God’s Grace Gives Hope For Revival
By Rich Carmicheal
A criticism occasionally leveled toward Herald of His Coming is that this ministry is too optimistic. Such criticism usually comes from those who believe that the world and the Church are spiraling downward, and there is no hope or biblical support that a great outpouring of salvation and revival can yet take place. While we agree that conditions are dire in the world and in much of the Church, we remain firm in our belief that there is yet tremendous reason and hope for a great spiritual awakening. We do not believe this because of man’s worthiness or abilities, but because of God’s worthiness and ability! One of several particular reasons for such hope is God’s marvelous grace.
In an article in the June issue of the Herald, Richard Owen Roberts shared a number of terms and phrases used in the past and present to describe revival. In one section of that article he writes: "Isaiah pled with God to rend the heavens and to come down (Isa. 64:1). Our current scene is readily depicted by a vast layer of heavy clouds between heaven and earth. The idea of God taking His mighty hand and parting these clouds and then tipping the heavenly vats of divine mercy and pouring fresh graces upon the land is very attractive. Through the years numerous expressions have captured this aspect of revival including: ‘The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit,’ ‘The Pouring out of the Spirit from on High,’ ‘A Remarkable Outpouring,’ and ‘An Outpouring of the Spirit of Grace.’ My favorite phrase in this category is that old Puritan expression, ‘A Plentiful Effusion of Divine Grace.’"
As I consider that wonderful phrase, "A Plentiful Effusion of Divine Grace," the church in the Book of Acts comes to mind. Luke writes that one of the characteristics of these early believers was that "much grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:33). They certainly had "An Outpouring of the Spirit of Grace" or "A Plentiful Effusion of Divine Grace"! And notice the beautiful description of a church abounding in grace: "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:42-47; see also 4:32-35). What a glorious picture of what the Church can be! And at the heart of such spiritual vitality and impact is an abundance of God’s grace.
Of course, the picture of the Church is not always so glorious. For example, the church described in the Book of James is a church marked by fights, quarrels, covetousness, prayerlessness, selfishness, worldliness and envy (James 4:1-5). The heart of the problem for these believers was pride, and James reminded them that "God opposes the proud…" (4:6). Their pride created a barrier that prevented God from pouring out on them the same abundant measure of grace that He had poured out on the church in the Book of Acts. Nevertheless, even in their pathetic condition, James still offers hope for a larger measure of God’s grace upon them: "but He [God] gives us more grace…" (4:6). In other words, James is saying that God is able to give more grace than the church has sin. The Apostle Paul states it this way: "…where sin increased, grace increased all the more" (Rom. 5:20). So no matter how bleak conditions may be in the world or the Church, no matter how much sin may increase, God’s grace is greater. And not only does God have such wonderful grace to give, He is eager to give it and promises to give it to those who humble themselves before Him. As James writes, "God…gives grace to the humble. …Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up" (Jas. 4:6,10).
God, by His very nature, is a God of grace, eager to forgive us, heal us, help us, guide us and bless us. The Apostle Peter refers to Him as "the God of all grace" (1 Pet. 5:10), and the writer of Hebrews describes His throne as a "throne of grace" (Heb. 4:16). His supply of grace is abundant (Rom. 5:17), surpassing (2 Cor. 9:14), sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9), glorious (Eph. 1:6) and full of incomparable riches (Eph. 2:7). He freely gives us His grace (Eph. 1:6), lavishes His grace upon us (Eph. 1:7-8), and pours it out on us abundantly (1 Tim. 1:14).
God’s grace flows from His heart as a gift, completely undeserved by us (Eph. 2:8; 2 Tim. 1:9). Although it is freely given to us, it is of the greatest cost to God, coming through the sacrifice of His Son. As Paul writes, "…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand…" (Rom. 5:1-2). Similarly, Paul writes that God has freely given us His glorious grace " …in the One He loves. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace" (Eph. 1:6-7). Grace comes to us at Christ’s expense. Thus, the familiar acrostic: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Because of the worthiness of Christ and the price He paid, we continue to have access to the grace of God. Though we are never to sin that grace may increase (Rom. 6:1-2), we can rejoice that the grace of God that comes through our Lord Jesus Christ is greater than our sin! As the blessed hymn proclaims, "Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin…Broader than the scope of my transgressions, Greater far than all my sin and shame…."
O how precious such grace is, and how powerfully it can impact our lives! This grace is able to build us up and give us an inheritance (Acts 20:32); it helps us stand fast (Rom. 5:2; 1 Pet. 5:12); it enables us to reign in life through Christ (Rom. 5:17); it equips us for ministry (Rom. 12:6; Eph. 3:8); it transforms us into new people in Christ (1 Cor. 15:10); it enables us to do the work of God (1 Cor. 15:10); it helps us develop holiness and sincerity (2 Cor. 1:12); it produces overflowing joy and rich generosity, even in the midst of severe trial and extreme poverty (2 Cor. 8:1-2); it enables us to abound in every good work (2 Cor. 9:8); it enables God’s power to be made perfect in our weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9); it brings salvation (Eph. 2:8; Titus 2:11); it is the means for eternal encouragement and good hope (2 Thess. 2:16); it strengthens us (2 Tim. 2:1; Heb. 13:9); it helps us in a time of need (Heb. 4:16); and it "teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives…" (Titus 2:12).
Our hope is that God will open the heavens and pour out such grace upon the Church so that in our day it can be said that "much grace is upon them all." And, as noted earlier from James, God is not only able to give such grace, He is eager to do so and promises to give it to those who humble themselves before Him. The Apostle Peter writes similarly, "...Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.... And the God of all grace...will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast" (1 Pet. 5:5-10). These passages bring to mind a familiar Old Testament passage with a tremendous promise: "If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chron. 7:14).
Our Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is just as willing and able to pour out grace as He has ever been. The fact that conditions are so dire is all the more reason to humble ourselves before Him and seek His face. Indeed, many fellow believers throughout the world are doing this very thing, turning toward Him in repentance and humility, and asking Him to pour out His grace and glory upon the earth. Let’s unite in prayer with them, and in humility seek the grace that will bring salvation and revival to many. Let’s turn our eyes heavenward, remembering that our hope is in the God of all grace who is able and eager to give us more grace!