Sugar Land Bible Church
Dr. Jim McGowan
Overview of The Riches of Divine Grace
Ephesians 1:3; 2:6-7
When you get behind the pulpit one of the criteria is you’re supposed to be able to tell a good joke and sadly I do not excel in that category. I thought about saying something about the gall of the fact that Andy wouldn’t be here today but the I realized that had been used previously. And I couldn’t come up with one for the reason why our youth pastor decided to go to Hawaii… I mean, is there anything funny about that? No! Actually, he’s performing a wedding there. But I did think of something I thought might be a little humorous; if you don’t come to our Sunday School classes I would encourage you to come to Sunday School. We had a lively discussion today and because of the intensity of that discussion I would like to just ask our deacons to make a plan this week to go through the parking lot and around the building and make sure there are no stones. Okay, well, it wasn’t the best joke but it was something, right.
What I’d like to do this morning is speak to you about the issue of the riches of divine grace. This may be a subject, or a topic, that you’ve not heard before, and frankly, until I began to really investigate this for myself I have to say I’d never heard a teaching on this myself. However, let me just say from the git-go that this is a very expansive topic and so therefore this morning all we’re going to be able to do is just introduce the material to you, and perhaps whet your taste buds a bit and get you excited about it to such a degree that perhaps we could have a Sunday School or you could do your own research, whatever the case might be, but let me say this, that this is a very, very important study. Understanding and comprehending the riches of divine grace is the God-intended means to entering into and enjoying a consistent, victorious Christian walk through our earthbound pilgrimage.
Now did that peak your interest? It should have. You know, in our society today everyone wants to be a winner; every time you turn the television on, every commercial you see, it’s all about being a winner. And we as a society, in fact, I think we’re obsessed with this idea of winning. Well, let’s use that as a springboard, if we could, for what we want to discuss this morning. Let me give you a little information here. You may remember this gentleman, Vince Lombardi, a very famous coach, some consider to be the greatest coach in football ever. Look what he said; he said: “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all-time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do the right thing all the time.” And then he says, “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately so is losing.” He also said this, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” And finally he said, “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”
Think about that for a minute, as a believer, a “commitment to excellence.” There’s another famous individual, famous coach, you may recall John Wooden, he said this: “Remember, results aren’t the criteria for success – it’s the effort made for achievement that is most important.” He goes on and says, “It is most difficult, in my mind, to separate any success, whether it be in your profession, you family, or as in my case, in basketball, from religion.”
Well, that’s some good information, isn’t it? I wonder what the Word of God has to say about winning. Do you think it says anything about it? I think it does. God’s Word, in fact, has quite a bit to say about winning. 2 Timothy 2:5 says, “Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.”
Now let me give you a little personal insight to my life. Growing up I was an athlete. Yes, I know as you look at me today you recognize that evolution is alive… right? I have not evolved, I have devolved with my spreading midsection and such…right? And my graying hair. But when I was a young man I was somewhat of an athlete, I played almost every sport available and the coaches, when I was on the football team they decided that if you were going to play football you were required also to do what? Run track; I hated track but I had to do it. So they plugged me in where they could fit me in… where are we going to put this guy. You know, there’s all these different kinds of races you can run and they got this great idea, let’s let him run the 100 yard high hurdles. Now again, you can see I’m somewhat of a squatty body, and therefore the idea of getting this body, of course it was much more attractive and thinner then, but nevertheless, getting that body over those hurdles was something that I wasn’t quite sure about, but I practiced and I practiced and I got to where I could do it. In fact, I could hit every one of those ten hurdles and get over them… I said “hit” them and I did hit a few of them but I got to where I could get over them. And so consequently they put me on the squad and we had to go to these track meets.
Well, I went to one track meet one day and I noticed that the hurdles looked strange and you know, one of the things we always did was we would always go stand next to the hurdle to just verify the height of the hurdle. Now let me just tell you, you may not know this but across the United States they actually have specific heights designated for the different level of the athlete. For example, the middle schoolers, guys, their hurdles are supposed to be set at 30 inches high. And when you get into high school for the guys it goes up to 36 inches, that’s a pretty big jump. And then when you get into college it goes up to 42 inches.
