THE BOOK OF GRACE
David J Wright
Luke 4: 16-22
Today is the day referred to in this scripture when this book of grace was opened. It had remained closed for many years. Many persons would have gone into the synagogue before and read from Isaiah 61 where this is quoted from. But this day was different because what Isaiah 61 spoke of was going to be fulfilled in the One who read it in that synagogue on that day. This book of grace has remained open for well over two thousand years. God has been long-suffering, in the wonderful dispensation of grace in which we are. The Lord’s day has come around again in which the gospel of the grace of God is being preached. The day in which we are will soon be closed. When it will be closed is in the Father’s time, but at the moment, today, the day remains open. It is the day of opportunity; will you take the opportunity or will you miss it?
Do you think it was easy for the Lord Jesus to fulfil this section in the book He had opened? It was not easy. Why? Because it meant that Jesus, firstly, took the stoop into manhood and, secondly, took the stoop into death; and, in going into death, He bore God’s judgment for sin. In those three hours of darkness when He was forsaken of God, He was made sin, that which was so abhorrent to Him. He was the only One that could meet the sin question to God’s full satisfaction and therefore the only One that could open the book of grace.
He dwelt in Nazareth where He was brought up, outwardly the same as any other man. Persons would have been His neighbours, but the Lord Jesus, although coming in lowly guise, was the Creator of the universe. He was God, never ceasing to be what He was by reason of what He became, but perfect in what He became. Heaven never witnessed before a Man coming into this scene in flesh and blood conditions, sin apart, and it has never been witnessed since.
Do you know this One? Have you let Him into your heart? We sang at the outset
Christ is the Saviour of sinners (Hymn 122).
Do you reckon yourself to be a sinner? It is one of the first steps in soul history, to recognise you have a need and that need can only be met by Jesus, and He has provided a basis for it in the shedding of His precious blood. The sacrificial basis lay in His redeeming blood whereby God could come out in righteousness; in forgiveness, but righteous in forgiving. Think of the feelings of Jesus in coming into this scene and seeing the effects of the ravages of sin, and His heart was filled with compassion! Luke’s gospel emphasises that. There are several instances in Luke’s gospel when it says Jesus was “moved with compassion”.
The Lord Jesus deliberately unrolled this book to this scripture: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach glad tidings to the poor”. Do you reckon yourself to be among the poor? God is not calling “righteous persons, but sinful ones to repentance”, Luke 5: 32. Do you reckon yourself that you are a debtor, you are poor? The Lord Jesus speaks in this gospel about a fifty pence debtor or a five hundred pence debtor, chap 7: 41. The psalmist says, “Behold, in iniquity was I brought forth, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps 51: 5); and we have a debt, and it is a debt that we cannot pay ourselves, but Jesus has taken on the whole sin question in order that on the basis of “repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20: 21) that debt can be cleared. Have you ever thought about the greatness of the blessing of knowing that your sins are forgiven? Should we not be the happiest people who know, and can point to,
… the atoning blood
And say, This made my peace with God (Hymn 357)?
Do you know the peace of having your sins forgiven, put behind God’s back (Isa 38: 17), never to be raised again? What stability it brings into your soul, what joy it brings into your soul, since it was a debt that you could not pay! But Jesus has paid the price. We are not our own for we “have been bought with a price”, 1 Cor 6: 19, 20. This was the Man who opened the book of grace, and He is stretching that arm of grace out to you today. That “hand is not shortened that it cannot save”, Isa 59: 1. That hand can reach into your heart. Would you yield your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ? Is He not worthy of it? He has paid the debt that you could not pay. As we were in our sins and away from God, unable to help ourselves, God has moved from His own side. He has drawn near to man in a Man, One who had the feelings of a man. He is the One who opened the book of grace, gave God a righteous basis to come out in blessing towards all.
Then it says, “he has sent me to preach to captives deliverance”. We sang -
Long I was chained in sin’s darkness,
Now by His grace I am free.
God would allow you to come to a point of extremity in your soul as He did with the prodigal son in Luke 15 in order that you might appreciate the grace that has reached you and has saved you from a situation in which you could not help yourself. Think of that man that had demons and dwelt among the tombs. He came into contact with the Lord Jesus and those demons could not stand before Him.
Disease, and death, and demon,
All fled before Thy word (Hymn 189).
And those demons that had been in that man, in his heart, for so long, had to come out at the voice of Jesus. That man so long ‘chained in sin’s darkness’ sat “clothed and sensible, at the feet of Jesus”, Luke 8: 27-35. That, dear friend, is the gospel. What grace! Scripture abounds with persons who are brought to extremity and yet not out of reach of the Lord Jesus Christ. Nobody in this world today, whatever their history, is out of reach of the Lord Jesus Christ. Be assured of that! Whatever has entered into your history, the blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son is able to cleanse from every sin, 1 John 1: 7. That is the Man who opened the book of grace at tremendous cost to Himself.
Then it says, “and to the blind sight”. There are many instances in Scripture, in the gospels, of the Lord Jesus giving persons sight. The man in John 9 comes to mind. The Lord Jesus put mud on his eyes. You might ask how that would help a man that was blind? It would only make the situation worse. You can picture that man going to the pool of Siloam with mud on his eyes. What a picture it would be! And do you know what that was? That was “obedience of faith”, Rom 1: 5. When God’s word comes to you, obey it! It is the way of blessing. He could say, “One thing I know, that, being blind before, now I see”, John 9: 25. Persons told him that the Lord Jesus was a sinful man. He says, “If he is sinful I know not. One thing I know, that, being blind before, now I see”. What can you say about what has been effected in your soul? Is it just one thing? Thank God if it is just one thing! You could say, ‘Well, I know my sins are forgiven. I had that out with the Lord. I know I am a sinner and I am saved by His grace’. Thank God for that! But this man in John 9 was faithful to the light he had. He hung on to one thing. What can you speak of in the way of experience in your soul? Do you know that you have been justified by faith in Christ and not by good works? That was the experience of Martin Luther, and he went before the Diet of Worms knowing one thing, that he was justified by faith in Christ and not by good works; and therefore he was unmoved by the entire power of Rome.
By the end of the chapter in John 9, the man knew more than one thing. When he was cast out, the Lord Jesus found him. Jesus had been cast out before him. He found him and He says to him, “Thou, dost thou, believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, And who is he, Lord, that I may believe on him?”, v 35, 36. His need was met but he was not just content with that. If fresh light was brought to him, he was ready to respond to it and the light flooded into his heart in relation to another Man in another world, the Son of God, and it led him into the flock of the following chapter.
What blessings these are! The Lord Jesus has come to preach, to give the blind sight. There was another man who had a touch from Christ and he saw “men … as trees, walking”, Mark 8: 24. Things were out of proportion. But, then, he gets another touch. If you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, what will flood into your heart is the distinctiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus alone. He “saw all things clearly”, v 25. I think that involved that he saw Christ in His distinction, and that is what the gospel will do. It will leave you with Jesus alone.
Then the Lord read, “to send forth the crushed delivered”. There was a man called Saul of Tarsus, who was an enemy of the testimony. When he found those of the Christian way, he dragged them off to prison, Acts 22: 4. He became a great general in Satan’s army. One day he was on the road to Damascus in order to annihilate the testimony there, and Jesus appeared to him. What grace! It was the book of grace that was open, even to such a man as Saul of Tarsus. It was grace that broke him down. Later he could say, “by God’s grace I am what I am”, 1 Cor 15: 10. The Lord said to him, “I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest”, Acts 9: 5. What grace that was! You might say that God would have been justified in striking the man down because of his history. But He did not because the book of grace was open. Then Saul went to Damascus, blind, a broken man; but the Lord came “to send forth the crushed delivered”. Later in Colossians Saul could speak about being “delivered … from the authority of darkness” and being “translated … into the kingdom of the Son of his love”, chap 1: 13. Authority was most attractive in Christ. Saul not only knew the Lord Jesus as his Saviour but he owned him as his Lord.
