Greater Grace Or The Believer's Unfailing Supply
“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” —2 Corinthians 9:8
Peter writes about “exceeding great and precious promises” by which we are made partakers of the divine nature. I think the text we have chosen surely comes under that classification. Not only have we great promises, but they are exceeding great and exceeding precious. The saints who are growing in grace and in the knowledge of the truth see more and more as the days go by the perfectness and greatness of the provision that God has made for those who put their trust in Him. That carries with it another thought, a vision correspondingly great; that is, the greatness of His provision for me presupposes that my need must also be very great. The two big words of the Bible are sin and grace. They lie at the very heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we misinterpret the one we surely miss the meaning of the other. The preacher who minimizes the work of Christ upon the cross for the sinner, who doubts the efficacy of the precious blood of Jesus shed there, can surely have no real sense of sin. The man who sees sin as the Bible pictures it, a hellish thing that has separated us from God and left between us an impassable chasm, left us “without hope and without God,” will not doubt the necessity of a substitute and the need of a vicarious death. When a man sees his lost condition from the Bible viewpoint, he will thank God for Calvary.
Now we speak about these two words as being the great words of the Gospel, but the greater of these is grace, for grace is greater than our sin. “Where sin abounded, grace doth much more abound.” That is a good thing to know. If there is sorrow, if there is difficulty, if there is trial and oppression, God “giveth more grace.” He gives more grace for every sorrow and trouble that can possibly come.
You have probably noticed that nowhere in the Scripture is grace defined. You will hear someone say that grace means “unmerited favor.” “Everything for nothing,” etc., and that is about the best we can do. But these definitions fall far short of the full meaning of the term grace. Sin has been defined in the Bible. The Scripture tells us what sin is, but nowhere in the Scriptures are we told all that grace is. Nor will we ever know it in time. You will never be able to find out here all that is meant by grace, but “in the ages to come” God is going to “show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us.” Why, some of us wonder at the change the Lord has made in our lives since we first met Him at Calvary, but, oh, my, what awaits us in the ages to come! It is well to remember that.
Saved By Grace
Paul, in his epistle to the Ephesians, in the second chapter tells us that we are saved by grace. Did you ever stop to think all that that term involves, and especially in that connection? When you see a statement like that in Scripture it is well to look at the context and ask, “To whom did he say these words?” To “children of wrath by nature”; “without God and without hope in the present world”; “dead in trespasses and sins,” to such Paul writes “By grace are ye saved.” Then he reverses the picture, “No longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow-citizens with the saints, members of the household of God.” They were actually the “habitation of God through the Holy Spirit built upon the foundation of the apostles and Christ Himself.” Say, that is a change, isn’t it? Grace brought it about.
Let me suppose a case, and it is not beyond the actual thing. Let there come to this place of worship tonight a sinner from the streets of Chicago. We will take a sister sinner, for although a bad man is bad, I think a bad woman is worse and I want to make it as strong as possible. To the very lowest dregs she has gone. She represents in her body the crime and lust and sin of generations. Her grandparents lived as she lived, and her parents, and she is so debauched and pock-marked, she is such a moral leper that her own kind despise her and turn from her in disgust. Her heart is just a breeding place of evil and her mind never thinks a pure thought. She plans mischief and sin day and night. She would poison morally anyone that she could touch. But she comes to this house of worship and somehow, through the gospel singing, or maybe the story of the thief on the cross, or the story of the woman who came in from the street and fell at His feet and washed them with her tears and dried them with the hairs of her head, her heart is strangely moved and she gets a vision of Christ dying for her, and feels like John Newton, when this vision came to him:
“My conscience felt and owned its guilt,
And plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And helped to nail Him there.”