Now at the time I was in ninth grade and back in the dark ages we didn’t have middle school, we had Jr. High, and Jr. High you may recall was what? 7th, 8th and 9th grade, so I was in Jr. High. I should have been jumping over hurdles that were 30 inches high. So again, here I am, I go to measure the hurdle and instead of the hurdle being where it was supposed to be, it felt like it was up here under my armpit. And so I registered a complaint, I said hey, the hurdles are set too high, in fact, they’re set at the college height. Now let me just ask you a question; do you think that would have made any difference whatsoever in my ability to get over those hurdles. Yeah, shake your head, you know it did. Well, I hit the first one, and then I hit the second one, and on and on it went, I hit every single one of them, but I finished the race.
So are rules important? Sure they are, it’s really nice when the refs know the rules. You know, there’s something going on today, or not today, what is it, a couple of weeks from now, is it the Super Bowl I think, I really don’t keep up with it any more but I know there’s this thing called the Super Bowl coming, right. And you remember, was it last year or sometime earlier this year when they started this issue of deflate-gate came out? Does anybody remember that? Well, what’s the big deal if you take a few pounds out of the ball, so what? Right? Well, they’re not playing according to the rules apparently. But rules do matter.
1 Corinthians 9:24 and 26 says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.  Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  Therefore,” Paul said, ‘I run in such a way, as not without aim….’” He says here that when you’re running that race you’re running it to win. Nobody gets in a race and says well, you know, 15th place is okay. Right. NO, you run to win. But you know what, you can never win if you don’t have the correct aim, the correct goal in mind.
I can remember again, let you back into my personal life a little bit, I was a scrawny guy, and when I was in 9th grade I barely weighed enough to make the team but I did make the team, and I started as a wide receiver. And at the end of 9th grade, when we were talking about going up to high school and trying out for the high school football team, my coach said to me, don’t even think about it, you’ll never make it, you’re too small, you’re too scrawny, you don’t have what it takes. And me, being the stubborn individual that I am, I took that as a challenge. And so what did I do? I said you know what, if I’m going to win at this endeavor, if I’m going to make it on that football team in high school I’d better get busy, I’d better have some goals in mind. And so what I did from the end of football season in my 9th grade year until spring training in the spring at the high school was I started running and running and running.
Yes, I was scrawny but by golly I was going to be the fastest scrawny kids you ever saw. And you know, when it comes to being a wide receiver fast is important. So when it came time for spring training I went out there, practiced with these guys, and I’m telling you what, it was like practicing with the Texans; we had some fellows that were 6’3”, 6’4” 300 pounds, and I mean, I would stand behind their leg and you couldn’t see me. But you know what, I gave it my all and because I had endeavored and I had a goal and I had an aim, and because I was consistent in my effort, I actually did pretty well. Because of that, in the fall, when they selected the team and they were calling out all of the freshies, you know, that were going to make the squad, when they call them out they say okay, you’re on the team, you’re on the team, you’re on the team, and they hadn’t called my name. And I was sitting in the room with all of the rest of the losers, right, and the head coach is walking out the door and the last thing he does is he turns around and says, “hey Mac, you’re with us.” I was the last one from my 9th grade class picked to play on the varsity squad.
And to make a long story short, within two weeks I was the starting wide receiver because the two seniors ahead of me had been injured, and played that position for the rest of the year. Now ain’t I somethin’ right? No, not really. Run to win. I can remember after practices I would continue to exercise. Why? Because I knew there was a fourth quarter coming. Have any of you ever played football or basketball and you know what it’s like to get in the fourth quarter and you’re not sufficiently trained? You haven’t put the goal before you, you haven’t aimed and achieved the goal? It becomes rather tough, doesn’t it.
Look at these passages, if you will, 1 Corinthians 15:57 says this, “but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now I don’t know if you can read that small lettering there, but I put the definition of the word didomai (didomai) and what it means is… that’s the word translated to give and it’s the most common expression for the procedure whereby a subject deliberately transfers something to someone or something so that it becomes available to the recipient. So what got transferred here and who did the transferring? It’s God, isn’t it. God deliberately transferred something to us. What was it? Well, it tells us right there, “the victory.” He transferred “the victory to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus won the victory, right? He overcame the world, but God transferred the victory to us.
Romans 8:37 says this: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us….” 2 Corinthians 2:14 says, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ….” And again, if you can read the small print there this word “more than conquerors” literally means to be completely and overwhelmingly victorious.” This is what God transferred to you.
Look at the next one: the word translated there “triumph,” “leads us in triumph” says to lead in a triumphal procession. If you recall, the Roman procedures, when the Romans would win in a battle what would their generals do? They weren’t allowed to bring their armies into Rome, did you know that, so what they would do is they would put together a procession and this procession would be made up of all of the spoil that they had won for Rome and the Roman citizens. And they would have this big extravagant, elaborate procedure where they would file in, row after row after row of all the spoils. And in front of that group would be the general who had won the victory. The Bible tells us that here, not only have we been made “more than conquerors” but Christ goes before us leading us into triumph.
