THROUGH false emphasis by many religious leaders, Christianity has become in the estimation of a large part of the public no more than an ethical system. The revealed fact, however, is that the supreme feature of the Christian faith is that supernatural, saving, transforming work of GOD, which is made possible through the infinite sacrifice of CHRIST and which, in sovereign grace, is freely bestowed on all who believe.
GOD has given instruction to those who are saved, it is true, as to the manner of life which is consistent with their new heavenly calling and standing in CHRIST; but in its spiritual blindness, the world, led by its blind leaders, sees in Christianity only the rule of life which is secondary. The blindness of the world at this point, with the consequent neglect of all that is vital in the Christian faith, is both anticipated and explained in the Word of GOD.
The two foundation truths which determine all spiritual perception are that, by divine arrangement:
(1) the Spirit is given only to those who are saved, and
(2) spiritual understanding is made to depend exclusively on the presence of the Spirit of GOD in the heart.
The precise body of truth which may be understood only through the ministry of the indwelling Spirit is described as, "things" related to the Father, "things" related to the Son, "things" related to the Spirit, "things" to come, and "the kingdom of God."
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually [by the Spirit] discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14).
"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).
"Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him" (John 14:17).
"But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ . . . should shine unto them" (II Corinthians 4:3, 4).
"The world by wisdom knew not God" (I Corinthians 1:21).
"He that is spiritual judgeth [discerneth] all things, yet he himself is judged of no man" (I Corinthians 2:15).
"Now we have received . . . the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God" (I Corinthians 2:12).
"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16:13-15).
"But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him" (1 John 2:27).
"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (I Corinthians 2:9, 10).
"Through faith we understand" (Hebrews 11:3).
Spiritual understanding is not, therefore, dependent upon human sagacity or learning; it depends only on the teaching of the indwelling Spirit. Possessing this Biblical testimony, misunderstanding at this point is without excuse.
Likewise, the terms upon which men may now be saved and thus receive the Spirit are as clearly defined in the Scripture. Salvation is by grace through faith. It is the result of the transforming work of GOD for man, and not the result of the work of man for GOD. It is that which GOD does for the one who trusts the Saviourhood of CHRIST. By that trust, CHRIST is personally received as the divine Redeemer who shed His blood as a sufficient ransom for the guilt and penalty of sin, as the One who reconciles by having taken away the sin of the world, and as the divine Propitiation who, as Substitute, met every indictment brought against the sinner under the holy government of GOD.
Since the Spirit is given only to those who are saved through faith in CHRIST, they alone are able to receive the particular body of truth which the Spirit teaches. Neglect of this fundamental, unalterable fact is the key-error of all modernism.
It is assumed by the modernist that any person whose education has qualified him to be an authority in matters of human learning, regardless of the new birth and the indwelling Spirit, is also qualified, because of that learning, to speak with authority concerning the things of GOD.
That the leaders of modernism are unregenerate men and therefore themselves spiritually blind is self-revealed by their attitude toward that truth which forms the only basis upon which, according to the Scriptures, a soul may be saved. When men avowedly disbelieve that the death of CHRIST was vicarious and substitutionary, they have rejected the only grounds upon which, according to the Word of GOD, the saving work of GOD righteously can be wrought for the sinner. Rejecting the saving truth of the Gospel, these men could not be saved upon any promise or provision of GOD. Though educated, religious, and sympathetic to the ethical ideals of the Bible, such men, being unregenerate, are of necessity totally blind to all that body of truth which is said to be imparted by the indwelling Spirit. Preaching and teaching under these limitations, Christianity is represented by them as a system of ethics only.
The first step in spiritual understanding is the knowledge of GOD as Father. "Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him" (Matthew 11:27)."And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).
Until GOD becomes real to the heart by the direct ministry of CHRIST as Saviour, all His ways and works are unreal. Not knowing GOD, the unregenerate mind is not satisfied with the explanation of the origin of things which declares that GOD directly created things as they are. To such a mind, it is actually easier to believe in a supposed natural development from nothing to something, and to hide all attending problems resulting from this theory behind the mists of a measureless past. If GOD is not real, there could be no inerrant Book; the Bible must be fallible as man; nor could GOD be manifest in the flesh; the Son of GOD must be of illegitimate birth, and though the greatest of all teachers, to them, He is really no more divine than ordinary mortals.
These blind guides are forced to give some explanation to the meaning of the death of CHRIST. They therefore contend that He died as an heroic martyr, a loyal patriot, as a wonderful moral example of fortitude, or to show the wickedness of sin. They utterly reject the only reason given in the Word of GOD for the death of Christ - He died that others might not die. They brand this saving truth as "immoral," and "unworthy of the goodness of GOD."
They understand little of the resurrection of CHRIST, His present ministry in Heaven, and nothing of the revelation that He is 'coming again'. To these religious leaders, their is no supernatural; for GOD is not real. There could be no immediate salvation through the Spirit. The salvation in which they believe is assumed to be the result of a self-created character, and the life to be lived is represented only as an heroic struggle of the flesh. If unregenerate men could understand anything better than this, the Word of GOD would be proven untrue.
