Sunday Sermon: ‘The Exceeding Riches of His Grace’

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Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

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!
Julia Johnston

This morning we return to our study of the book of Ephesians and we read these words in chapter 2 –

Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

The theme of these verses, as well as the entire book of Ephesians, is the grace of God. In vs. 7, Paul speaks of the ‘exceeding riches of God’s grace’. That might be translated as ‘the surpassing abundance of God’s grace.’ An abundance that surpasses what? For one thing, our expectation. Secondly, our needs. The Lord promised the suffering apostle Paul that His grace would be sufficient. But also, an abundance of grace that surpasses our sin. Paul wrote in Romans 5:20 – ‘…where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’ As Julia Johnston wrote, – Grace that is greater than all our sin!

My outline for this passage is very simple, yet I believe that it will enable us to understand what Paul was trying to teach us about the grace of God.

I. The Reason For His Grace

What is grace? The simplest definition is ‘Unmerited favor.’ God’s goodwill for us that we have neither earned, nor deserve. We don’t deserve God’s grace, yet we desperately, desperately need it.

A. Our Need

Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

Paul describes us as those who were ‘dead in trespasses and sins.’

1. Spiritual death is an absence of God’s presence and influence. The Bible describes eternity in hell as ‘the second death.’ That does not mean that men will die a second time and cease to exist. Rather it means that they will spend eternity separated from the presence and love of God. They will be cast out into ‘outer darkness.’ The helplessness and hopelessness of hell will be torment enough, even without a lake of fire.

2. There is a spiritual death that already exists. There are dead men walking all around us. Notice how Paul describes them.

Ephesians 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Spiritually dead men and women are those who live – ‘according to the course (ways, lifestyle) of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.’ The Bible teaches us that Satan is the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air. In John 8:44, Jesus said this about those who opposed Him – “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.” Paul describes such people in Romans 1:30 as ‘haters of God.’ Men and women who say in their hearts – “I don’t want God. Leave me alone. Let me live as I please.”

Paul also describes them as the ‘children of wrath.’ The wrath Paul speaks of here is God’s wrath; His holy displeasure against all that is sinful and evil. Such people live to fulfill the lustful desires of their flesh and mind. They live only for themselves and couldn’t care less about what God wants or thinks. Against such men, God has a holy wrath. A holy anger that cries out for justice to be served.

Note vs. 3 again –

3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past  … and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

If scripture ended right here, what a terrible future we would have. There would be no hope for us. But there is hope. Great hope! Notice what Paul says in the verse following –

B. God’s Provision

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us…

Most often we read of God’s grace. Rarely do we read of His mercy. Yet Paul says that God is ‘rich in mercy.’

That word caught my attention and so I took some time to study it. The word mercy refers to – {kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, accompanied with a desire to help them.} Often we see pictures of men and women, boys and girls who are in a terrible condition. Maybe they are the victims of an earthquake or landslide, or maybe it’s some physical deformity that they are born with and our hearts go out to them. We desire to show them mercy.

It’s an admirable thing to feel mercy towards an innocent victim; but who feels mercy towards someone who is guilty? Most of us believe that it is the right thing for someone to suffer for their own crimes. Yet notice what the Bible says about the grace of God –

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us…

‘Us’ who? Us who were the children of disobedience. Us who were the children of wrath. Us who were dead in our trespasses and sins. Here is an amazing truth and revelation about the nature of God. Before the foundation of the world, God foreknew that those He would create in His own image, would rebel against Him. He knew that they would become the objects of His divine wrath. And though it might seem that knowing this would cause God to not create us, He did. But why? As God considered our terrible condition, He felt mercy towards us. He pitied us in our condition and so therefore, by His grace, His unmerited favor toward us, He chose us ‘in Christ’ and by the sacrifice of His own Son, He was able to accept us ‘in the beloved.’ There is the heart and mind of the Creator of this world.

II. The Resource of His Grace

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast .

A. Not of Works

Paul understood what it meant to be someone who was trying to work his way to heaven. Before his salvation, Paul lived as strictly as possible according to the Jewish law and traditions. He wanted to please God. He said this about those like him –

Romans 10:2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

The world is full of religious people who are trying to know God through their own good works and self effort. Yet the Bible says –

Ephesians 2:8 … not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

B. By Faith in Jesus Christ

Ephesians 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us (made us alive) together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

III. The Result of His Grace

Why has God done what He has done? Why has God formed this plan? There are many reasons, but let me call your attention to just three:

A. For Our Salvation

Ephesians 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us (made us alive) together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

Without this plan, no one could be saved. It’s impossible for dead men to do anything to help themselves. Their dead! Yet even when we were dead in our sins, God made a way for us to be made alive together with Christ. By grace ye are saved.

B. For Our Transformation

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Some believe that because good works are not needed for salvation, good works aren’t important. Yet the Bible teaches us that good works were a part of God’s foreordained plan. Paul says it best in Titus 2 –

Titus 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

C. For God’s Glorification

Ephesians 2:7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

‘The ages to come’ speak of the day when all of God’s saints will be with Him in heaven. Throughout eternity, the redeemed will be ‘Trophies of God’s Grace.’ A trophy is a symbol that recognizes an accomplishment. What has God accomplished? By His grace, God has taken those who deserved nothing but His wrath and given to them all the blessings of heaven. Our salvation is to the praise of the glory of His grace. We have been saved to shew forth the exceeding riches of His grace.

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