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The Eschatology of Grace


Although law and grace operate with the same moral standard, the eschatology of grace—what it teaches us about things to come—is infinitely brighter than the eschatology of law. Indeed, the eternal future of those under grace holds nothing but unending glory and blessings. But the only thing the future holds for those who remain under the law is death and eternal damnation.

Here is the fundamental difference between law and grace. The law makes no promise to sinners other than the guarantee of judgment. For those still under the law, the return of Christ will signal the final outpouring of the judgment to come, and it is a terrifying prospect. But God’s saving grace teaches us to be “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Law threatens judgment and pronounces a death sentence. Grace grants forgiveness and promises eternal blessings. The law points to the sinner’s past, filling the guilty heart with fear and regret. Grace points to the believer’s future and fills the forgiven heart with gratitude and hope.

. . .

The “glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (v. 13) is the blessed hope we look forward to precisely because Christ’s appearing in glory will mean the total and permanent removal of sin from our experience, and we will instantly be transformed and perfected.

For the moment, we groan, together with all creation (Rom. 8:22), but it is not a hopeless complaint, nor is it a cry of defeat. We are “eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (v. 23). “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

—John MacArthur, The Gospel according to Paul (Thomas Nelson, 2017), 126–128.

Denigrating Grace

To be under grace and out from under the condemnation of law means that “sin shall not have dominion over you” (Rom. 6:14). It does not mean Christians no longer need to resist the coercive power of sin. It means grace equips them with the strength and the will to resist temptation. “It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). On the positive side, grace teaches us that “we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12). Having a right standing before God because Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, it is only fitting that we should seek to honor that perfect righteousness and seek (by God’s grace) to conform ourselves to it. How could grace teach otherwise? “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Rom. 6:1–2). For Paul, the idea that someone who had been redeemed from judgment and transformed by God’s grace could blithely or willfully continue in sin was absolutely unthinkable. In other words, grace does not deliver us from hell without also delivering us from our bondage to sin. Those who teach otherwise don’t exalt the principle of grace; they denigrate it. —John MacArthur, The Gospel according to Paul (Thomas Nelson, 2017), 125–126.

Purified and Zealous

Grace does more than get sinners out of hell—so much more. Grace not only brings salvation; it also instructs and motivates believers to live righteous lives. Paul says so expressly in a brief discourse on grace in Titus 2:11–14: For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Clearly, then, grace is far more than bare forgiveness. It is not a vacuous get-out-of-hell-free token. Grace is active and dynamic. It has past, present, and future implications for every believer. Paul portrays grace as an instructor, “teaching us.” This goes well with the imagery he applied to the law in Galatians 3:24: “The law was our tutor.” The Greek word translated “tutor” is a unique expression, paidagegos. It refers to a child’s guardian. It is derived from two words meaning “boyleader.” “This was a caretaker tasked with supervising a nobleman’s son. He was custodian of a wealthy family’s children (not a “schoolmaster,” as in the KJV). He did indeed act as a tutor to the children, especially in matters of behavior and morality, but he was not their formal instructor. In fact, one of his tasks was to bring the children to school. That is precisely how Paul portrays the law in Galatians 3:24—the law’s tutorial function was to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” So the law is more like a nanny or a child-care specialist; grace is the master teacher. —John MacArthur, The Gospel according to Paul (Thomas Nelson, 2017), 119–120.

No Contradiction

Although a proper distinction between law and gospel is necessary, we must be careful not to set them at odds to each other. Obviously grace and law are vastly different principles. In some ways they contrast starkly. Though both are found throughout Scripture, law was the dominant theme in the Old Testament: grace is the central message of the New Testament. “The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). The law judges sinners guilty, but grace grants believers forgiveness. The law pronounces a curse; grace declares a blessing. The law says, “The wages of sin is death.” Grace says, “The gift of God is eternal life” (Rom. 6:23). Furthermore, as we have said from the beginning, the gospel is not a call for sinners to save themselves. It is not advice about something the sinner must do to gain salvation. It is not about the sinner’s own self-betterment. The gospel is a message about God’s work on behalf of the sinner. It is an account of what God does to save sinners. It is about how God justifies the ungodly. That is precisely what makes the true gospel so starkly different from almost every counterfeit version of the Christian message. That’s why the gospel is good news. It is a glorious message about liberty from the law’s curse and condemnation (Rom. 8:1). It sets us “free from the law of sin and death” (v. 2). Sound doctrine therefore demands that a clear distinction be made between law and grace. But if you imagine that grace establishes a new standard of righteousness that contradicts the law, or if you think of the law itself as an evil influence, then you have not listened carefully enough to what Paul and the other apostles taught. “Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law” (Rom. 7:7). After all, “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4)—meaning the law shows us what sin is. The law also defines righteousness for us (Deut. 6:25). Grace speaks more benignly than law, but the two do not disagree about what constitutes sin and righteousness. And don’t imagine that the principle of justification by faith renders obedience unnecessary for Christians. The fact that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to believers does not give them license to live unrighteously, it motivates them and gives them a constant desire to pursue practical righteousness. Although our own good works, obedience, and holy living are not in any way the ground of our justification, they are nevertheless inevitable fruits of genuine faith and one of the vital tests by which saving faith can be distinguished from mere pretense. “Every good tree bears good fruit. . . . Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matt. 7:17, 20). As we saw in the previous chapter, believers are saved “for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). —John MacArthur, The Gospel according to Paul (Thomas Nelson, 2017), 118–119.

