...The Most Amazing Sound in God's Kingdom
Yet to See Its Most Amazing Work in All the Earth
PAUL WAS TAKEN UP WITH GRACE when he wrote Ephesians. It was so important in the whole idea of the Epistle that he used the Greek word for "grace," cháris, twelve times in the six chapters. He used it more than one hundred times in all his Epistles.
Consider the number twelve. In its spiritual significance it denotes governmental perfection. We associate it with the authority and power of God's Government. Well might we say it is through the authority and power of His grace that we are brought into the government of His Kingdom.
Grace reigns in Ephesians! A testimony is stamped on the whole Book saying there is a governmental authority in grace that will prevail and bring God's purposes to pass in us as well as in all the earth.
As we move on into the power and glory of the Kingdom, grace touches us all the way. God's work in us is begun by grace, carried forward by grace, and finished by grace.
Never will this grace be so important as when all the forces of anti-Christ arise to make their demands to bring in their "new age." Then, the grace of God will become our last resource--the powerful provision of God's Eternal Kingdom secure and triumphant in the heavens. It will be given its greatest release in the earth to bring in The New Age of Christ's Rule over every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation (Rev 5:9).
I Peter 1:3-10 has a powerful word for us regarding this end-time release of grace. We will examine this passage soon. The Holy Spirit is drawing us to consider its present day importance. Become familiar with it.
MY FIRST INSIGHT--nearly forty years ago--about the continuing work of grace came, strangely enough, from the Prophet Zechariah. It was in a Messianic prophecy, directed to the Lord Jesus as He was typified by Zerubbabel, the leader of the first exiles returning to Jerusalem from their Babylonian captivity. The Prophet's word to him had to do with finishing the humanly impossible task of bringing Zion to her perfection with a Temple adorned with God's presence. Although I took the passage out of its immediate context, it spoke something powerful to me. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it--Zech 4:7.
That He will bring forth the headstone means He will finish the work, placing the last stone of the structure while there goes up a celebration of praise extolling the grace that brought it there. On reading this prophecy, I could see it as reaching through the ages to the greater government of Zion and the greater Temple made of living stones (Heb 12:22 and I Pet 2:5).
To me it was a personal word of hope that the work He had begun in my life would be carried on--and then finished--through the power of His grace. We can know: grace will bring to perfection all the work of Zion's Government (the Kingdom of God on earth), and grace will bring to perfection the work God has begun in our lives as we grow together unto an holy temple in the Lord--Eph 2:21.
What a powerful thing to know! Our stumbling efforts to grow in the Lord only make way for His grace to do its more powerful work. Even now, let us yield!
GRACE NEVER TOOK ON SUCH MEANING as it did in the New Testament. It had its place in the Old Testament. Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD--Gen 6:8. There it is from the Hebrew word chen meaning "favor, or acceptance by another." It is perhaps closest in meaning to the Hebrew chesed which means "goodness and kindness." But it became so powerful a concept in the New Testament that a word of deeper meaning had to be found to describe its might and beauty. Written in the common Greek language of the first century, it became necessary sometimes for New Testament writers to take words of lesser meaning and elevate them to fit new language demands. One such word was cháris, the word that became the name of grace in the New Testament. There had never been any word in any language that could fully describe that quality the Lord Jesus introduced into the world when He brought us the fullest expression ever of God's love.
Richard Trench, in his Synonyms of the New Testament, has this to say about cháris: "There has often been occasion to observe the manner in which Greek words taken up into Christian use are glorified and transformed, seeming to have waited for this adoption of them, to come to their full rights, and to reveal all the depth and the riches of meaning which they contained, or might be made to contain. Cháris is one of these."
Before cháris was promoted into the New Testament, it came to express not only the beauty of a thing, but the thing itself; not only the graciousness of an act, but the act itself. It also took on the meaning of "thankfulness for a beautiful thing done or given."
But this noble word waited for its highest consecration. Trench tells us more. It came "not indeed to have its meaning changed but to have that meaning ennobled, glorified, lifted up from the setting forth of an earthly to the setting forth of a heavenly benefit, from signifying the favor and grace and goodness of man to man, to setting forth the favor, grace and goodness of God to man, and thus, of necessity, of the worthy to the unworthy, of the holy to the sinful."
