What Happened to Grace?

I am a self-avowed Calvinist. Not only a Calvinist, but I consider myself fully and completely Reformed. I appreciate and have a deep love for the pursuit of God. I love working to understand Him to the best of my ability by diving deep into the Scriptures and knowing doctrinal and theological positions. It is fun for me to do this. I enjoy learning at the feet of those brilliant theologians of years gone by.

Another phrase utilized for Reformed/Calvinistic teaching is called the “Doctrines of Grace.” I think it’s a good term. All of God’s dealings with man are by His grace, but particularly salvation. We often know and recite this all-familiar text, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

I’m not sure it can be made any clearer than this.

The troublesome part for me is that if we have been saved by grace, transformed by grace, sanctified by grace, and will ultimately be glorified by grace, why are so many in the Reformed Camp that I happily reside, so lacking in grace?

You’ve undoubtedly heard the term cage stage. That means when someone comes to understand the doctrines of grace, they need to stay in a cage until they settle down. New Calvinists, are, shall we say, “zealous” for the truth, and eager to tell everyone about it. I sure did, and I was incredibly un-gracious in my approach. I turned many people off with my good intentions.

It wasn’t until we had been abused by “grace” that I truly understood the need for God’s people to practice living out a gracious spirit. We can argue our theological differences, and to some degree, we should, but must it be at the expense of love? If we truly understand what God has done for us shouldn’t we be the most loving people on the planet? I say yes, but often the answer is no, we are not.

I have no need to rebuke anyone, for I have often been the one needing rebuke. I need to catch myself sometimes because I’m not so great at it all the time. In all honesty, I need to read a lot more Newton. I need to read a lot more of Ichabod Spencer. I need to learn from those men that I know, and those that I observe from a distance, those of a meek and humble spirit.

I’ll leave off with how John Newton dealt with controversy.

As to your opponent, I wish, that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing.  This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write.  If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab, concerning Absalom, are very applicable: “Deal gently with him for my sake,” The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore, you must not despise him, or treat him harshly.  The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself.  In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now.  Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.  But if you look upon him as an unconverted person, in a state of enmity against God and his grace, (a supposition which, without good evidence, you should be very unwilling to admit,) he is a more proper object of your compassion than your anger.  Alas! “he knows not what he does.”  But you know who has made you to differ.  If God, in his sovereign pleasure, had so appointed, you might have been as he is now; and he, instead of you, might have been set for the defense of the gospel.  You were both equally blind by nature.  If you attend to this, you will not reproach or hate him, because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes, and not his. 

Lord help us be more gracious!


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