The Two Works of Grace
Since man by nature is irrevocably lost, his only hope of regaining divine favor is through some approach being made from the Godward side. This approach has been made, first by the Father in Old Testament days through patriarchs, the lawgiver, and the prophets; then by the incarnation and redemption work of the Son; and finally through the present ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is through the agency of this Third Divine Person that man's lost condition is revealed and God's saving grace is made known.
The saving grace of God is manifested to the needy soul in two distinct and definite crisis works which by common consent among us are designated the first and second works of grace, one having to do with the salvation of the sinner and the other with the entire sanctification of the believer. These two crises are comprehensive in their scope, each embracing four great aspects of Christian experience. In each case these four are preceded by distinct prerequisites and sealed by divinely declared results.
The terms used denoting these aspects are sometimes perplexing to the beginner, and should be clearly comprehended as to their individual meaning and their mutual relationship.
1. The First Work Of Grace
This divinely wrought operation whereby the sinner becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus (II Cor. 5:17) is based upon the fact of Christ's atoning work, and has distinctive preliminaries and results which we shall name:
a. The preliminaries. This saving work is of necessity preceded by three things, namely: a divinely wrought work upon the sinner convicting and convincing him of sin; by this means repentance is induced, and the soul is driven to a position of faith.
(1) The Spirit's work of conviction. This conviction Mr. Wesley describes in what he says are "the words of another" whom he does not name but heartily endorses: "When men feel in themselves the heavy burden of sin, see damnation to be the reward of it, and behold with the eye of their mind the horror of hell, they tremble, they quake, and are inwardly touched with sorrowfulness of heart, and cannot but accuse themselves, and open their grief unto Almighty God, and call unto him for mercy. This being done seriously, their mind is so occupied, partly with sorrow and heaviness, partly with an earnest desire to be delivered from this danger of hell and damnation, that all desire of meat and drink is laid apart, and loathsomeness [or loathing] of all worldly things and pleasure cometh in place, so that nothing then liketh them more than to weep, to lament, to mourn, and both with words and behavior of body to show themselves weary of life."
Convicting the world of sin is declared by our Lord to be one of the essential offices of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11), and is seen in operation wherever the Spirit has liberty to work (Acts 2: 37).
(2) The sinner's work of repentance. A divinely wrought conviction, wisely heeded, will lead the soul to a real repentance -- a godly sorrow for sin producing renunciation, and, where necessary, restitution. True repentance is always productive of definite fruits. In it is involved the making right of known wrongs. John 3:2, 8; Acts 2:38. In it are included many things which some are apt to ignore, but to which the soul must surely attend if a satisfactory experience is to be reached. Old debts must be acknowledged and as soon as possible must be discharged. Old grudges must be cleared up, and where necessary, apologies must be made. No professed repentance is complete without the bringing forth of this fruit. Matt. 3:8; Luke 19:1-10.
Repentance is to leave The things I did before And show o'er sin I truly grieve By doing them no more. Ps. 51:3; Isa. 55:7; Matt. 4:17; Mark 6:12; Acts 17:30; and many other passages.
(3) The solid ground of faith. All this will now become the basis for the exercise of saving faith. Those old-time believers who really did things for God called these early things preliminaries, the getting onto believing ground; and the faith which they exercised consequently was not of a mere intellectual sort -- it was a spiritual affirmation producing results, having not only the assent of the mind but also the consent of the heart.
Wesley expresses it: Saving faith is "a sure trust and confidence which a man hath in God that by the merits of Christ his sins are forgiven, and he is reconciled to the favor of God."
It is upon such a foundation that the believing heart firmly stands, and its believing never fails. John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; Eph. 2:8.
b. The aspects. This salvation, received by faith, has four great aspects which may be stated as follows:
We have here followed in outline the trend of our earlier work, Foundations of Doctrine in Scripture and Experience, a student's handbook on the subject of holiness, which see for further study.
(1) The sovereign aspect -- God's act of forgiveness. Here God is seen in His sovereign, relationship, manward, dealing with man as a rebel. The rebellion has been broken and the rebel is suing for mercy. This is granted on Calvary ground, and a free pardon is bestowed. Isa. 55:7; Eph. 4:32.
(2) The judicial aspect -- the fact of justification. While forgiveness has to do with the sinner as a rebel, justification has to do with the sinner and his sin in its legal relationships. The word carries us into the court of divine justice, in which men as sinners are arraigned; and while all stand guilty and condemned before God, there are some against whom no charges are continued; these are honorably discharged although they have been proved guilty and have freely confessed to all the charges laid against them.
