The Silence of Grace

by Pastor Don Hosfeld

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“What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” (Rom. 9:22-24).

In 1964, the American folk rock duo Simon & Garfunkel released what would become an iconic hit and #1 song, “The Sound of Silence.” The song is told through the eyes of someone who views the silence in their life as a place of safety while also seeing it as a symptom of a significant problem in society and ultimately longing to see the silence come to an end. Art Garfunkel described it as “a song about the inability of people to communicate with each other.”

But silence isn’t always the result of an inability to communicate or as haunting as this tune presents. Sometimes, silence is the quiet before the storm, the peace before the inevitable turmoil. Sometimes, silence is, in fact, a gift.

In his book The Silence of God, Sir Robert Anderson said, “A silent heaven is the greatest mystery of our existence.” Anderson’s point is not, nor mine here, that God is entirely silent today, for as long as His Word is preached, taught, and read, God is actively speaking to the World. He has not gone by the wayside or abandoned this world. To be clear, God still has much to say today, but to hear Him, man must go to His Word, the Bible!

According to the Guinness World Records, “the best-selling book of all time is the Christian Bible. It is impossible to know exactly how many copies have been printed in the roughly 1500 years since its contents were standardized, but research conducted by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 2021 suggests that the total number probably lies between 5 and 7 billion copies.”

According to their calculations, “2,458,000,000 Bibles were printed between 1815 and 1975,” and “in the 21st century, Bibles are printed at a rate of around 80 million per year.”1

Indeed, each and every day, God is using His Word in a mighty way to be His instrument to reach a world that desperately needs to hear what He has to say. God still desires for all “to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), and while the opportunity exists, the world had best redeem the time.

But there is a silence that all would do well to recognize. There is a silence from God that goes unacknowledged by unbelievers and unnoticed by many believers, even though both have benefited greatly and continue to benefit from it daily, and that is The Silence of Grace.

Over the years, it has been my experience that one of the most misunderstood doctrines of Scripture has to do with how God is and isn’t judging the world today. This is true for those who recognize the day of grace we now live in, as well as those who do not know of the distinctive nature of this time.

A World Calling for Judgment

“Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord…” (Psa. 114:7).

Generally speaking, most people want judgment to be swift and decisive—that is, as long as it’s someone else who receives that judgment. Few would show the same grace and mercy toward a stranger as they would themselves or their child or friend. Instead, most are like James and John, whom the Lord surnamed the “Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). These two Apostles to Israel wanted to “command fire to come down from heaven, and consume” those who rejected Christ (Luke 9:54). They desired to see the immediate and harsh judgment of God.

There is no shortage of evil in this world, and seldom, if ever, is there a day that we don’t learn of a new event that displays how depraved man can be, and, ultimately how depraved man truly is apart from Christ and the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Any example provided here, surely, could be quickly replaced with another closer to home. Often, Christians are mocked and ridiculed for their belief in God because of the amount of evil in this world and God’s willingness to allow it to continue. “How can God exist when there is all this evil,” they exclaim!

To them, we reply, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed…” (Lam. 3:22) or “despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom. 2:4-5).

There is no argument that judgment is deserved, but do people truly understand what they are asking for? If God were to judge one for their actions, should He not judge all? “For there is no respect of persons with God” (v. 11). When Judgment Day arrives, He will “render to every man according to his deeds” (v. 6). A scary proposition indeed, and every unsaved man and woman should tremble at the thought of appearing before a righteous God.

As the writer of Hebrews so succinctly said, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). Psalms 97:4-5 provides a glimpse into the future judgment and says, “His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.” Many may claim they want God to bring judgment to this world, and they may even be sincere about it, but when the time comes for God to put an end to the evil of man, only the saved will be heard rejoicing.

Judgment Postponed

“But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psa. 86:15).

One of the great advantages of rightly dividing the Scriptures is knowing that we live in the dispensation of grace, but to fully grasp our situation, we need to know what that truth means in relation to God’s judgment. God is dispensing grace today, not judgment. Rightly dividing is not simply about what we have been given—a new heavenly hope, a new gospel, a new commission, or even a new Apostle, but also what we were not and are not being given—God’s judgment!

Judgment is precisely what the 12 apostles expected to come soon after Pentecost. In fact, Peter, in the third chapter of his second epistle, had to explain to his readers, the little flock, that God’s judgment was put on hold. He said, “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men….The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (vv. 7,9).

If you were to ask most believers what God removed at the onset of the day of grace, most, I dare, would say the Mosaic Law. No longer are we bound to the Law or its curses. As accurate as this is, there is still something else that God removed the moment He set Israel aside and ushered in that mystery “kept secret since the world began” (Rom 16:25 cf. Eph. 3:1-9), and that was His impending judgment.

If not for God temporarily setting Israel aside and instituting a new dispensation, all the events we see written in the Book of Revelation would have begun after the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7.

