God receives us because He receives Christ; He welcomes us because He welcomes Christ; He’s pleased with us because He’s pleased with Christ. This is hyper-plentiful grace.
by Stephen Yuille on April 08, 2022
By nature, we’re “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1) and “alienated and hostile in mind” (Col. 1:21). This wretched condition makes “grace” a beautiful word. The gospel is the good news that God is gracious. The Father’s giving of the Son for us is a gift; the Son’s giving of the Spirit to us is a gift; our identity in Christ is a gift; forgiveness is a gift; adoption is a gift; glorification is a gift. This is difficult for us to appreciate because most of our earthly gifts are a response to advancements, achievements, and accomplishments. In other words, most of our earthly gifts are earned. But God’s gifts are radically different. They’re gracious—unearned, unmerited, and undeserved.
By Paul’s own confession, there was a time when he was “advancing in Judaism” and was extremely “zealous” for the traditions of the fathers (Gal. 1:14). This zeal led him to persecute the church and attempt to destroy it (Gal. 1:13). Undoubtedly, he thought he was a modern-day Phinehas, who was “jealous with [the lord’s] jealousy” and killed those who dared to violate the law (Num. 25:11). Or perhaps he thought he was acting like Elijah, who was “very jealous for the lord” and killed the prophets of Baal (1 Kgs. 19:10–14). Paul probably saw these men as expressions of deep piety, but his zeal for religion was merely an external façade far removed from any true knowledge of God (Rom. 10:2). All that to say, Paul was completely lost. But what happened? In his own words, “he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me” (Gal. 1:15–16).
Paul’s present condition as a believer (and as an apostle of Christ) is startling, given his past condition. Elsewhere, he provides a brief description of his life before God called him, and it isn’t very flattering (1 Tim. 1:13). (1) He was a “blasphemer” (one who slanders God). (2) He was a “persecutor” (one who pursues as a hunter). (3) He was a “violent aggressor” (one who deliberately mistreats others for the purpose of hurting and humiliating them). In sum, Paul was a God-hater.
But what does he go on to say? “The grace of our Lord overflowed for me” (1 Tim. 1:14). In other words, God’s grace toward Paul was hyper-plentiful. Paul says the reason he “received mercy” was that Christ might “display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16). His point is that it doesn’t matter how wicked we are, God is willing to forgive. How can we be so sure? He saved Paul! His conversion is a pattern of God’s abounding mercy toward the most sinful, rebellious, antagonistic, spiteful, self-centered, depraved individuals.
Can anything move us beyond the reach of God’s grace? His grace overflowed for drunken Noah, idolatrous Abraham, rebellious Jacob, and murderous David. God’s grace overflowed for the thief, the prostitute, the demoniac, and the publican. God’s grace “overflowed” for Paul. God accepts all those who turn to Him in faith and repentance. God’s acceptance of Christ guarantees His acceptance of all who are united with Christ through faith. God receives us because He receives Christ; He welcomes us because He welcomes Christ; He’s pleased with us because He’s pleased with Christ. This is hyper-plentiful grace.
What a moving reminder that our strength, knowledge, achievements, ambitions, deeds, and desires are of no merit in God’s sight. As Martin Luther notes, “The doctrine of the gospel removes from mankind all glory, wisdom, and righteousness, and gives it solely to the Creator who made everything out of nothing (Heb. 11:3).” When it’s all said and done, we have no refuge except in God’s grace.
Marvellous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount out-poured –
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!
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