GRACE AND DISCIPLINE

G Bruce Grant

John 1: 14, 16-17

Jeremiah 48: 11

         I have read two scriptures: one refers to “grace upon grace”; the other refers to “from vessel to vessel”.  It goes on to say in the second scripture that Moab had not been changed, but the divine intention is that there would be change: a spiritual, moral change that is always proceeding.  This first scripture is speaking of the Lord Jesus, “And the Word became flesh”: the wonder of it!  He was here amongst men.  Some appreciated Him and that appreciation grew; John - and there were others -  contemplated His glory.  It says He is “full of grace and truth”; that is in the Lord Jesus, “full of grace and truth”.  These features were both in Him; grace comes first, because in dealing with men grace needs to be first, but also truth.

         I was specially thinking about verse 16, “for of his fulness we all have received, and grace upon grace”.  There is what is in Christ; He is the source of grace, and John is speaking from experience.  John says, “for of his fulness” - and he is including others - “we all have received, and grace upon grace”.  There were those that were companying with the Lord.  We think of John's experience when he wrote this gospel, and what he is saying is, “for of his fulness we all have received, and grace upon grace”.  That is the impression left upon John, that what he received from Christ was grace upon grace.  I ask myself if I have ever been left with that impression.  Do you have that substantial impression on your soul? 

         When we first believe the glad tidings, we are impressed with divine grace.  That is the principle of the gospel; grace towards us in the way of blessing.  It would not be gospel otherwise.  It is an experience that meets our need, takes all our liabilities away, our debt away, our guilt, the penalty due to us; but it does more than that.  The gospel brings in the full light of God's thoughts of blessing for us, and that is grace also; therefore it is “grace upon grace”.  If all our guilt, our sins, are met, that is an amazing thing, but the gospel includes more than that.  It is the height of blessing that God has devised in His heart of love for us, and that is all on the principle of grace. 

         Our eternal blessing is on the principle of grace.  We are left here in our pathways, going through different circumstances in our lives, and do we have the impression through these circumstances that it is “grace upon grace” that is supporting us in these circumstances?  It is a wonderful thing if that is the case.  It brings restfulness to your spirit, contentedness.  You have a greater appreciation of Christ because He is the Fountain and Source of that grace.  As we know, there are family sorrows, and the deepest of all are assembly exercises.  Have we been left with the impression through these that there is fulness of grace in Christ, “grace upon grace”?  What personal exercise John had; he saw the public breakdown.  Paul saw the breakdown.  They did not give up; they proved “grace upon grace”, and kept on going.  It sustained them; it formed them.  I think others have said that it is not only meeting need; it does that, but it forms us, forms us in our spirits and our souls, this fulness from Christ, grace upon grace.  It is something we experience; we have to prove it individually; it never changes.  It is a great thing to realise what is in Christ in all that we pass through to support us, to help us through, this fulness of grace.  It is a great thing to be left with that impression upon your spirit, that it has been and is “grace upon grace”.

         In Jeremiah it is “from vessel to vessel”.  “Moab hath been at ease from his youth”; that is never a good thing: a lack of exercise does not do us any good.  He “hath settled on his lees”: That suggests lack of exercise in spiritual things, not being emptied from vessel to vessel.  It is speaking of wine being emptied from vessel to vessel to take it off the lees; it speaks to ourselves of discipline.  That is necessary to bring about change with us, and it is absolutely essential to see that divine love is behind what the Father passes us through.  It is negative here, but the point for us is not to be at ease, not to settle on our lees, and we are to be emptied from vessel to vessel.  That will go on all the time we are here. 

         What discipline others have gone through!  You think of Mary and Martha in John 11, what they went through in regard to their brother, but as coming through that with the Lord, the Lord meant more to them as they were emptied from vessel to vessel.  They appreciated the Lord; obviously they appreciated the Lord more at the end of that exercise than at the beginning.  So what exercises the saints pass through, deep exercises.  They are emptied from vessel to vessel, going through discipline with the Lord, and with the Father, having to do with divine Persons through it.  There is a slow but sure gradual change with us.  “Therefore his taste hath remained in him”; taste is very much from our side; it is what we do: we taste things.  “Taste and see that the Lord is good”: that is your own experience; you taste, you acquire a taste; so “his taste hath remained in him”, just the same.  But I think we acquire spiritual taste as we go through exercise; we acquire a spiritual capacity if we go through exercise, and that is a great thing.  A change comes about as we go through exercises with the Lord.  A parallel thought might be “the renewing of your mind”, Rom 12: 2.  As we pass through spiritual and moral exercises, our taste changes, and we appreciate divine things which we may not have appreciated fully or sufficiently before. 

         Then it says, “and his scent is not changed”.  If we think of John 11 and 12 again, what scent there was then: “and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment”, John 12: 3.  Others could appreciate that scent.  So we pass through discipline, emptied from vessel to vessel, our tastes change, and then our scent is changed also.  There is what is for the divine pleasure in it.  None of what the Lord passed through was of the character of discipline.  He was always perfect - perfect for the Father's heart - but in our case as we pass through discipline there should be this change of taste, and also a change of scent, and that is what others appreciate.  What different kinds of discipline the saints are passing through, but there is fulness of grace in Christ and it is all with a divine end in view.  Divine Persons do not work in a haphazard way.  They have an end in view with each of us; once they have secured us through the gospel, divine Persons never give up.  The Holy Spirit never leaves us, and the Lord and the Father are always interested in us for our good.

         May we be encouraged, especially by this thought of the fulness of grace in Christ that is there for us.

Word in a ministry meeting, Dundee

19th January 2016