Bible Church International
Amazing Grace: (Part III)
Ephesians 1:7-8 (NIV)
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace
8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
1 Corinthians 1:4-9 (NIV)
4 I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
5 For in him you have been enriched in every way--in all your speaking and in all your knowledge--
6 because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.
7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
Do you believe that God wants to bless you? In other words, He is willing to generously pour out to people like us His best gifts. I want to make sure we all get this because oftentimes Satan has successfully misrepresented God to many as a cruel judge who only waits for us to mess up so he can punish us and make our lives miserable.
If this is how you perceived God, you are greatly mistaken. This morning, we are celebrating the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is the culmination of the work God meant for Him to accomplish. The truth is Christ's sacrifice stands as the greatest evidence for God's willingness to bless us in remarkable ways. Paul declared:
Romans 8:32 (NIV)
32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Indeed, if He was not willing to withhold His one and only Son. He will not refuse to give us anything that we need in this life. For the past several Sundays now, we have been talking about the theme, Amazing Grace. Last Sunday, we looked at the amazing forgiveness that God our heavenly Father has bestowed upon us. Despite of everything we have done against Him, He graciously forgave us. Ephesians 1:7-8 talks about that forgiveness. But I also want you to notice what the passage says about God's grace - the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us. This is where I'm coming from with our theme this morning. You see the riches of God's grace overflows in the lives of people who have embraced the Lord Jesus Christ. The word Lavished literally suggests giving with great amount or without limits. Meaning, we have received so much blessings.
By the way, with the past tense on Lavished, we must understand that we no longer live to seek for blessings; we live to enjoy the blessings that we have received in Christ. The Devil or the world has nothing to offer you that can make your life more exciting. We have to live believing that we already have everything we need in order to experience life to its fullest.
Our main text in 1 Corinthians allows us to see some significant blessings we have because of the riches of God's grace towards us. One reason I like the passage is because the addressee are the Corinthian Christians. Speaking of grace being unmerited favor, the believers in Corinth can truly appreciate this. There are so many problems that Paul addresses in the book:
- Ø Church Divisions (1 Cor. 1:10-13)
- Ø Church Worldliness (1 Cor. 3:1-4)
- Ø Church Immorality ( 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 6:15-20)
- Ø Church Abuse of the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:20-34)
- Ø Church Abuse of Spiritual Gifts (1 Cor. 12-14)
Yet, in the midst of all these, they have received the riches of God's grace. Again, their failure to appreciate these is causing them to miss out on a more exciting life. This is the reason why Paul takes the time to remind them of these special blessings of grace. Let's examine each one of them.
I THE PROSPERITY OF GRACE (vs.4-5a)
John Calvin, the great theologian, said it well, "However many blessings we expect from God, His infinite liberality will always exceed all our wishes and thoughts."
When the apostle Paul chose the word to describe the blessings of grace, he used the Greek Plutocrat which is translated in verse 5 as enriched. Meaning to be made a very wealthy person.
Do you consider yourself rich? If you have Jesus in your life, you are very rich. Now, I don't want to sound like a prosperity Gospel preacher, whose message is if you have enough faith in God, God will give you great health and wealth. This message will have problems with the apostles because even they did not amass great wealth. But I also do not wish to undermine our rich position in Christ. Literally, we should read verse 5 as we have been made very rich in every way. Paul said it in another way in Ephesians:
Ephesians 1:3 (NIV)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
We have to see our riches in the spiritual realm - our forgiveness of sins, our adoption in God's family, our acceptance in God, our future inheritance in Christ; all that we need to make life worth living. You have to know that in the Old Covenant God's promised blessings were largely material, such as those promised to obedient Israel in Deut. 28:1-14 - fruitful wombs, flourishing crops, abundant flocks, bread in every basket, prosperity, and world influence.
