Listen to Sermon Audio
R. R. Donnelley used to be the nations’ largest printer of magazines. Several years ago they mistakenly sent a rancher in Powder Bluff, Colorado 9,734 notices that his subscription to National Geographic had expired. So he sent back the money and wrote, “Send me the magazine, I give up.’ 1
That’s how God brings many persons to salvation. He hits them with the message so many times they finally give up. Perhaps as we hear about grace again, someone today will give up.
“He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. He has showered His kindness on us” (Ephesians 1:7-8a NLT)
This is one of my favorite verses, but I like it better rendered by the NASB: “In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7-8a).
When was the last time you were lavished? Merriman’s Online Dictionary defines lavish as: ‘bestow something in generous or extravagant quantities upon.’ 2 As in; “That rancher was lavished with expiration notices.” Or, “They lavished their children with many gifts at Christmas.”
That English definition is pretty close to the Greek: The online Expositor’s Greek Testament defines it as “furnishing richly so that there is not only enough but much more.” 3 Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words has “to be present over abundantly or to excess to make over-rich, to provide superabundantly.” 4
Paul says we have been ‘lavished’ with the riches of His grace. What does he mean?
First, we have ‘redemption;’ “In Him, we have redemption” (Ephesians 1:7)
Strangely enough, the origin of the word redemption can be traced back to the practice of warfare. One of the customs the ancients employed was that the victors took as many of the conquered as they could back to the victor’s homeland to be used as slaves. Often the victorious would discover people who didn’t make very good slaves: preachers, guitar players, the pampered, people who held great value back home. So these victors would make it known that they were holding so and so and would be willing to release that person if a certain price were paid. When word of this would reach back home, your friends and relatives would pass the helmet around when they had collected enough would take it to the victors and in this way would buy back your freedom.
According to the NT writers, we are captives to the power of sin and the devil. If there is any hope of being set free (redeemed) so that we can return home to be with God, someone is going to have to pay a price (ransom).
Christ’s death on the cross paid the ransom by which sinners are set free. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). We have been lavished with grace because it was the Son of God who redeemed us from the power of the evil one and the power of sin to destroy us forever.
How? By giving His life as a ransom, He secured the forgiveness of our sins.
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul makes clear the connection between redemption and forgiveness: “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins” (1:13-14).
So also here in Ephesians 1:7: “the forgiveness of our sins.”
When it comes to grace’s forgiveness, some wonder whether or not we have gone to the well of grace once too often and used up all the forgiveness allotted to us.
If that is true for some of us here today, I have several questions for you: When you accepted the free gift of God’s grace which yielded forgiveness did God know every sin you committed up to that point? (Yes) And do you believe that God knows every sin you will commit in the future? (Yes) So, are you saying then that Christ made you right with God, knowing all the sins you would ever commit until the end of your life? (Yes)
If our sin was too great for His grace, He would never have saved us in the first place, right?
Erwin Lutzer tells a story set in 14th Century, where Robert Bruce of Scotland was leading his men in battle to gain independence from England. Near the end of the conflict, the English are trying to capture Bruce to keep him from the Scottish crown. So they put his own bloodhounds on his trail. As the bloodhounds got closer, Bruce could hear their baying getting louder. His servant said, “It’s no use, we are done for, they are right behind us.” Bruce assured his servant that they would be all right and headed for a stream that flowed through the forest, plunged in and waded upstream before exiting on the opposite bank. Within minutes, the hounds, tracing their master’s steps, came to the bank and went no further despite the soldiers urging them on. But the trail had been broken; the stream had carried the scent away. A short time later, the crown of Scotland rested on the head of Robert Bruce. 5
The memory of our sins, prodded by our conscious, can be like those baying hounds, but a stream flows red, with the blood of God’s own Son. By grace through faith we are safe.
No sin-hound can touch us. The trail is broken by the precious blood of Christ.
First, ‘redemption,’ second ‘forgiveness of our sins, and third, ‘through His blood.’
We have been lavished with grace not only because we have been redeemed from the power of sin and evil, not only because all of our sins have been forgiven but also because these priceless gifts have been showered upon us as the end result of the death of God’s one and only Son.
Peter, in his first letter to the church, writes, “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (I Peter 1:18-19).
In his movie, The Passion of the Christ, director, Mel Gibson, wanting to convey that which Peter writes about the ‘precious blood of Christ’ shows Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary of Magdala kneeling down to soak up the blood of Jesus in a white cloth.
Grace costs nothing for the recipients . . . BUT EVERYTHING FOR THE GIVER! God’s grace is not a grandfatherly display of ‘niceness’ for it cost the exorbitant price of Christ’s own blood.
I like the story of a lady who while attending a dinner party spilled a little wine on a gorgeous white handmade handkerchief given to her by her grandmother. She felt terrible, thinking it was ruined. The great poet and artist John Ruskin was in attendance and asked if he could borrow it for a while. He took it home and when he brought it back to her she didn’t even recognize it; because the previously white handkerchief had been transformed into a brightly colored handkerchief with that stain having been incorporated into a beautiful new design.
