by Rev. D. H. Kuiper
"But the God of all grace, Who hath called you unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." I Peter 5:10-11
The God of our salvation is the God of all grace! This amazing attribute of God is rather well known to the believer, for he understands himself to be saved for one reason and that is the grace of God. (See Ephesians 2:8) Another reason why the believer, and especially the reformed believer, knows much concerning grace is that the doctrines of grace have played an important part in the history of the Reformed and Presbyterian churches. Various controversies and heresies brought these questions to the fore: is the grace of God resistible or irresistible? Is divine grace general (for each and every man) or is it particular (only for the elect)? Is the grace of God a power that assists the sinner, or is God's grace astonishing in that it completely transforms the sinner and makes him a new creature who is thus enabled to do good?
When the apostle Peter wrote his first general Epistle, he certainly had in mind the encouragement and comfort of those called to be saints. He wrote the letter to stir up the church unto a contemplation of "the God of all grace"! The Biblical terms for grace are important for us to understand. Basically the terms
mean that which is pleasant, attractive, or beautiful; not a superficial beauty of course, but a beauty that is rooted in ethical goodness and purity. The terms also refer to a pleasant attitude or disposition that one may have toward another. We read, for example, that Noah and the virgin Mary found grace in the eyes of God. Thirdly, and in close connection with the above, grace has the meaning in Scripture of undeserved favor or unmerited goodness that someone shows to another. When Paul writes in Eph. 2:8, "For by grace are ye saved ..." he means to say, "you are saved without any merit whatever, you do not deserve to be saved at all, but you are!"
With this understanding of the word grace, we can see that the grace of God is a sovereign or freely determined grace. Consider, first, that those upon whom God confers His grace are in themselves unlovely, unpleasant, and ethically ugly and impure. We are sinful, we have forfeited every right to the favor and blessing of God, we deserve only to be separated from God forever. But God, in His grace, decides to bestow upon such undeserving sinners life, spiritual benefits, and everlasting glory! God decides to give the undeserving the very opposite of what they deserve! Thus, grace stands in Scripture opposed to works, wages, or merit. And grace is synonymous with reward, free gift, inheritance. Beware that you do not attempt to change grace into works; beware that as you confess salvation by grace, you are not really meaning salvation by works. Today, as always, people like to play around with words and their meanings, but with the apostle Paul we must call for an end to this: "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work." (Romans 11:6)
That God's grace is a sovereign, freely determined grace, is shown, secondly, by the fact that grace is not for every one, but is God's amazing gift only for His people, the elect. In Exodus 33 God says, "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious." God gives His precious grace, not to those who will to receive it, not to those who make themselves worthy of it, but to those whomsoever He pleases. It is a matter of the good pleasure of His will!
Next let's look into the matter of God being the God of all grace. This implies, first, that God is gracious, beautiful, desirable, and pleasant in Himself. He is ethically pure and lovely! (See Psalm 27:4 and Psalm 16:11) Secondly, the God of all grace is the source and author of all grace. Wherever you find true beauty, real attractiveness, spiritual loveliness and charm, you may be sure that it is because God is there and God has worked! And if God is not present then there is no beauty, truth, or purity!
With the words "God of all grace", Peter has in mind especially the idea that there are different aspects to, different stages of, various manifestations of, the grace of God. Grace is very rich! Grace is always sufficient for the believer and for the Church as a whole. When the truth of the gospel is under attack, then we need the grace of courage and the grace of spiritual understanding and knowledge. When the evil one tempts us in our daily life, trying to conform us and our children to this world then we need the grace of wisdom and holiness. When we are under heavy loads of sickness and pain, adversity and want, disappointment and loneliness, we stand in need of grace to be patient, content, and humble. Of all these spiritual graces, God is the author, the giver, and the worker by His Spirit. In that way His grace becomes sufficient unto each day.
