I am reproducing one of the sermons of Brother Russell below entitled, "Salvation is For All By the Grace of God". While Russell was a not a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization, the JWs usually claim him as one of their own. Most JWs, however, know very little about what Russell taught about salvation; although the JWs may speak of "undeserved kindness", many of them seen to have very little knowledge of what "grace" means. At any rate, I thought that the following sermon of Brother Russell might, at least, help some of the JWs (and others who think that Russell taught salvation as do the JWs) to see the difference between what Brother Russell taught and what is being taught by the JWs. Names of Bible books have been expanded to aid in computer searches; some scriptural citations left out have been provided. Please note that I do not necessarily agree with all conclusions presented by Brother Russell. Some links are provided for various words and phrases to related studies. -- R. R. Day, Sr.
by Charles Taze Russell, St. Paul Enterprise, May 9, 1916
republished in Harvest Gleanings Volume III.
Lowell, Mass., May 7 -- Pastor Russell gave a very interesting address in this city this evening. As usual, he was heard with close attention. His text was, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation for all men hath appeared." (Titus 2:11) The Pastor said in part:
The word grace is a term which is peculiar to this Gospel Age. As used in the Scriptures, it has the significance of unmerited favor. Whoever believes in the grace of God, believes that he is privileged to have a favor that he does not merit. That which is merited would be justice; and it is not justice which we are receiving from the Lord, but mercy, favor.
To the nation of Israel God offered, through the law covenant, something peculiar to them. He gave them the privileges of coming into relationship with Himself. This privilege was not given to other nations. But God's favor was not extended to them upon the terms of grace. He offered Israel life upon condition of terms of grace. He offered Israel life upon condition of perfect obedience to the law covenant. (Leviticus 18:5) But their endeavor to keep the law merely demonstrates what the Apostle Paul and our Lord Jesus Christ point out, namely, the fact that no imperfect man can keep God's law. (Romans 3:20; John 7:19) The Bible explains why this is so. It is because God's law is adapted to perfect men, not to the imperfect. Hence it is that the imperfect could never gain life under the law covenant. (Acts 13:39; Galatians 2:16; 3:11) God does not purpose to have a Kingdom with imperfect subjects. -- Matthew 5:48.
The Almighty Jehovah has made full arrangements that all who attain life everlasting shall be perfect. Here it is that the work of grace comes in. This grace of God was brought to us through our Lord Jesus Christ. (John 1:17) It has appeared for all men, although it has not yet been manifested to all men; for the great majority have never yet heard of the grace of God in Christ our Redeemer. But it is for the benefit of all, "to be testified in due time." (1 Timothy 2:5-6) As yet the grace of God has appeared only to those who have heard and received the message of God "speaking peace through Jesus Christ." (Acts 10:36) It appeared to the disciples of Jesus who followed Him when He was on earth. It has appeared to all those who have since heard the message and become His followers. To these the Master says, "Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear." -- Matthew 13:16.
GOD'S GRACE REVEALED TO BELIEVERS
The Christ, the Anointed of God, had been promised for many centuries. But until the time of the First Advent the grace of God had not appeared. For 4,128 years after Adam fell there was no grace manifested, only the law and justice. But when our Lord Jesus came, "herein was manifested the love of God," as the Apostle declares. (1 John 4:9-10) God had this love all along, but it had not been manifested; for He wished mankind to learn a great lesson in regard to the effects of sin. (Ecclesiastes 1:2; 9-15) He wished them to learn their own weaknesses and their need of Divine assistance. So He permitted them to take their own course of waywardness and sin, in order that they might see that it would result in depravity of mind, body and morals, that it would lead them down the broad road to destruction. -- Matthew 7:13-14; Romans 1:22-32.
If God had not intervened, had not provided a recovery, all mankind would have slipped down that broad road to eternal ruin and death -- death, not eternal torture. God never provided eternal torture for anybody. A great mistake has been made regarding this matter. During the night of the Dark Ages people got the idea that God had purposed a devilish thing -- that He had provided a way for the vast majority to slip down to an eternity of torment. Once born, they could not help themselves, unless they were of the elect. But not so! As Bible students, we are finding that the Bible most positively and clearly declares that the "wages of sin is death;" that "the soul that sinneth, it shall die;" that the broad road leads to destruction. -- Romans 6:23; Ezekiel 18:4, 20; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Proverbs 2:22; Ecclesiastes 9:5,6,10.
The justice of God has been manifested ever since the fall of man. The power and the wisdom of God are manifested in all His great works of creation, in the planetary systems, in the human body. (Psalm 19:1-4; 139:14; Romans 1:20) But the love of God, the grace of God, had not been made manifest until our Lord Jesus came; and it is not manifested even yet to the whole world. (Romans 3:21; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16) Only a comparatively few have any clear perception of the grace of God as it shines in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ.
