Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 10
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1999|
|Did you know you are rich? It doesn’t matter how much money you have in the bank, or how many possessions you have, God says you are rich. Dr. Barber explains what those riches are, and how you can claim them.|
The Riches of His Grace
Turn with me to Ephesians 1 as we continue in our study. In chapter 1 we find some beautiful things. In verses 3-14, we find the blessings that we have in the Trinity—the Godhead, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. I want to focus on the riches of His grace because we’re dealing with God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me go back to the outline. In verses 3-6a we have the blessings of God the Father. It looks back to our past, and it points to His choosing us, our election. Then in verses 6b-12, that we’re looking at right now, we have the blessings of God the Son, and it talks about our present and our redemption. In verses 13-14, we have the blessings of God the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, and it looks at the future and talks about the inheritance that we have in Him one day. We also find in verses 15 through the end of the chapter, Paul praying that they can understand these blessings.
You see, the book of Ephesians isn’t just chapter 1. It’s chapters 1-6. By the time you get to chapter 6 you can understand what Paul is trying to get across. We’re still looking at the blessings of God the Son. Let’s go back and read verses 7-10. It says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth.” By the terms that Paul uses, particularly when he says, “the riches… which He lavished upon us,” it seems that Paul wants us to know of the overflowing abundance and unmerited love that is inexhaustible in God and freely accessible in Christ. He calls it “the riches of His grace.” He uses that term all the way through the book.
How many times have you thought you were poor? He says, “the riches of His grace…” Look with me at 1:18 where he uses that word “riches” again. He says, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” Now keep thinking of that term “riches” because it’s all in the spiritual realm. Ephesians 2:4, speaking of the character of God, says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,…” Then go on down to verse 7. It says, “…in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Then look over in 3:8. He says, “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,…” Then the last time he uses it is 3:16, and it says, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man;…”
Have you ever thought about the terminology of being rich? Have you ever thought about yourself as being poor? I was down in Lexington, Mississippi, where I pastored before we came to Chattanooga. One day a black man walked up to me on the street. He said to me, “You white folks, you are all rich.” That particular day I had just left the bank, and I knew exactly how much money I had or didn’t have at that time. I told him, “I don’t know who you’re talking about, friend, but you’ve got the wrong guy. I don’t have a dime on me, and I don’t own anything really right now. I can show you in my checkbook that I haven’t got any money in the bank.” He walked away in sort of a huff, and after I had walked about ten feet, it was like the Holy Spirit of God stopped me in my tracks. He said, “What did you just say? You don’t have anything?” He reminded me that I am wealthy and rich because I have the Lord Jesus Christ in my life.
You see, we’re living here on earth pursuing things that we’re going to walk on in heaven. We are already rich in the Lord Jesus Christ. What the world says is rich, folks, is not what it means to be rich. What God says is rich is eternal, and we will never, ever lose it.
I was reminded of the church of Smryna in Revelation 2:9. It says, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich),…” It’s a message to that precious church. “You might not have anything. You’re doing it right. You may only have tribulation on this earth, but you’re rich.” He wanted to remind them of what they had in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Well, I want us to look at the riches of His grace. I want you to think about what He’s done for you and realize how rich you really are in the riches of His grace. First of all, in verse 7, we find the forgiveness of sins. We talked about that earlier when we talked about our redemption. We talked about the forgiveness of sin. Do you remember we thought about the day of atonement and how the High Priest would take that scapegoat and put the sins of the people on its head? He would call the sins of the people out loud. He called them out and named them one by one. Then He sent that scapegoat off into the wilderness. The word for forgiveness, aphesis, means to be sent away. God sent away our sins. He took away our sins. That’s a beautiful, beautiful understanding of what God has done for us.
