I’ve begun looking at the story of David and Goliath as a lens through which to view five different doctrines:
In my last post we saw that preaching is not like a military briefing to troops on the front line. It’s the war correspondent heralding the victory of Another to an otherwise hopeless people. It’s about His victory for us, not ours for Him – this should be the heart-beat of our preaching.
Now I want to think a little bit about grace.
It’s interesting in 1 Samuel 17 that David brings bread to his brothers from his father’s house, Bethlehem – the house of bread (v17). Now if this constituted our whole conception of grace then what would we have? We’d have, typologically, Christ bringing His people heavenly provisions so that they can win their battles. Grace would be construed as the sovereign gift that empowers our efforts to achieve the victory. Yet, this conception of ‘grace’ is seriously deficient:
- it makes David’s victory at best incidental
- it throws all the emphasis onto our battles (no matter how much David’s bread is praised!)
- without David’s victory, David’s bread may as well have been poison.
David’s bread only makes any difference in the light of David’s victory. Once their Champion has won, then the bread is useful, empowering them to plunder the Philistines. But grace is first and foremost the victory of David on behalf of his people. His provision is a secondary grace that only gains efficacy from his vicarious triumph.
Yet how often do we operate with a basic conception of ‘grace’ as, effectively, providence that empowers our efforts. I remember when I first became a Christian writing out a short gospel presentation on a sheet of A5. It ran something like this:
- God is sovereign and all sufficient
- Therefore no one can give Him anything
- Therefore we can’t earn our salvation
- Therefore He must give it to us
- Therefore what God requires of us He also provides in us
- In this way He sovereignly works salvation in us
- This is what we mean by ‘grace’
What’s missing from my presentation? How about Jesus? How about the whole darned gospel?
If this presentation were true then God could save us by working anything in us . As long as He empowered it, salvation could be a matter of pilgrimmages to Bognor Regis, life-long abstinence from toast and self-flagellation with rancid eels. So long as you claimed that such acts were ’empowered from on high’, it would still be ‘all of grace.’ Apparently. Even if the pilgrimmages were required daily – you could still claim that such activities were the work of God in us to achieve what He also required.
But I hope we can recognize that this is far from what the bible means by ‘grace.’ ‘Grace’ is not simply another way of describing some abstract ‘sovereignty’. Grace is another way of declaring the victory of Christ to which we contribute nothing. The two are very different.
How about we fix the last three bullet points from the above presentation:
Grace is the victory of our Anointed King on behalf of a people who are fainting with fear and about to desert. It’s not bread to help you win the day. Not first and foremost. It’s something entirely outside yourself and it happened on a hill called Golgotha. Living by grace is not first and foremost looking to sovereign provisions. First and foremost it’s looking to the cross.