It is equally true, that, those who are spiritually blind are unconscious of their blindness until they are saved by the grace and power of GOD through CHRIST. Coming thus into the light, they testify, as all who have ever been saved have testified: "Whereas I was blind, now I see."
They, like all the unsaved, could be aware of their blindness if they would receive the testimony of GOD concerning their own limitations; but this is precisely what they will not do. Therefore, a notable neglect of the most vital truths of Scripture and the denial of the essential glories of divine grace is to be expected from these religious leaders who reject the only grounds of salvation through the substitutionary death of CHRIST.
Modernists content themselves with borrowing some ideals from the Bible while reserving the right to reject whatever is not desired. Those portions which are acceptable to the unregenerate mind are received and taught as being authoritative on the basis of the fact that these ideals are in the Bible.
Here, indeed, is strange inconsistency on the part of men who pride themselves on their scientific reasonings.
The unsaved preacher or teacher, being able to comprehend only the ethical teachings of the Scriptures, is a living proof of the truthfulness of the divine Testimony. He cannot see the kingdom of GOD. He sees nothing of the glories of divine grace - the things of the Father, the things of CHRIST, the things of the Spirit, and things to come. He blindly ignores every dispensational division of the Word of GOD and is, therefore, free within himself to draw material from the kingdom teachings of CHRIST and from the law of Moses while constructing his world improvement, sociological theories which he imposes on a Christ-rejecting world.
Men of this character are sufficiently numerous in this day of apostasy to be responsible for the present day impression that the sole objective of Christianity is the improvement of human conduct. Being blind to the real principles and purposes of saving grace, they teach that it makes little difference what is believed, it is the life that counts. Against this is the overwhelming testimony of the Word of GOD that every aspect of salvation and every blessing of divine grace in time and eternity is conditioned only on what is believed.
Influenced by these misunderstandings concerning the Truth, few serious-minded young men will choose to enter the ministerial profession; for it would mean the assumption of the role of a mere moralist. Common modesty generally precludes such an assumption.
On the other hand, when the essential message of Christianity is seen to be the measureless, transforming grace of GOD with all of its eternal glories in the new creation in CHRIST, it is a challenge to the deepest impulses of the heart, and offers a ministry for which one may well sacrifice all.
Christians are ambassadors for CHRIST and are commissioned to preach the Gospel to every creature. This ministry does not consist in either the education or the moral improvement of lost men while they are on their way to hell; it is the proclamation of the mighty, redeeming, transforming grace of GOD which offers eternal life and eternal glory to all who will believe.
If it shall please GOD to use this exposition in any measure to the unfolding of the riches of His grace, the labor expended in its preparation will not have been in vain. This very inadequate treatment concerning the grace of GOD is committed to Him that He may in some way use its message to the glory of the Lord JESUS CHRIST.
Lewis Sperry Chafer
AUTHOR'S PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
The kind reception accorded to the first edition of this book is cause for thanksgiving to GOD. Appreciation has been general and far exceeding the merit. If there has been any blessing gained from the reading of these pages, praise should be given to Him to whom it alone belongs. As in the days of the Apostle Paul, the great issues of pure grace are sure to call out sincere question from those who, perchance, through a legalistic training do not comprehend its infinite glories. Such has been the kindly criticism of a very few out of the many.
After reviewing the book more carefully, could I recast it at all, I should perhaps give still greater emphasis to the exposition of the second of the two fundamental facts concerning the life under grace. The first being that, under grace, a separate, complete, and wholly independent rule of life is purposed for the child of GOD. Of that enough has been written. The second truth which might profitably be more fully developed is that of the new manner of life which is first wrought as a purpose in the heart by the Spirit and is then lived out in the power of the same Spirit, accompanied by that heavenly joy which always attends the realization of heavenly desires.
Everything in the walk under grace contemplates an overflowing, Spirit-filled life, and there is provision for any other. The carnal Christian is not urged to try to live a spiritual life; he is rather besought to yield himself to GOD, apart from which there can be no Spirit-filling with its realization of power.
The divine provision and plan for a life under grace is a perfect system in itself and rightfully cannot be combined or even compared with any other.
The successive steps in this system are:
(1) The age-characterizing fact of the Spirit indwelling every believer;
(2) The filling with the Spirit resulting in a joyous, abounding delight in the whole will of GOD; And,
(3), the imparted, enabling power of the Spirit which is sufficient for a complete realization of that will.
Is this grace-system a success? Is it really practical? Does the impelling love of a mother's heart provide a better care for her child than would be provided by a heartless obedience to a statute of the State requiring such care? The true answer is obvious.
If it is practical and if it be true that the power of inwrought grace is the one and only divine program for the life of the children of GOD in this age, how important is this body of truth! Under this relationship all human responsibility centers in that adjustment of heart by which alone the divine power may be realized.
If this great theme is new its careful and prayerful study with an open mind may lead to the discovery of the only way by which the divine glory may be realized through a human life.
May the blessing of GOD rest increasingly upon this testimony to His infinite grace.
Lewis Sperry Chafer