The Riches of His Grace (continued)
The Works - The Appreciation of Grace
So much for the present about the character of grace, but you know that grace is always set over against "works". Although we are so familiar with this truth, let us just dwell upon it for a moment - upon "works" and "grace". You see this represents a change, a complete change and reversal of position. Grace changes place with works, or changes the place of works. Grace does not obliterate works. Grace does not say there are never to be works. Grace will demand works; and if it is rightly appreciated, grace will get much more and much better works than any before. But grace does just change the place of works, the works of the Law. What were the works of the law? What are the works of the Law? They are the works in order to get merit, are they not? To get merit, that is the idea. To get merit, to obtain merit, to pay God back with your merit.
Look at the scribes and the Pharisees. O, how abhorrent, how obnoxious, was their behavior, their activities and pretenses to the Lord Jesus Himself. They sought merit by works. Giving God something for His enrichment?! Yes, works of the Law to obtain merit were works to give as currency to pay God, thus putting God into our debt and making Him our debtor?! And are we doing all these things to get ourselves out of discredit and give our credit to God? When grace comes in, you see, grace puts the works in another place altogether and takes them out of the first place and puts them into the last. And instead of Law being first, it is just God's own grace without any works whatsoever to obtain any satisfaction and pleasure of God.
And then what? All works have not been ruled out of the universe. When grace has come in, if we have really grasped the meaning of grace, we will work more than anyone else has ever worked. But now they are the works of appreciation of grace, not to obtain it, not to merit it, but the works of thanks to God for His unspeakable gift of grace. It changes the place of things, puts things right around the other way. Someone has put this into a rather cryptic phrase: Works do not justify, but the justified person works. Well, that is quite true. "I labored," said the Apostle, "more abundantly than them all" (1 Corinthians 15:10). And that was true, but was he talking merit? - then he had no right to talk about grace. But he is the man who does talk about grace, and he "labored more abundantly than them all" because of the overwhelming grace of God to him. The position was entirely reversed, not law and works to obtain favor, but works of love and devotion because of favor obtained. It is a complete reversal.
God's Work of Grace
Now then, what about God's work of grace? What was true in the first material, natural creation is true spiritually in the new creation. You know that so well. It only needs to be mentioned, and at once you will see it. There was chaos, there was darkness, there was the absence of God. But God moved in and dispelled the darkness and turned the chaos into cosmos order and got to work: He got to work, step by step and stage by stage, upward, upward all the time, creating, ordering, providing a beautiful earth, a wonderful place. So is the description of it. Now He could look upon all His work and pass His verdict, it was "very good."
(continued with # 5)