Monday, August 25, 2014

TOO MUCH GRACE (Ephesians Chapter 1)

Ephesians 1:7-8, “According to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us.”

Ephesians 1:3-14 comprises one long sentence in the Greek with three main divisions.  Each division ends with a note of praise for God, focusing on a different member of the Trinity (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).  The first calls for praise to the Father who has chosen us (v. 4-6).  The second calls for praise to the Son who has redeemed us (v. 7-11).  The third calls for praise to the Spirit who has sealed us (v. 12-14).  These ministrations of the God-head have all come to us by grace and are therefore to “the praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:6).

This passage has much to say about grace.  The term is charis in the Greek and means “that which bestows or occasions pleasure, delight, or causes favorable regard” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).  It is generally defined, with respect to salvation and its corresponding blessings, in terms of “unmerited favor.”  Grace cannot be earned or merited, it is by definition a gift (Cf. Romans 4:4; Ephesians 2:8).  In this sense it speaks of the undeserved blessings bestowed on the believer in Christ.  It is sometimes defined as “God’s Rich’s At Christ’s Expense” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9).  The source of these spiritual blessings is God.  Paul speaks of “grace” (1:3), “his glorious grace” (1:6), “the riches of his grace” (1:7), “the immeasurable riches of his grace” (2:7).  God’s grace has been “lavished upon” the believer (Cf. Ephesians 1:8).

 Whether he realizes it or not the believer is one has been incredibly blessed by grace with “unsearchable riches in Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).  This blessed estate is possessed “in Christ” alone.  He is both the source and essence of the spiritual blessings referred to, as Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones once wrote, "If you leave out the "in Christ, you will never have any blessings at all...Every blessing we enjoy as Christian people comes to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.  God has blessings for all sorts and conditions of men...There are certain common general blessings which are enjoyed by the whole of humanity.  There is what is called "common grace," but that is not what the apostle is dealing with here.  Here he is dealing with a particular grace, with special grace, the blessings that are enjoyed by Christian people only...The ungodly may enjoy much good in this world, and their blessings come to them from God in a general way, but they know nothing of the blessings mentioned in this verse."  Though he be impoverished materially speaking, the believer possesses unmeasurable and eternal riches in Christ.  Though he be rich in this world, the unbeliever lives in and experiences spiritual poverty apart from Christ.

God’s unmerited favor has been “lavished upon” the believer in Christ.  The term “lavished” translates a Greek term which means “abundant, exceeding some number, measure, rank or need, over and above.” The NASB note for Ephesians 1:7 says the phrase means “made abundant toward.” It is the same term used in reference to the loaves that were left over after the feeding of the 5000 by Jesus (Cf. Matthew 14:20).  He not only supplied what was necessary, He provided more than enough.  According to Webster’s the English term “lavish” means “expending or bestowing profusely” and comes from a French term which speaks of a “downpour of rain.”  The riches of God’s grace have not been given in a limited measure of scant provision, they super abound to us.  Lewis Sperry Chafer spoke in his Systematic Theology of “thirty-three stupendous works of God which together comprise the salvation of the soul.”  He noted that “These works are wholly wrought by God, wrought instantaneously, simultaneously and being grounded totally on the merit of Christ Himself, they're eternal.”

Several years ago I was privileged to work with Pastor Enock in choosing a name for a new church that was started in the Masaka Region of Uganda in Muge Village.  I did a lot of praying and thinking about the matter.  On my first visit to that region I spend some time with a group of pastors in the book of Ephesians.  In the survey of the book we focused on the “by riches of His grace” nature of salvation.  So I suggested that we call the new church “Abundant Grace Bible Church.”  I found out that in translation the phrase means literally “too much grace.”  In reality there can never to “too much grace” for we are all very needy.  But whatever the need, we can be confident of God’s superabundant provision to us in Christ.  “His love has no limit; His grace has no measure; His pow’r has no boundary known unto men.  For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!”  We have been richly blessed and should bless God in response (Cf. Ephesians 1:3). 

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