Friday, April 19, 2013

Free Grace


The Meaning of Free Grace 

“I do not come into this pulpit hoping that perhaps somebody will of his own free will might return to Christ. My hope lies in another quarter. I hope that my Master will lay hold of some of them and say, "You are mine, and you shall be mine. I claim you for myself." My hope arises from the freeness of grace...”
-Charles Spurgeon


What is the meaning of the grace of God? What are Christians talking about when they refer to God's free grace?

Free has two meanings:

1) Free in that God gives it to whom he pleases; He is free in giving grace; he has mercy on whom he has mercy; he pardons whom he pardons. Whoever he wants to pardon, he pardons. God is not compelled by anything in man to show man goodness.

So, free = God chooses freely to give to whoever he wants.

2) It is a gift; it does not cost us anything. We did not work for it: earn it; deserve it.

Freeness of Grace is often referred to as a gift; there is a difference between borrowing/trading and receiving a FREE GIFT.

These two meanings are connected. If we compel God in some way to show us favor, then we have earned it – it is no longer free, but merited.

When a man says: “I do not love my wife anymore.” That may be meant as a slight to his wife; she is not lovely. However, it is really a slight to the man. What kind of mean/small heart does he have that is not capable of loving? If we must find a reason for loving, then that means we have little love within us. Love does not depend so much on the object as on the subject. The quality of love depends more on the lover than beloved. Those who, like God, love, can love freely because they are full of love. This to say: God loves us not because of anything in us, but because of the fountain of love that is in HIM.

So, God gives freely: this has 2 important, and connected, senses,

1) God is free in all He does – He does according to His good pleasure (Mt. 11.26), according to the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1.3ff), according to His own purpose (Romans 8.28ff), He has mercy on whoever he wants (Romans 9), he has mercy on whoever he chooses (Mt. 11.27). God’s sovereign hand is not forced from outside Himself. In short, God does as He pleases, when He pleases, and shows mercy to whom He pleases (i.e. wills, desires, chooses), when He wants, and how He wants.

2) God’s gives due to nothing in us; it is a gift, gratis, undeserved, unearned, unmerited, unbought, unsought. God owes no man anything but wrath. There is no reason in the creature, even in the best of men, for the love of God. We come to God as beggars, never as creditors. God stands toward us as benefactor, never as debtor.

Below is a compilation of the best quotes I've been able to find on this sweet doctrine of FREE GRACE.

Spurgeon, "Grace Abounding"

(Free means) given without money and without price. It is opposed to all idea of bargaining, to all acceptance of an equivalent, or that which might be construed into an equivalent. A man is said to give freely when he bestows his charity on applicants simply on the ground of their poverty, hoping for nothing again. A man distributes freely when, without asking any compensation, he finds it more blessed to give than to receive. Now God's love comes to men all free and unbought; without our having merit to deserve, or money to procure it. I know it is written, "Come, buy wine and milk," but is it not added "Without money and without price?" "I will love them freely;" that is "I will not accept their works in barter for my love; I will not receive their love as a recompense for mine; I will love them, all unworthy and sinful though they be."

Men give "freely" when there is no inducement. A great many presents of late have been given to the Princess of Wales, and 'tis well and good; but the position of the Princess is such that we do not view it as any great liberality to subscribe to a diamond necklace, since those who give are honored by her acceptance. Now the freeness of God's love is shown in this, that the objects of it are utterly unworthy, can confer no honor, and have no position to be an inducement to bless them. The Lord loves them freely. Some persons are very generous to their own relations, but here, again, they can hardly be said to be free, because the tie of blood constrains them. Their own children, their own brother, their own sister—if men will not be generous here, they must be mean through and through. But the generosity of our God is commended to us in that he loved his enemies, and while we were yet sinners in due time Christ died for us. The word "freely" is "exceeding broad" when used in reference to God's love to men. He selects those who have not the shadow of a claim upon him, and sets them among the children of his heart.

