“and he raised us up together and seated us together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus in order that he might demonstrate in ages that are coming, the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
Here we have one of those instances where the Biblical authors speak of something that is yet to come as if it has already taken place and is a reality in our lives. In theological circles, it is what is often called a “prophetic present.” All of this is based in the realization that God is sovereign and he has ordained all things since before the foundation of the earth. And thus Paul can say that as Jesus has risen from the dead, so have we. We have not yet experienced that reality in its fullness, but Christ’s resurrection is an iron-clad promise that we too, who are in Christ, will rise. And further, that the regeneration that we have experienced in coming to faith — our sin dead spirit being brought to live — is a foretaste of something greater that is yet to come, but that will come in the ages that are coming.
Notice too, the language about the riches of God’s grace. This, we have spoken already above, but notice the context in which Paul is making this statement. Just in verse 5, he has spoken of being saved by grace. We did not earn God’s grace, it is free to us. Yet Paul wants us to see that God is no ordinary benefactor. Not only does God graciously save us, but that he pours out the blessings of his grace to us in Christ.
“In Christ,” though, is the operable phrase. Too many people over the ages have read this and thought of God having a storehouse of good treasures that he is waiting to pour into our lives if we just ask. They tell us of wealth and success and fame, and people fall for it over and over. No, my friends, these riches are riches that are found in Christ. They are the riches that come from a deepening relationship with him, not from earthly or worldly comforts that will be consumed or lost to time. God’s gift to us in Christ is one that grows and deepens every day of our lives, but if we are really going to enjoy the treasure that it is, it means we must nurture that gift with Bible study and prayer.
Yet, may I humbly suggest that is the way we ought to receive any gift, or at least, that is the way we ought to show our appreciation for the gift. That we treasure it, that we study it, and that we learn the character of the one who has given us such a gift. If we would naturally do that with earthly things, why do we disdain from doing so with heavenly things? How often we act more like spoiled children, believing that we deserve the gifts of our heavenly father rather than realizing that we deserve nothing but wrath and that He has instead given us Christ and offered us the riches of heaven which we will one day enjoy, ruling alongside of our Divine bridegroom and Lord.
“giving light to the eyes of your heart to know the hope of his calling, which is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints and which is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us, those who believe, according to the outworking of his power and might.”
Following the line of logic that this spiritual sight gives us assurance of our salvation, how is this assurance the “riches of the glory of his inheritance”? Usually when we think of “riches,” we think of wealth and gold and things that bring us physical comfort and pleasure. Or maybe, we might put it more succinctly, riches refer to those things of value in our lives.
Yet, beloved, what could be more valuable than the assurance of your salvation? Truly, there is nothing. The snakes that offer you a prosperity gospel think that worldly wealth is what is in sight here, but worldly wealth is not extolled in Paul’s writings especially. There may be places in the Old Testament where such is extolled but those Old Testament statements and pictures are shadows of a spiritual reality that is more fully revealed in Christ in the New Testament. And Jesus clearly teaches us that heaven is the only place where our treasures should be stored up.
So, indeed, our assurance is of the greatest value of all. And in that we find the riches and glory (think, “weightiness” or “importance”) of our eternal inheritance. And, to those who point you to wealth on earth, remind them that God only gives wealth on earth to be used for the building up of His Kingdom, pointing men and women toward Christ.