Thomas Chalmers was a pastor in Scotland … arguably the greatest Scottish pastor that country has ever known. Born 1780 – Died 1847. His sermon “The Explusive Power of a New Affection” is perhaps his most famous work. And while I have heard it quoted tons of times, and have read quotes from it, I had never until this weekend read the whole text of the sermon. WOW! My heart has been shaped by so many of the grand truths of the Gospel that he unfolds here. And while much was a refreshing and a clarion call to truths I hold dear, I was struck by a clear and simple statement he made that caught me a bit off guard. I’m just not sure I’ve ever thought of this truth as clearly as I have until reading this. I could literally quote dozens of statements that I highlighted and wrote “Wow!” in the margin, but I’ll cut directly to the “aha moment” I had with Chalmers and the Spirit of God.
“The freer the Gospel, the more sanctifying is the Gospel; and the more it is received as a doctrine of grace, the more will it be felt as a doctrine according to godliness. This is one of the secrets of the Christian life, that the more a man holds of God as a pensioner, the greater is the payment of service that he renders back again.”
This might possibly be the clearest connection made to the grand doctrines of grace and the practice of obedience I have ever read. When we fail to understand and embrace the sovereignty of God in salvation and the inability of man to do anything toward saving himself we likewise fail to understand the complete sanctifying work of the Gospel. When the Gospel is not free, man is much quicker (perhaps even bound) to make his obedience a method of payment to God for what He has done in the Gospel. We understand works righteousness and the evil of the human heart to be performers … it’s in all of us. And we understand obedience is to be a joyful act of worship as sons and daughters. But so many go down the path of preaching “the requirements” of the Gospel, though perhaps not phrased that way. Sermons, books, seminars that are about “commands and to-dos”, because after all how else will we get people to be holy. Now, of course these days, Gospel preaching is much more popular, but is the Gospel preached as free? Not merely as a “free” gift, but “free” of strings attached. It is either free or it is not free. You either have to do nothing, or must oblige God with your life of denial. This is where people start to get freaked out. Isn’t this too what Paul echoed “Shall we sin so that grace may abound” … the teaching in there being that our sin (and our obedience) can’t decrease (or increase) God’s free grace. Augustine said, “Love, and do what you will”. The point again, love is the only response to a free gift, not drawing up a legal contract for monthly payments. Free Gospel heralded … The sanctifying power of the Gospel felt in our lives completely and utterly apart from our works of obedience. I’ll let Chalmers have the last word on this …
“It is only when, as in the Gospel, acceptance is bestowed as a present, without money and without price, that the security which man feels in God is placed beyond the reach of disturbance – or, that he can repose in Him, as one friend reposes in another.”
For Your Freedom through the Free Gospel,