REVEALMENT OF TRUTH GRADUAL
When our Lord came to earth to become the Messiah and to die for mankind, even His apostles were slow to grasp the real import of His mission. (Luke 24:25-27) They could not comprehend that it was necessary for Him to die as a ransom-price for Adam and his race. (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:5,6) When He was crucified, they were sadly disappointed; for they had hoped that the Man Jesus would set up God's kingdom upon earth, would deliver the Jews from the Roman yoke and would use Israel for the blessing of the world. (Luke 24:17-21) They hoped soon to reign with Jesus in His kingdom. After His resurrection they understood much more clearly. But it was not until after Pentecost that they grasped the matter in full. (John 7:39; Acts 1:4,5; 2:32,33; Romans 5:5) Then they saw that He could not set up His kingdom to bless the world until first He became the Redeemer of mankind by dying for them; and that they themselves could not reign with Him until they had first suffered with Him and died with Him. -- Acts 14:22; Romans 8:17; Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 2:10-14.
The disciples then saw that as only one man Adam was sentenced to death all others dying in him so the death of only one man was necessary as a ransom, that the whole world might be purchased back from death. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22; Romans 5:12,18) The penalty for sin is death. (Genesis 2:17; 3:19; Ezekiel 18:4,20; Romans 6:23; James 1:15) Our Lord Jesus died, and thus laid down the sufficiency of price on behalf of the whole world. (1 John 2:2) God had dealt with only the one man Adam. Only one man had been sentenced -- Adam. When Jesus died, therefore, He was the equivalent, or corresponding price to Father Adam. His death fully offset the matter. (1 Timothy 2:5,6) It was sufficient to procure the release of the whole world; for the whole world was under condemnation, under the curse. Through the one man sin had entered the world. Therefore the death of the Man Christ Jesus furnished the price sufficient to ransom Adam and all his race. -- Romans 5:12-19.
Such is the beautiful picture that God gives us in His Word the beautiful story of the operation of His grace toward man. The philosophy of God's great plan is indeed clearer today then ever before; for the fulfillment of all its parts is at hand. The more we study the wonderful plan of God for human salvation, the more we grasp its fullness, the more are we in love with the glorious character of our Heavenly Father. As we see its lengths, breadths, heights and depths (Ephesians 3:14-21), we are truly "lost in wonder, love and praise!"
OPERATION OF GOD'S GRACE
As we have just said, this grace of God has as yet appeared only to a few, a "little flock." (Luke 12:32) But the revelation of His grace to these does not mean that God will overlook all their sins and imperfections, call them to Himself and give them all His gracious promises, just as they are by nature. (Ephesians 2:3) The grace of God does not operate in that way. There has been a "grace fund" provided in the death of Christ, sufficient not only for the sins and imperfections of this class, but for the whole world. (1 John 2:2,3) But God has His own arrangement as to how the merit of Jesus' death is to be applied.
Thus far the death of Christ has only opened up the "narrow way" for the Church (Matthew 7:13,14), and provided for their cleansing. (Ephesians 5:25-27) The Lord is now seeking those who have the courage and the strength to climb this rugged pathway. (Luke 13:24) All the grace of God now manifested is in this narrow way. Of course, the world are recipients of God's unmerited favor in the sense that He causes the sun to shine upon the evil and the good, and sends His rain upon the just and the unjust. (Matthew 5:45) He treats the whole world graciously; but He is receiving none into His favor now except those who have entered the strait gate and the narrow way.
God has not sent His message of grace to the heathen nations save to a very limited degree. (2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9) It was first sent to the Jews, and took out from amongst them the "Israelites indeed." (Matthew 15:24; John 1:47; Romans 1:16) Then the nation of Israel was set aside and left in the dark regarding the message of the Gospel Age. (Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34,35) God then opened the door of opportunity to the Gentiles, sending the Gospel principally to the civilized nations of Europe and later to America. (Matthew 24:14; Luke 24:47; Acts 10:15:14,19-48; Acts Chapters 13-20; 24-28) He knew what parts of the world would be most fruitful as respected His present message. -- Acts 26:17.
The Apostle Paul explains why it is that all mankind do not hear the message. "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not." (2 Corinthians 4:4) Even in the so-called civilized nations, the great majority have no ears to hear the message of God's grace; for they are under the same blinding influences. Only here and there is there a truly hearing ear. This class God is now taking out of the world to be a people for His name -- "a peculiar people, zealous of good works." -- Acts 15:13-17; Titus 2:14.