It is a strange thing. Religion asks man not to sin that he might better know God. Yet, like the prodigal who left his father's house for the swill of the swine, it is the one who has fallen into sin and has been deeply hurt by it who can come to know this greatest dimension of God's character that He will reveal to man. It is the sinner, the failure, the wreck, the man written off as hopeless, who can know the sweetest touch of mercy. This is the one who can more fully appreciate the Holiest of All where he finds the Mercy Seat. In the finding of this, the prodigal finds the merciful swoop of grace that lifts him into the bosom of the Father.
Oh! Turning from sin and its corruption, what grace there is for any weak sinner! Who of us does not need this?
PAUL UNDERSTOOD GRACE as starting with God, and continuing to pour forth from Him. Then, he saw it as a quality not remaining with God alone but coming over upon us who receive it. Thus, it becomes a quality of life and character that will find release in us who are saved by grace.
To Paul, grace was like a river flowing, and flowing, and flowing--and flowing.
He saw saving grace. This is the dimension of grace that receives us in our lost estate. It brings us to God and releases a work in us that will continue on to the end of the age with a salvation ready to be revealed at that time. We never move from the saving work of grace. It will operate in us even into the ages to come.
Paul also saw enabling grace. Here grace becomes a quality of life that flows from God to us. It gives us the power and wisdom to face any demand life can bring. As difficulty increases, our perception of grace as an enabling force will only increase. This grace will bring harmony out of disharmony. It will make something beautiful out of what was ugly. It will work success--albeit the success of the Kingdom--out of failure.
Paul saw what we can call ennobling grace. Whether we be from the family of a beggar or a king, grace lifts us to the position of royalty in the Kingdom of God. What nobility! This is a grace that endures in the face of every demeaning circumstance. Whenever the enemy works to devalue us, this grace takes on exceeding force to make us all the more valuable in the Kingdom of God. This is the value, and this is the nobility, that will stand when all of earth's nobles fall either in repentance or in disgrace.
Then Paul saw grace in another dimension. We can call it healing grace. It will flow from one who has received it unto another who needs it. This is ministerial grace. It ministers hope, cheer, love, encouragement, and strength. It heals. It starts out in God and moves like water through a channel from one thirsty soul to another.
. We cannot adequately divide grace into these dimensions and say we have analyzed it fully. But, we can receive all its work while it brings the release of God's love and power over upon us.
READING ALL THE VERSES in Ephesians on grace will reveal some of the different dimensions of grace we just mentioned. Each statement is important in the working of Ephesians truth into our lives. Mark them in your Bible and observe each one with its context.
- The Epistle was written to bring ennobling grace to those who receive its word. Eph 1:2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. What company grace brings with it--peace, with God and with man! Is not this also a healing kind of grace?
- Everything that God is doing in every realm of mankind is leading to the exaltation of His grace. Eph 1:6--To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved. This joins us back to that word in Zech 4:7 with the shoutings of Grace, grace! The Greek word for praise in this Ephesian verse is épainos. It means a glorious celebration. In the final day, there will be no celebration of man's ability to accomplish anything. The life to which we have been called is so filled with impossibility that its work can only come to completion by grace. Thus, all the celebration and praise will go in that final day to the glory of His grace.
He hath made us accepted is very interesting in the Greek. It is from charitóo which means to make someone the object of a gracious visitation. It is in the Beloved, the Lord Jesus, that grace finds its fullest expression as it visits us with a full redemption.
- The redemption we have through the blood of God's Son is according to the riches of His saving grace. Eph 1:7--In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness (remission) of sins, according to the riches of His grace... Take note: the release from sin's bondage (redemption) and the release from sin's guilt (remission) can only come through the abundance of God's grace. Riches is from the Greek ploútos. It means "opulent wealth." Enough wealth was released in the death of the Lord Jesus to redeem every soul in the world. And, there need remain not one cord of guilt in any redeemed soul.
- The statement is clear: we are saved by grace. Eph 2:5--Even when we were dead in sins, (God) hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved). This grace will reach into the heart of any person and release the indwelling Life of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what being quickened means. It is the energetic work of Christ's life in us released for us when He was raised from the dead. This introduces us to the fullest extension of saving grace. We can receive no greater manifestation of grace than is given us when we are made alive together with Christ.
- With all the life available to us now in Christ, there is an abundance of grace yet to be known in the ages to come. Eph 2:7--That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. Every dimension of grace will come upon us in the closing of this age to bring us on through into the ages yet to come. What mystery and exuberant joys await us--all the expression of God's grace! It is here we perceive the fullness of His grace moving on with us into His eternal Kingdom.
