Total Recovery: The Eternal Purpose and the Apostolic Vision (Part 4)
Yesterday we saw the reason God includes us in Ephesians 1, and in that same chapter He tells us how He includes us – through ‘the Riches of His Grace’ (Eph. 1:7). But what does this grace do? The passage tells us that God made it ‘abound toward us.’ This is the central teaching of the Scriptures; this is the heart of the plan of God – that He is a God who is rich in grace which He makes to abound toward us in Jesus. Now, that sounds a bit strange to us. We just don’t normally speak about things abounding toward us. So when I hear something like that my thinking goes: abound àabundance à lots of stuff. And so the tendency can be to think of it as God giving us lots of something called grace – that God has this stuff called grace that He hands out, and He gives me lots of it. But then I start thinking that, because I’ve got lots of this stuff, then God will love me. Because I’ve got lots of this stuff, then God will include me in His plan. But that’s not it at all!
Imagine this. Imagine a little child. I can come along and give him an abundance of sweets, and she’ll be very happy about it. Is that what God’s grace is like? Like someone coming along and giving lots of sweets? Well, no. Because, in a minute, all those sweets will be gone. They’ll all have been eaten up, and then she won’t care all that much about me once the sweets are gone. But, there’s something much better than sweets. What’s better for a little child than having lots of sweets? Having her daddy! He can come along and give her a hug, but really what he’s giving isn’t just a hug, but himself. He’ll always be there for her. He doesn’t just give her some sweets that are going to vanish. He gives something much better – he gives himself in love.
That’s what Grace is like. He doesn’t just pour out an abundance of sweets on us. He doesn’t just give us some stuff. But He gives us Himself in Christ Jesus. That’s what grace is.
Grace is Jesus! Grace isn’t some thing that God gives us to make us loveable. No! Ephesians tells us that ‘even when we were dead in trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)’ (Eph. 2:5). You see, grace isn’t a mere principle by which God acts. Grace is Jesus. Grace is God in His great love reaching out to us in Christ.
So what’s this ‘abounding’ all about? The idea behind the Greek word is a fountain that overflows. So grace is God overflowing in love toward us in Christ. Think of a champagne fountain. The champagne is poured into the glass at the top until it overflows and overflows and overflows into all the glasses below. God Himself is an overflowing God – He overflows in love toward us in Jesus.
And this overflow of God’s love toward us in His grace in Jesus keeps on going. Ephesians 2:7 tells us something incredible. It says ‘that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.’ God’s grace isn’t just for now. God’s grace isn’t just to get us to heaven. But in the ages to come our Triune God will overflow with His grace toward us, not just with a principle of kindness, but in Christ Jesus. As we’ve read in Ephesians 1:3, God has united us to Christ, and in Him we have every spiritual blessing. We don’t get a thing called grace separate from Jesus. But as we are united to Jesus, that is the grace of God. Grace is Christ and Him Crucified!
And this grace, this loving overflowing of God, is a Triune love. What was God doing before He created the world? He wasn’t just sitting around in eternity twiddling His thumbs waiting for a good idea of something to do to stop Him being bored. Not at all. John 17 tells us what He was doing. The Father loved the Son before the foundation of the world. Our God is a fountain of overflowing love. From all eternity the Father has been overflowing with love for His Son in the Spirit
And His love is so boundless that He’s not content for it just to remain among Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So He overflows in love toward us. That’s why God created the world. That’s why He saves us. So that we’d be caught up in His overflowing love in Christ by the Spirit. Ephesians 1 is a wonderful expression of Triune love as the Father, Son and Spirit together lavish upon us the grace that is Jesus Christ.
And this grace comes to us through the Cross. You see, God’s grace isn’t just niceness. Right at the heart of this is the blood of the Lamb: ‘in Him we have redemption through His blood’ (Eph. 1:7). It’s only through the blood of the Cross that we know the love and the grace of our Triune God! When we don’t speak of the blood of the Cross, then suddenly we’ve reinvented God, reinvented Christ, reinvented the Gospel. Paul writes to the Corinthians and warns them of how easily they are being led astray to another Jesus, another gospel, and another Spirit. We can talk all we want about being Christ-centred, but if the Christ we’re talking about isn’t the Christ of the Scriptures then we’re not Christ centred at all. Grace comes to us only through Christ and Him crucified.
Grace is Christ and Him crucified! So, if you want to know grace, look to the Cross! If you want to know God’s love, look to the Cross!
At the Cross we see this Great Exchange. It’s like a marriage. That great marriage vow ‘All that I am I give to you, all that I have I share with you’ is declared at the Cross. All ours is His! All our filthy rags. And all His is ours! His righteousness, His life. All through union with Him.
It’s not the sweets that we want. It’s not a few blessings that we want. It’s God Himself giving Himself to us in union with us in Jesus! These are the amazing riches of His grace which He lavishes upon us.