Four simple words, but what meaning they hold! They speak of God's ever seeking, tireless love —of that great master stroke —the issue of which is His perfect triumph. Paul speaks of "His grace glorious, which graces us in the Beloved: in Whom we are having the deliverance through His blood, the forgiveness of offences in accord with the riches of His grace." That is how Paul puts it, and what better language can we have than that which breathes the spirit which is of God?
But what is grace, this charis, so like to the Greek chara— joy? Someone has said that "Grace is the passion of God to bless— the love of God seizing every opportunity to gladden the sinful and needful and graceless. Grace explains the wonder of the cross, for there grace took hold of sin and conquered and cancelled it."
In that remote past which baffles thought to dwell upon, grace had being. For "God saves us and calls us with a holy calling, not in accord with our acts, but in accord with His own purpose and the grace which is given to us in Christ Jesus before eonian times." → 2 Timothy 1:9.
See what fullness, what might and majesty clothe the present tense of such words. God saves, God calls, and grace us in the Beloved, and all in accord with His matchless, measureless grace. For we not only look back to see grace as the Alpha of that life which is life indeed, but we look forward to the exceeding riches of God's grace as the Omega of our expectation.
It is indelibly written: "God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love wherewith He loves us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." →Ephesians 2:4-7.
What an exhibition of grace this will be. Its transcendent riches will more than fulfil our hope and desire. As recipients of divine favour, our present place and position is all of grace. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world: looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ: Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar (or special) people, zealous of good works." →Titus 2:11-14.
Here we see the present potency of grace, its rare achievement and inspiring power. It is indeed a present grace, and never before the time of Paul so far flung. To him was this grace given, even to the apostle of Christ Jesus, who wrote himself down as "less than the least of all saints." Said he, "To me is this grace given, that I should preach among the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ." →Ephesians 3:8.
ISRAEL SET ASIDE: LAW SET ASIDE: GRACE REVEALED
It is noteworthy, and significant as showing the wisdom of God, that not until the setting aside of Israel was this grace revealed in its full splendour, and far-reaching extent. Through Paul, the teacher of the nations in knowledge and truth, has this fullness of grace been unfolded. And by the grandeur of it he is moved to pen the rare doxology that so finely closes the eleventh chapter of his letter to the Romans:
"O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are His judgments, and untraceable His ways! For who knew the mind of the Lord? Or who became His adviser? Or who gives to him first, and will be repaid by Him? Seeing that all is out of Him and through Him and for Him: to Him be glory for the eons! Amen!"
In the same letter the apostle refers to our introduction "into this grace in which we stand." Thanks be to God, we are not left on the threshold to yearn and wonder in sad, unsatisfied wistfulness. We are brought right in, and led on and on in the strength-giving paths of faith, hope and love.
"This grace in which we stand." What enveloping love, and in what a marvellous sweep it catches us up, lifting us entirely from the earthly and the soulish things, to a sphere where things spiritual predominate. Grace given to us in a timeless past lies ahead in fullest power, for in the glorious day of God, it wins response from all. First and last, grace reigns supreme. It came by God's Anointed — God's Prophet, Priest and King. In Him it came to bless, forgive and heal. With Him it left this sin-stained scene ?to bless with greater power.
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that
being rich, He for your sakes became poor, that you
through His poverty might become rich." → 2 Cor. 8:9.
How rich our hearts know well— especially when we think of what it means to be ‘in Christ' —a position of pure grace, a privilege conferred by God alone. For we are chosen in Christ to the praise of the glory of His grace. We are ‘accepted in the Beloved.'
" We may not know, nor can we tell
Just why God took us up:
But that He has, our hearts know well
With overflowing cup.
"Accepted, blessed, enriched in Christ,
Exalted high in Him:
God leads us on from grace to grace,
Till earthly things grow dim."
And in the marvellous light of all that Christ's triumph at Calvary spells out, earth's joys indeed grow dim, and its glories fade away. God's delight was found in His Anointed. In Him alone He vested all powers for the accomplishment of His purpose of the ages—a purpose of sheer grace.