With a broken spirit and a contrite heart she cries, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” What happens? You know what happens and I know. “The grace of God brings salvation”; grace brings deliverance, and the Spirit of God works a miracle. She experiences “the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” She is a “new creature. Old things are passed away and all things are become new.” She is given power to become a child of God in an instant, and more than that she is given power to live as a child of God. She goes out into the world, but her tastes and desires have changed. Instead of the old evil disposition, desiring and designing evil, the old nature filled with hate, there is a displacement; the love of God is shed abroad in her heart by the Holy Ghost, and she finds herself able to resist the old temptations and evil habits. The days and the months go by. The change is manifested in her very countenance. The people see it and are glad. God takes that once broken vessel and makes it “a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master’s use.”
You have heard the story of the beginning of what is known as the Door of Hope Mission for Fallen Women. Those of you who have heard it will bear with me if I tell it again. A lady whose heart God had touched, one night went to seek the fallen and lost of her sisters in the Bowery to give the white rose she carried to the most wretched woman she could find. Away down in a sub-cellar with clotted blood on the side of her face, asleep on a bench was a girl, known as the “Blue Bird of the Bowery.” “This is surely the worst woman I ever met,” thought Mrs. Whittimore and she placed the flower on her hand. The woman awoke and began to curse Mrs. Whittimore saying she had come to remind her of the past days of purity gone forever. But the woman of God said, “My dear, if you ever want a friend, you come to this address and you will find one.” Then she left her. Two days later as she was approaching her home she saw this woman sitting on the steps. The blood was not yet washed from her face, her hair was not yet combed. “When I saw her,” said Mrs. Whittimore, “there came first of all a feeling of repulsion. I wondered if I had not made a terrible blunder. Then the love of God constrained me, and I put my arm around her and said, ‘I’m glad you came, I will be your mother.’” And she kissed her on both cheeks, blood and all. I guess that must have been grace on Mrs. Whittimore’s part. The kiss burned clear through into her very being, and a day or two after the girl came to Jesus Christ. I won’t tell you all about that, but, oh, how God used that woman!
I heard Sam Hadley, who has gone to heaven, tell the story of Blue Bird, for she went nearly every day to the old Bowery mission and with her thrilling story moved many a hard heart. She went up to Sing Sing prison every week to that great penitentiary where she was always given an opportunity to speak, and through her appeals many a prisoner was born again in that institution. She only lived a few years. Hadley tells the story of her death. When they buried her the rich as well as poor come to follow her to the grave. Hadley said he would walk seven miles if he knew that woman was to speak, just to hear her say “Jesus.” Nobody could say “Jesus” like Blue Bird. The name meant something to her. “His name shall be called Jesus and He shall save His people from their sins.” Blue Bird died. She passed through the valley of the shadow of death, and where did she go? Into the presence of the King, for “the pure in heart shall see God.” Face to face she would behold Him, and not only that, beloved friends, she is going to be like Him, for she is to have a body exactly like His. I am not speaking simply of countenance. She is to have a glorified body like the body of our Master (Philippians 3:20–21).
I want you to think of Blue Bird a thousand years beyond that day when she passed into the presence of the King; that isn’t long in eternity, for they count not time there by years. A thousand years without a sin, without a thought that would make her blush in the presence of infinite purity, without an emotion or affection moving her but what rules the heart of the Holy God. Oh, brother, think of it! Heaven isn’t the end of the Christian life; it is the beginning. Talk about development and advance and progress! I have grown some in grace and knowledge in the past thirty-nine years, but when I get in that environment, I’ll grow! That is right where I belong. It will take ages to show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us.
Grace For Today
Another thing about grace. The Apostle Paul here is emphasizing the fact that grace is sufficient for every need in the common life. I don’t like the idea of relegating everything to the other side of the river. There is the practical side. There isn’t a need that you may have, a difficulty or trouble that may come to you, but what God in His grace can enable you to meet it and triumph over it. “God is able to make all grace.” Notice how he accumulates words to emphasize this great truth. “God is able to make all grace abound (overflow) toward you that ye always having all sufficiency in all things may abound in every good work.” Say, if words mean anything, that surely means that all my need has been provided for in the provision God has made for His own.