You know, that’s what God does for us. We have stains in our lives; sins, failure, and mistakes. But God takes our stains and makes them part of a beautiful new cleaned-up life. In other words, we have been lavished with grace through the precious blood of Christ!
The Apostle Paul experienced this kind of transformation in his own life. No wonder he writes about the riches of God’s grace and being lavished with God’s grace.
In his wonderful commentary on Ephesians, Sir David Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes about this:
Such jubilation is not surprising in view of the wonderful thing Paul that had happened to Paul on the Road to Damascus. He never ceased to wonder that he who had been a persecutor and a blasphemer and an injurious person, insulting the person of Christ; he who had thought with himself that he ought to do many thing contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth; he who had been a self-satisfied, proud, contented Pharisee, boasting of and smug in the contemplation of his abounding self-righteousness – that he of all men should ever have been forgiven and, moreover, called to be an Apostle, made a preacher of the Gospel, and sent out as the Lord’s special emissary to the Gentiles – that he, of all men, should be subject to the grace of God was truly an amazing fact, and as he looked at himself, he was ever amazed.
The Apostle seems to ask himself, ‘Is it possible? Am I still Saul of Tarsus? Am I still the same man? And if I am, what accounts for my being what I am now? And there was only one answer – I am what I am by the grace of God! 6
We are lavished with grace through the precious blood of Christ!
Philip Yancey writes: “Grace is free only because the giver Himself has borne the cost.” 7
In His book, What’s So Amazing About Grace?, Yancey also writes:
Grace makes its appearance in so many forms that I have trouble defining it. I am ready though to attempt something of a definition of grace in relation to God. Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more . . . no amount of spiritual calisthenics and renunciations, no amount of knowledge gained from seminaries and divinity schools, no amount of crusading on behalf of righteous causes. And grace means (put on your safety belts now) there is nothing we can do to make God love us less . . . no amount of racism or pride or pornography or adultery or even murder. Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love. 8
How do we respond to being lavished with grace? We should be willing to lavish others with the same.
In the application section of this letter that begins with chapter 4, verse 1, “I beg you, I entreat you, I plead with you, I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” In other words, God has lavished this grace upon us, so we are to lavish the same upon others.
A large prosperous downtown church had three mission churches under its care.
On the first Sunday of the New Year, all the members of the mission churches came to the main church for a combined communion service. In those mission churches, which were located in the some worst part of the city, were some remarkable cases of people who had come to Christ: drug addicts, thieves, and so on. And all would kneel side by side at the communion rail. On one such occasion, the pastor happened to notice a former burglar kneeling beside the very judge who has sent him to jail where he served seven years. After his release, this burglar had received Christ and became a volunteer at a shelter. As they knelt there, the judge and the former con, neither one seemed to be aware of the other.
After worship, the pastor was talking to the Judge who asked, “Did you notice who was kneeling beside me at the communion rail this morning?”
The pastor replied, “Yes, but I didn’t think that you had noticed.”
The judge said, “What a miracle of grace.”
The pastor nodded, “It sure was.”
Then the judge said, “Who did you think I was referring to?”
And the pastor said, “Why to that ex-con of course.”
And the Judge said, I was not referring to him, I was thinking of myself.
The pastor was taken by surprise, “You were thinking of yourself?’
“Yes,” the Judge replied, “It didn’t take a lot for that thief to accept Christ, he had nothing but a history of wrongdoing behind him and when he saw Jesus as a chance to be forgiven of it all he jumped at it! But look at me; I was taught from my earliest days to live as a gentleman, that my word was my bond, that I was to say my prayers, and go to church and take communion and so on. I went to college, received my degrees, and eventually became a Judge. Pastor, nothing but the grace of God could have caused me to admit that I was a sinner on a level with the burglar. It was much more a miracle of grace for me to receive forgiveness for all my pride to admit that I was no better in the eyes of God than that ex-con I sent to prison. 8
My friends, you may be the burglar or you may be the Judge, or you may be somewhere between the burglar and the Judge but wherever you stand . . . all of us stand or kneel together at the foot of the cross as well as at the Communion table.
1 Hodgin, Michael. 1001 Humorous Illustrations for Public Speaking. [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, © 1994]. Page 169.
4 Bromily. Geoffrey, W. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. [Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, © 1985]. Page 828.
5 Lutzer, Erwin. Putting Your Past Behind You. [Chicago: Moody Publishers, © 1990].
6 Lloyd-Jones, David Martyn. God’s Ultimate Purpose; An Exposition of Ephesians 1.
[Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House © 1978]. Page 173.
7 Yancey, Philip. What’s So Amazing about Grace? [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, © 1997]. Page 67.
8 Ibid., Page 70.