We use the word "freely," when a favor is conferred without its being sought. It can hardly be said that our King in the old histories pardoned the citizens of Calais freely when his Queen had first to prostrate herself before him, and with many tears to induce him to be merciful. He was gracious, but he was not free in his grace. When a person has been long dogged by a beggar in the streets, though he may turn round and give liberally to be rid of the clamorous applicant, he does not give "freely." Remember, with regard to God, that his grace to man was utterly unsought. He does give grace to those who seek it, but none would ever seek that grace unless unsought grace had first been bestowed. Sovereign grace waiteth not for man, neither tarrieth for the sons of men. The love of God goes forth to men when they have no thought after him; when they are hastening after all manner of sin and wantonness. He loves them freely, and as the effect of that love, they then begin to seek his face. But it is not our seeking, our prayers, our tears, which incline the Lord to love us. God loves us at first most freely, without any entreaties or beseechings, and then we come both to entreat and to beseech his favor.

That which comes without any exertion on our part comes to us "freely." The rulers digged the well, and as they digged it they sang "Spring up, O well!" In such a case, where a well must be digged with much labor, the water can hardly be described as rising freely. But yonder, in the laughing valley, the spring gushes from the hill-side, and lavishes its crystal torrent among the shining pebbles. Man pierced not the fountain, he bored not the channel, for, long ere he was born, or ever the weary pilgrim bowed himself to its cooling stream, it had leaped on its joyous way right freely, and it will do so, as long as the moon endureth, freely, freely, freely. Such is the grace of God. No labor of man procures it; no effort of man can add to it. God is good from the simple necessity of his nature; God is love, simply because it is his essence to be so, and he pours forth his love in plenteous streams to undeserving, ill-deserving, hell-deserving objects, simply because he "will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom will have compassion," for it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

If you ask an illustration of the word "freely," I point to yonder sun. How freely he scattereth his life-giving beams. Precious as gold are his rays, but he scattereth them like the dust; he sows the earth with orient pearl, and bejewels it with emerald and ruby and sapphire, and all most freely. You and I forget to pray for the sun's light, but it comes at its appointed season; yea, on that blasphemer who curses God, the day ariseth, and the sunlight warms him as much as the most obedient child of the heavenly Father. That sunbeam falls upon the farm of the miser, and upon the field of the churl, and bids the grain of the wicked expand in its genial warmth and produce its harvest. That sun shines into the house of the adulterer, into the face of the murderer, and the cell of the thief. No matter how sinful man may be, yet the light of day descends upon him unasked for and unsought. Such is the grace of God; where it comes it comes not because sought, or deserved, but simply from the goodness of the heart of God, which, like the sun, blesseth as it wills. Mark you the gentle winds of heaven, the breath of God to revive the languishing,the soft breezes. See the sick man at the sea-side, drinking in health from the breezes of the salt sea. Those lungs may heave to utter the lascivious song, but the healing wind is not restrained, and whether it be breast of saint or sinner, yet that wind ceaseth not from any. So in gracious visitations, God waiteth not till man is good before he sends the heavenly wind, with healing beneath its wings; even as he pleaseth so it bloweth, and to the most undeserving it cometh. Observe the rain which drops from heaven. It falls upon the desert as well as upon the fertile field; it drops upon the rock that will refuse its fertilizing moisture as well as upon the soil that opens its gaping mouth to drink it in with gratitude. See, it falls upon the hard-trodden streets of the populous city, where it is not required, and where men will even curse it for coming, and it falls not more freely where the sweet flowers have been panting for it, and the withering leaves have been rustling forth their prayers. Such is the grace of God. It does not visit us because we ask it, much less, because we deserve it; but as God wills it, and the bottles of heaven are unstopped, so God wills it, and grace descends. No matter how vile, and black, and foul, and godless, men may be, he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and that free, rich, overflowing goodness of his can make the very worst and least deserving the objects of his best and choicest love.

