Blog Archives

His Grace

“In Him we have deliverance through His blood — liberation from trespasses — according to the riches of His grace, which abounds to us in all wisdom and understanding,”

(Ephesians 1:7-8)

A dozen times in this Epistle, Paul speaks of grace. We have already defined it here as “unmerited favor,” but it is worth noting that in these verses, Paul is very clear that this grace is “His grace.” Indeed, this seems to be an obvious connection, but it is important for us to clarify that when it comes to grace, there is nothing in it that is generated by or originates within us. It is unqualified, unreserved, unlimited, and unambiguous. God knows to whom he has extended his grace (election) and the extension of grace is mediated by the work of the Son. For God’s elect it is unalienable and for the eternally reprobate it is unattainable. It is God’s grace and his grace alone to give and he chooses to give it through his Son and in no other ways. It cannot be requested by us and it cannot be either accepted or rejected on our part. For it to be grace it must be sovereignly given. 

How often people fall into the error that they think that they can accept or reject the grace of God. How often, the picture is painted of God universally offering grace and waiting upon man to accept it. Yet, beloved, if grace is contingent on our desire for it or upon our willingness to receive it, then it is not truly grace (Romans 11:6). It is something else entirely. Grace is not based on our human will nor is it based on the works we might do; it is based fully and entirely upon God and his mercy towards a fallen people in need of his grace (Romans 9:16). Woe to us when we demean the grace of God with notions of our choosing or of our acceptance. It is His grace and His alone to give. And that which is sovereignly given cannot be rejected on our part…it has been sovereignly given.

Six times in his epistles, Paul makes a point in referring to grace as “His” grace. How important it is for us to pay attention to those little pronouns if we are going to purge ourselves of the ideas of men that so proliferate the churches of our culture. The question is not really one of whether “you have received Jesus in your heart” (notice how that makes it something you do), but whether God has driven you to your knees, broken you of your pride, and brought you to repentance before the saving work of Jesus as an expression of his eternal and sovereign grace. It is not about what you want or do, dear friends, it is about God and what he is doing — whether you want it or not.

The Abundance of Grace

“In Him we have deliverance through His blood — liberation from trespasses — according to the riches of His grace, which abounds to us in all wisdom and understanding,”

(Ephesians 1:7-8)

While we talk a lot about grace in the Christian world (and rightly so!), before we do so in this context, it seems appropriate to first ask the question as to why Paul refers to this grace as “rich” or “abundant.” It certainly sounds nice and many of the hymns that are sung speak of God’s amazing grace, but why is Paul making such a big deal of the notion here? Is this just flowery language to create a nice flow and rhythm for the Ephesian Christians? Or, is there something more.

The word in question is the Greek word, πλοῦτος (ploutos), which is the word we get “plutocrat” (someone whose power comes from their wealth) and “plutocracy” (rule by the wealthy). On the most basic level, in Greek, it translates as wealth, abundance, and as plenty — implying that it will not and cannot run dry. It is like the oil and flour of the widow of Zerephath (1 Kings 17:8-16) whose water and oil did not run out. So too is God’s grace, Paul is saying, the implication of his words are this: that no matter how grievous your sin may be, grace is plentiful — it can fill the gap. 

Sometimes people ask the question, “can God forgive even me?” The answer is, “yes!” The reason that the answer is an affirmative is because Grace is abundant…it is πλοῦτος, to borrow Paul’s language. Just as the oil and flour did not run out, no matter how many times the widow dipped into it, God’s grace for his people will not wear out no matter how badly or how often we have sinned.

Is that a license, then, to sin all the more? To use Paul’s language again, “Shall we sin all the more so that grace shall abound?” That almost sounds like a reasonable answer. It might be reasonable if we did not also understand the notion of being liberated from our trespasses, of which Paul speaks in the previous verse. We are the slaves who have been bought at a tremendous price, to go back to our sin would be to go back into the wretchedness of our slavery. And since, our slavery bound us to death (Romans 6:23), then we are binding ourselves to the tomb once again. And thus, we again say with the Apostle Paul, “May it never be! How can we who have died to sin still live in it?” Indeed, it would be like those Israelites in the book of Numbers who constantly wanted to go back into bondage in Egypt. How harshly God dealt with those who despised his grace like that! They were swallowed into the earth, burned by fire, bitten by poisonous serpents, and plagued by diseases that took their lives and sent them into judgment. They tasted the goodness of the manna in the wilderness (which points to Christ!) and they spat it out, preferring the slop of the Egyptian gruel. Even the prodigal son came to his senses when he had to eat with pigs.

Until you really come to terms with the depth of your sin and depravity, you will never come to terms with the depth of God’s grace, which is deeper still. Unless the Law is preached and we truly come to terms with who we are and with our wretched state before God, grace will just be one more word that is thrown around in the church and sung about in the hymns. It should be noted that God’s grace is not reserved for those who will understand or appreciate it — that’s not how grace works. At the same time, it is my conviction that those who genuinely receive it will appreciate it and seek to understand its implications all the more in their lives.