What then is the secret here? The following scriptures will supply the answer: Acts 13: 38-39; Rom. 1:17; 3:19-31; 5:1; 8:33-34; I Cor. 6:11; Gal. 2:16; 3:11, 24.
On the basis of these and other scriptures the doctrine may be stated thus: Justification is that judicial act by which God, on account of a new faith relationship with Jesus Christ, declares the sinner to be no longer exposed to the penalty of the law which he has broken, but restored to divine favor. It is a distinct reversal of the divine attitude for Jesus' sake, bringing the sinner into harmony with the law of God, thereby securing peace.
Justification has been stated as being fivefold in its aspect: Its spring is grace (Rom. 3:24); its principle is faith (Rom. 5:1; Gal. 3:24-26); its ground is "his blood" (Rom. 5:9); its guarantee is His resurrection (Rom. 4:25); its outcome is good works (Jas. 2:21-26).
(3) The parental aspect -- the work of regeneration. Thus far we have dealt only with divine acts on the sinner's behalf, these having to do with his standing before God. These acts however, are not wrought alone, but are complementary to a divine operation wrought within the soul itself by which the believer is "begotten again," "born again," "quickened," made to "pass from death unto life." John 1:13; 3:1-8; 5:24; Eph. 2:1; Titus 3:5; I Pet. 1:3,23; I John 3:14; 5:4,13.
In this work of regeneration God imparts His own life to the soul previously dead, producing thereby a new creation.
The characteristics of the new birth are set forth in John's First Epistle as sevenfold: a righteous life (2:19); victory over sin (3:9); brotherly love (3:14); a compassionate spirit (3:17); a recognition of the lordship of Jesus (5:1); victory over the world (5:4); the Spirit's inward witness (5: 10). So is everyone that is born of the Spirit.
(4) The family aspect -- the position of adoption. The thought behind this doctrine of adoption is the putting of a stranger in the place of a son. Its relation to regeneration differs from that of justification, although like justification it has its legal idea. In the case of justification the confessed criminal is treated as though he were righteous, whereas in the fact of adoption the stranger is treated as a son. This is the privilege of the second birth; it is the heritage of saving grace.
In this doctrine of adoption we have a spiritual counterpart of what was frequently happening among men in Bible times. Mordecai adopted Esther as his own daughter, and the daughter of Pharaoh adopted Moses as her son (Esther 2:7; Exod. 2:10).
At the period in which the New Testament was penned, this business of adopting was familiar among both Romans and Greeks; and Paul, ever on the lookout for current illustrations of the gospel he preached, seized upon this fact as illustrative of that act of grace whereby the soul pardoned, justified, and twice-born, becomes a recognized member of the divine family, being made an heir of God by faith.
The term adoption is found five times in the Pauline Epistles, but nowhere else in the entire range of scripture. It is a revelation given distinctly to Paul, although with him the other writers concur. Rom. 8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5. See also John 1:12; I John 3:1.
Here, then, under this fourfold aspect, we have this magnificent first work of divine grace. The four phases are not to be understood as happening separately but as the bestowal of the one grand whole in that moment when God by His wonderful grace speaks the word that brings the benighted soul out of darkness into His marvelous light. In that moment the repentant sinner is pardoned abundantly (Isa. 55:7); he is justified freely (Rom. 3:24); he is born from above (John 3:3); he is adopted into the family of God (Rom. 8:15).
c. The result. The result of such a glorious work is a definite inward witness producing a confident assurance. This has become known as the witness of the Spirit.
It is reasonable to expect that, since God has been pleased to do so much in this great business of saving man, He will make it known to the consciousness when the work has been accomplished. This He promises to do, as the following passages will show: Rom. 8:16; Gal. 4:6.
2. The Second Work Of Grace
The second work of grace has its preliminaries, its fourfold aspect, and its results.
a. The preliminaries. The preliminaries to the second work may be stated as threefold:
(1) The Spirit's work of conviction. As a sinner the conviction came for sin committed; now the work of the Holy Spirit goes deeper, convicting the soul of its sinful nature, a virus that has been inherited. Numerous expressions are used to denote it, among which are the following: iniquity -- Ps. 51:5; Isa. 6-.7; sin -- Ps. 51:5; Isa. 6:7; Romans 6 at least seventeen times.
These two words, iniquity and sin, are singular in contrast to the plural words iniquities and sins.
Filthiness, Ezek. 36:5; bent to backsliding, Hos. 11:7; the stony heart, Ezek. 36:26; our old man, the old man, Rom. 6:6; Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9; the body of sin, Rom. 6:6; the body of the sins of the flesh, Col. 2:11; sin that dwelleth in me, Rom. 7:17; the law of sin and death, Rom. 8:2; the carnal mind, Rom. 8:7; the flesh, Rom. 8: 8-9, 12-13; Gal. 5:17; filthiness, II Cor. 7:1; unrighteousness, I John 1:9.