Now we could probably just stop right there and say what a great message, let’s all go home. Right? But my question is this, how are you doing with that? Right? How are you doing with this idea of personal spiritual victory? If you’re honest, and I know you are, you’re like me, you have some days where you feel like, you know, I feel pretty victorious today, I feel like I’ve got it together and God’s working with me. And there are other days when you go God, where are You? What happened Lord? I thought you were leading me in victory, why did this happen in my life? Why is this going on? Right?
Is there a reason for that, perhaps? Well, let me suggest a few reasons for you here. Why aren’t we enjoying continuous spiritual victory in our lives? Number 1, we aren’t competing according to the set rules. We are trying to adjust the hurdle to our specifications. We aren’t competing to win because our aim is off. Lord, if I just pray for that Cadillac that you know I really, really want, I know you’ll give it to me, right? We aren’t prepared to receive Christ’s victory baton.
I also ran the mile relay, worst race on the planet, right? You know what you do in the mile relay? There’s four guys, they each run one time around the track as fast as they can, and when you’re doing that, you know, right as the first guy gets to the point of exhaustion he reaches out with a baton to give it to you. What’s the most critical time in a relay race? It’s not the start and it’s not the finish, it’s that danged baton. Right? You know? And how many times have we seen… have you ever watched the Olympics and see these guys just blare out in front of everybody and one guy drops the baton and what happens? Their race is over.
We’re not ready to receive Christ’s victory; we’re not prepared for it. Another reason is in our own ignorance we attempt to secure our own victory by means of the law and the flesh. More about that in a minute. And we do not sufficiently understand what Christ’s victory at the cross secured for us.
What about this issue of the law. What do I mean by that? Well, we have this dilemma and we can find this very same dilemma in the Gospels, here in Luke 10:25-28, it says here that “a lawyer stood up” and put Jesus “to the test,” look what he said, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  And He [Jesus] said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?”  And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’” What a great answer.
And look what Jesus said, He said, “‘You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.’’” What? “do this and you will live.” What’s wrong with that? The lawyer, first of all, was insincere, he was an insincere seeker of truth because it says he was testing Jesus, and he wanted to test Jesus’ commitment to the established legal system. He didn’t come to Jesus sincerely with the idea of what can I do, what do I need to do to have eternal life? That wasn’t really what he was after. He wanted to see well, Jesus, are You going to put Your stamp of approval on my way of doing it, “my way” being the law in this case? He quotes what is considered to be the great or foremost command by the Jews, and then the second most important command. But Jesus, knowing his heart, used His own words to reveal his hypocrisy.
What was this all about? Well, Jesus understood what Paul later articulated in Romans 3:20, the Law could justify no man for “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight.” You’ll notice under the title there what’s the dilemma? There’s no enablement under the law. The Law is good and righteous and holy but there’s no enablement that allows us or equips us or empowers us to be able to keep it. That’s why we also read where Paul says if you try to keep the whole Law and yet you break one law you’re guilty of the whole thing. So some folks, some believers are trying to set the rules as legal rules; well, if I just keep these rules, if I just follow this methodology then I’ll be okay. And what you discover is what Paul discovered later in Romans 7, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” [Romans 7:24]
Because law-keeping isn’t where it is.
Well, we have another dilemma and that is that there’s no enablement through the flesh. Romans 7:18 says, Paul is saying, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.” And every person sitting in here right now or listening by way of streaming, is going oh, that’s me! Right? That’s me, that’s what I discover, nothing good dwells in my flesh and yet what do I do day after day after day? I endeavor to use my carnal mental thinking processes to be victorious in my life.
Pastor Andy has referred to the fact that we have all this baggage that we bring into Christianity with us, all of this carnal baggage. And if that’s not bad enough, as believers what’s happening to us every single day, every single moment of our life? We’re being bombarded with the world… with the world, the carnal way of thinking.
Let me point something out to you here. When the Apostle Paul uses the term “flesh” here and in Romans, he usually means the sin nature. He means the sin nature as it seeks to express itself through the as yet unredeemed physical body of the believer. No enablement through the flesh. Romans 8:6-8 says this, look at this, “For the mind set on the flesh” is what? “is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,  because the mind set on the flesh is” what? “hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God,” and here law is better interpreted or translated as principle, “for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Now we read these verses and we nod our head and we say yes, that’s right, that’s right! And then what we do is we walk out the door and it isn’t very long before we’re back into our carnal way of thinking and doing things. And then we wonder why we don’t have consistent victory in our Christian lives. What a dilemma.
