Saturday, August 29, 2009

Grace Piled On Grace (Transcript)

Have you ever wondered what John meant in John 1:16 when he said that of the fullness of Christ we have received grace upon grace? Or your translation may say grace for grace.

Sometimes it’s important to realize the extent to which grace enters into the believer’s life.

Many think of grace merely as the means whereby God forgives sin, and fail to realize that grace is God’s way of dealing with one who receives Christ, not only during the earthly existence but also throughout eternity.

Great harm has come from this limited conception of grace and the lack of teaching how much grace is piled on grace.

Christian conduct is often criticized as being at a low level. To that extent is is largely due to the incomplete teaching of grace.

The false belief that an overemphasis on grace would cause believers to sin would quickly be changed if grace was preached and understood in its fullness.

John 1:17 “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”

Truth is related directly to grace. It is the result of grace because grace is that which God does and this has to be truth. Only as grace enters into every part of the believer’s life, can there be truth in that life.

John 1:16 “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” Or as I titled this message, grace piled on grace.

It is grace upon grace that removes fear and give assurance, stability, and direction to the earthly life.

We know that it was by the grace of God that Jesus died for sins on the cross. Salvation is by grace through faith. “For by grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8)

Just as there are three aspects to salvation – from the penalty of sin, from the power of sin, and from the presence of sin – so there are three aspects to grace. Grace gives a standing before God, grace provides for our daily life on earth, and there will be a great demonstration of grace in the ages to come.

1. First, grace for a standing before God.

This is fully accomplished the moment a sinner believes on Jesus Christ as the One who satisfied, on his behalf, the demands of God’s justice.

Here are just some of the things that make up the believer’s standing and are accomplished by His grace. It is said that in Christ “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace”(Eph 1:7).

All who believe are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;” (Rom 3:24).

Through disobedience and rebellion, in the Garden of Eden, the human race became enemies of God. Reconciliation has been made through the death of Jesus Christ, which He tasted by the grace of God.

“And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death” (Col. 1:21,22).

These and all other things that make up the believer’s standing are directly or indirectly by grace.

2. Second, grace for the daily life.

The Bible has a lot to say about the grace of God as it contributes to the earthly life of a believer.

What the apostle Paul said about himself should be realized by every believer: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” (1 Cor. 15:10)

According to this, all that a believer is and every labor of love by him is a result of the grace of god. Apart from His grace, nothing can be accomplished for God.

You remember Paul prayed three times to be relieved from a “thorn in the flesh”? What did God say? “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9) Here God’s grace sustained Paul at a time of great affliction. Here we can see the sufficiency of grace for all times and under all circumstances.

The grace of God delivers believers from the power of sin. “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Rom. 6:14)

It is only grace, God’s infinite provision in love, that can break the power of cancelled sin, and set the believer free. How ridiculous this make the claim (which has its source in human reasoning) that an emphasis on grace will cause Christians to sin more! There is not too much grace teaching, but rather not enough.

Again, it is through grace that a believer becomes spiritually strong. Paul wrote to Timothy: “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” By that he would be able to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ and even strive in his Christian life. Without grace, it is impossible to win the spiritual conflicts of life.

Another passage is closely related to this: “Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened [or established] by grace,” (Heb 13:9)

The alternative to a heart “strengthened [or established] by grace” is a restless and fearful heart. That is the experience of vast numbers of believers who do not understand the abounding grace of God. Obviously a believer’s striving in his own power, and failing, and sometimes even fearing being lost, doesn’t “strengthen the heart”.

That causes uncertainty, distress, and fainting. But when it is seen that God’s work of grace cannot fail, because it is of Him, and that behind His purpose is all His infinite power and grace, your heart does find rest and become “strengthened” or “established”.

Even what we call our service for God is by grace, isn’t it? 2 Cor 9:8 says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;”

Really it’s the very life of Christ living through us. That’s the pinnacle of grace for following our Lord.

Paul spoke of his own preaching as being by the grace of God. He said: “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,” (Eph 3:8)

Heb. 4:16 exhorts us: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Yes, there is a provision of God’s infinite love to fully supply in time of need. This is by grace and grace alone.

Are you familiar with that great benediction in 2 Thess 2:16,17? Maybe your Pastor has even said it to you as you leave a church service. Listen to it in light of our talk about grace:

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.”

Surely all this and much more is grace piled on grace for the believer’s earthly life. There is nothing in life for which there is not grace. Because grace is so necessary for every detail of the believer’s life, there can be no danger in teaching too much grace. The danger lies in not understanding grace and in not teaching it enough.

3. Thirdly, grace in the ages to come.

What we’ve said so far doesn’t exhaust grace piled on grace.

Listen to the apostle Peter from 1 Pet 1:13, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober {in spirit,} fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Even more grace is to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. It is clear that the raising of those that sleep in Christ, the changing of believers who are alive, and the catching up together of all to be with the Lord throughout eternity has to be a provision of infinite grace.

No one merits this final glorious deliverance from the consequences and presence of sin.

But even more, to be totally conformed to the image of the Son of God, to be made like Him, having bodies made like His glorious body, being fully one with the Father and Son in body, soul and spirit, can only be brought about by the wonderful grace of God. Nothing else can explain so great a raising up of such creatures as us, who once were in rebellion and at enmity with God.

But as glorious as all this is, it still isn’t the end the infinite love and grace of God.

God’s ultimate purpose in saving man is “that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:7)

Forgiveness of sins is according to the “riches of his grace” (Eph 1:7), but the grace to be shown in the ages to come is the “surpassing [or exceeding] riches of his grace” (Eph 2:7).

Only after the last bit of sin and the death that comes from sin, have been done away with forever, will the grace of God be fully realized. That will be the ultimate grace piled on grace.

One passage of Scripture sums it up:

“...Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” (Eph 5:25-27)

This really expresses the meaning of grace upon grace.

Grace piled on grace.

It’s not just God’s means of forgiving sin, but all that He does with and for the believer in raising him from his lost and condemned condition; in purifying and perfecting him; and finally, in placing him a glorious being, far above all other created beings, in perfect union with Himself.

Grace piled on grace.

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