“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight,” – Ephesians 1:7-8 (ESV)
What is it like to have someone lavish good things on us? ‘Lavish’ is not a word we use enough but it means so much and when used in today’s context, it is a blessing and a promise. It means to pour out, to abound and our promise is that God has already poured and continues pouring out in abundance the riches of His grace. We don’t deserve grace and we can’t earn it. Grace is given to the undeserving by the will and action of God. The term ‘redemption through His blood’ is used here and is an act of paying the required ransom to God for the release of a person from bondage. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross where he bled and died, paid that price for every elect person enslaved by sin. It was Jesus Christ’s gracious action that bought each of us who believe out of the slave market of iniquity. The price of redemption was death. The promise of redemption includes the limitless grace of God, and forgiveness of sin. This promise brings divinely-bestowed spiritual understanding. This is what God has poured out lavishly, beyond our imagination because He loves us.
“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” – 2 Corinthians 4:15-16 (ESV)
It is true that the physical bodies are by nature in a steady decay. There is no miracle or magical method that will arrest what the Apostle Paul calls ‘wasting away.’ That fact does not stop our unending search for renewal; attempting to find ways to slow the physical decline and maintain the vitality of youth. Our verses come in this chapter just after Paul has detailed what he has experienced in his body on account of his effort to bring the gospel and teaching of Jesus Christ to them. All that has happened has been for the sake of those who were served in Paul’s ministry. In other words, when the gospel enters the hearts and lives of an ever-increasing number of people, God’s grace abounds. These are fellow believers who begin to lead unbelievers to Christ. And as a result, all believers now live to please God and express their thanks to him. The effect of physical decay on Paul is that he does not lose heart and we shouldn’t either. We are promised that the eternal part of us which is within our soul and spirit is renewed every day.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God…” Galatians 2:20 (NASB)
The Apostle Paul made this statement, “I do not nullify the grace of God…” in a confrontation with those who wanted to compel new Gentile Christians to follow the Jewish Law. Paul argued that if righteousness and salvation were possible through obeying the law, then Christ died for no purpose. Being ‘good enough’ will never save anyone. We are declared righteous by what Christ did for us on the cross. Once was a young boy who was on a raft in the middle of a deep lake with his father. His father was diving off the raft to move it to shore, on one dive, the boy lost his balance and fell into the water. In a panic he tried to swim up but couldn’t. He was too far under water to reach the surface. As the boy went down a second time his father grabbed his arm and pulled him up and back onto the raft. There was nothing the boy could’ve done in that circumstance to avoid drowning. His salvation depended fully on his father. The boy added nothing – he didn’t nullify what his father’s did. That is the same with the grace from God that saves us.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.” – Romans 5:1-2 (NASB)
Day to day we may not, very often, think about the grace in which we stand. Considering that grace in our lives is pretty much limited to the word “gracious” which, means kind, polite, civil, tactful, and courteous. Grace, however, is much more than politeness or civil behavior. Our promise in today’s verse is powerful because it explains what grace brings to us. Because of the grace God has for us we, who in faith believe in Jesus and His words, have been justified. Notice the “have been” there? It is past, it is a done deal. Being justified provides for us peace with God which is also by grace, our possession. We have such a possession of peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ and it is through Christ we were introduced by faith into this marvelous grace. We really need to think about this deeply and frequently. It is a gift which continues to develop into more gifts from God. The last promise is hope, and hope is ours because of what God has fully done for us by grace. It a hope for which we can triumph in the glory of God.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Weakness is bad, right? None of us seek to be seen as weak even if we are weak. These words were written as a testimony by the Apostle Paul. Paul tells of a prayer he had earnestly prayed three times asking God to remove a problem that he called “a thorn in the flesh.” We do not know just what it was while many who also do not know speculate with assumptions. What we do know is that God knows what is best for us and everything that He does for us is for our best even when it is not what we asked for. God knew what was best for the Apostle Paul. God also knew the perfect solution for his problem. Paul acknowledged his weakness; it had a purpose – to glorify God. Paul learned to even boast of his weaknesses. If we are true children of God we will want more than anything else, that God’s name will be glorified. We want to realize that His power is perfect and all that he does is perfect. When God does not do just what we ask of Him, He always gives us the grace and power to overcome.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, 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,” Ephesians 2:4-6 (ESV)
