JTTH: Amazing Grace (Part Three)

Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear

And grace my fears relieved

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed!

This second verse of Amazing Grace might seem a little strange to some. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear? What is that supposed to mean?

When men are unconverted, they don’t care about the state they’re in. They don’t believe that God’s wrath is something to be feared, for they believe that it will never come to them. They don’t truly understand their terrible condition, neither do they care that they’ve offended God. This nonchalant attitude toward their crimes reflects their low estimation of God Himself. Paul Washer writes,

Blind men find no beauty in a sunset, deaf men are not moved by even the most beautiful sonata, and brute beasts have no appreciation for art. In a similar fashion, unregenerate, unconverted, carnal men are spiritually blind, deaf to God’s Word, and in bondage to a brutish heart that would sooner feed its animal lusts than taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). For this reason, Jesus exclaims that unless a man is born again he cannot even “see” the kingdom of God, let alone esteem its worth (John 3:3). [1]

I feel like I’m going back to the doctrine of total depravity a lot in this series, but I think this is justifiable since Scripture so often expounds it as well. Because when it comes down to it, that doctrine is the foundation of biblical anthropology; therefore, we must understand it before we can try to understand anything man does, thinks, or says.

As Mr. Washer points out, unregenerate man does not fear God because unregenerate man does not see a reason to fear God. He does not see the Creator as wonderful, the Lawgiver as just, or the Holy One as holy indeed. Therefore, not seeing God as worthy of honor, he does not see himself as worthy of punishment for dishonoring Him. If unconverted man does not perceive that God reigns righteously in the highest heaven, he will never perceive himself to be destined for and worthy of the lowest hell.

But that raises another question: How can an unconverted man, who is carnal and depraved in all his deeds, thoughts, and inclinations, be made to see the holiness of God and the wretchedness of his own soul? If he must be born again before he can even see the kingdom of God, how on earth can he be born again, if he can see no reason to be?

The answer is grace. Unconverted man cannot be made to see himself or God rightly until the saving grace of God has changed him. He can feel bad about his sin because of the consequences of it, or even because he wants to be a good person and sin prevents him from reaching that goal—but conviction never comes rightly from a wicked heart. Unconverted man cannot naturally come under real conviction, which is the godly sorrow over sin that leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-11). It takes an act of God to break man’s stony heart and make him realize where he stands before a holy and righteous Judge. Scripture makes it clear that there is nothing men can do to be saved. As dead men, all we can do is respond once Christ has given us life.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 (emphasis added)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Ephesians 2:4-10

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. 

Ephesians 1:3-8

…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light…For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:12-14

It’s critical to note that salvation is always spoken of in Scripture as an act of God alone. The language of the last passage above is especially noteworthy: “the Father, who has qualified usHe rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption…”

There is nothing in that verse that speaks of man doing literally anything. You know why? Because man can’t do anything. (For some reason I can faintly hear voices saying “We get the point!”) Salvation cannot be found in anyone or anything other than solus Christus—Christ alone.

The grace of God works upon a soul to bring it to life and a right understanding of God and His holiness, and it’s only when we have that correct view of the Lord and His marvelous attributes that we can truly tremble because of our sin, because we will realize how great even our smallest offense really is when it has been committed against an infinite, holy God. Then and only then we will see the need to repent of our sins and cling wholly and only to Christ for salvation.

Grace breaks us through the law, and then heals us through the gospel. It shatters our idols–our Dagons and our shrines of self-righteousness–at our feet and points us to the blood-stained cross of Jesus Christ. It makes us tremble before the throne of the Lord, then comforts us with the mercy He freely extends. This trembling and breaking is necessary, for it is only when we see how wretched we are that we can see how great God’s gift of atonement through Christ really is. That’s why we can sing, with joyful and grateful hearts,

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear

And grace my fears relieved

And now, with their sins washed away by the blood of the Savior, every saint gladly shouts and proclaims,

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed!

SDG <><

[1] Washer, The Gospel’s Power and Message, pg. 61.

This is the eighth installment in the Journey Through the Hymns series. A new installment will be posted each Wednesday until the series’ completion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: