Superabundant Wealth of His Grace
Ephesians Lesson #026
May 12, 2019
“Our Father, we thank You for Your Word. We thank You that You have made known to us Your will, that You have revealed this to us so that we might have an understanding of who You are and that we might have eternal life.
“Father, we thank You for all that You have revealed to us, and that the more we study, the more we learn, the more we read, the more we understand, that we know just a small amount of that which You have revealed to us.
“Father, now, as we take time to submit to the teaching of Your Word and to Your revelation, may You continue to open our eyes to the truth that we may understand it, that God the Holy Spirit will put it together with that which we’ve already learned that we may continue to advance toward spiritual maturity. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Ephesians 1:7, which we got close to finishing last week. We will continue to look at the end of verse 7 and on into Ephesians 1:8–9, I hope, as we focus on the superabundant wealth of His grace. As we read through this section, we ought to be so impressed with how much God has provided for us and how much He has given us. As we talk about grace, there are so many misunderstandings of grace. So many people slip works into grace.
I’ll never forget a time, some twenty plus years ago now, my mother had had a series of strokes, and several times, especially on the weekend when they didn’t have help, I would be going over there to help my dad. I was talking to a friend, and he asked what I had been doing. I said I was going over to help my dad with my mother. This person was Roman Catholic and said, “You’re certainly earning a lot of grace.” That jarred me because we never, ever think of earning and working for grace. That is such a juxtaposition of contradictory ideas.
Grace means unearned favor, undeserved merit, the goodness of God toward us even when we least deserve it. It is a manifestation of God’s great love.
I quoted the verses at the beginning. In Romans 5:8, we’re told that God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were still sinners—when we were in a state of spiritual death, when we were in a state of being obnoxious and hostile to everything that God stands for, when we were in a state of arrogance—“… God loved us in this way that He sent His only begotten Son …” John 3:16. He sent His Son to die on the Cross as our substitute. As we have been studying here in Ephesians 1:7, when Jesus was on the Cross, He paid the penalty for sin.
We need to think of this in terms of the historical manifestation of sin in the human race, that God created Adam and Eve absolutely perfect. They were righteous. They were sinless. They had no flaw whatsoever. They had just one test, to obey God by not eating from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Genesis 2:16–17. God said there was a penalty, that in the day that they ate of it, which means at that time, at that instant, they would die.
They didn’t die physically—Adam didn’t die for 930 years—but they died spiritually. Death in Scripture has to do with a separation, and so they were separated from God because of their sin. Something in them no longer functioned. They had lost the human spirit, which is the ability of the immaterial soul to have a relationship, to have fellowship, to enjoy God, and to have harmony and fellowship with God. When that spiritual death occurred, that capability was gone, and they became spiritually dead. Thus, that penalty had to be taken care of. God had established that penalty for sin, a legal penalty, that had to be paid for.
Two other things have to happen when somebody is spiritually dead. That personal experience of their spiritual death, their individual separation from God, has to be taken care of. They have to move from death to life. Second is their unrighteous. They have to have righteousness, but they can’t produce that righteousness on their own. Isaiah said that all of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6); therefore, we can’t do anything to make ourselves righteous. The only way we can make ourselves righteous is by following the example of Abraham and believing God, believing in Christ for us as Church Age believers. We then receive the imputation or the crediting of Christ’s righteousness to us.
We have three problems. One is a legal penalty, which is spiritual death, the objective legal penalty. The second is our subjective, personal, spiritual death; and the third is our lack of righteousness.
Christ on the Cross paid the penalty for everybody, believer, unbeliever, Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, whatever. Every sin of every human being was objectively paid for at the Cross. Spiritual death, as a legal penalty in direction toward God, was taken care of, but that doesn’t save anybody. After that, each person has to make the decision to trust Christ or not. At that instant of trusting Christ, he is born again. He has moved from death to life and received the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, so that he becomes righteous, not on the basis of anything he has done, but he receives the credit of Christ’s righteousness on our account.
Ephesians 1:7 focuses on the fact that after we are saved, we are in Christ. We are identified with Him. That was one of the first things we talked about last time.
We are in Him, and in Him we have, as a present reality, redemption. The main idea in redemption is being released from captivity, but it is never separated from the idea of having a payment made. That payment was made at the Cross.