William Newell said this: “As long as we think lightly of the fact of the presence with us of the fallen nature, (I speak of Christians) we are far from deliverance…. It is because people do not recognize their all-badness that they do not find Christ all in all to them…. Those who have received a knowledge of the truth and are addressed by the apostle as among God’s people, may yet be choosing a flesh-walk….” There’s no enablement, either through the Law or the flesh.
But we also fail to find consistent victory in our lives because we do not sufficiently understand Christ’s victory. What did Christ do at the cross? What has He secured for us? What does this victory entail? Let me share a story with you by way of illustration, the sad case of the ill-informed passenger. The story is told of a very poor laborer who had worked all his life on a banana plantation during the 1800’s in South America. He had scraped what little he could for many years in the hope that one day he might be able to take a ship to the United States and experience his own American dream. The day finally arrived and with just enough money to purchase a ticket he went to the shipyard, ticket in hand, and eagerly boarded the ship. Considering his low station in life he made his way to the hold in the lower part of the ship where the cargo was loaded. The poor man had no money for food but being a man of some religious conviction he knew it would not be right for him to help himself to the fruits and vegetables all around him in the hold. Nevertheless, after three days without food he reasoned that no one would mind if he ate from the portion of the fruits and vegetables that were spoiled, since they would have to be discarded anyway. So for the rest of the trip he sustained himself by eating spoiled bananas, rotting vegetables and drinking soured coconut milk.
After a few days in the hold, which had very little circulation, surrounded by all that rotting cargo the poor man needed a bath, but to his dismay there was nowhere for him to bathe in the hold. He finally found an old rusted empty bucket, which, when carefully lowered out of one of the windows would catch sufficient sea water for him to at least rinse himself. His situation was far from ideal, but he comforted himself with the knowledge that he would soon be in America. Two weeks later, right on schedule, the ship pulled into New York harbor and the passengers began disembarking. As customary, the ship steward watched as the passengers disembarked. To his amazement he saw a disheveled and unkempt man heading toward the ramp way to leave the ship and believing him to be a stowaway he stopped him and questioned him as to who he was and where he had been hiding. The poor man, embarrassed, humbly related his story to the steward. Astonished by this information, the steward asked the poor man to read the words written in large letters at the top of his ticket. The poor man hung his head and seemed confused. Then the truth of the situation became clear to the steward; the poor man could not read so he did not know that the top of the ticket said “all expenses paid.” He had purchased a ticket that not only included a first class cabin with all the amenities but also all the food he could eat. My contention is that one of the reasons why we don’t have spiritual victory in our life is because we often are illiterate believers. Yes, we have some of the basics down but this issue of who we are in Christ, the issue of our identity in Christ is one in which we are, sadly I think, failing and lacking
Many believers like the ill-informed passenger in my illustration, suffer from biblical illiteracy and so are not informed as to what it means to be “in Christ.” This ignorance hinders their spiritual growth and maturity and resultant consistent spiritual victory because they never acquire the knowledge and understanding of who they are “in Christ” nor of what they have “in Christ.” What we have “in Christ” is what we mean by the expression the riches of divine grace. And that’s actually what we’re talking about this morning.
So there’s a wonderful introduction for you, it only took thirty-five minutes. Let’s talk about the riches of divine grace for a moment. Let me give you a definition and then we’ll talk about the three tenses of salvation briefly; briefly about the position versus condition, and then we’ll go in more detail to the essential character of the riches of divine grace and then we’ll have something to day about the thirty-three riches of divine grace.
So what do we mean by this “the riches of divine grace”? What we mean by this is that which comprehends the doctrine of salvation and which includes the sum total of those things divinely accomplished, look at that expression, divinely accomplished for the individual at the instant of belief alone. Let that sink in. The riches of divine grace form that aspect of salvation which is already accomplished in and for the one who believes. The riches of divine grace illustrate and illuminate the New Testament teaching on the believer’s position in Christ.
You’ve seen this before, the three tenses of salvation, I just love the fact that Andy throws this in every opportunity he has because you know, we can’t hear it enough, we need to be reminded. Past tense—justification; present tense—sanctification, progressive sanctification; future tense—glorification. Break it down quickly here, past tense, what is happening here, what’s occurring here? Salvation from the penalty of sin. It also refers to salvation as being wholly past and it’s something that’s been completed, it’s unchanging for the one who has believed.