Do understand me. Let me not leave this point till I have well defined its meaning. I mean this, dear friends: when God says, "I will love them freely," he means that no prayers, no tears, no good works, no almsgivings are an inducement to him to love men, nay, that not only nothing, in themselves, but nothing anywhere else was the cause of his love to them; not even the blood of Christ; not even the groans and tears of his beloved Son. These are the fruits of his love, not the cause of it. He does not love because Christ died, but Christ died because the Father loved. Do remember that this fountain of love has its spring in itself, not in you, nor in me, but only in the Father's own gracious, infinite heart of goodness. "I will love them freely," spontaneously, without any motive ab extra, but entirely because I choose to do it.

...Now it is quite certain that any virtue which there may be in any man is the result of God's grace. Now if it be the result of grace it cannot be the cause of grace. It is utterly impossible that an effect should have existed before a cause; but God's love existed before man's goodness, therefore that goodness cannot be a cause. Brethren, the doctrine of the antiquity of divine love is graven as with the point of a diamond upon the very forehead of revelation; when the children were not yet born, neither having done good nor evil, the purpose of election still stood; while we were yet like clay in the mass of creatureship, and God had power to make of the same dump a vessel to honor or a vessel to dishonor, he chose to make his people vessels unto honor; this could not possibly have been because of any good thing in them, for they themselves were not, much less their goodness. Our Savior's words—"Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight," reveal not only the sovereignty but the freeness of divine affection.

Spurgeon, "Despair Denounced, Grace Glorified"

Now, listen, you desponding one on the border of desperation! Have you never heard of the freeness of God’s mercy? Do you not know that everything that He bestows on sinners is given freely and graciously? The ground of God’s love is God’s love and nothing in us.

When He made His eternal choice, there was a remnant according to the election of Grace. It is Free Grace that chooses for its love and then loves for its choice. When Christ redeemed us, He did it freely—He freely delivered Himself up for us all. When He pardons sins, He is “exalted on high to give repentance,” and there is nothing freer than a gift— “to give repentance and remission of sins.” I tell you, the very spirit of the Gospel is this, that there is no worthiness nor desert needed in you in order to your immediate forgiveness and acceptance with God! 

Spurgeon, “Free Grace”

The other error to which man is very prone, is that of relying upon his own merit. Though there is no righteousness in any man, yet in every man there is a proneness to truth in some fancied merit. Strange that it should be so, but the most reprobate characters have yet some virtue as they imagine, upon which they rely. You will find the most abandoned drunkard pride himself that he is not a swearer... it is against all human merit that I am this morning going to speak, and I feel that I shall offend a great many people here...

Spurgeon, “Grace Abounding”

Such is the grace of God. It does not visit us because we ask it, much less, because we deserve it; but as God wills it, and the bottles of heaven are unstopped, so God wills it, and grace descends. No matter how vile, and black, and foul, and godless, men may be, he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and that free, rich, overflowing goodness of his can make the very worst and least deserving the objects of his best and choicest love... There is no reason for God's love in any man, if there is none in you, you are not worse off than the best of men, for there is none in them; the grace and love of God can come as freely to you as they can to those that have long been seeking them, for "I am found of them that sought me not."... "

Spurgeon, "Sovereign Grace”

If any man be saved, he is saved by Divine grace, and by Divine grace alone; and the reason of his salvation is not to be found in him, but in God. We are not saved as the result of anything that we do or that we will; but we will and do as the result of God's good pleasure, and the work of his grace in our hearts. No sinner can prevent God; that is, he cannot go before him, cannot anticipate him; God is always first in the matter of salvation... The only reason why any man ever begins to pray is because God has put previous grace in his heart which leads him to pray.