I want to go a little further in that because we didn’t really cover it completely. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of His grace,…” Now, it is very important to understand that little phrase “according to.” He didn’t say out of His riches. He said according to His riches. Let me give you the difference. Let’s say a man has millions of dollars and wants to give a gift, but he gives out of his riches. Well, he may give you twenty-five dollars. He may give you ten dollars. He may give you a hundred dollars. He gave out of his riches. If that man gives according to his riches, he gives in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. He gives a gift that is measured by the wealth that he has. God didn’t give us forgiveness out of His riches. He gave us forgiveness according to His riches. That’s what we must understand. Our sins can never exhaust the forgiveness of God. I want to say that again. Our sins can never exhaust the forgiveness of God. He lavished upon us forgiveness according to His riches.
Paul says in Romans 5:20, “…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,…” We cannot sin beyond God’s grace to forgive. I wonder if you are a believer. You know that you have received the Lord Jesus Christ, and you know that you’ve been cleansed and washed in His blood. Yet somehow you’ve made some terrible mistakes. You’ve made some terrible choices in your life, and you’re having to bear up under those choices. For some reason you’re thinking you’re going to exhaust the power and the grace of God to forgive. No! You cannot exhaust His grace to forgive. He gave lavishly to us, in the Lord Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sin. He lavished His grace upon us.
Look back at Ephesians 1:8. “…which He lavished upon us.” To those who have trusted His Son, God lavishes without measure the forgiveness of sins. You see, sometimes we forget that we sin everyday. John says in I John that if we say we have no sin, we make God a liar. We deal with sin all the time because we live in bodies of flesh. Now we don’t live habitually in sin, we don’t live lawlessly, or we wouldn’t be a Christian. You can’t live that way and be a Christian. But we deal with it all the time. We are always sinning. We are always making mistakes. But at the same time, at the very moment we do, the Holy Spirit in us convicts us, and we go to the cross. We agree with God and confess our sin, and the mercy that He has and the forgiveness that He has is lavished upon us.
There are some people who have made horrible mistakes as a believer. You know, one of the worse things we can do is point a finger at somebody else in the body of Christ. “…you who judge practice the same things,” according to Romans 2:1. See, when a person is not going to the cross in his own life, and he’s not being cleansed and corrected, he begins to not only not deal with his sin anymore, because he doesn’t know how, he starts dealing with everyone else’s sin. When that begins to happen that’s awful. We don’t realize that, except by the grace of God, we might be right where the other person is. Maybe you’ve made a huge mistake in your walk. Maybe you’re a Christian, and you’ve really messed up. Maybe it’s in your family. Perhaps you’ve lost your husband or your wife or your children, and you’re living in that condemnation. Listen! Yes, there are consequences to choices. But God’s grace of forgiveness is there. Remember Ephesians 2:4? He is “rich in mercy.” It is grace that deals with our sin. It is mercy that deals with the consequences of our sin. He is rich in mercy.
Boy, sometimes people don’t like to hear a message like this. It sounds like you’re preaching license. “Alright! We can just go out and do what we want to do.” Oh no, friend! It’s the goodness of God that brings a man to repentance. When you begin to realize the heart of God and the Father-heart of God, you realize how He lavishes upon us His grace and how forgiveness of sins is a part of that. It is not out of it. It’s according to the riches of His grace that He gives to us. So I just want you to know, my brother and sister in Christ, if you’ve messed your life up, there will be consequences. I can’t tell you anything but the truth, but I’ll tell you this. God will help you bear up under it, and God will deal with your sin. God will transform you in that area. God will richly lavish upon you the forgiveness of sins if you’ll come to Him and confess it and agree with Him that it’s sin in your life.
Well, we’re rich. Don’t ever think that you’re a pauper. Oh, no sir! We are rich in Jesus Christ. Not only do we have forgiveness of sin, we have riches of His wisdom. It says in verse 8-9, “In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.” God not only forgives us, but He continues to forgive us. The phrase “forgiveness of trespasses” is in the present understanding. We’re consistently having forgiveness of sins. He goes on to say that when God saved us and forgave us and continues to forgive us, He gave us all the necessary equipment. That’ll be a good way to put it. He gave us the necessary equipment to understand Him and to walk through this world day by day pleasing Him. That’s a beautiful thought. We are rich. We know exactly what we’re supposed to do as believers. The Holy Spirit of God lives in us, and God has given us wisdom, the understanding, of how to apply the knowledge that we get.
