This week, I'd like to continue my discussion on grace. It seems that this topic is popping up everywhere for me right now. (For those of you who haven't yet read last week's WFW, please do so before reading this one.) Let's begin by defining, once more, our definition of grace as found in the Bible: "undeserved STRENGTH." Once that is understood, it is possible to understand so much more of the Bible from a totally different angle.
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble." ~ Psalm 46:1
So how do we get this strength? Psalm 119:28 states, "Strengthen me according to Your word." It is through the Word of God that we get the strength! In 2 Corinthians 4:2, we read, "But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." How do we not walk in craftiness or handle the Word of God deceitfully and "renounce the hidden things of dishonesty"? "By manifestation of the truth." What is truth? Jesus said, "Your Word is truth." We learned last week that we walk in the spirit by obeying from the heart the Word of God (see Romans 6); but here, we see that this manifests the truth in our lives, being visible to those around us!
And this brings me to the next point: 2 Corinthians 3:4-6, 8 states, "And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.... how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?" We've been given the ministry of the Spirit -- the ministry of reconciliation; this grace is to be spread! A friend explained it like this: "Just as He gave everything so you could be reconciled, so you have to give everything so others can be." It's just as Jesus said, "Freely you have received, freely give." It's also interesting to notice that Paul states that God has made us sufficient ministers of the new covenant (which he later explains as the ministry of the Spirit). We mentioned last time that grace is undeserved strength, and that His grace is sufficient for us, but Paul also states that "our sufficiency is from God" right before He states that God has made us sufficient ministers; in other words, the Spirit of God and the grace of God go hand-in-hand; You see, what I tried to explain last week was that God's grace gives us the power to walk in the Spirit. God has given us the strength to do everything that He wants us to do. In fact, 2 Corinthians 9:8 states, "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work." In 1 John 3:18-24, John the apostle wrote, "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us." The Spirit gives life, as the Scriptures say, and in order to walk in that "newness of life," we must have God's strength -- His grace. In fact, Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6). So we see that it is through the Word of God that we obtain the Spirit; and it is also through the Word that we obtain the grace, as we've already seen! Later in chapter 3, Paul reinterates that strength is found in the Word of God: "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." James helps us to see more clearly that this is speaking about the Word of God: "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:22-25). Actually, I am reminded of Abraham (and this is a culmination of what we will be talking about): "He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore 'it was accounted to him for righteousness'" (Romans 4:20-22). How was He strengthened in faith? Firstly, through grace -- his weakness was that he was so old that having a child was impossible; but in his weakness, God was strong! Secondly, Abraham did not waver at the promises of God, but he gave glory to God -- He thanked the Lord that what He had promised, He would perform; He stood on the Word of God! And this is why "it was accounted to him as righteousness," just as we are made righteous by obeying the Word of God from the heart!
2 Corinthians 4:15 says, "For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God." This KJ word, "redound" means "to superabound." And we are commanded in 2 Corinthians 8:7 to abound in grace: "Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also." So how does this grace superabound? First, let's look at 2 Corinthains 1: 11-12 : "Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us [grace] by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf. For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward." The word "thanks" in this passage has these meanings: "to express gratitude (towards) .... raciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (...especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude) .... to be "cheer"ful, i.e. calmly happy or well-off ... rejoice." Notice that Paul said "by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world..." Colossians 3:17 explains it best: "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." (This passage uses the same Greek word for "thank".) So our grace abounds as we are a Godly witness to the world. (I'll go on with that in a moment.)
In Scripture we find that God causes our grace to abound. But how? Well, Titus 1:14 says, "And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." So we abound in grace through faith and love. In fact, the more you study grace, the more you see how faith, love, hope, and grace go together. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:8, "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work..." Notice the word "sufficiency" used here; Jesus said, "My grace is sufficient for you." But here is an important clue as to how we abound in grace: Proverbs 11:25 "The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself." The literal Hebrew meaning for "liberal soul" is "the soul of blessing." Therefore, if you are liberal in your giving, you will reap bountifully; if you are liberal in watering the seeds planted by yourself or others, you will be watered. In other words, what you sow, you will reap. If you plant grace, you will reap grace! The Scriptures say, "and he who waters will himself be watered." Why? James tells us (4:6): "But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: 'God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.'" When we sow, we are humbling ourselves -- we are putting ourselves out of the way and reaching out to others. And that is where love comes in, too; we've talked before about how to love God is to love His people without caring about yourself. So to be humble manifests more grace, because Jesus said that in our weakness -- in our act of humility, completely letting go of ourselves, which is when we are the most weak -- His grace is sufficient. (And being humble also intails thanking the Lord for His promises even when we don't see them, as Abraham did.) In fact, here is the context of 2 Corinthians 9: 6-10 "But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)..." God gives us the seed to sow. So this verse is saying that as we sow seed, God supplies our needs while multiplying the effects of our seeds -- give and it shall be given to you. But He also will "increase the fruits of your righteousness"; we are slaves of righteousness when we obey from the heart the Word of the Lord (Romans 6)! As it says in verse 8, "God is able to make all grace ABOUND toward you; that you having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work"; His grace empowers us to walk in the Spirit, to do the works of God!
Chapter 9 continues (vs.11), "Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us THANKSGIVING to God." This is where our rendering of the term "thanksgiving" comes into play. This passage states that not only is your grace abounding, but EVERYTHING else is, as well -- this is what causes thanksgiving that others can see: Colossians 3:17 -- "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." I was going to place Hebrews 4:16 at the beginning of this post until I realized the definition for grace as it is used here: "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." The word "grace" here means "graciousness.... especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude): .... joy, liberality, pleasure, thank(-s, -worthy).... to be 'cheer'ful, i.e. calmly happy or well-off..." This is exactly what the word "thanksgiving" means! We'll get into how to apply thanksgiving to our present discussion in a moment. Paul continues (2 Cor. 9:12-15), "For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men; And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift." This unspeakable gift is the gift of grace! Notice that Paul says that people will long for the grace of God in us. So how do we sow grace? Well, since grace is the empowerment to do what God wants us to do, then you do just that -- spread hope to people; sow into their lives spiritually, and you will reap spiritually. Thanksgiving comes because as you walk in grace, you are abounding in everything! People will see this thankfulness, this cheerfulness, this thing that sets you apart from the world, and they will want what you have -- they will see it and gain hope! The Bible states, "The blessing of the Lord makes one rich and He adds no sorrow with it." Therefore, if God is blessing us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places, there is so much joy overflowing in our lives, that we are bound to give thanks to God; it will just bubble out of us -- As the Scripture says, "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38)! This is a witness to those around us!
The exciting thing about all this is that we don't have to try to do it by ourselves! "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). When we have grace, we have the strength of the Lord to walk in His spirit; it's no longer us at all -- it's Christ. It's just as Paul said...
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power [GRACE] may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." ~ 2 Corinthians 4:7-10