Amazing Grace

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. —Ephesians 2:1–10 Those who struggle with the doctrine of election and the principle of divine sovereignty have not thought deeply enough about the horror of human depravity and what it means to be dead in trespasses and sins.” No one but God could ever rescue a sinner from that condition and then elevate that person to a place of privilege in heavenly places. Who else could ever accomplish that? . . . Don’t lose track of the reality that if we received what we deserved we’d be damned for all eternity. Yet God does not merely grant believers a reprieve from the judgment we deserve; He exalts us to an unfathomably high position in Christ. This is no temporary benefit, but an eternal blessing, done so that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). God certainly “is rich in mercy” toward sinners (v. 4). Think of that when you hear the hymn “Amazing Grace.” God’s grace is vastly more amazing than you could ever imagine with a finite mind. The English word rich in Ephesians 2:4 only hints at the sense of the original. The word actually suggests spectacular, overabundant wealth. (The noun form of that same word is used in verse 7 with a superlative modifier that accents the lavish grandeur—“exceeding riches”—of divine grace.) The truth is, no human language could adequately convey the concept. Grace is amazing indeed. God saves unworthy sinners in order to honor them forever “in Christ Jesus.” —John MacArthur, The Gospel according to Paul (Thomas Nelson, 2017), 105–106.

Lord’s Day 28, 2018

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” In Him we live and move and exist —Acts 17:28 Hymn 19. (C. M.) Our frail bodies, and God our Preserver. Let others boast how strong they be, Nor death nor danger fear; But we’ll confess, O Lord, to thee, What feeble things we are. Fresh as the grass our bodies stand, And flourish bright and gay; A blasting wind sweeps o’er the land, And fades the grass away. Our life contains a thousand springs, And dies if one be gone; Strange, that a harp of thousand strings Should keep in tune so long! But ’tis our God supports our frame, The God that built us first: Salvation to th’ Almighty name That rear’d us from the dust. [He spoke, and straight our hearts and brains In all their motions rose; “Let blood,” said he, “flow round the veins,” And round the veins it flows. While we have breath, or use our tongues, Our Maker we’ll adore; His Spirit moves our heaving lungs, Or they would breathe no more.] —The Psalms & Hymns of Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Book II: Composed on Divine Subjects (Soli Deo Gloria, 1997). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about #LordsDay from:thethirstytheo !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+"://";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: O Lord, Thou Judge of All the Earth

O Lord, Thou Judge of All the Earth Distress Psalm 94 O Lord, Thou Judge of all the earth, to whom all vengeance doth belong, arise and show Thy glory forth, requite the proud, condemn the wrong. How long, O Lord, in boastful pride shall wicked men triumphant stand? How long shall they afflict Thy saints and scorn Thy wrath, Thy dreadful hand? Be wise, ye fools and brutish men; shall not He see who formed the eye? Shall not He hear who formed the ear, and judge, who reigneth God most high? The Lord will judge in righteousness, from Him all truth and knowledge flow; the foolish thoughts of wicked men, how vain they are the Lord doth know. That man is blest whom Thou, O Lord, with chastening hand dost teach Thy will, for in the day when sinners fall that man in peace abideth still. Unless the Lord had been my Help, my life had quickly passed away; but when my foot had almost slipped, O Lord, Thy mercy was my stay. Amid the doubts that fill my mind Thy comforts, Lord, bring joy to me; can wickedness, though throned in might, have fellowship, O Lord, with Thee? The wicked, in their might arrayed, against the righteous join their pow’r, but to the Lord I flee for help; He is my Refuge and my Tow’r. —Hymns to the Living God (Religious Affections Ministries, 2017). I could not find a video of this tune. You can listen here. The current hymnal for this series is Hymns to the Living God, recently published by Religious Affections Ministries. This is such a good hymnal that I’m pretty sure I could happily post every hymn it contains, but I’ll be limiting selections to hymns I have never posted here before, especially those unfamiliar to me (of which there are many). For more information and to purchase this hymnal, visit Religious Affections Ministries.

Present Reality
“But God . . .”
The Miracle of Regeneration
So Nearly Parallel
The Gospel’s Center
Lord’s Day 27, 2018
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Lord, We Bow before Your Glory

Righteous before God
The Taint of Sin
A Hairy Tale
A Stumbling Block
Bad News
Lord’s Day 25, 2018
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: To God the Only Wise

Begging Ambassadors
Atonement Heresies
Independence Day, 2018
Gospel Distractions
Deeds of the Law
Lord’s Day 26, 2018
In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: King of Glory, King of Peace


Who Is Jesus?

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