Sanctification is a work of the Triune God, but is ascribed more particularly to the Holy Spirit in Scripture… Though man is privileged to cooperate with the Spirit of God, he can do this only in virtue of the strength which the Spirit imparts to him from day to day. The spiritual development of man is not a human achievement but a work of divine grace. Man deserves no credit whatsoever for that which he contributes to it instrumentally.
If there was anything of man’s bringing, which was not of God’s bestowing, though it were never so small, it would overturn the nature of grace, and make that of works which is of grace.
Divine grace disdains to be assisted in the performance of that work which peculiarly belongs to itself, by the poor, imperfect performances of men. Attempts to complete what grace begins, betray our pride and offend the Lord; but cannot promote spiritual interest. Let the reader, therefore, carefully remember, that grace is either absolutely free, or it is not at all: and, that he who professes to look for salvation by grace, either believes in his heart to be saved entirely by it, or he acts inconsistently in affairs of the greatest importance.
The difference between grace and works is the difference between worship and idolatry. The man inebriated with the thought that all he has is Yahweh’s gift finds himself repeatedly on his knees, adoring, thanking, praising. But if we do not grasp grace we plummet into idolatry, for that is the inevitable corollary of self-sufficiency.
God’s grace to His people is continuous and is never exhausted. Grace knows no interruption and no limit. In contrast with the Law it stresses the dynamic character of the Christian life. Law can be mastered. A man may acquire merit by conforming to it. He knows the precise requirements that are demanded of him. But grace is always an adventure. No man can say where grace will lead him.
Let us consider what regard we ought to have to our own duty and to the grace of God. Some would separate these things as inconsistent. If holiness be our duty, they would say, there is no room for grace; and if it be the result of grace there is no place for duty. But our duty and God’s grace are nowhere opposed in the matter of sanctification; for one absolutely supposes the other. We cannot perform our duty without the grace of God; nor does God give His grace for any other purpose than that we may perform our duty!
“Grace reigns through righteousness”… Grace is never exercised at the expense of righteousness. Grace upholds rather than ignores our responsibilities toward God and toward our neighbor (see Titus 2:12).
Evidence we really understand God’s grace will be seen in our desire and ability to show God’s grace.
I wish I saw more of this understanding of God’s grace among people who profess to be God’s children – the forbearance, love, mercy, gentleness, forgiveness, the humility, the ability overlook sin if appropriate and the absence of legalism, haughtiness and self-righteous spirits. I’m tired of the condemning remarks, the fight to win attitudes, the always expecting my way pursuits and grace-less relationships that are too frequently seen in Christian marriages. No wonder a young girl in a church once prayed, “Lord, make the bad people good and make the good people friendly.”
All false religion is based on works to achieve God’s favor. And when you base it on works you will either use God’s Word as a means to obtain God’s favor or ignore God Word and create your own expectations. Both are deadly because both short-circuit God method of grace.
In respect to justification, grace stands opposed to works (Rom. 4:4-5; 11:6). However, in respect to sanctification, grace is the source of works. This simply means that whereas we are saved by grace and not of works, we are saved by grace unto good works. Good works are the fruit, not the root, of God’s saving grace (see esp. Eph. 2:8 -10).