“In Him we have deliverance through His blood — liberation from trespasses — according to the riches of His grace, which abounds to us in all wisdom and understanding,”

(Ephesians 1:7-8)

Do we really think of our deliverance from sins as “liberation”? Sadly, I fear that we do not. In America today, we don’t have much personal experience with slavery in a formal sense and we are accustomed to having freedoms to move and go where we wish. During my years in seminary, I worked with homeless men, many of whom were drug addicts and former drug addicts. Particularly amongst the latter group, I got a taste for the gratitude that comes along with being delivered from this horrible addiction. Today, there are many that are addicted to other sorts of sins — pornography, for example, and gambling. Therein, we can also get a sense of what it means to be delivered from something oppressive. And the most basic response to real deliverance is gratitude.

Genuine gratitude is easy to see. It shows in the way people live and in their change of thinking. It shows in their desire to please the one who has delivered them. Think of how people often respond (and rightly so) to first responders who deliver them from the jaws of death, whether it be from a fire or an accident somewhere. People go to great lengths to honor those first responders as a demonstration of their gratitude. And again, it is right and proper to do so. Yet, what does our gratitude toward God look like with respect to this great salvation that is offered in Jesus Christ? How do we show our gratitude for His delivering us? Sadly, we often don’t.

Our gratitude or ingratitude toward God for this deliverance is proportional to how seriously we take our sin and its consequences. If we really recognize that our sins (even the “little” ones) are outward rebellion against God and are worthy of the fires of eternal hell, then we will show much gratitude. But, if we look at our sins as nothing more than bad habits that need to be addressed and corrected through therapy or will-power, then our lives will hardly be marked by the gratitude we are called to give. They will be marked by an obedience to God that is pragmatic (this seems to work for me) and that is is not fundamental to one’s very existence. We will never see this deliverance as something that truly comes from the “riches” of God’s grace until we really come to terms with this notion of being delivered from our bondage to sin and death.


“In Him we have deliverance through His blood — liberation from trespasses — according to the riches of His grace, which abounds to us in all wisdom and understanding,”

(Ephesians 1:7-8)

To start with, let’s talk about the idea of deliverance. In context, Paul parallels the idea with the phrase, “liberation from trespasses,” giving us a degree of additional clarity as to specifically the kind of deliverance that the Apostle has in mind. The word in question is ἀπολύτρωσις (apolutrosis), which most commonly refers to paying a ransom to free someone from slavery or bondage. The next logical answer to ask, then, is “what kind of bondage are believers delivered from?” The answer is found in Paul’s clarification — from our bondage to sin. 

One of the errors that crept into medieval theology was the notion that the ransom payment for believers was paid to the devil. Yet, we are not bound by the devil, we are bound by our sin. Further, the devil has no rightful or legitimate claim upon us as if he were some sort of equal power with God (that would be Manicheanism). No, we are bound by our sin and it is the Law that reveals our sin (Romans 7:7) and thus, any ransom that is made is ransom to the Law. In turn, then, given that the remission of sin requires the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22), then the ransom paid is not one of gold or silver or other forms of wealth, the ransom was made in blood…namely the blood of the one who has ransomed us from the bondage of sin before the Law.

The real issue that Christians too often struggle with today is that they do not see their sin as a form of bondage. Worse, some even see grace as a license to sin! Paul is very clear that such is not the view of the believer (Romans 6:1-2). Sin, all too sadly, is soft-pedaled in churches. It is seen as “not that bad” because there are others who are far more sinful than they. Thus, church discipline, too, has been put to the side. If sin is not that big of a deal, why take it so seriously as that? And the circle of cause and effect spirals downward.

Sin, even the smallest and most “insignificant” of sins, is bondage to us according to the Biblical text. Even the most minor “little white lie” would have cost Jesus his life upon that cross on Golgotha. Woe to those who will not treat it as such. Woe to the ones who excuse and justify their pet sins and an abundance of woes to the ones who look upon sin and call it by any other name. When one justifies sin, one justifies remaining in bondage and even celebrates the bondage of others. 

Loved ones, do you not see that your sin binds you? Do you not recognize the toll it takes on your life? Do you not realize that obedience to the Law in Christ is a blessed freedom, not something that robs us of all our fun. You must realize that in heaven we will be unable to sin — unable! Yet, shall we be any more free than when we are in glory? Most certainly not! How sin has so muddled our brains that we would think of bondage as good and of freedom as unstimulating and tedious. 

In Christ we have been redeemed from our bondage to sin just as the Israelites who followed Moses were redeemed from their bondage to the toil of Pharaoh’s work details. Sadly, just as there were complainers under Moses, people constantly nostalgic for the stewpots of Egypt, there are Christians in the body of Christ who likewise pine for their pet chains and shackles of sin. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free from our slavery (Galatians 5:1), shall we not enjoy and rejoice in the freedom that Christ has sacrificed to provide for us?