Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Great Grace of God

The richness of the doctrines put forth in Ephesians is truly amazing.  These doctrines are a plentiful provision for hours of meditation and enjoyment.  It is always hard for me to read through the first three chapters without stopping and contemplating on one of the great truths that are included therein.

One of the things that makes this book so rich is how the the doctrines presented are interwoven with one another and support one another.  One of the doctrinal strands that runs through this book is the grace of God.  I am currently preaching through Romans and I have just finished with Romans 3:18, and if you are familiar with verses 9-18 of Romans 3,  you know that this section is God's testimony on the sin's absolute dominion over man and its result.  Man's utter sinfulness, his utter desperation because of his sin, his utter inability and complete lack of desire to come to God, and his utter unworthiness before God has been on my mind for the last few weeks.  With this backdrop in mind, as I was reading through chapter one of Ephesians one this week, the grace of God presented in the first few verses literally jumped off of the page at me.

What does man need from God, the God whom man has spurned, the God whom man has sinned against, the God whose holiness we will all be measured against and found so so lacking?  Man needs grace, not an idle grace, not a passive grace, not a benign grace, not an impotent grace, but an active all-encompassing, super-abounding, God-given and God-directed grace.  So as Paul dives into the deep end of the pool in laying out the doctrines of salvation in the first 3 chapters of this letter, he lays as the foundation of our salvation, the marvelous grace of God, and he wastes no time as he weaves grace in at the very beginning of this epistle.

Here is a short outline of grace in the first eight verses:

The Declaration of Grace vs 2
"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

This is a familiar greeting from Paul and he uses it or something similar in every letter.  In fact, it is so familiar that we tend to gloss over what is being said.  Have you ever wondered why this greeting is being used, and used every time?  What is God saying to His church, His people, those that He has purchased through the sacrifice of His Son?  He is declaring that grace has been given to us, mercy has been extended to us, His favor has been bestowed on us.  It is a potent reminder of the wonderful gratuitous benevolence of God to us.

Paul gives us an explanation of what this grace to you means with his statement in Ephesians 2:8, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God."  When we also consider this verse along with Romans 3:24 "being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."  we comprehend more fully just how gracious God is in His provision of salvation.  It is a gift, and through Paul's epistles He has declared it is from Me to you.

The Definition of Grace vs 3
"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."

Through the years I have heard many definitions of grace, from what the word means int the Greek to man's attempt to define it.  I think this verse most completely sums up the essence of what grace is.  It is God's blessing us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

Grace is God's blessing.  It is a spiritual blessing upon the heart and soul of man.  It has its origins and its climax in the heavenly places; and it is given and accomplished in and through Christ. There is an old song I learned in Sunday School and the chorus is, "Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your blessings see what God has done."  The blessing of grace is a multitude of spiritual blessings too numerous to count, and they go on for all eternity as we see in Ephesians 2:7 "so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."  The phrase "mind-blowing" does not even come close to describing the riches of the blessing of His grace.

The Beginning of Grace vs 4
"just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world"

The grace of God did not come about as a result of the fall.  No, the grace of God has been operative since before the foundation of the world.  Before time and creation, God's grace was already being bestowed upon us in His choosing of us.  Before we were born we were already the recipients of His marvelous saving grace as He placed us in His eternal redemptive plan.

The Purpose of Grace vs 4
"...that we would be holy and blameless before Him."

We know that the will of God for us is to be holy as He is holy in all our behavior (I Peter 1:14-16). We also know that in our flesh, in our own strength, by our own ability we cannot keep that command.  It is by the grace of God that we are made adequate to be holy before Him. Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20).  There is always a greater supply of grace available than the sin that entangles us.  Paul shows us the reality of this in his prayers for the Ephesians in 1:18-21 and in 3:14-20.  There is abundant spiritual power and abundant spiritual resources through this grace in which we stand (Romans 5:2).

The Foundation of Grace vs 4b-5
"In love he predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself"

The foundation of grace is the love of God.  The love of God for those whom He would call as His own, those whom He would adopt into His family, those to whom He would give His name. Because God is love, He is a God of grace.  Grace operates and flows out of the great love of God.  Paul says this very distinctly in Ephesians 2:4-5 "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)"

The Graciousness of Grace vs 5
"according to the kind intention of His will"

The Greek word for "kind intention" carries with it the idea of a benevolent purpose.  God's grace for us has as its end a benevolent purpose.  It is for our good, and our blessing, and our benefit that God bestows His grace upon us.  His grace for us is purposeful and deliberate, not random or whimsical.

The Result of Grace vs 6
"to the praise of the glory of His grace"

God's grace is indeed glorious, and should be praised.  Inherent in praise is the idea of thanksgiving. In our praise of Him we should indeed thank Him for His grace to us.  In consideration of all that His grace is and all that we have because of it, we should open our eyes to its glory and respond in praise.

The Cost of Grace vs 6
"which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved"

Grace is the unmerited favor of God.  We have done nothing to earn it, and our actions and attitudes toward God in our pagan state would not warrant it, so He freely bestowed it on us in Christ. We have grace because of what Christ has done on our behalf.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, we stand before God with no merits of our own, but with all the merits of Christ.

The Power of Grace vs 7
"In Him we have redemption, through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of His grace"

Grace, grace, God's grace, grace that is greater than all our sin.  A line from a hymn that states well the power of grace.  Sin cannot overcome grace, grace is greater than all our sin.  Where sin abounds grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20).  We are forgiven our sins, not because of anything we have done, but because of all that God has done; and it is all of grace. God extends His grace to us in His forgiveness of all of our sins, having nailed them to the cross.

The Measure of Grace vs 7b-8
"according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us"

The riches of His grace is immeasurable. When we stand in grace, there is grace as far and as wide as we can see.  We cannot outlive it, we cannot exceed its reach, we cannot use it up, we cannot diminish it in any capacity.  For whatever we need grace is available.  For whenever the need grace is available.  There is no limit to the grace of God, and He has lavished it upon us.  He has generously given us all the full measure of His grace, and it is inexhaustible.

We need grace from God, in all of its aspects, in all of our life.  Let us marvel together at the great grace of God that has been given to us through Christ.

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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