- It is stated again: we are saved by grace set in operation when we believe. Eph 2:8--For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. When viewed in the light of eternity, even the ability to believe God is itself a gift from God. The more we grow in grace and the more we understand about grace, the greater will be our understanding that the work of God in us--and through us--comes out of His gift to us. Gifts cannot be earned or come as the result of personal achievement. If there is any merit on the part of the recipient that makes a gift a deserved thing, then it is no gift at all.
- On Paul God placed the responsibility first of making the Gentile nations aware of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. Eph 3:2--If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward... This dispensation in Paul came out the ennobling grace of God moving through him. He was raised from among sinners, of whom he said I am chief, to this most noble position in the household of God. Grace brought him to his place and grace proceeded from him as he fulfilled his position. That same grace is ready to lay a dispensation upon each one of us.
Dispensation is from the Greek oikonomía. It means "the management of a household." With reference to Paul it described his apostolic stewardship and made reference to his ministerial commission in the publication and furtherance of the Gospel.
- The ministry that rested on Paul was given to him according to the gift of God's ennobling and enabling grace. Eph 3:7--Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. The power of God comes with the grace of God. Paul saw this. He knew God's grace demanded the release in him of all the power necessary to accomplish the task God had placed on him. The same is true for us. Grace will both ennoble and enable us for any ministry ordained from out of God's Kingdom.
- It was grace that enabled Paul to preach Christ to the Gentiles. Eph 3:8--Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. Often grace reaches to the lowest of us that its work may be the more precise and that the praise may more clearly go to God.
Grace travels in company with the unsearchable riches of Christ. Unsearchable is from the Greek anexichníastos, one of those so difficult to pronounce words. It comes from a word meaning "to track out" but it is preceded by the Greek negative a-. It means that which cannot be tracked out, or explored. Its reference is to the incomprehensible wealth afforded us in Christ Jesus, a wealth that can never be reckoned and whose full value can never be made known to man. Grace reaches into that wealth and brings its sufficiency over on us. We never can exhaust that wealth.
- Grace is given to everyone in the Body of Christ for the fulfilling of his or her own particular calling. Eph 4:7--But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. There is no ministry but that there is an enabling grace given for its performance. If you or I are called to a task, there is a full supply of grace ready to ennoble us and enable us in that task.
We cannot say the full measure of grace is available only to certain ones. No soul is kept from its store. However, in the context of this statement in Ephesians 4 we see the grace to which Paul is making reference is to the special grace given those who receive a ministerial appointment from the resurrected Lord Jesus. These are the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers set to lead in the perfecting of His body (Eph 4:11,12). The grace given these super-abounds as the demands on--and attacks against--these ministries become exceedingly intense.
- The words we speak can bring about the release of healing grace in those who hear us. Eph 4:29--Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. This kind of grace finds its medium of transfer in the spoken word, often from one weary pilgrim to another. Thus we see grace carries with it something like a creative power that can find release when we speak one to the other.
- A benediction of grace is pronounced on all those who love the Lord Jesus Christ. Eph 6:24--Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen. What a summary to the work of grace! It is powerfully connected to our association with the Lord Jesus Christ.
RECENTLY, GLENDA AND I were in Toronto Canada, I was impressed that she should call some friends in the States. Later, the mother in the household she called, said they considered it nothing short of a miracle that she should have called at that time. While Glenda was talking on the phone, I sat there a little tired and weary simply waiting on the Lord . It came to me I should read Zech 12.
Saying nothing about this, I read the chapter and received little from it. I thought, "I'm tired and simply need to go to bed." After Glenda finished her telephone conversation, she too prepared to retire. I was looking forward to resting and didn't want to read or consider anything else after a very long day. Before she got in bed, she said, "I feel we should read Zech 12."
I was startled and asked her three times if I had said anything to her about Zech 12. She said no. She just felt we should read it before going to bed.
We've continued reading it, over and over, perceiving it has a powerful statement regarding a latter day release of grace exceeding anything yet known--especially to Israel. Look at verse 10 with us. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
In a one-time move of mercy, God will pour out upon the house of David (Perhaps this means the church.) and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Israel) an operation of His Spirit that causes those who receive it to both give and receive grace--a quality too little known in either company. Thus, they both shall mourn in repentance for the way they have regarded the One whom they have pierced. Along with this powerful movement will come the strong desire to pray--like never known. It will break down all barriers and thrust the souls of men everywhere into the presence of God.
What a day! We are moving close upon it.
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