This passage assures us that our salvation is by the grace of God. We did nothing to make it ours, we can’t. God’s love has done three things: (a) it has made us alive with Christ, (b) has raised us up with Christ, and (c) seated us with Him in the heavenly places. This is all promised and done because what Jesus did for us. It becomes what happened to us in Christ Jesus. Although still flesh and bone walking on this earth breathing air, what Christ did, became a reality so true that God considers it a done deal for us. When God draws us to Himself and offers us a new life in Christ Jesus, we received it by grace. Although this is difficult to understand with our human reasoning, and various questions arise as we’re trying to grasp how it is; we rest on the faith given to us by grace and accept it as truth. We do not have to fully understand everything we receive for it to be true. It’s true because God has declared it true by His will⸺that is what makes it true and for us right here, right now, it’s accomplished.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:10-11 (ESV)
Perhaps it seems out of place to begin the New Year with a benediction. The New Year may not always be as “Happy” as we would wish, but as Christians we are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3) and can look forward to a “Blessed New Year” throughout the problems that may come. Suffering is a common experience for all humans. None seek it out but we know that it is part of our walk with Jesus Christ for He promises that we will suffer for His sake as we proclaim our faith in Him. So, Peter confirms for us that suffering is going to be ours for a “little while.” But, afterward, God promises that He Himself will be the one who will restore us, and confirm us, and strengthen us, and then establish us. What a promise that is! We are members of God’s family and we live in His dominion. This is what will be ours for eternity. So, the suffering of last year and the suffering we will encounter this year is all but for “a little while” when the rest will be ours for eternity.
“It is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:15 (ESV )
Gratitude is a positive and joyful emotion and especially so when it is for what God has for us. We have a sense of joyful appreciation for his grace. Does that mean, in a sense, we are still the beneficiaries of the very emotion of gratitude. By its very nature, gratitude exalts the giver. When we feel thankful, we acknowledge our need and God’s fullness, the riches of his glory. Just as when we humble ourselves and exalt the service provider in when we say, “Thank you,” so we humble ourselves and exalt God when we even feel gratitude to him. The difference, of course, is that we really are infinitely in debt to God for his grace, and everything he does for us is free and undeserved. The wonderful thing about the gospel is that the response it requires from us for God’s glory is most natural and; namely, thankfulness for grace. God’s all-supplying glory in giving and our humble gladness in receiving are not in competition. Joyful thankfulness glorifies God. A life that gives glory to God for his grace and a life of deepest gladness are the same life. And what makes them one is thankfulness.
Thanks to Desiring God and John Piper for this contribution.
“ Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)
Coupled with words of warning, the promises in the fourth chapter of Hebrews offer comfort and encouragement. We all need help because of weaknesses and confusion from the limitations of understanding God’s wisdom. In our natural state, our sins keep us from deserving the help we need. Those who deny their need and try to be their own superman or superwoman who do not need help end up with paralyses of despair. Jesus Christ became a High Priest to shatter the despair with hope and to humble our proud hearts when we believe that we can get through it on our own. The overarching need that we have is the grace that God provides for us. Without that grace given and the faith God provides for us to believe, our situation is hopeless. But we have hope in Jesus Christ. Who or which of us do not find that need in our own life? Our promise from God today and every day is that we may come at any time to God’s throne of grace. It is from there that He dispenses mercy and grace in our time of need if we believe.
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“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NASB)
Context is important all the time an especially for our verst today. It comes in the midst of Paul’s defense of his apostleship to the believers in Corinth. Such is our promise today. This is God’s universal purpose for all the suffering Christians have in life. Suffering develops our trust and contentment in God as we learn to have less dependence on ourselves and the ways of this world. Paul stresses for us, that in our sufferings we find the glory of Christ’s all-sufficient grace magnified. God repeats for us each time, what He said to Paul in answer to the request to remove the thorn of suffering he was experiencing, “My grace is sufficient for you.” It is sufficient and beneficial because the power of Christ is given to us to overcome suffering. And that power is made perfect when we need it most – when our weaknesses are most exposed. So suffering is intended by God not only as a way to wean us off of self and onto grace, but also as a way to spotlight that grace and make it shine. That is exactly what faith does: it magnifies Christ’s grace in the future.
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