Some who for a time seem not to heed the message come later on to have a hearing ear. Perhaps something has occurred that changes the current of thought and purpose. Today there are many who have an ear to hear who did not have it a few years ago. The great European war has brought many people to their senses. They are listening now and asking, "What does this war mean?" Others have been sobered and set to thinking by severe afflictions. Some have lost friends whom they almost idolized. But these sorrows and sudden awakenings have proved to be their greatest blessings, for by these experiences their hearts have been turned to the Lord.
MEANING OF THE NAME CHRISTIAN
It is only with this peculiar people that the Lord is now dealing. The merit of Christ has as yet been applied only for these. Some may ask, "Do you mean that good, moral people, honest in their business and clean in their lives, are not Christians unless they are walking in this narrow way of self-sacrifice?" "Yes," we answer. Unless they have taken the definite pathway marked out by our Lord Jesus, they are not walking in His steps. (Matthew 16:24) Hence they are not Christians; for a Christian is a follower of Christ. To none others that the followers of the Master had God's grace come.
As others have watched God's dealings with His own people, they may have learned lessons of morality and obedience. Perhaps they have learned that fire burns, that sin brings punishment, and so have learned to walk decently and honestly; but they are still in the broad road. The only way to get out of that broad road is to get into the narrow way; and they get into the narrow way by accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior and making a full consecration of their wills and of their lives to God.
After one has entered the narrow way, there is still more for the grace of God to do for him. After one has come into Christ he is a new creature. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Of itself this new creature needs no grace. But this new "mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16) must tabernacle in an imperfect earthly body (1 Corinthians 6:19), which needs continual cleansing from earthly defilements. (1 John 1:9; Romans 6:12; 8:13; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 1:13-16) The new creature must use all the force of the new will to control the thoughts, words and actions of the mortal body in order to serve and glorify God properly. But while he is in the imperfect flesh, he cannot perform perfect deeds, even as the best musician cannot render a perfect melody on a very imperfect instrument.
As the Apostle says, "Ye cannot do the things that ye would." (Galatians 5:17) But we are to fill up the measure of our ability, by Divine assistance. If we do this we are reckoned perfect, through the imputed merit of Christ. This is where the grace of God comes in, after we have become disciples of our Lord Jesus. The Lord has arranged that if we are overtaken in a fault, we are to go to the Throne of Heavenly grace to obtain mercy and help for every time of need. Thus "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." -- Hebrews 4:16; John 1:7
As we apply daily for forgiveness for our unwitting transgressions, the blood of Christ keeps us cleansed. If we have yielded our will to any extent, we must suffer stripes proportionate to the degree of willfulness (Luke 12:47,48; 1 Peter 1:6); for God will not cover willful sins with Christ's merit. Fully willful sin in a child of God would mean to such a one the second death. (Hebrews 10:26) So we see the responsibility resting upon each one who has become a member of the body of Christ. He must make good or lose life altogether. This is a very solemn thought. The true Christian learns valuable lessons from his mistakes, and gradually grows strong in the Lord. (Ephesians 6:10) As in his daily experiences he notes the loving providences of God, his faith is increased and his love deepened. Appreciating more and more his own weaknesses, he learns not to trust in self, but in the Lord alone. He gains greater control over his natural infirmities of character, and thus is gradually transformed into the likeness of Christ. Thus the "grace of God that bringeth salvation" is made applicable to him.
RICHES OF DIVINE GRACE
This salvation has not yet been brought to the children of God, however. As yet they are "saved by hope" only. (Rom. 8:24) We are not yet fully delivered. When we receive our new bodies and are freed from all imperfections, we shall be saved in the complete sense. The Apostle Peter speaks of this salvation as "the grace which is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:13) So it was still future in the Apostle's day. But we believe that today we are very near to the revelation of Jesus Christ, and that the last members of the body of Christ will soon be with Him in glory. As they lay down their consecrated lives in death, they "will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye;" for "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God." -- 1 Corinthians 15:50-54.
This salvation we could never get of ourselves. We receive it only through the grace, mercy and favor of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Whoever becomes a member of the glorified church, the bride of Christ, becomes a joint-heir with our Lord "to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, that fadeth not away." -- 1 Peter 1:4; Romans 8:17.
But the grace of God only begins with the church. Just as soon as these are glorified with their Lord and Head, the narrow way will be out of commission at once; and another way will be opened up the Highway of Holiness, upon which men shall walk in the glorious new age soon to be ushered in. (Isaiah 35:5-10) This great highway will lead up to perfection of human nature; for the blessing to the world will not be a change of nature, as with the church, but will be the attainment of perfect human life and an Edenic earth. The redeemed of the earth shall walk upon this great highway, which shall lead to life everlasting upon the earthly plane. But only the willingly obedient shall walk up this highway. The willfully disobedient shall be destroyed. Oh, the grace of God is a wonderful thing! The grace that bringeth salvation to the entire fallen race, giving each member thereof a full individual opportunity to attain life everlasting.