And what is it that we’re being saved from? Well, we’re being saved from eternal death, we’re being saved to eternal life. If you’d like to write some passages down here, Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Titus 3:5, “He saved us,” past tense, “not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” John 5:24, dealing with this issue of penalty says what, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”
1 John 5:11, “And the testimony is this, that God has given us” past tense, “eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” John 10:28, the Lord Jesus said, “and I give eternal life to them,” what are we being saved from, eternal death to eternal life, “I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” And Romans 8:1, because this is true, “Therefore there is now” what? “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I knew this was going to happen the moment I began to get heated up and going really well here, it starts this fire. All right, justification, past, deals with the penalty of sin, there’s a couple of Scriptures. I love this chart right here; when we talk about justification what are was saying here? Jesus did it all. Jesus did it ALL! I’m so glad He did it all. But you know what I discover in my own life is that I have no problem with the fact that Jesus did it all with regard to my sanctification, but with everything else in my life I want to help Him. Have you noticed that. I read somewhere in the Word of God where it says that it’s impossible to please God without what? Faith. He wants us to have a faith walk, [Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him ; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him.”]
I quoted these Scriptures to you, this is a lot to read here but it’s worth going through dealing with the issue of justification. “Justified from sin” does not mean ‘sinless perfection’ — but something utterly different, and infinitely beyond that! It is different, in that it does not refer to an ‘experience’ of deliverance from sin, but a passing beyond, in death with Christ at the cross, the sphere where the former relationship to sin existed! We are justified, accounted wholly righteous, with respect to the thing sin itself! This, therefore, is infinitely beyond any state whatever of experience.” Notice what he says here, “It is a newly-established relationship to sin, which the saints have because they” what? “died with Christ: in which they stand in Christ as He is toward sin. They are ‘meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.’ They are heavenly. Their old relation to sin is over forever. They are justified from it. They rejoice, indeed, and have a most blessed ‘experience.’ But they do not say sin is gone from their flesh: but that they, having died, are declared righteous from their flesh… they are cleared before God, of all condemnation because of sin’s presence in this unredeemed body; and delivered from all sin’s former rights and bondage over them.” [Newell, W. R. (n.d.). Romans Verse-by-Verse. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library]
What a great statement. What about the present tense of salvation? Well, we talked about this before, we’re being saved from the reigning power of sin. So we’re to walk by faith. What do we mean? We are to “reckon ourselves dead to sin.” [Romans 6:11, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” KJV] And what are we being saved from? Or what are we being saved to? Well, we’re being saved from the power of the sin nature to being alive to God.
If you want to write these passages down, Philippians 2:12-13 says that we are to work out our own salvation, but then in verse 13 it says it is God who is at work in us. He’s performing it. There’s the familiar chart; there’s the passage, Philippians 2:12-13 “so then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;  for it is God who is at work in you, [both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”] Well, this certainly can’t be talking about justification, because Jesus did it all; He did it! This is progressive sanctification.
I might point out that it is here that we being to see the identification truths; the identification truths are what actually describe the present tense of salvation. We have the future tense, which is glorification, where we’re being saved from the presence of sin to Christ. We will be in full conformity eventually, Romans says that we have been predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ, that’s going to happen. When? At glorification. [Romans 8:29, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;”]
What are we saved from? We are ultimately going to be saved from the presence of the sin to the absence of the sin nature. And I don’t know about you but I can’t wait for that; you know, in my greatest imagination I cannot fathom what that must be like. I can’t wait. Romans 5:10 says “we were reconciled to God through” Christ’s death, and it says “we shall be saved by His life.”
[Romans 5:10, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”]
1 John 3:2 says, “we will be like Him,” I can’t wait for that. [1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”]
1 Peter 1:5 says that “we are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” And Philippians 1:6 says, and this is one of my favorite verses, “…that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until thy day of Christ Jesus.” That’s great news isn’t it. There’s Romans 5:10. [Romans 5:10, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”]
That brings us to our point about position versus condition. If you look at this chart here our position is our standing, that is who we are in Christ. Notice it’s eternal and it’s unchangeable… it’s unchangeable! There’s nothing you can do to change the fact that you’re in Christ. But then if you look at our condition or our state, that has to do with what we’re doing right now, here in the world, and it’s our moment by moment walk. It is temporal and it is changeable. Why? Because it’s conditioned on our obedience and willingness to be submitted to the Holy Spirit. Colossians 2:6, “Therefore as you receive Christ Jesus, the Lord,” that has to do with position, “so walk in Him,” condition.