God reveals His manifold grace by "calling us unto His eternal glory in Christ Jesus". God's eternal glory is the radiation of His matchless virtues in the new creation, when His church will not only observe that divine glory, but shall actually participate in having it revealed in and through her. (See Romans 8:18) All the grace, the beauty, the attractiveness, the truth, that belongs to God is in the man Christ Jesus. The fulness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily. And because Christ dwells in us and we in Him, as believers, the glory of God in Christ is ours; it is in us! We have and shall never lose the glory of God, now in principle, and one day in final perfection.
We have such glory becuase God has called us, and God has called us with a gracious calling. It is here that it makes all the difference in the world whether we view the grace of God as resistible or irresistible. If the calling that comes through Christ and His Gospel is be resistible grace, then it is weak and uncertain, and may be compared to an invitation, an offer, or some kind of pleading. But if the calling comes to us from Christ and His preached Gospel is by irresistible grace, then it is powerful and sure, and can only be compared to a summons, a command, and a divine imperative! The difference between the Arminian and the Calvinist on this point, as on all others, is great. The Arminian has a weak grace, he has a grace that tries to accomplish great things, but man is able to resist and frustrate that grace. But the Calvinistic or Reformed, truth of Scripture teaches an irresistible grace and an irresistible calling! Whom God calls by His Word and Spirit, without exception, comes to God! Whom God calls, without exception, are translated out of this world into the kingdom of His dear Son. Many are called (that is, hear the message of the Gospel with their ears), but few are chosen (that is, have that message of the Gospel applied to their hearts by the Spirit so that they repent, believe, and live forever).
Have you been called by God savingly out of darkness into marvelous light? If so, that calling results in suffering for you. The calling is into fellowship with Christ and His suffering. Those sufferings are on the foreground in I Peter5; verse nine speaks of "the same afflictions (which) are accomplished in
your brethren that are in the world." And verse 10 teaches that we shall be perfected "after that we have suffered a while." Concerning this suffering we ought to note several points. First, we do not suffer alone but we may be assured that all the brethren undergo this suffering for Christ's sake. Further, it is for a little while, or as Paul writes elsewhere "Our light afflictions, which is but for a moment." (I Cor. 4:17-18) Finally, our present sufferings are necessary for us to endure. They work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Suffering works glory, and it is impossible to receive the glory God has prepared for us except through a certain measure of tribulation.
An important question for us is, Do we suffer, do we have affliction in this world as the brethren do? We do not have in mind physical infirmities and pains; we do not have in mind suffering that we bring upon ourselves, perhaps because of a wagging tongue. But we mean suffering that comes to us because the God of all grace has separated us from the world, has given us a place in the Church of Christ, and has made us children of light in a world of darkness. Is that true of us, or are we strangers to that? It seems that many in the church don't experience what the Word of God insists is the only way of life for the pilgrim Christian. Why is that? The answer is compromise. We are confronted by some issue, by the necessity of making a certain decision; we know that if we take the way of faithfulness we will involve ourselves in all kinds of difficulties and troubles. And so we take the easy way out by making some kind of a compromise. We'll avoid the unpleasantness. We won't testify against sin, we won't avoid the company of evil men, we won't pray in public places. We won't take a stand on important issues of life ..... in short, we refuse to live antithetically in this present evil world. And that's no good! For one thing that puts us out of touch with the brethren, with our fellow saints, who need us in the time of trial. for another thing, by adopting compromising positions in various ways, we fail to testify to the glory of God's grace, that it is sufficient at all times.
The God of all grace promises us, as we face many temptations and afflictions in life, that after He has caused us to suffer a little while, He will make us perfect or finish us. And all these hardships which we are called upon to endure are the tools which God uses to accomplish that perfecting of us. Thus, even hardships must be seen as manifestations of the grace of God to His children. God promises to perfect each saint by establishing, strengthening, settling him in the faith no matter what the hardship or opposition.
Let us lay hold of that promise, doubting nothing. And let us join the apostle in this doxology: To that God of all grace, beautiful, pleasant, the longing of my heart and soul, be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.