Spurgeon, "Grace and Our Responsibility"

First, then, DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY AS EXEMPLIFIED IN SALVATION. If any man be saved, he is saved by Divine grace, and by Divine grace alone; and the reason of his salvation is not to be found in him, but in God. We are not saved as the result of anything that we do or that we will; but we will and do as the result of God's good pleasure, and the work of his grace in our hearts. No sinner can prevent God; that is, he cannot go before him, cannot anticipate him; God is always first in the matter of salvation. He is before our convictions, before our desires, before our fears, before our hopes. All that is good or ever will be good in us, is preceded by the grace of God, and is the effect of a Divine cause within.

Now in speaking of God's gracious acts of salvation, this morning, I notice first, that they are entirely unmerited. You will see that the people here mentioned certainly did not merit God's grace. They found him, but they never sought for him; he was made manifest to them, but they never asked for him. There never was a man saved yet who merited it. Ask all the saints of God, and they will tell you that their former life was spent in the lusts of the flesh; that in the days of their ignorance, they revolted against God and turned back from his ways, that when they were invited to come to him they despised the invitation, and, when warned, cast the warning behind their back. They will tell you that their being drawn by God, was not the result of any merit before conversion; for some of them, so far from having any merit, were the very vilest of the vile: they plunged into the very kennel of sin; they were not ashamed of all the things of which it would be a shame for us to speak; they were ringleaders in crime, very princes in the ranks of the enemy; and yet sovereign grace came to them, and they were brought to know the Lord. They will tell you that it was not the result of anything good in their disposition, for although they trust that there is now something excellent implanted in them, yet in the days of their flesh they could see no one quality which was not perverted to the service of Satan. Ask them whether they think they were chosen of God because of their courage; they will tell you, no; if they had courage it was defaced, for they were courageous to do evil. Question them whether they were chosen of God because of their talent; they will tell you, no; they had that talent, but they prostituted it to the service of Satan. Question them whether they were chosen because of the openness and generosity of their disposition; they will tell you that that very openness of temper, and that very generosity of disposition, led them to plunge deeper into the depths of sin, than they otherwise would have done, for they were "hail fellow, well met," with every evil man, and ready to drink and join every jovial party which should come in their way.

R.M McCheyne on Saved by Grace
The only power that can bring a child of Satan and make him a child of God is God himself. Ah! Dear Friends, the power is not in creatures. It is not in the power of man – it is not in the power of minister; God alone can do it... Ah! my friends this is a humbling doctrine. There is no difference between us and the children of wrath; some of us were more wicked than they, yet God set his love upon us. If there are any here that they they have been chosen because they were better than others, you are grossly mistaken.

Jonathon Edwards, "Pardon for the Chief of Sinners: (My Paraphrase)"
“It is only for the sake of Jesus Christ, that God is willing to accept any has nothing to do with anything we bring, or any goodness we have. You say, your life is almost spent, and you are afraid that the best time for serving God is past; and that therefore God will not now accept now you- because you are coming to him late in life; what you are really saying is that God accepts persons because of the service they are willing to do him. But a self-righteous spirit is at the bottom of such objections. Men cannot get away from the notion that God welcomes persons and receives them into his favor for some goodness or service of their own, either that they do, or that God expects them to do later—Indeed they who deny God their youth, the best part of their lives, and spend it in the service of Satan, dreadfully sin and provoke God; and he very often leaves them to hardness of heart when they are grown old. But if they are willing to come to Christ when old, he is as ready to receive them as any others; because in the matter of receiving sinners God has respect only to Christ and his worthiness.”

George Whitfield on The Free Gift Of God

Salvation, every where through the whole scripture, is said to be the free gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Not only free, because God is a sovereign agent, and therefore may withhold it from, or confer it on, whom he pleaseth; but free, because there is nothing to be found in man, that can any way induce God to be merciful unto him. The righteousness of Jesus Christ is the sole cause of our finding favor in God's sight: this righteousness apprehended by faith (which is also the gift of God) makes it our own; and this faith, if true, will work by love.

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