Tag Archives: outward sign of inward grace

Noah Found Grace

There is much talk today about the grace of God that is altogether different from any language found in the New Testament. We hear about grace “coming down and overwhelming” and people who are “covered with grace.” This language is really not new at all and finds its roots in the Augustinian concept of grace as some sort of mystical, nebulous force that is imposed on men from heaven in two ways: actual grace, being the supernaturally endowed ability to do good things, and sanctifying grace, being the supernatural power of salvation working in one’s life. The Catholic and early reformation churches, influenced by this thinking, believed that they could contact and receive the “divine power of grace” by certain rituals called “sacraments.” Although this is the widely accepted idea in the religious world, and its jargon has entered the vocabulary of nearly every religious person, with such clichés as, “an outward sign of an inward grace,” the Bible seems to present a very different view of the subject.


Noah Found Grace…


The first mention of grace in the Bible is in Genesis 6:8, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” That simple little verse, when considered in its context teaches us volumes about the subject of the grace of God. The world, relatively young, but mature in malice and evil imagination—had become so depraved as a majority that it caused God to regret having ever created man. In His righteousness He resolved to no longer strive with him, but to send down judgment and wipe him off the face of the earth. However, rather than destroying it in an instant, which would have been both possible and just, God chose to be longsuffering for 120 years and give the world a chance at repentance. (Gen. 6:3; 1 Peter 3:19)

The Bible says Noah “…was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” (Genesis 6:9b) Noah responded to God’s gracious offer and was able to escape from the deluge. There is nothing in this story that would define the grace of God as mystical divine power, but rather it is clear that the proper definition would be divine favor, and loving kindness. Because of his great love for man, God gave him a chance that he did not deserve to be given.




The ark on Mt. Ararat




Now the question we must answer is this: How did Noah go about finding this grace? Well, the first thing we are told about Noah is that he was a just and good hearted man who “walked with God.” As a family leader in the Patriarchal age, we can expect that this carried some very profound meaning. It seems that Noah actually had moments of conversation with God on a rather frequent basis, as many other Patriarchs did, and in these conversations Noah received instruction on how he and his household might be saved, and trusting in what God told him, the Bible says: “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.” (Gen. 6:22)

Hebrews 11:7 says: “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”

No person could read the story and conclude that Noah saved himself. His salvation, in providence, patience, plan and in power was by the grace of God. God had provided him with the opportunity, bore with him in patience, instructed him in the plan and purged the world of sin by the outpouring of his power. 1 Peter 3:19-20 shows that God showed this same grace to the whole world of Noah’s day, as Noah preached the message of salvation to the world around him, even while building the ark. The others however, did not have the faith and obedience to lay hold on it.


The Grace of Christ


This old story prepares us very well to approach the subject of the grace of God through Christ that is taught in the New Testament. The Bible says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9) This is exactly how Noah was saved. By faithful obedience, not by plans of his own design or of his own strength, he claimed the gracious gift of salvation from God, and according to Paul that is basically the same way we find salvation today.


1 Peter 3:19-21


The Apostle Peter taught that not only was the salvation of Noah like the salvation of men today, but it was in fact divinely orchestrated, as an action prophecy, or a type, pointing forward to the work of Christ and His gospel:

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 3:18-21)

In this passage the Apostle Peter shows us how the grace of Christ (His sacrificial death on the cross) is able to save men’s souls.

Let’s notice as the providence, the patience, the plan and the power are unfolded. First, he shows that in the days of Noah grace was shown to the wicked antediluvians, now spirits in prison (Hades), by the preaching of righteousness that Noah gave through the inspiration of the Spirit. This is the providence. It would have been righteous for God to punish the ancient world for their sin without providing any way of redemption, and the same is true today. The foundation of any hope of salvation is the graciousness of God. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9) By the sacrifice of Christ, and the gospel message preached, man is given a way of escape from the penalty of his guilt. But the grace of God does not stop at the provision, it continues into the patience of God in giving men an opportunity to respond.

Peter says of the ancient world, “the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared…” This too is an essential feature of the Grace of Christ as God is “longsuffering toward us… not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Next Peter carries us to the plan, now watch this – the plan
is
a part
of the grace
of God!
“…while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.” Examine the passage. The antecedent of “in which” is the ark. The ark was where the eight souls survived and were saved by following in faith the plan of God. (Hebrews 11:7) In like manner there is a plan given to men today. Those who hear the message of Christ’s Gospel, and in faith accept it unto obedience, repent of their sins, confess the divine sonship of Christ and are baptized in water for the remission of sins (Rom. 10:17; Luke 13:3; Matthew 10:32; Acts 2:38) are saved by Christ.