Grace is not only what God gives us believers. God’s grace is also in the fact that He stopped the day of judgment and His wrath in its tracks. Man was at the precipice, the edge of the cliff, with the tribulation ready to begin, “but God” saw man’s need and gave us what we did not deserve—grace. God postponed His judgment and gave man another chance. Anyone who has put their faith in the finished work of Christ should rejoice in the truth of Ephesians 2:1-7:

“And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

“Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

We were all “children of disobedience” at one time, and wrath awaits those who remain so (cf. Col. 3:6). We have all missed the mark and come short of the glory of God (cf. Rom. 3:23). We were all on the “course of this world,” or following the age of this world, which is another way of describing the world system and is a course headed for judgment and destruction because this world runs counter to the ways of God. Man deserved God’s judgment and wrath then and deserves it now.

“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 “The silence of grace says as much about the love of God as anything else He has ever done for mankind.” He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”

As the world mocks God for His lack of judgment, the believer can praise Him for the “exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (v. 7). We rejoice in His longsuffering, grace, and mercy. The silence of grace says as much about the love of God as anything else He has ever done for mankind.

Why Understanding the Silence of Grace Matters

“Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:20-21).

But what are the practical implications that grace reigns today, and what do we gain by knowing that God is not judging nations or people for their sins like He has in the past and will again in the future?

Many years ago, I worked as a machine operator for a company that electro-polished tubing for the medical industry. It was essential that these tubes were stripped of anything that could contaminate the gases that would eventually flow through them when they reached their intended destination and were installed.

My job was to take twenty-footlong steel tubing and hook them up to a machine that used acid and electricity to smooth out the inside of the tubes to the point they shined like a mirror. When done right, they looked better than any chrome bumper you could ever imagine.

I’d have to set the speed of the electrode that was slowly drawn through the tube and the speed at which the acid would run through. The process was slow and generally took over an hour once they were all hooked up and the machine started. All I could do was wait and wonder if my settings were good. It was always an anxious time of waiting, not knowing what was currently taking place. Did I set the draw speed too slow, or was the acid going too fast? Truly, not knowing was the worst part of the process.

That’s how people generally respond to the unknown; they become anxious. The same is true for people unsure about the world in which they live. People get anxious when they don’t know what’s going on in the world. Is God causing that hurricane because of humanity’s sin? Is God going to overturn the nation because of the corruption of the politicians? Did God cause me to lose my job, my house, or have that flat tire?

All these questions and other concerns can be put to rest when we understand how God is dealing with the world today—through grace because grace reigns today.

No longer should we see a natural disaster, foreign invasion, or any difficulty we face as the judgment of God. These methods were used in the past, and they will be again in the future, but they are not how God works today.

For one, God is not dealing with nations but solely with individuals. By setting aside His nation, Israel, God has effectively stopped judging all nations. Instead, God works corporately through the Body of Christ and individually through the members thereof. God is not trying to reach the unsaved world through a nation but through His new creature (creation) (cf. Gal. 6:15), the Church, the Body of Christ, which is made up of people of all nations.

Additionally, as the Apostle Paul addressed those individuals at the Areopagus (Hill of Ares) or Mars’ hill (cf. Acts 17:19,22), he warned those listening then, and it serves as a warning to all who reject the gospel today, that God now commands “all men every where to repent: Because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained…” (vv. 30-31).

God has appointed a day, a future day, to judge. That day is not today, for this day is the day of grace, not the day of judgment. The world does not need to live in fear that God’s judgment is upon us; instead, we should look on in awe and wonder at how great His mercies are. We should all be astonished by His long-suffering love and desire for all to be saved. For over 2000 years, His grace has stood; the heavens have been silent, judgment postponed, and man granted yet more time and another opportunity to turn to His maker and cry out to his Savior. Simply believe the gospel, and thou shalt be saved from the wrath to come (cf. 1 Thes. 1:10; 5:9).

There’s no telling when the silence of grace shall end. We are not promised tomorrow; now is the day of salvation, for truly, judgment day approaches. God’s future judgment is certain, “…for He cometh to judge the earth: He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with His truth” (Psa. 96:13), because “true and righteous” are the Almighty’s judgments (cf. Rev. 16:7).

If you hate the evil of this world and long for God to set things in order, take comfort in knowing that we do not need to avenge ourselves. Neither is God mocked; “…for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Gal. 6:7). We can be sure that “the judgment of God is according to truth” (Rom. 2:2). “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:14).

No wonder then that our Apostle Paul instructs us that “the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

Though the world may scoff at us and say, “Where is now their God?” (Psa. 115:2), let us reply, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth’s sake” (v. 1).

God will be glorified both by the saved and the unsaved; nothing and no one shall prevent that. When God finally does bring judgment, His righteousness will be on full display for all to see.

    1. “Best-Selling Book.” Guiness World Records, Accessed February 26, 2024.

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