Wisdom is the Greek word sophia. It is the ability to apply knowledge. It is the ability to understand things that are important in this world. What are they? Life and Death. A believer has wisdom, wisdom that comes from God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit of God. He understands life and death. Philosophers have argued over it for years, but Paul summed it up in one verse in Philippians 1:21. “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” We have a wisdom that is different from the people of the world that do not have the Lord Jesus Christ. We have wisdom to understand God and man. We have the wisdom to understand righteousness and sin, heaven and hell, eternity and time. Look with me in I Corinthians 2:6-7, as we think about how He has lavished upon us the riches of wisdom. Paul just really nails it here in this chapter. “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory;…” He lavished upon His people wisdom. Look in verse 12. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God,…” A Christian really has no excuse because we have the Holy Spirit. We have the Word, and God has lavished upon us according to the riches of His grace. He has lavished wisdom in our life. Verse 16 says, “For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.”
You know, I have so many people come to me in conferences and places I go and say, “Man, I just can’t understand what’s going on in the world.” My first statement is, “Number one, let me ask you about your walk with Jesus Christ. Do you live a surrendered life? Are you dealing with sin day by day, moment by moment? Are you dealing with the sin of the flesh?” They begin to hang their head. Then I ask them a second question. “Are you daily, with a surrendered heart, getting into the Word of God and letting the Holy Spirit of God take the Word and renew your mind and transform your life?” Every single time they look back at me and say, “I never, never get into the Word of God.” Rich people but not willing to live in the riches God has given.
We have wisdom, folks. We have the ability to understand. We really do. Parents, you have the ability in Christ through the power of His Holy Spirit and the Word of God to understand how to raise your children. You have an ability to understand God and the nature of God and the nature of man. You have an ability to understand what’s going on in this world because God lavished it upon you according to the riches of His grace. God did not leave us in a vacuum where we have to work it out for ourselves. He gave us the mind of Christ so that we can understand it, apply it, and live it in this world.
James 1 tells us, “…if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God,…” God’s not going to turn him away. It says God will give it to him how? Liberally. That’s the way He lavishes His grace upon us. Do you want wisdom? Go to God. God will give it to you. Someone said, “That’s too complicated, Wayne.” No, that’s what the Word says. That’s all I know. That’s what he says in James. We’re rich. We’re rich because we have the forgiveness of sins. There’s not one single thing I can do in my life to change that. I may mess up, and you may never love me again, but I know my God will love me and will forgive me and will give mercy in my life to bear up under the consequences of whatever wrong choices I’ve made. I’m rich. I’m rich. I know where to go. I know who is my refuge. I know where to run when I’ve done things wrong. A man is rich when he knows what to do when he fails.
Thirdly, we have the riches of insight. Well, really wisdom and insight should be put together. I separated them because I want us to see both words. As we look back at our text, verse 8, it says, “In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will,…” That word “insight” really has a lot to do with wisdom. It’s the word phronesis. It comes from the word phroneo, which means to be able to think and to have good judgment. It means the ability to govern one’s own life wisely. Do you know what it means today in Greek? It’s the word for brakes. It comes from the word which means brakes.
I’ve got freedom in Christ, but I’ve got to know when to use it and when not to use it. That’s phroneo. That’s the word he’s talking about here. It’s not just insight. It’s somebody who understands what’s going on. He understands how to use knowledge, but at the same time, he has the sound judgment. He’s able to know when to stop and when to start and when to curb his own freedom for the sake of what God’s doing in his life. See, the opposite of that is aphrosune, which means to be without any sense at all.