That is the plan for man to follow, but the plan is efficacious because of and by the power of God. Notice, “in which a few, that is eight souls, were saved through water.” Here the salvation of Noah and his family is not attributed only to the ark but also to the flood! Pay close attention. If Noah and his family had built the ark correctly and trusted in God and entered into it, that alone would not have saved them from the wrath of God toward the evil and sin of the world. The wickedness had to be taken away in order for the family of Noah to be truly saved. That is precisely what the flood did! It washed the world clean of all unrighteousness and gave a new life to those who had obeyed God.

Peter writes that this same thing occurs in our obedience to the Gospel when we are baptized. While a mere dipping in water would normally profit us nothing, baptism as obedience to the gospel is given power by the resurrection of Jesus Christ so that it is not merely an outward cleansing, but an inward cleansing. (Acts 22:16; Col. 2:12) As the flood waters did to the ancient world, in baptism our souls are washed from all sin by the blood of Christ. This is what it means to be saved by the grace of God. For someone to suggest that salvation by grace would exclude baptism or any other act of obedience shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what grace is. Not some ethereal force, but the goodness and favor of a loving God for his creation, man.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-15)

Clint de France, 11/2010

Abuse of the Name Christian – Part 1

mlard
Moses Lard

From the outset of the great work in which we as a people are engaged, purity of speech has been an object never lost sight of. We looked at first and still look upon the mixed and unsanctified dialect current in religious circles, not only as a reflection upon the word of God, but as a fertile source of error and a successful means of propagating it. Long years of observation have only served to confirm these early convictions. All authorized religious notions can find utterance in terms of the Bible, divinely appropriated to that use; and the moment the need is felt for other terms, the fair inference is that views unknown to the Bible are to be expressed. Terms not of the Bible will of necessity impart to the mind ideas not of the Bible; and thus the mind becomes confused in its religious contents. The thoughts of the Spirit inhabiting, as permanent fixtures, the human soul, and expressed, when need requires, in terms of the Spirit, constitute the highest learning and best literature of earth. How long will it be before the world will learn and appreciate this truth? Never, we fear.

But purity of speech has two sides from which to be viewed, and a double demand to be satisfied. It requires, first, that the things of the Spirit shall be expressed only in terms of the Spirit; and, second, that things not of the Spirit shall be expressed in terms not of the Spirit. That is to say, it requires that views and thoughts of the world, and pertaining to the world, shall be expressed in worldly terms, and not in Bible terms. To abuse
a
Bible term
is an offense
against the Spirit
, falling but little, if any, below the abuse of a Bible idea. There is, of course, this distinction to be observed, that a term may be common to the Bible and to the world; in which case, clearly, it can be deemed no abuse to use the term in speaking even of worldly matters. But in the present connection we are speaking, not so much of this class of words, as of a very different class, namely, such as the names of persons, rites, and other things which have no existence independent of the gospel.

As a partial illustration of what we mean, let us take the word just used, the word gospel. This, if not exclusively a Bible term, is yet a term having its true and proper signification only therein. Now, to apply this term to aught else than what it here denotes, is, it seems to me, correctly called an abuse of it, and is unjustifiable. We often hear such expressions as the following: a gospel preacher, a gospel sermon, a gospel feast, etc. Is this correct? We certainly think not.

The word gospel has no counterpart in a man; hence it can never accurately be applied to one; and so of the other items. A sermon may be an hour long, and yet contain in it only a single element of the gospel; it is not therefore a gospel sermon. Even allowing it to be composed mostly of elements of the gospel; still it contains human elements, and hence is not gospel. If it contain no human elements then is it the gospel, and not merely something partaking of its nature. Hence the term should never be thus used. To all of which it may be replied, that perfection in speech is a thing not attainable in our present state; and that therefore it is useless to complain of the abuses of which we speak. This may be true, and yet we may not be wrong; hence we must insist on what we have said. Not even the semblance of abuse should have our sanction. Indeed no more should we sanction the abuse of a term which is Scriptural than we should the use of one which is not, to express an idea which is.

