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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 32 - Acts 14:3 - The Word of His Grace Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius

Index

The first five verses of this chapter give us a brief sketch of the apostles' life and ministry at Iconium. Paul and Barnabas, fleeing from Antioch, came to Iconium. They go into the Jewish synagogue. A great number believe, both Jews and Greeks, as they listen to the apostolic gospel. The unbelieving Jews stir up the city against the apostles, but they continue there in spite of opposition, and speak boldly in the Lord, or more exactly, "grow bold over the Lord," the Lord being the theme or subject over which they took their stand, and in reference to which they shewed their boldness.[5]

In the latter part of the verse we have these three things: (1.) the grace; (2.) the word concerning it; (3.) the divine testimony given to this word. It is on the first two points that we would meditate. The third, or the testimony, may be briefly noticed at the outset. That testimony was given by "miracles," by "signs and wonders."

The Lord went along with His apostles, He stood by their side in preaching, and He set His seal to the truth of their message by some notable work of heavenly power, so that the hearers were made to feel that the word spoken was a true word, and that it was a word from heaven, directly from the lips of God. The miracle was to establish their faith (and ours also in these last days) in the divine origin of the message, so that their faith should not stand in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God.

I. The grace. This word is often used by us as synonymous with the Spirit's work in man, or that which time Spirit produces in us when He renews and transforms. This is not the primary nor the usual meaning of the word. It simply means favor or free love to sinners as such; such free love as the Lord manifested when He was here on earth, in dealing with sinners such as the woman of Sychar, or Zaccheus, or the thief on the cross. They are representatives of sinners to whom this free love came, whom it welcomed, and whom it rescued.

This free love is essential to God, as essential as His power or holiness. I might as well deny, or limit, or qualify His power and holiness, as deny, or limit, or qualify His love. It belongs to Him as God; for God is love. He cannot but be righteous and powerful; so He cannot but be love. Nay, we might as well deny His being as His love. We might as well say there is no God, as say, God is not love.

This free love was not produced or purchased by Christ's death. That love existed before in all its largeness and freeness. Christ's death did not increase that love. It was wide as the heart of God, and could not be increased. Christ's death did not make the sinner a more suitable object for that love. The sinner was loved before; and it was love to the sinner that made the Father send the Son: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." That love rested on the sinner before. His circumstances as a sinner, so far from quenching God's love to him as a creature, increased it; for they added all the amount of misery, and gloom, and exposure to eternal ruin, which called up that profound and unutterable compassion which a father feels toward a prodigal child that has ruined himself. Nothing in us, nothing in the world, nothing in heaven or earth, nothing in man or angel produced the love of God. It was uncreated, unbought, undeserved, and unfathomable. God loved the sinner because He was God, and because the sinner was a sinner. That is the end of the matter. And what can we now say? Shall we not learn

 

"To lie embosomed in His grace

Till morning shadows flee?"

 

What folly, then; nay, what blasphemy, in any sinner to think to create, or to intensify, or to enlarge this love by qualifying himself for it, by making himself less unworthy to be loved. God cares for man, the sinner; let us be content to know this. The Lord's grace or free favor is not a thing to be added to or taken from. Man must take it as it is, and as he is, or go without it. Man's attempt to propitiate God, or to fit himself for being loved—whether by works, or convictions, or repentance, or feelings, or prayers, or ceremonies, or goodness—are mockery in the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. We are welcome to the whole free love of God. Let us take it at once, not trying to drive a bargain about it, or to buy it in any sense or way, but simply and at once to take it as the beggar takes the alms; as the prodigal took his father's love when he fell upon his neck and kissed him.

II. The word concerning it. For "the word of His grace" means not simply His gracious word, but the word concerning His grace, the message that announces His free love. We have, then, a word concerning this; a word once spoken, now written; a word of truth and certainty, a word as to which there is no ambiguity and no mistake; a sure and simple word; a word such as the following—"Hereby perceive we the love of God, that He laid down His life for us."

It is this word which constitutes our gospel—God's sure word as to His own free love. That word and that love change not; He whose word and love they are, changes not. Nor is there any counter-word to neutralize its power and meaning. Sometimes our own dark experience overshadows it; sometimes God's sharp dealings with us seem to say, "God is not love." But over against all this we have ever to set the gift of the beloved Son, the great demonstration and pledge of divine love, to which we ought ever to recur when doubts arise. What are all the evils of this present evil world to compare with the unspeakable gift of God? That gift infinitely more than outweighs them all.

O sinner, hear the word of God's free love. It sounds from heaven; it is reechoed from earth, it reverberates through the ages. It comes out from the cross, it speaks from the tomb; it goes forth to every creature; and in it God is thoroughly and profoundly sincere. He means what He says, and He says just what He means. God is love! There is grace in Him for you exceeding riches of grace, grace written out at full length in His book of grace, and embodied gloriously in the cross of the beloved Son.

"To lie embosomed in His grace

Till morning shadows flee?"

 

What folly, then; nay, what blasphemy, in any sinner to think to create, or to intensify, or to enlarge this love by qualifying himself for it, by making himself less unworthy to be loved. God cares for man, the sinner; let us be content to know this. The Lord's grace or free favor is not a thing to be added to or taken from. Man must take it as it is, and as he is, or go without it. Man's attempt to propitiate God, or to fit himself for being loved—whether by works, or convictions, or repentance, or feelings, or prayers, or ceremonies, or goodness—are mockery in the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. We are welcome to the whole free love of God. Let us take it at once, not trying to drive a bargain about it, or to buy it in any sense or way, but simply and at once to take it as the beggar takes the alms; as the prodigal took his father's love when he fell upon his neck and kissed him.

II. The word concerning it. For "the word of His grace" means not simply His gracious word, but the word concerning His grace, the message that announces His free love. We have, then, a word concerning this; a word once spoken, now written; a word of truth and certainty, a word as to which there is no ambiguity and no mistake; a sure and simple word; a word such as the following—"Hereby perceive we the love of God, that He laid down His life for us."

It is this word which constitutes our gospel—God's sure word as to His own free love. That word and that love change not; He whose word and love they are, changes not. Nor is there any counter-word to neutralize its power and meaning. Sometimes our own dark experience overshadows it; sometimes God's sharp dealings with us seem to say, "God is not love." But over against all this we have ever to set the gift of the beloved Son, the great demonstration and pledge of divine love, to which we ought ever to recur when doubts arise. What are all the evils of this present evil world to compare with the unspeakable gift of God? That gift infinitely more than outweighs them all.

O sinner, hear the word of God's free love. It sounds from heaven; it is reechoed from earth, it reverberates through the ages. It comes out from the cross, it speaks from the tomb; it goes forth to every creature; and in it God is thoroughly and profoundly sincere. He means what He says, and He says just what He means. God is love! There is grace in Him for you exceeding riches of grace, grace written out at full length in His book of grace, and embodied gloriously in the cross of the beloved Son.