You might say he was “crushed”, but the word was, “But rise up and enter into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do”, Acts 9: 6. You might say, ‘Well, the Lord could have told him Himself’, but He said, “enter into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do”’. So Saul was introduced into the Christian circle. He was introduced into a circle where Jesus was loved and revered, a contrast to what he was used to, “breathing out threatenings and slaughter” (Acts 9: 1); and the disciple Ananias was adjusted by the Lord Himself to introduce him into the Christian circle. So “he said, Saul, brother, the Lord has sent me”, v 17. I think the germ of all Paul’s ministry can be traced to his conversion. He saw the value of the Christian circle; he saw the value of the assembly, and it worked out in his ministry. The gospel is preached not only to meet your need but to introduce you into a circle in which Christ is the Centre. It is a provision of God in the provisional time in which we are.
Then it says, “to preach the acceptable year of the Lord”. Do you think that is just one year? Do you think that is just 2016? “The acceptable year of the Lord” is about two thousand years old. It is the book of grace that was opened, “the acceptable year of the Lord”. Take advantage of it! “To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts”, Heb 3: 7, 8. We cannot speak about tomorrow. It may be something different tomorrow. It may be that the day of grace will be closed, but at the moment the book is open. “This is the day that Jehovah hath made”, Ps 118: 24. The Lord Jesus on the cross said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, Luke 23: 34. It was the heralding in of the wonderful dispensation of grace in which we are.
“And having rolled up the book, when he had delivered it up to the attendant, he sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon him”. Everything the Lord Jesus did was in the dignity of the anointing. It is not only what He did, but in the way in which He did everything, He glorified God. “And he began to say to them, To-day this scripture is fulfilled in your ears”. That is what made this day different. The One that could fulfil that prophecy in the Old Testament was the very One that was standing there: “To-day this scripture is fulfilled in your ears”. There was the One who was great enough to carry it out. Nobody else could; everything for God has been secured in that glorious Man. “And all bore witness to him, and wondered at the words of grace which were coming out of his mouth”.
What a Saviour we have to present in the gospel! Is your heart open to Him? Are you conscious not only that your sins are forgiven but that you have received the gift of the Holy Spirit? The gift of the Holy Spirit makes Christianity a real thing in your soul, a real experience. Without the gift of the Holy Spirit you would not understand what this means, but the Holy Spirit makes it living in your soul, and He draws attention to the Man in heaven, the One who opened the book of grace. Now, the Lord sits on the Father’s throne, and while He is sitting there the book of grace will remain open.
There is soon coming a time when He will take up His own throne and that will require another book to be opened. That is the book referred to in Revelation 5. It says, “And no one was able in the heaven, or upon the earth, or underneath the earth, to open the book, or to regard it”, v 3. John wept because “nobody was found worthy to open the book”, v 4. That book is yet to be opened and it will not be opened until the book of grace has been closed. That book refers to judgment. Great David’s greater Son is the only One that can come into this scene and restore order. I am thinking of the problems now for governments in this world, and nobody has the answer to them, and all is ripening for the appearance of the man of sin, but there is One who is worthy to open that book of judgment, and He will come and everything will be subdued to Himself. You remember that the Scriptures never record David in the Old Testament having lost a battle. The One who will come again, and will subdue all things to Himself, is David’s greater Son. He will be worthy to open that book, and then He will come and reign without a rival for one thousand years in this world. What a day that will be! But for the moment it is the book of grace that is open. He remains a Prince and a Saviour at God’s right hand. I would desire that if you have not extended your arm in faith to Him, and given your heart to Him, you do it now because tomorrow the book of grace may have closed.
May God bless the word!
14th August 2016