Monday, 18 March 2013

grace all the way back

God himself, in many different ways, prepares for his gracious work in human hearts. He aroused in Zacchaeus the desire to see Jesus (Luke 19:3), produced distress in the crowd that listened to Peter (Acts 2:37), caused Paul to fall to the ground (Acts 9:4), disconcerted the jailer at Philippi (Acts 16:27), and so directs the lives of all his children even before and up to the hour of their rebirth. 
Even if on their part they have not yet received the benefits of reconciliation and justification and have not yet been born again and given faith, yet they are already the objects of his eternal love, and he himself already leads them by his grace to the Spirit, who alone can regenerate and comfort them. 
All things, accordingly, are connect by divine prearrangement to their subsequent 'enlistment' and calling in the church. Conception and birth, family and lineage and people and land, upbringing and education, development of heart and mind, preservation from hideous sins, above all from blaspheming the Holy Spirit, or perhaps abandonment to all sorts of wickedness, disasters and judgment, blessings and benefits, the preaching of law and gospel, distress about sin and fear of judgment, development of conscience and the felt need for salvation: all this is grace preparing people for rebirth by the Holy Spirit and for the role that they as believers will later play in the church. 
True: there is only one way to heaven, but many are the leadings of God both before and on that journey, and the grace of the Holy Spirit is abundant and free. Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and Timothy were brought into the kingdom differently from either Manasseh or Paul, and each performed a different task in the service of God. Pietism and Methodism tend to ignore these leadings, limit God's grace, and want to convert and mold everyone according to a single model. but Reformed theology respects the free sovereignty of God and marvels at the riches of his grace. (p40 Reformed Dogmatics: vol. 4: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation)

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