The first thing in terms of review is that we who are in Him have in Him redemption, and that is our position in Christ. That’s just one of many, many things that happens at the instant of our salvation in relation to being in Christ. The technical term you may have heard a time or two is positional truth. That is our position. We need to learn to live in light of who we are in Christ.
Some years ago, when Lewis Sperry Chafer, who was the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, wrote his Systematic Theology, he listed and organized thirty-two things that happen to every person at the instant they trust Christ. That list got a lot of play, and a lot of people used that. It was expanded by one person or another to thirty six things, to thirty eight things, to forty things. I’ve seen people list as many as one hundred twenty things. It got to be a little bit of an ego contest to see who could come up with more things.
All they were doing was renumbering things because, for example, when Dr. Chafer listed his, he would list a category and there may be eight subpoints, but it was only one thing that happened. For example, the ministries of the Holy Spirit was one thing, so the new believer was indwelt by the Spirit, filled by the Spirit, regenerated by the Spirit, sealed by the Spirit, given spiritual gifts, but that was all one thing. Somebody would come along and take those five things and break them into five points. Now, they had a few more. A number of categories were like that. I’ve never done anything on the things that happen at the instant we are saved because I didn’t want to get into that kind of “who can come up with more things.” There are a lot of them, and they all happened at the instant that we were saved.
Second, we learned last time that redemption is the payment of a price to release someone from captivity. It’s the payment of that penalty, the payment of that price, and that relates to our being released from the penalty of sin. A lot of times you hear pastors and evangelists say, “If you’re going to be saved, and you want to get the Gospel to people, they have to repent of their sins.” Never once is sin the object of repentance other than for somebody who is already saved.
Repentance in terms of salvation simply means to change your mind about how you are going to get saved, to change your mind from rejecting Christ to accepting Christ, to trusting in Him. You don’t have to emphasize repentance in giving the gospel because, if you give the gospel clearly and they accept Christ, they have repented whether you mentioned the word or not.
John, the writer of The Gospel of John, never once mentioned repentance in his entire Gospel, and yet nearly every Christian, every pastor, every evangelist will say that repentance is required. John wrote his Gospel to teach people what they need to have eternal life. John expressed it in John 20:31. “These are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and by believing you may have life through His name.” If he never mentioned repentance, repentance isn’t a key element in communicating the gospel.
Another thing you’re not to communicate is that you need to invite Jesus into your life. You’ll hear that a lot. In fact, that has become so normative today that most people misrepresent the gospel. “I want to invite Jesus into my heart,” or “I invited Jesus into my life.” Jesus doesn’t want to be invited into your garbage dump of a life. Jesus isn’t waiting for you to invite Him into your life. Jesus has invited us to believe in Him. There’s a difference. He invites; we accept that invitation by believing in Him.
We have to get it right. Don’t use nonbiblical vocabulary. John thought it necessary to repeat the verb for believing over ninety-six times in his Gospel. The reason I always say that is because there are a couple textual variants in there, so some people have ninety-seven, some say ninety-six. But if it’s over ninety-five, ninety-six times, if it’s good enough for the Holy Spirit, then it is good enough for us. Just believe that Jesus died on the Cross for your sins.
Slides 7 and 8
A third thing that we looked at is this appositional phrase, “in Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins,” trying to understand what that meant. If redemption focuses on the payment of a price with the emphasis on releasing us from that payment, forgiveness also has that idea. We looked at various verses showing that forgiveness means the cancellation of a debt. These ideas are very close.
In an appositional phrase, a second phrase is attached to a sentence. For example, George Washington, the first president of the United States. The appositional phrase usually emphasizes one out of all the many different attributes of an individual. If you were talking about George Washington as a military leader, you would say, George Washington, the commander of the Continental Army. If you were talking about George Washington in terms of some of his accomplishments as a plantation owner, you would say George Washington, the plantation owner, something like that. The appositional phrase picks out one attribute of many to focus our attention on the topic at hand.
When we look at “redemption, the forgiveness of sins,” that phrase “the forgiveness of sins” is focusing on that aspect of the cancellation of the debt, the cancellation of the sin debt. We looked at passages in Colossians 2 that express that in a little more detail.
Slides 11 and 12
These words for forgive, APHIEMI, which means to cancel or to remit or to release or pardon, and the other word, CHARIZOMAI, emphasize two different things. APHIEMI emphasizes the cancellation of the debt, and CHARIZOMAI, from the noun CHARIS meaning grace, emphasizes the grace attitude underlying the forgiveness.
We looked at Colossians 2:12–14. This is the fourth point in the review, the cancellation of the debt, which occurred objectively and historically when Christ was crucified on the Cross. That forgiveness is a forgiveness of the penalty of spiritual death as it is directed toward the justice of God. It’s close to the idea of propitiation. Propitiation means that God’s justice and righteousness had to be satisfied, so when the penalty was paid, they were satisfied, propitiated; therefore, we have the forgiveness of sin objectively—the sin penalty.
Slides 14 and 15
That is made clear, as I pointed out last week, in Colossians 2:12. “He made us alive together with Him because He forgave you all trespasses”—that had already happened—“because He had canceled it when He took the certificate of debt and nailed it to the Cross.” This verse tells us that something happened, some transaction occurred at the Cross in AD 33 that canceled our sins, but it didn’t change us. That change came only when we trusted in Christ.
I looked at the four types of forgiveness that are mentioned in the Bible.
The first is the one we just talked about, a forgiveness directed toward God in which the justice of God cancels the debt of sin. This is for all, so that is a forensic or a legal payment, a legal forgiveness.
The second category that we covered was positional forgiveness. When we trust in Christ, that is applied to us, and we are forgiven. In Christ, we are positionally forgiven. We are cleansed positionally. We can never lose that salvation.
The third category of forgiveness that we find in the Bible, is experiential forgiveness in 1 John 1:9. When we sin, it disrupts that rapport we have with God. We talk about enjoying our fellowship with God. When we sin that is disrupted. We’re not kicked out of the family. We’re just sort of, as it were, sent to our rooms. We have a “timeout” spiritually.
The way to recover from that is to confess sins. Instantly, we are forgiven those sins and cleansed of all unrighteousness. On the basis of that understanding—what Christ did for us—we can forgive one another relationally. We are to forgive one another as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us. That is the standard. God wants us to be Christ-like. We are to be conformed to His image and that is the basis for that.
Then, we came to the last part of the verse, that this is all according to a standard of “the riches of His grace.” Last time, I briefly covered this, but the word translated “riches” is the Greek word PLOUTOS. PLOUTOS (I’ve underlined “singular”) is a neuter noun, and it is singular. Is the word riches singular or plural? That’s an easy question. It’s plural. The problem with translating it riches, which may not have occurred to you and may not occur to many people, is that it implies different categories of riches. There is only one category, grace, so a better word for it is wealth.
Wealth is singular. It carefully translates a singular noun. It is the wealth of His grace, which relates to the verb that we see in Ephesians 1:8 “which”—that refers to His grace—“which He made to abound …” That is a terribly difficult verb and concept to translate into English. It’s just awkward, “which He made to abound.” This grace is abundant. That’s what’s going on here. The “wealth of His grace,” is a phrase that emphasizes the abundance, the superabundance of that grace, which is clarified in the next verse.
In 2 Corinthians 8:9, we have this same imagery related to wealth and poverty used to describe what happened at the Cross. There, Paul said, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich”—that’s that wealth—“yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” The word that is translated rich there is a cognate for the word that we are seeing in Ephesians 1:7, the wealth that is Christ’s. It relates to His wealth.
When we look at the meaning of the English word wealth, as opposed to riches, wealth talks about an abundance or a superabundance of something valuable. It could refer to financial things, it could refer to material things, it could refer to an education, but wealth relates to an abundance or a superabundance of resources. The emphasis here is that God’s grace has provided us a superabundance of resources to handle life. That is the theme of this section as we saw back in Ephesians 1:3. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing …” Those spiritual blessings provide us with the resources we need to face all the issues of life. Whatever problems we have, whatever problems we face, whether they are health problems, whether they are financial problems, whether they are relationship problems, work problems, whatever they may be, God gives us the resources that we need, and He does that through His Word.
This is a theme that I have pounded over and over again, that God’s Word tells us what we have in Christ, and we are to learn those things and then apply them, use them in our lives. This idea related to the wealth of God, the wealth of His glory, is talking about His essence. We’ve talked about the word glory, which emphasizes the importance of God, the centrality of God to our lives. It came to be used as a synonym for His essence, the totality of His essence.
When we get to Ephesians 1:18, “the eyes of your understanding having been enlightened …,” it has a perfect tense, which indicates they were enlightened in the past with results that go on. That indicates that at salvation our eyes are opened spiritually. Our eyes have been enlightened, “… that you may know what is the hope of His calling …” As a result of having our eyes opened, we have a confident expectation of our future destiny with the Lord in Heaven. If you use the New King James, it is translated riches, but I’ve retranslated it, “… what is the wealth of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” It is talking about all of the abundant possessions that we have as those who are in Christ.
Philippians 4:19 is tangential to what we are talking about, what God has supplied us with that is more than enough to handle any situation. “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His wealth in glory by Christ Jesus.”
Colossians 1:27. “To them God willed to make known what is the wealth of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles.” What is this mystery? We will get to that in the next verse. That mystery is the previously unrevealed teaching of God that in this Church Age something new happened and that Jew and Gentile would be united together in the body of Christ, the distinctiveness of the Church Age and the Church Age believer because we have this wealth of provision by God in Christ. Again and again, Paul hammered home this theme that we need to exploit the grace of God, the provision of God, everything that He has given us in Christ.
We have redemption. We have the forgiveness of sin. It has been canceled. Sin isn’t the issue. Sin weighs so many people down. They think that they have done so many bad things that nobody can forgive them. “I can’t forgive myself.” Sometimes, they were a victim, and many times, victims blame themselves for things that happened in the past. They are loaded down with guilt. They are loaded down with shame. They are loaded down with all kinds of sinful emotions. The Scripture says that we have had those sins forgiven. The slate is wiped clean.
Legal guilt is when I’ve done something, I violated a standard, and I’m guilty. Emotional guilt is when I keep dredging it up in my mind and keep thinking that “I just can’t get past this. I can’t get over it. It hinders me. I’m in shackles because of whatever it is that has gone on in the past.” Scripture says that the redemption of Christ has set us free. God forgives us, cleanses us so that we can go forward and put the past in the past, and as Paul said in Philippians 3:14, “Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” We have redemption, we have forgiveness, and we need to live on the basis of that and believe it and go forward. It’s all according to the wealth of His grace.
Then, we come to the expansion of this idea in Ephesians 1:8, “which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence.” It begins with the relative pronoun “which,” which refers specifically to grace. In the previous verse, we had the wealth of His grace. Now, Paul expanded on that wealth of grace because God made it abound toward us. It’s not just sitting in Heaven, but has been given to us. That’s the idea here.
The Greek verb PERISSEUO means to abound, to super-abound. The NASB translates it as to lavish. I spent a good bit of time looking through thesauri, synonym finders, all kinds of things to find a better synonym for the verb to abound. It really doesn’t exist, but you get the idea. God has super-abounded us is what it literally says. He has given us a superabundance of resources. Sometimes, we use the phrase, the sufficiency of God’s grace. Sufficient means that it is enough, but God gives us more than enough. He gives us beyond our imagination in terms of the resources.
Everybody is born spiritually dead; everybody has a sin nature. Your sin nature was so active before you were cognizant of it, between the ages of one and four, that you made a lot of stupid decisions as an infant that set the course of a lot of your patterns and habits and different things like that. We all did. Some are better than others, some are worse than others, but we all do that because the sin nature enslaved us and dominated us and led us astray.
Scripture says that the grace of God gives us everything we need in order to deal with that nasty sin nature. Paul said that because of the baptism by the Holy Spirit as described in Romans 6:3–6, we have been identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection and that sin may no longer reign over us, no longer dominate us. We have an option.
You may not realize it experientially. A lot of people say, “I just don’t feel free,” but Scripture says you are. You can choose to not yield to your sin nature, to not be angry, to not lose your temper, to not give into various lust patterns. Whatever the problem may be, God has provided the resources for that, and He made it abundant to us, more than enough, more than sufficient.
