The Messenger 12
Someone once made the remark that the reason why some people are outside the church is because of those who are in the church. Now that may sound a rather cynical comment to make, but there just may be a measure of truth in it.
Detractors of Christianity could perhaps point out that there is often little that really distinguishes the churchgoer from the non-churchgoer other than church attendance.
In the preface to his book The Soul’s Quest for God RC Sproul writes: “Something is missing. It is missing from the life of the church. It is absent from the normal Christian life. What is missing is a depth of spiritual communion with God. Worship is unsatisfying to multitudes, and the Christian life is often marked more by a sense of the absence of God than a vital sense of His presence.”
There is something missing, isn’t there? And all too often we have this sense that there is something missing in our own life. If we have inherited so much from our union with Christ why isn’t it more obvious to those outside the church?
Perhaps we will find some answers as we continue to examine the treasures of salvation in Eph 1.
An abundance of grace
Right near the beginning of our study of Ephesians, I touched on this word Grace. Now as we reach into the treasure-chest of salvation we are faced with it again. In verse 6 Paul speaks about “God’s glorious grace which he has freely given us in Christ.” In verse 7 he writes “God lavished his grace on us with all wisdom and understanding.”
In his letter to Titus Paul writes:
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11).
While the concept of God’s grace is indeed present in the Old Testament, it is never really in the foreground. In the New Testament, however, with its emphasis on the coming of Jesus Christ and its message of salvation through Christ, grace is very much in the foreground. And rightly so. Salvation and the grace of God are in fact inseparably linked. We cannot think of the one without in some way including the other. We cannot think of salvation without including grace. Equally, we cannot think of grace without our considering that greatest expression of grace – salvation.
As we examine this wonderful treasure of the Spirit, let’s spend a few moments considering the definition of the word as it is used in the Bible.
“One of the best-known definitions of grace is only three words: God’s unmerited favour. A. W. Tozer expanded on that: ‘Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines him to bestow benefits on the undeserving.’ Berkhof is more to the point: grace is ‘the unmerited operation of God in the heart of man, effected through the agency of the Holy Spirit.’” (John MacArthur in his article entitled “What is Grace”).
You have been saved? It was by grace alone. You are being sustained in that faith through all of life’s challenges and obstacles? It is by grace. And what will one day enable you to hear those words “Well done, good and faithful servant?” It will be grace.
Of all the fascinating treasures of salvation, I cannot imagine a single one that taps more deeply into the heart of God than grace. No matter how long we have been a follower of Jesus we can never exhaust the depths of God’s grace.
So important is grace that Dr DM Lloyd-Jones wrote: “I am increasingly convinced that it is our failure to know the riches of grace and glory that accounts for many of our troubles and failures.”
Perhaps this explains why there often seems to be something missing in the Church today; why some professing followers of Christ seem to be bereft of any real joy; why worship in the church gatherings often seems to be little more than an empty, mechanical response to a liturgy or church programme. It is our failure to ‘know the riches of grace and glory.’
I am convinced that what is needed in the church today is for us, in the words of DM Lloyd-Jones, “to know the riches of grace and glory.”
There is a profound difference between familiarity and intimacy. We can know about someone without having a deep, personal, intimate knowledge of that person. We can know about the grace and glory of God without having an intimate, personal knowledge of God’s grace and glory. We can know about Jesus without having a deep, personal, intimate knowledge of Jesus.
But how do we gain that deep, personal, intimate knowledge of the grace and glory of God? Let’s take a few moments to reflect on some words of Jesus in John’s Gospel:
“The Spirit of truth will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said that the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” (Jn 16:14-15)
When you received Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord you received the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9-11; 1 Cor 6:19), the One whom Jesus said will take what is His and make it known to us. He, the Holy Spirit who is our teacher, our Comforter and the One who guides us into all truth, is in you if you are in Christ. It is He, the Holy Spirit, who is in us who imparts to us that deep, personal, intimate knowledge of the grace and glory of God (“He will take what is mine and make it known to you”).
What is needed for Christians to gain that intimate insight into the grace and glory of God is not more of the Spirit. It is the Spirit who needs more of us! Let me suggest, therefore, that we pray something like this:
Father, you drew me to Jesus, and in my union with Him I confess Your Spirit now lives in me. Jesus, may the Spirit take from what is Yours and make it known to me that I may live this day in the intimate, personal knowledge of your glory and grace, to the praise and glory of the Father.
Let me conclude this session of The Messenger with these words:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen (Phil 4:23).
If you have a question or a comment about this series please feel free to write to me, Brian, at
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