Likewise, under the New Covenant Jesus takes care of his own materially and charges them not to worry about their needs (Matthew 6:25-34). As Charles Spurgeon once said, "He that gives us heaven will surely give us all that is needful on the road thither. And we shall have enough spending money on the road to glory; for he who has guaranteed to bring us there will not starve us along the way." However, in addition to material, we all have the spiritual blessings we need. I hope we all will value our spiritual blessings over the material ones. So many people have traded off spiritual blessings. Jesus warned us:
Mark 8:36 (NIV)
36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?
With these words, it is equal to saying that to have Christ is far better than to have all the riches of the world. Do you acknowledge that?
II THE POWER OF GRACE (vs. 5a- 7)
Another significant blessing we have is to be given the privilege of testifying about the grace we have received. If you have found a well in the desert, it would be a great privilege to lead others to the same well.
In the same way, after we have been enriched by Christ, God wants to use us to help others find Christ as well. However, for most of us the problem is we are afraid to speak because we are not sure about what we need to say.
For this reason, the passage highlights how God has enabled us to fulfill our privilege:
- Ø "In all your speaking" - He helps us to speak for him.
- Ø "In all your knowledge" - He has given us the ability to understand deep truths.
- Ø "You do not lack any spiritual gift" - He has given you through the Holy Spirit at least one or more special abilities to serve Him.
The work of God on earth is a great venture. For Him to include us and make sure that we are competent for our responsibility is truly a great blessing. Think about it, if one of these days, Bill Gates appeared in your house personally recruiting you for a special position in Microsoft, wouldn't you be excited? No doubt you would consider it as a great privilege. That's exactly what God has done to us. He has not only called us to be participants in His great enterprise, He has also made us competent for our tasks.
I believe the apostle Paul can speak about this truth in a more personal level. 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9 records for us his experience of God's enabling grace:
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NIV)
7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
9 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.
Paul as an apostle had been given some special privileges such as extraordinary revelations. According to verse 7, to keep him in perspective and enable him to grow spiritually, God gave him a thorn in the flesh. With such a language, Paul was obviously referring to a physical affliction that God has allowed for him to have. He pleaded for God to remove it; instead the response He got from God was the assurance of sufficient grace.
Dr. David Jeremiah made a significant comment about this:
The greater the Lord's plans for us, the more we generally need to be tried. The more critical an army's mission, the harder the army needs to be drilled. The more significant the lesson you're teaching your children, the more discipline you'll need to employ . . . nothing could make more sense. (Captured by Grace, p. 130)
Therefore, expect the Lord to try you in order to shape you. If you are going through some tough times right now, rejoice because God has great things ahead of you. Rest assured that His grace will be more than sufficient for you as you continue to make a difference for Him.
III THE PRESERVATION OF GRACE (v.7a-9)
Going back to verse 7, it is quite evident that for people who are actively involved in God's work, people who are using their God-given abilities in serving Him, the second coming of Jesus Christ is very significant. Why? Well, they look for the time when all their labors will be completed and commended.
Now, think about the coming of the Lord and seeing him face to face. Are you really excited about it? For many believers who are not familiar with grace, the coming of Jesus can be a terrible thought. Would Jesus remind us of times we have taken him for granted, or times we have failed or sinned against him? Absolutely not, grace guarantees that you will stand before the Lord "Blameless." In other words, free from any accusation. Isn't this amazing?
If there is another important truth we need to recognize about grace is the fact that it sanctifies:
Titus 2:11-13 (NIV)
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.
12 It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,
13 while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Look at verse 12, the message of grace teach us to say "NO" to ungodliness and worldliness. So people who understand grace will live holy lives. But, go back again to our main text. The assurance of our being kept blameless does not rest on our fruitfulness, but on the faithfulness of God (v9). God is truly amazing! He promises to complete His work of salvation in our lives.
God's grace has given us so much despite of all our unworthiness. I trust that our appreciation of God's amazing grace will result to a deeper love and devotion to Him who has given us everything.
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