"And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerate." -- Church of England, Article IX.
"We believe that original sin, or depravity ... continues to exist with the new life of the regenerate." -- Manual, Church of the Nazarene.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to reveal this indwelling corruption to the human heart.
(2) The believer's work of repentance. As the sinner repented, confessed his sins, and believed on Christ for pardon, the believer must now repent and make confession of his sinful nature, seek for cleansing, Psalms 51; Isaiah 6. See also Wesley's Sermons "On Sin in Believers" and "On the Repentance of Believers."
(3) The solid ground of consecration and faith. It is now the believer's privilege to make a complete consecration and trust God to complete the work. Rom. 12:1-2; I Thess. 5:23-24.
b. The aspects. As with the first experience, so the second may be stated as fourfold.
Again we follow in outline the trend of our earlier work, Foundations of Doctrine in Scripture and Experience, which see for further study.
(1) The negative aspect -- the work of purification. This is the groundwork of everything else. Before the glories of divine grace can be fully revealed in the nature, carnality must be removed. Ps. 51:7, 9; Isa. 6:5-7; Ezek. 36:25; Matt. 3:11; Acts 15:8-9; Rom. 6:6; II Cor. 7:1; Eph. 5:25-27; I Thess. 4:3-8; 5:23-24; Titus 2:11-14.
"What is entire sanctification? The state of being entirely cleansed from sin." -- Methodist Catechism.
"Original sin, or depravity ... continues to exist with the new life of the regenerate, until eradicated by the baptism with the Holy Spirit." -- Manual, Church of the Nazarene.
(2) The positive aspect -- the fact of the indwelling God. This inwardness of spiritual experience may require some elucidation. With some there has been a tendency to a mistaken emphasis, not infrequently the expression being heard: "In justification the Holy Spirit is with us, but in sanctification the Holy Spirit is in us." Then usually follows the quotation, "For he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" (John 14:17).
Dispensationally this was true, but experientially for the believer today it is not true. Every child of God, because born from above, has the Holy Spirit within him. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom. 8:9).
The emphasis is not whether or not the Spirit is there, but rather in what office and capacity He is present. Until the sin-destroying work has taken place the Holy Spirit is hindered, but nevertheless He is there if there is any spiritual life at all.
"But can Christ be in the same heart where sin is?" asks Wesley. "Undoubtedly He can," he replies, answering his own question. "Christ cannot reign where sin reigns; neither will He dwell where it is allowed. But He is and dwells in the heart of every believer fighting against all sin, although he be not yet purified according to the purification of the sanctuary." -- Sermon "On Sin in Believers."
In the experience of entire sanctification, however, the divine indwelling is unhindered; for in the wholly sanctified heart, since indwelling sin has been completely destroyed, the Holy Spirit has full control. John 14:11, 17,26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15.
(3) The ethical aspect -- our manward obligations. The experience of full salvation has an ethical as well as an emotional aspect. Failure to realize this has brought disaster into many lives. The person who says, "Christ liveth in me " must also say, "Others shall see Christ through me." Hence Paul, again and again, after stating some glorious spiritual truth, begins to recount some of the most matter-of-fact obligations. The two always exist side by side. Romans 12; Eph. 3: l-4:3; 4:17- 32.
(4) The progressive aspect -- the development in the life of God. Life suggests the possibility of growth; and once the soul is freed from its carnal hindrances, growth is natural and free. Ps. 1: 3; 72:7; 79:12-13; Prov. 12:12; Hos. 14:5-9; John 15:1-16; Acts 9:22; I Cor. 13:11; 14:20; II Cor. 9:10; Eph. 3:14-21; 4:11-16; Col. 1:9-11; 2:19; I Thess. 3:12; 4:10; II Thess. 1:3; Heb. 5:14; I Pet. 2:2; II Pet. 1:5-8; 3:17-18.
The cleansed heart makes possible unhindered growth.
c. The result. Here again, as with the first work of grace, a definite inward witness is realized. The Holy Spirit bears witness to His own work, while the work itself is its own witness. To be clean and not to know it would be strange indeed. Heb. 10:14-15.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT
Doctrine without spiritual life and experience is dangerous. Make sure that you know experientially these great spiritual facts which you accept mentally.
Then read further. Do not be content to know simply what one writer says or what one school of thought teaches. Know what you do not believe as well as what you affirm.
- What is saving grace, and how is it manifested?
- Discuss the first work of grace, its preliminaries and results.
- Discuss the second work of grace, its preliminaries and results.