How did you receive the Lord Jesus Christ? You received Him by faith. How do you walk in Him? You walk by faith. The Law won’t help and the flesh can’t help. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary has this to say about this passage: “The Colossians had received Christ in a certain manner, that is, as the anointed of God, as the historic Savior and as the sovereign Lord. Paul’s appeal is that they continue to live, or walk, in Him in the same manner. That is to say he wants their present and continuous conduct to conform to the doctrine taught them at the beginning, the doctrine they had committed themselves to at conversion.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary says: “Since their faith initially laid hold decisively on the apostolic gospel Paul exhorted them not to forsake its divine authority for any human sophistry, that’s a fancy word, sophistry, that just means human wisdom.”
That brings us finally to the issue of the essential character of the riches of divine grace. There’s positive aspect and there’s negative aspect. First of all, the positive aspect: “They were wrought by God.” “They were wrought by God, they’re wrought instantaneously, they’re wrought simultaneously and they are grounded on the merit of Christ.” This is key, critical information here.
There’s some negative aspects: 1, they are not experienced, they are not progressive and they are in no related to human merit. They are not temporal but eternal in their character” and notice, “they are unknown by any other means than divine revelation of the Word of God.”
Let’s talk about that for a moment. When we talk about the eternal riches of divine grace we say that they are not experiential, and the reason is because they are positional eternal fact. They’re based on our justification, and our new divine life relationship in God, and they’re not experientially observable. So getting goosies doesn’t mean a thing, right. Any of you watch that show? Robert Lightner, talking about justification as a new eternal fact says this: “To be justified means to be declared righteous. Because of our position in Christ, whereby Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. God declares us righteous because we are clothed with his righteousness. This is of course the work of grace…. Justification is more than simply God viewing the sinner as though he had never sinned. Instead, it is God looking upon the sinner to whom the righteousness of Christ, earned at the cross, has been added.” [Lightner, R. P. (1995). Handbook of Evangelical Theology: (p. 203). Grand Rapids, MI: A Historical, Biblical, and Contemporary Survey and Review Kregel Publications.]
By the way, “earned at the cross” doesn’t mean you earned it the cross, it means Christ earned it at the cross, right? 2 Corinthians 5:21, we’re all familiar with this verse, “He [God] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him [Christ].” The glorious purpose of the Father’s act in making Christ “to be sin” was that believers should “become the righteousness of God” in Christ. This is a bold restatement of the nature of justification. Not only does the believer receive from God a right standing before him on the basis of faith in Jesus but here Paul says that “in Christ” the believer in some sense actually shares the righteousness that characterizes God himself.
And a note from Constable, he says: “So complete was the identification of the sinless Christ with the sin of the sinner, including its dire guilt and it’s dread consequences of separation from God that Paul could say profoundly God made Him [Christ] to be sin for us.” And we should rejoice in that fact. Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And Newell says here, “We must note at once that the Greek form of this verb “declared righteous,” or “justified,” is not the present participle,” which would be translated “being declared righteous,” but rather the aorist participle, “having been declared righteous,” or “justified.”
So who cares he says, what’s the difference? Well, the answer is, “being declared righteous” looks to a state you are in; “having been declared righteous” looks back to a fact that happened. It’s happened, praise God.
Lewis Sperry Chafer, also talking about this issue of the fact that the riches of divine grace are not progressive, he says, “Every divine undertaking is instantly wrought to that degree of infinite perfection which it will exhibit in the eternal ages to come. Sonship well illustrates this truth. There are many features of the relation between father and son which are subject to progression and change; but sonship itself knows no advancement or development. A child is as much a son at birth as he is at any subsequent point in his existence. Thus it is with every divine accomplishment that enters into the immediate salvation of men. [Chafer, L. S. (1993). Systematic theology (Vol. 3, p. 233). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.]
Look at these two verses, Galatians 3:26 says, “you are … you all sons of God.” Romans 8:14, 16 says these “are sons of God,” that we “are children of God. [Galatians 3:26, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:14, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Romans 8:16, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.”]
This is something that’s right now, we’re not hoping to become sons of God, we’re not hoping that we can be good enough and progress enough in our own personal righteousness that we can become sons of God, we are right now. How does that stack up against some of the other teachings that we find. Well, you know, there’s the New Age Movement, Hinduism and Buddhism, and every one of them has some form of this idea that we can progress to become God. In fact, the lady that I have pictured there, Shirley MacLaine, wrote a book about that and did a movie which at the very end of the movie she stands on the beach in California and she has this sudden realization, this illumination that comes to her and she throws her arms out and she says I get it, I am God. I wonder how that’s working for her.
