So what does God give us in abundance? What does he pour out on us lavishly, without restraint?
The Scripture names several things, but one much more than the others.
Pail tells the Ephesians that God has lavished on us “the riches of his grace” (Ep 1.7-8). Since this context is specifically about forgiveness of sins, we can safely conclude here that “grace” is the gift of salvation and specifically forgiveness; God has lavished his forgiveness on us, without regard to the enormity of both the quantity and the quality of our sins. This idea is borne out in Romans 5, where Paul writes that the abundance of “grace and the free gift of righteousness” (Ro 5.17) far outweighs the effect, as deep and pervasive and intense as it is, of Adam’s sin and our acquiescence to it. Down in verse 20, he intensifies the verb by saying that where sin abounds, grace “hyperabounds.”
You can’t out-sin God’s grace. His grace floods and eradicates the stain of the darkest of your sin. No one is beyond the reach and power of that grace.
But there’s even more to this grace. We’ve been looking at the grace that forgives; but it doesn’t stop there. God gives abundant grace to sanctify—to change us from sinners into saints, to empower us to live in a way that reflects his forgiveness. Paul says that “God is able to make all grace abound toward you” (2Co 9.8). Now, this is in the context of his urging the Corinthians to be generous in their offering for the poor saints in Jerusalem, so he may be saying simply that since God has given them much, they should be generous with others. But he doesn’t seem to limit the application in that way; he says that his readers “may abound to every good work.” Sure, by being generous in the offering; but if we have “all sufficiency in all things,” surely this extends to more than throwing a Hamilton into the offering plate, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t God’s people “abound” in good works? (1Th 4.1).
Throughout the centuries God’s people have found that their abilities to endure temptation and trial, to love the unlovable, to do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with their God, far exceed what they thought they were capable of doing. They stand in wonder at what God does through them.
Ample grace to save, and ample grace to sanctify.
Twice Paul speaks of abounding love—and not, as we might expect, God’s love for us, but our love for one another. He speaks of the Philippians’ love for him “overflow[ing] more and more” (Php 1.9); and he prays that the Thessalonians may “increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all” (1Th 3.12). In a day when Christians are finding themselves divided by politics—and by ecclesiastical politics—we find that we can do better; we can abound in love for one another, the kind of love that brings such natural enemies as Jews and Gentiles together into one body, who worship God together (Ep 3.10). Overflowing love can do this.
There are more things that God gives us in abundance. We’ll look at them next time.