Here, we have the phrase “… in all wisdom and prudence.” Prudence, an old English word, isn’t a good term for it, but it does communicate the idea of clear judgment, and I think that is the emphasis. Wisdom and prudence do not govern what God did. They govern what He gave us. He gave us grace with wisdom and prudence on our behalf, so that we can use that grace. That is the focus. The background for this is understanding that it is related to God’s revelation.
Ephesians 1:9, “having made known to us the mystery of His will …” “Made known” relates to revelation. The verb often describes what God has revealed to us. What God reveals to us in His grace gives us wisdom and prudence.
The word for wisdom is SOPHIA in the Greek, but it translates over 140 times in the Old Testament as chokhmah, which is the word translated wisdom. We studied in Proverbs that chokhmah has the idea of skill. It’s what a craftsman does. He is skillful with his tools. He is skillful in what he is making. It applies to life, to living life skillfully.
That is wisdom. It’s not the Greek idea of abstract, intellectual capability but the idea of being able to take information and knowledge and turn it into something, so that you are able to produce something of value and something of beauty. Wisdom has to do with insight into the way things are so that you can create something of value. It relates to insight into the Word of God and its application in our lives.
The second word, PHRONESIS, often has the definition of wisdom. These two terms are close to one another, but they have slightly different emphases. The first word emphasizes the skill, and the second, the application in terms of discretion and discernment in application. This relates to the fact that God gives us this grace so that we can apply the Word with skill and discretion in our lives.
Ephesians 1:9, “… having made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself.” I want to look at that first part, “having made known to us the mystery of His will.” The word translated “make known” is the Greek GNORIZO, which means to make something known, to reveal something. The Greek word is used many times in the Old Testament, in the Septuagint translation, to translate the Hebrew word yada, which means to know, to translate so that people have something revealed to them. People have God’s Word revealed to them.
For example, in Psalm 103:7, “He”—referring to God—“made known His ways to Moses …” He revealed His ways to Moses. How did He do that? He did it through the revelation of the Torah, the Mosaic Law and the whole Pentateuch.
In Ezekiel 20:11, God said, “‘I gave them My statutes and revealed …” There is that word yada. It is translated GNORIZO. “‘I gave them my statutes and revealed to them My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, He will live by them.” Observing them is wisdom, and it is discernment.
Daniel used this word quite a bit. “To you, O God of my fathers,” Daniel 2:23, “I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and power. Even now you have made known to me …”—that is, You have revealed something to me in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
We have GNORIZO used in Romans 16:25–26 as the closing benediction in Romans. “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to what the revelation of the mystery.” That’s where we’re headed. You’ll see that what is revealed is often connected to something called the mystery, previously unrevealed information. Romans 16:26. “… but now”—notice that the revelation of the ministry is now revealed—“now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations.”
In Ephesians, Paul used it quite a few times. Ephesians 3:3, 5. “how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, …. which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets ...”
We see in Ephesians 1:9 that part of this superabundance of God’s grace is to reveal to us new information that has never been revealed before. We will come back next time to see what this mystery is, what it consists of, and how it should radically transform our lives when we get to the core of the Church Age spiritual life.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study this morning, to be reminded of the superabundance of Your grace toward us, all that You have made available to us. You have given us more than we could ask or think. It is our real possession in Christ, part of our positional truth.
“Father, we are thankful that You have given us so much, and Father, we pray that we might be diligent in reading, studying Your Word, learning about this, that we might exploit what You have already given us, that You might be glorified, and that we might live the kind of lives that You would desire us to live.
“Our Father, we pray for anyone who may be listening today who has never clearly understood the good news about Jesus Christ, that all that is necessary is to trust in Him as Savior. It’s not about church involvement or church membership. It’s not about doing good works. It’s not about improving society. It is simply about trusting in the work of Christ on the Cross to give us new life, new life because we are born spiritually dead and to give us righteousness because we are born corrupt, and we are without righteousness. Our righteousness is as filthy rags. All that is necessary is to simply believe, to trust, to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, and instantly we experience that forgiveness. We are cleansed of sin positionally. We are adopted into Your royal family, we are justified, and we have eternal life that can never be taken from us. We pray that this will be clear to anyone listening today.
“Father, we pray for us that we might not take this new life lightly, but that we might continue to exploit it, to grow, to develop, to mature, that You might be glorified in our lives. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”