Of course, you can try to follow one of the other paths here where you get to live and die and live and die and live and die and hope that you eventually get there. How about this one, Lorenzo Snow 5th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stated this: “As man now is, God once was; As God now is, man may be.” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorenzo Snow; accessed 01/07/2016] How do you like that? If you just follow all of the tenants of the church, you do everything you’re supposed to do, you too can become God. That’s what they teach. This is all I can say….
Well, what is the problem with these folks that think they can somehow progress to become God or deity? Well, the real issue is they fail to understand that there is a Creator/creature distinction… a Creator/creature distinction. And sadly many believers don’t really understand this concept. While we will be eternal, and we are in fact right now eternal beings because we’ve believed in Christ, eternal doesn’t mean infinite. And I often find it frustration when I hear professing believers talking about gee, what are we going to do when we get to heaven? You know, eternity is a long time. I mean, you can only sing “Just As I Am” so many times, right? I mean, what are we going to do?
Well, let me tell you what we’re going to do; we’re going to be discovering what it means that God is infinite. We will never ever know everything we need to know about God the Father. We won’t have to but we’re going to have all eternity to learn about the infinite God that saved us.
What about this issue of human merit? The riches of divine grace are in no way related to human merit, Romans 5:8, I love this passage, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God didn’t look down from His heavenly abode and say hmmm, well, you know, Jim looks like he has some potential; you know, I can see him down the road preaching there at Sugar Land Bible Church so I think I’ll save him. There was not anything good in me that God could see and yet He saved me, He sent the Lord Jesus for me and I’m so glad that He did.
Lewis Sperry Chafer has this to say about human merit. “Beneath this truth, which truth is foreign to all human processes of life and experience, is the sovereign purpose of God to do all that He does according to His own good pleasure, and this He is free to do because the believer is seen to be—as he really is—a member in the Body of Christ, and therefore meet to be blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. Whatever would be accorded the Son of God will be accorded a member in His Body.” Boy, I should read that again. “Whatever would be accorded the Son of God will be accorded a member in His Body. It is thus that these riches of grace are built solely on the merit of the Son of God, and, for that reason, are as abiding as the merit on which they rest.” [Chafer, L. S. (1993). Systematic theology (Vol. 3, p. 233). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.]
Praise the Lord. Newell again says this: “…let us avoid the thought that assurance of our sonship is based on our perfect obedience to the Spirit. Nothing is based upon us. If one of God’s true saints disobeys, it is the office of that same Spirit to convict him of his sin, interceding in Him “according to God” (Rom. 8:27), while Christ intercedes for him above (1 John 2:1).” [Newell, W. R. (n.d.). Romans Verse-by-Verse (p. 217). Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library.]
We neither enter into sonship through human merit nor do we maintain our sonship through human merit, nor do we access the riches of divine grace through human merit. Human merit must be excluded. The riches of divine grace are made to stand on the unchanging person and merit of the eternal Son of God. And we enjoy, because of what Christ did, we enjoy these divine riches in Christ, we enjoy them because we are now “highly favored and accepted in the Beloved.” And here’s the two passages, Ephesians 1:6, “…His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” And Romans Rom 15:7, we are to “…accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”
Let me give you the Greek behind this. When you say “freely bestowed” this, are you ready for this, this is going to knock you right off the pew here, this means to highly honor or greatly favor. That didn’t do it huh? Okay, well here, here’s the rest of it. In the New Testament it is spoken only, this verb, is spoken only of the divine favor as to the virgin Mary. Think about that. God sees you as He saw the virgin Mary, highly favored. This verb that’s used to translate “accepted” literally means to receive to one’s self, to admit to one’s society and fellowship, to receive and treat with kindness. This is what God has done for us because of Christ’s sacrifice. This is part of the eternal riches of divine grace.
The imparted life of God is as eternal in its character as its fountainhead, hence the word of His grace, “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” The consciousness, and this is critical, right here, the consciousness and personal realization of such relationship to God may vary with the daily walk of the believer but the abiding facts of the new being are never subject change in time and eternity.
I’m just going to go through these quickly here, John 6:40 refers to eternal life. [John 6:40, “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”] When we talk about some of these eternal riches or divine riches are great, what are we talking about. Well, certainly eternal life, but what about eternal glory? We’re going to share God’s eternal glory. What about eternal comfort? These are all part of the divine riches of God’s grace.
