members of Christ. When we commit fornication, we involve Christ in fornication. We deplore the crime of rape, when a man forces himself upon a woman; but when we commit fornication, we force a harlot upon the Lord.

Years ago Hollywood made a movie that suggested the Lord Jesus had an adulterous affair with Mary Magdalene. The Christian public was outraged, and rightly so. But I wonder how many of those who cried out in protest were themselves guilty of involving Him in fornication through their own illicit affairs.

On Calvary, God the Father laid all of our sins on the Lord Jesus Christ, and He bore them in His own body on the tree. When He left the cross, the Lord had every right to expect He would never again have to come in contact with sin. But then He saves us, and indwells us, and we dare to involve Him in our sin!

“What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh.

“But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (I Cor. 6:16,17).

Television unites with movies, contemporary novels and all other aspects of modern society to suggest that fornication is merely a physical thing, but God says it isn’t! God says here in these verses that it is something deeply spiritual. Thus it is absolutely essential that we heed Paul’s advice:

“Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body” (I Cor. 6:18).

Drunkenness and drug abuse are sins that appear to be sins against a man’s own body, but this verse affirms that in this respect, fornication is in a class by itself. Thus Paul here warns us to do as Joseph did and “flee” fornication (Gen. 39:12). It is our only defense. God equips all of his creatures to defend themselves in different ways. The bear has sharp teeth and claws, the porcupine has his quills, the turtle his shell, the skunk has—well, you know what the skunk has! But the rabbit’s only defense is to flee. No one blames him for this. No one thinks, “Why doesn’t that rabbit stand and fight?” God has not equipped him for this. Neither has God equipped you to resist fornication, and there is no shame in fleeing that which God has not designed us to resist.

My young son Jesse weighs 49 pounds and is taking karate lessons. When I warn him to run from a stranger, he boasts, “Dad, I’ll just kick him!” You might laugh, but I cringe at the thought! Likewise when we think we can resist fornication, Satan laughs, but God cringes.

Paul goes on:

“…ye are not your own” (I Cor. 6:19).

A soldier is called a “G.I.” because he is Government Issued. He is not his own , and neither are you! You are living in a borrowed body, and responsible people always feel more responsible with things that are borrowed (II Ki. 6:5). Sadly, many Christians are no better than Israel of old:

“The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s [corn] crib; but Israel doth not know, My people doth not consider” (Isa. 1:3).

People talk about being “dumb as an ox,” but even an ox knows his owner! It is the American dream to be your own boss, but spiritually speaking you are not your own boss. They say that the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client, but the Christian who thinks he is his own boss spiritually has a fool for a master.

“…ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:20).

The Lord bought you with His own blood. The only question is: is He getting His money’s worth?

As we close this article, if these pages are being read by one who has defiled the temple of his body, the Spirit within you is able to perform an extremely practical function of which you should be aware:

“But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8:11).

Paul speaks here not of the resurrection of your dead body, but of your “mortal” body. It is to the Christian that Paul says, “to be carnally minded is death” (Rom. 8:6). It is to the Christian that he says, “if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die” (Rom. 8:13). The believer today cannot lose his salvation, but if he continues to deny his Owner, there is a virtual death he can enter into, a comatose Christian state in which all of his spiritual vital signs are flat-lined. He does not need to be re-saved but only awakened. And so it is to the Christian that Paul says:

“Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead…” (Eph. 5:14).

Even if sin has led to the spiritual death of your Christian experience, the Spirit within can raise you up to spiritual life and vitality. Paul’s argument is clear. “If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you,” then surely that Spirit, which was able to raise Christ up from the sins of the world, will have no trouble raising you from your comparatively puny sins. How? Ephesians 5:14 says to those who are thus awakened from sin, “Christ shall give thee light.” Equipped with the light of God’s Word rightly divided, the Spirit can return even the most backslidden Christian to robust spiritual health.

And then may God help all of us to always live lives that make our bodies hospitable temples for the Royal Guest within us.

You can receive More Minutes With the Bible every week in your email inbox. This list features longer articles, including both original content and articles that have appeared in the Berean Searchlight.

Berean Searchlight – December 2003

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