Purity of speech consists in the strict use of Scriptural terms to express Scriptural things. This excludes the use of terms which are not Scriptural, and ought to imply the non-abuse of those which are. The nearer we approach this standard, the greater and the more certain will be the effect with which we shall proclaim the truth.

As an illustration of a grossly impure speech we will cite a popular definition of baptism. It is thus worded: baptism is an outward sign of an inward grace. If the manipulations of Satan ever approach so near the surface as to be sensibility felt, we should think that even the dullest touch might detect their presence in this. Baptism is a sign. In what book or verse of the Bible is it so said? Or, indeed, is any thing said bearing even the remotest resemblance to it? A more perfect figment never emanated from the human brain.

Baptism is no sign; at least it is no sign of any thing within us. If a sign of any thing, or if intended to represent any thing; if, in other words, it is either monumental or emblematic, then is it so of the literal burial and resurrection of Christ, and of our own future burial and resurrection, but of nothing within us. But not only is baptism a sign; it is an outward sign. Now this word outward was a most necessary epithet in the definition. But for this, some orthodox blockhead might have blundered into the conclusion that when a man is baptized really nothing outward had taken place. True, his eyes might have avouched otherwise, but what of that? When the eyes and conclusions of one of the orthodox are somewhat antithetic, what signifies a thing so mendacious as the eye?

But baptism is more than an outward sign: it is a sign of an ‘inward grace’. Ah! reader, in that phrase ‘inward grace’ you have the body and soul of orthodoxy, the ground and essence of its popular dimensions, and the jingle which has proved the hoodwink and ruin of many a soul of man. Baptism is a sign, a mere sign, nothing more; neither in itself, nor by appointment of the Saviour, has it any value or significance-it is only a sign, a mere shadow indicating the presence of a casting substance. Moreover, this ‘inward grace’ is first in order of time and first in point of importance. This must first be possessed; then on behind it may come that outward sign, of no more importance in procuring acceptance with Christ, or in giving rest to the soul, than is the flowing of the ink in my pen.

But what is that ‘inward grace’? Ask it not, presumptuous reader. It is orthodoxy; and dare you query as to that? Only this remains for you to know: that it is absolutely necessary to generate that ‘inward grace’; and that this adroitly, but very innocently, lays the foundation for all those hidden impulses and miraculous sensations vulgarly styled holy ghost religion.

Again: take the phrase we have last used: ‘holy ghost religion’. Here is an expression unknown in the Bible. What it means can never be determined. Indeed it means any thing and every thing which he who glories in it may see fit to make it mean. If, however, we were called upon to define it, we should not hesitate to say it is a designation for one of the purest forms of superstition. What folly has been committed and gone unrebuked, and what gross error has been and still is propagated under the cover of this expression, no living man can tell. Were a pure speech restored to the religious world, what then would become of this unauthorized expression? It would stand as a monument to their folly who use it, and as a proof of their disrespect for the word of God, because they had something to teach which that word does not sanction. Satan is never surer to eclipse the truth and ensnare the soul than when he can induce us to speak of the things of the Spirit in terms and combinations of terms not Scriptural, or to abuse and pervert those which are.

Revelation consists in two parts: the thought, or matter revealed, which is the revelation proper; and the terms originally selected by the Spirit, in which the thought is expressed. Both these we call divine or sacred; and no more have we the right to abuse or pervert the one than we have the other. In a translation, of course, merely the thought is transferred, and that, too, into terms not of divine but of human selection. In this process perfection is not attainable, though certainly desirable. But when a translation is once made and accepted as correct, then purity of speech consists in expressing the revealed thought or matter in the exact terms of the translation. This with every Christian should become a rule never to be violated. But the point toward which we are mainly looking is this: whenever a term becomes appropriated in the Bible to an expression of a particular thought, it should never be used to express any other; and when so used, it is abused. This brings us to speak more particularly of the name Christian.

(end part one)

– Moses Lard


Moses Lards gravestone in St. Joseph, Missouri
Moses Lard's gravestone in St. Joseph, Missouri ---------- It reads as follows: Moses E. Lard BORN In Bedford Co. Tenn. Oct. 29, 1818 DIED In Lexington, Kentucky June 18, 1880 AGED 61 Yrs. 6 Ms. 20D's