Jude 24 tells us that we’re going to stand in the presence of His glory, blameless, with great joy. [Jude 24, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy,  to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”] Great joy, joy is one of the riches of divine grace also. We said that these riches of divine grace are known only through the divine revelation of the Word of God. This is why self-help books don’t work. Really, it is; it only comes through the Word of God. Notice, they defy human imagination and since they cannot be experienced their reality can be entered into only by believing the Word of God.
Look at these passages here. What does Romans 12:2 say, it says that we are to be transformed, how? by the renewing of our minds. How do we renew our minds. [Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”] Well, we go to the Word of God. Why? Because Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is living and active. And if we’re renewing our mind and if we’re going to the Word of God which is alive, living and active, and if we’re receiving the Word of God as 1 Thessalonians says here, then it says the Word of God will perform its work in you who believe. [Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. [1 Thessalonians 2:13 you received the word of God which you heard from us,…not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.”]
What work is it performing? It’s performing? It’s performing, it’s conforming, and transforming processes and revealing the divine riches of God’s grace to our hearts, only through the Word of God.
So we said that these essential characters of the riches of divine grace are not experienced, they’re not progressive, they’re not related to human merit. We said that they are not temporal, and we said that they were eternal in their character. We said now that they’re not known by any other means than by the Word of God.
And so finally we come to the question, so what in the world are the riches of divine grace. I’ve indicated a few of them to you, but the truth of the matter is, here it is: The Riches of Divine Grace include all the things which are divinely accomplished in and for the individual at the moment of believing. Did that help you? Not really, that’s a great statement, isn’t it? But it doesn’t really tell you very much. Well, Lewis Sperry Chafer has written a paper, or he has articulated 33 riches of divine grace and this morning, if you can figure out what that picture is there next to him, that’s an iceberg, I’m only able to just touch on the very tip of that iceberg. There’s so much more to this issue of the divine riches, but sadly I must leave you with a cliff hanger. All right. We can’t go over all of these, unless, of course, you’re willing to stay another two or three hours, and I know that food is being prepared in the back so that’s out of the question.
So what I did was I ran off some handouts, I noticed some of them have already made their way out to you. If you didn’t get one I encourage you to pick one up, they’re on the table in the back, back there, and we have listed out all of the 33 riches of divine grace. And you know, some people like to go get these God’s promises books and use them for daily devotions. Here’s one that’s better. I encourage you to get it and I encourage you to use it. I think you’ll find that it will be something encouraging and uplifting to your heart. So quickly, in conclusion, Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” That’s such a great verse that if I don’t know what the “all things” are it doesn’t help me out a bit.
You know, I can go up and down the road cheering, carrying a sign, “He’s freely given me all these things,” but what are they? I don’t know, I know He gave them to me but I don’t know what they are. Right. 1 Corinthians 2:12, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know,” look what it says, “we may know the things freely given to us by God.” What does that mean? The Word of God, the Spirit of God will take the Word of God and impart it to the heart of man so that we will understand those things that indeed are freely given to us.
What should you, as a believer, take away from this teaching this morning? A consistent, victorious mirroring of our position in Christ in our daily conditional walk is only realized through knowing who we are in Christ and then allowing the Holy Spirit to manifest that reality in our mortal flesh. The admonition then to you who are believers is check your heart, right this very moment; what is it that God is saying to you from this message this morning? Whatever it is, respond in faith to do what God tells you to do.
What about the unbeliever? Well, God has prepared a way for the unbeliever to have and experience new life in Christ. This new life in Christ is received as a free gift by faith alone, and makes available to you all of God’s divine riches of grace. John 14:6, “Jesus said” and everyone knows this, right? “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’”
So the admonition to you, if you’re here today and you don’t know the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior is that today is the day of salvation. You can place your faith in Christ’s promises right now. There are no secret handshakes, there are no righteous deeds, no church membership, no emotional pressure induced commitment, no hand raising and no aisle walking required. Simple faith, which is trust, or confidence in God’s offer of new eternal life to those who have placed their faith in Christ is all that’s required.
And if that’s something that you have done, or you are doing right now, I have the great pleasure of telling you that on the authority of the Word of God, as you place your faith in Christ, I can declare that you are a child of God, and because of that you now will have access to all of God’s divine riches in glory. If you need more information, of course, I along with the other elders area available immediately after the service. Let us pray. Father, thank you for the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. May we all, this morning, this very minute, be sensitive to heed Your voice and the voice of your Spirit as You and He draw us to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, for restoration of fellowship, for spiritual growth. Amen.