To bless, to give magnanimously without favour or distinction, is the very nature of grace. And this is just what God does. He lavishes on us the riches of His grace. He makes us to realise so deep a sense of freedom, so complete an emancipation from law that we cannot appreciate too highly the liberty of grace. God made the rich provision, thereby commending His great love. By His Spirit He leads us to the perception of that love, and then, on and on in grateful acknowledgement.
And the measure of our acknowledgement will be the measure of its reality to our hearts, and of our attachment to the God of all grace. "The manifold grace of God," as the apostle Peter has it, is God's varied grace, so wondrously adapted to all needs in assured sufficiency.
"My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness." →2 Cor. 12:9. In such words lies the crux of Divine grace, and Paul to whom they so directly came, found in them real repose. He had previously penned his acknowledgement of this grace in pointed words: "By the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain. I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which is with me." →1 Cor. 15:10. And yet again: "God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work." → 2 Cor. 9:8.
What positive notes are here. "God is able to make all grace abound. My grace is sufficient!" And this self-game grace is for us to enjoy, to draw upon in all spheres and occasions of life. Is it not that consciousness of God is always with us—that sense of His nearness which is so much more to us than anything this age can show ? Even more than the love of nearest and dearest, it is looming ever larger as we pass the milestones of the life that now is. Grace at the outset of the new life, grace all the way through, and grace in the ages ahead.
This grace is so limitless, so transcendent —superabound¬ing, superexceeding. For, "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Law, that "ten barred cage," as someone has called it, can only imprison us. But grace, God's infinite, stooping, compassionate grace sets us free.
Grace "superexceeds that, even as sin reigns in death, thus grace also should be reigning through righteousness, for eonian life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord." Grace did much more abound! As one expositor puts it:
"The compound word here implies not only abounding, that is, bursting forth round about, roundabout all ages, roundabout all nations, roundabout all sorts: but Superabounding, that is surrounding all these rounds, and with surplus and advantage overflowing all; not only abounding grace, abounding unto all, to the whole world, but grace superabounding, that is, if there were other worlds, grace would bring salvation even unto them."
Can a word hold so much? Men use adjectives freely in praise of man. They would fain take their forte from the phrase in the Apocrypha: "Let us now praise famous men." Shall we not then praise our God for His infinite grace? Shall we not exult in the extent of its sway? Its present accomplishment far surpasses the vaunted deeds of earth's mighty ones, while its future achievement will call for praise that shall forever remain a universal fragrance.
It is grace alone which imparts freedom, peace and power. The law can only shackle and bind. Its word is "Cursed is everyone that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." But the word of grace is: "No condemnation! —Who will be indicting God's chosen ones ? God the Justifier ?"
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Shall We? God forbid! How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? How Shall We? These arresting questions give their own answers. And all who have travelled far on the pathway of grace have experienced its energising, impelling suasion to life in the spirit. Should they stumble, slip, or fall, they are speedily in rank again by reason of its power.
WHAT THE LAW COULD NOT DO
So, then, what the law of Sinai, broken even before it was spoken to Israel, could not do, grace achieved and set us free to walk in perfect liberty. And only human reasoning, the logic of the flesh, thinks that grace confers a charter for license. Any who so think are strangers to its sway. No! Never can it be like that if we have in any true measure died to sin and self. Christ's death does not give us freedom to do as we like. We do not in this way learn Christ. It is by death we most truly find life—the life in Christ. Even as He, at Calvary, died to the world's assault, or had it been, applause, so we, by such an attitude, find real blessedness.
And what a change it makes. We become blind to things we once had keenest sight for. We are deaf to sounds which once allured you, and mute to words which once called forth a ready response. You are "Dead with Christ." But with Him, too, "alive to God." Therefore, even as Christ is living to God, so we, too, should be living to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Thanks be to God, by grace we are "in Christ." For did not the God of all grace stoop from the heights of His majesty to lift us from the dust to be "in Him," the beloved One? And has He not, in love, designated us beforehand for the place of a son? This, this is Grace, and Love beyond compare. And the grace of God is deep, in perfect, satisfying fullness. Let us draw therefrom:
Grace Is Sufficient