Why are there differences in grace?
William Guthrie (1620–1665) was minister of Fenwick in Ayrshire who is best known for his valuable book on salvation and assurance The Christian’s Great Interest.
13 Oct, 2022

Every believer has their own strengths and weaknesses even in the graces that the Lord has given them. Some are known for the grace of wisdom, others stand out more for their grace of love, while yet others are clear examples of the grace of patience. The woman of Canaan in Matthew 15 distinguished between those of the Lord’s people who seem to enjoy His close company (just like children are part of the family meal table), and others who only seem to catch the crumbs and leftovers that fall off the table. It is legitimate to wonder why the Lord chooses to do things this way, instead of giving each of His people the same (large) amount of grace to see them through their life in this world. William Guthrie examined exactly this question when he preached a sermon on the woman of Canaan. In the following updated extract he shows some of the Lord’s reasons, as well as some responses that are appropriate from us.

Why does the Lord keep or make these gradations and differences in His way of dealing to His people? You would think it would be much better for God to give a large stock of faith, love, patience, etc., to all His people, and that this would be more for their comfort than when they are kept at such a great distance from Him, and with such a scanty measure of gifts and graces.

We may think so, but He is much wiser than we.

To enhance the fellowship of the saints

The Lord has resolved to give out diverse administrations to the body of which He Himself is the Head. He wants His body to have different members, and He wants them to serve Him with different qualifications. In the body He wants eyes, hands, feet, etc. And yet they are only the one complete body! They are still just the one communion of saints. But this would not be possible if they were all alike. “You know more than I do,” says one, “and have greater understanding in the matters of God.” “Well,” says another, “but I love more than you do. You think you would do more for Christ than I would do, but it may be if there was something to do for the cause of Christ I would fight better than you would for all that.”

To make us value Christ’s intercession more

By this varied manner of His administration, the Lord keeps the ransom still in request, and the intercession of Christ in heaven still in request. For if we had it in our own hand, Christ would soon be out of work for all the employment we would give Him, and we would soon lose respect to the ransom. But now when infirmities appear from day to day it keeps the ransom still precious to the soul. Oh, is not Christ precious to the soul when the soul realises, “I have had much from Him, but I need much, and I need to have more from Him!”

To accommodate what earth can bear

The Lord knows that the earth could not bear grace in its perfection. This is why the Lord has given out grace in small measures. Only in Immanuel’s land is the full and uninterrupted breathing of the Holy Ghost. That is where the Lord has determined to transplant all the trees of grace eventually. Created things while here cannot bear perfection.

To sharpen the difference between earth and heaven

The Lord intends that there shall be a clear difference betwixt earth and heaven. And oh, how sweet will heaven and Christ be, and the fulness of joy that is at His right hand, to the poor creature who never could be satisfied with Him here on earth! If folk could get a satisfying sight of Christ here on earth, they would lose interest in heaven and eternal glory. Oh, but heaven and perfection will be sweet to those who could never get their corruptions mortified here in this world, but were trampled on by them day by day; and many a sigh they heaved and many a groan for their redemption while on earth. Oh, but heaven and glory will be sweet to them! since the hopes of it are sometimes so sweet and comfortable even now in this militant state.

How can we make best use of the measure of grace we have?

Given these differences in the administration of the graces, please see that you do not misunderstand the Lord, or go away with an evil report of Him, though you do not find in yourselves the degrees of grace that others have.

Be thankful for it

Whatever crumbs of grace you have, always account them essential bread and do not despise them, even supposing you get no more at present. Never rest, though, until the reality of grace exists within you. Make sure of this, and then have a respect to all His commands. Acknowledge God in this, and thank Him for it, although you cannot attain to a greater degree of grace.

Although I wish you would covet the best things, yet I want you to be thankful for the least things you have received. Be thankful, even if you have not attained to such a frame of heart as you would have desired.

Don’t be jealous of other believers

I pray all of you that you do not judge others because they are not the same size as you. It is a miserable evil in these times that a dreadful spirit of jealousy prevails against those perceived to be below us in understanding in the things of God that are now being debated. Yet when it comes to the point, those may be as particular in their confession of the truth as you will ever be, and may perhaps abide by it better. Neither on the other hand are you to think that those who can speak better in these things than you can are under a delusion.

Keep looking to the Lord whose grace it is

Remember too that it is not your grace that wins the day, but the sovereignty of God’s grace. If those who have a great deal of grace are often foiled by corruptions, what will happen to those who have only a small degree of grace? If someone who only has a third degree of grace resists a temptation and comes honourably through it, how much sin and shame belongs to you who are soiled and snared by corruption, when you have received grace in the sixth degree?

You have to realise that it is not the degrees of grace that hold out against corruption and enable you to resist temptations, but the sovereignty of grace. Therefore trust much to Him and His sovereignty, and trust only little to grace received even in the highest degree, for often those from whom least is expected prove most forthcoming for the glory of God. Who would have expected this of the Canaanite woman? But she proves an astute and wise woman! “She worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”



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