A Brief Meditation for the Month

February 2024

Anyone who knows much about the German reformer Martin Luther knows that a considerable part of his life involved him in theological debate and controversy. They will also know of his struggle to find rest for his soul. All his works, however sincerely performed: all his prayers, penance, fasts, vigils, flagellations and pilgrimages, failed to achieve what he sought more than anything: peace with God. However hard he tried to obtain it; his conscience continued to accuse him. Luther’s discovery of God’s free and sovereign grace changed everything for him when he was enabled to rest by faith upon Christ and his saving work on his behalf. No theological term in his vocabulary meant more to Martin Luther than the word “grace.” As it was with Luther, so it was with the redeemed slave trader John Newton, who wrote with such emotion of the very sound of grace when he penned the words of personal testimony, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” He wrote so because of the experience of what grace is. No word speaks so sweet or more cheering to the ear of the poor, troubled, and anxious sinner than “grace.” Every redeemed soul learns how essential God’s grace is if they are to be reconciled to God, who is eternally, immutably, and inflexibly holy. They become convinced that without grace, they are without hope. However, they are brought to understand that without grace, they perish, but with grace, they are satisfied, and God is satisfied. They can then join with Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles: “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” 1 Corinthians 15:10. However, it should be noted that the apostle did not stop with these words. He continued, “And his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” For the apostle, the grace of God bestowed upon him had a life-changing effect. He didn’t just experience grace, but he lived his life by grace. The evidence for his experience of the grace of God was his life of grace or graciousness.

We are accustomed to hearing about “The doctrines of grace.” These are distinctive and distinguishing biblical doctrines to which we claim to adhere. Yet, it is possible to hold intellectually to the doctrine while the evidence for a personal experience of that grace is absent. God’s grace is not just a suitable subject for a conference or a good topic for conversation. It is a life-changing and life-controlling reality. Therefore, the daily life of the recipient of saving grace should be an exhibition of graciousness through actions, words, thoughts, motives, and personal attitudes. Nothing so distinguishes the individual who has experienced God’s grace as a humble walk with God. The prophet Micah testifies: “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” Micah 6:8. On one occasion, Martin Luther illustrated humility with an anecdote about two goats. He said: “If two goats meet each other on a narrow path above a piece of water, what will they do? They cannot turn back; they cannot pass each other. If they were to butt at each other, both would fall into the water and be drowned. What then will they do? Nature has taught them, one to lie down, and let the other pass over it; thus, both are unhurt. So should one man do to another; let himself be trodden under foot rather than quarrel and contend.” How many disagreements and disputes between believers would be quickly solved if such a policy were applied and adhered to? How often do pride and our egos foment strife and deny peace?

G. G. Hutton.