Now through this wisdom and insight, He’s made known something to us. This is what I want you to see, especially in the times that we’re living in. I spoke to Dr. David Breeze at a men’s conference. He was talking about what’s going on in our world today and how we can understand it. The pagan world hasn’t got a clue what’s going on. If you turn on the news, here’s what you’re going to hear. “The world is falling apart.” That’s all they’ll tell you. “In twenty years we’re not going to have enough room for all the people on the earth. We’re going to run out of food.” Did you know you can take every individual on the face of the earth and put them all in one particular state in our United States? They tell you, however, we’re not going to have room for everybody. They think it’s falling apart. Oh no! What’s going on is a mystery, but only the believers are able to comprehend it. God has allowed us to understand the mystery of His will.
Now watch this carefully because that’s exactly what He’s talking about. He says there in verse 8, “In all wisdom and insight He has made known to us the mystery.1/4” Now don’t get so hung up in the word “mystery.” The word means something that can only be known by revelation. God reveals certain things to His children that He doesn’t reveal to the rest of the world. That makes us rich. If you can understand what’s going on, then you can live in whatever circumstances are happening. He says, “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.”
What is His will that He’s talking about here? Look down in verse 10. “…the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth.” The word “summing up” means to bring up under one head. He talks in Ephesians of how the Jew and the Gentile are now one in Christ Jesus, but he’s not just talking about that. He’s talking about how God is bringing everything together in Christ Jesus. You see, Christians can understand that, but the world thinks it’s falling apart. People of God know it’s coming together. It’s coming together in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have an understanding of what’s going on in this world and you know, from what Dr. Breeze shared with us at the men’s conference, you had better start getting ready, folks. It appears to me the way things are happening in this world that it won’t be long. As a matter of fact, as soon as Israel became a nation, He said when you see these things happen look up, your redemption draweth nigh, not the redemption that started us, but the other redemption, the one He’s going to redeem us out of this earth with and take us up to be with Himself.
I want to go back to one little word in verse 10. He says in verse 10, “…with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times,…” Sometimes those phrases are kind of difficult to understand. Here’s what he’s saying. He’s revealed what He’s doing in this world and has shown us that it is all according to a divine plan. That’s the key. The word “administration” there is the word oikonomia. It’s a word that refers to a household manager, somebody who manages the affairs of his household. And what he’s saying here is God’s in charge, and He’s doing it according to a plan. He’s doing it. God’s bringing it together according to a divine plan and knows exactly what’s going on. Christians know. Christians have that wisdom and insight lavished upon them. We don’t live in this world as if we’re in a cloud. We have lavished upon us God’s willingness to reveal to us the plan that He’s bringing together under the headship of Jesus Christ.
Let me ask you one question. What’s the Word in your life tonight? Are you in it? “Oh Brother Wayne, I get up in the morning. I read Proverbs 3, if it’s the third day of the month, and Psalms chapter 3, if it’s the third day of the month. I read Oswald Chambers. I’m doing pretty good.” Hey, I’m not knocking that. If that’s all you’re doing, that’s better than some folks are doing. Right? I just encourage you to get into it, folks. It’s all in the Bible. It’s all there. I’ve been begging you for years to get in it. It’s not going to be from what I’m preaching. It’s going to be your own personal pursuit of God in the Bible. When you get in it, it’s going to take your mind and turn it loose. God’s going to show you what’s going on in this world. You’re going to have a wisdom and insight nobody around you has. As a matter of fact, you’re going to be just like that person in I Corinthians 2. Who is going to judge him? He has the mind of Christ. He examines everything according to the Word of God. You’re able to exist in a world that looks like it’s falling apart all the time knowing it’s simply coming together.
I don’t know about you, but I feel richer and richer and richer. I keep going back to the old boy running down the road. “Don’t you know that the ram’s horn has sounded? Don’t you know what today is? Today’s the day of atonement. It’s the beginning of the Jubilee. You have been set free. Your debts have been paid.” Oh, how rich we are because of it.