There was a great and good man, General Gordon, who was martyred in the Sudan. He was noted for his Christian life—a man of prayer. Before he went on his last expedition he presented to the members of the British Cabinet a copy of a little booklet that he always carried. On the one side of the page were all the human needs that you might think of, and opposite every one was a statement from God’s Word that covered that need. I have not seen that little book, but I have come to believe that it is true that every need that I may have has been covered by a promise of the Almighty God. “God is able.” Do you believe it? If you don’t you are not going to go very far with Him. God is the source of the supply, which is all tied up to faith, and when we come to any crisis, any new test, any new need in our life, we are met with this question, “Believest thou that I am able to do this?” If I refuse to believe in His ability, I tie the hands of the Almighty.
It is said of Jesus that on one occasion, going to His own little village where He had been brought up, “He could not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” It seems to me that one reason why there is such a dearth and barrenness in the church of Jesus Christ is because men are doubting the ability of the Almighty God to meet the need in this crisis hour. The dominant thought from Genesis to Revelation is “God is able.” You will find that statement or its equivalent hundreds of times in the Bible. I was noticing in the New Testament some fourteen or fifteen times those very words are used. “He is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham”; “He is able to destroy both body and soul in hell”; “He is able to graft in Israel again”; “He is able to subdue all things”; “He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day”; “He is able to keep me from stumbling”; “He is able to perform all He hath promised”; “He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all I can ask or think.” Blessed be God forevermore. It is a great thing just to meditate upon what God is able to do!
“But,” says somebody, “What about His will in this matter?” Well, I am going to admit frankly we are faced with this proposition: He does not say, “I will make all grace abound”; He says He is able. I have come to see that the entire responsibility for this grace functioning in my life is upon me. There are certain conditions that I must recognize that I must meet.
Speaking to a company of men recently, I pointed out that there are so many promises God has given to His people that are never realized by His people, all because they thwart His purpose, all because they go crossways with His plan. “God is able,” but when it comes to His will in the matter, that affects me; that does not affect His ability; it does not affect His faithfulness. “All His promises are yea and amen in Christ Jesus.” We sometimes quote that verse by adding “to them that believe.” It says “to the glory of God the father”; whether you believe or not God remains faithful. The fact that you believe it or do not believe it does not alter it at all.
Sometimes when I pray about my difficulties and my troubles the question comes, “Is God willing?” Then I think of that statement: “If God spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all—if—how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?” If God would give the greater would He withhold the lesser? Sometimes I say if there were hard times and the children were crying for bread, I would rather have my little child doubt my ability to give than to doubt my willingness. I would rather have him say, “I am hungry, but I know my father would give me bread if He could,” than to have him say, “My father has the bread, but He won’t give it to me.”
A Full Surrender
What are some of the conditions? One is that I must make a full surrender of my life, Romans 12:1–2. I must present my body. That is not something I am going to give Him at the end of life. Notice what will happen. I shall then “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Some folks say, “Is it the Lord’s will?” This is the way to prove it: Place yourself on His altar and say, “Take this life and let it be consecrated Lord to thee.”
Then you are nine-tenths on the way to solving the problems of His will at once. “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse,” says the Lord, “and prove me herewith.” With what? With your consecration. Prove me in this absolute surrender of yourself, and see if I will not. That is a challenge. “Prove me,” saith the Lord.
Then there must be resignation to the will of God. When did Paul prove that God’s grace was sufficient for Him? Listen. Three times he said, “I prayed about a thorn in the flesh.” What was the thorn? I don’t know. I am glad I don’t. If we did know we would say, “Oh, well, mine isn’t what his was.” Paul called it “an infirmity,” a “weakness.” It was something that he felt was a handicap physically. I believe it was a repulsive infirmity.
I know a dear, good woman who has a deformed body. She was a very sweet Christian, but she came under the influence of some divine healing teachers who taught that it was a sin to be sick, that healing is in the atonement just the same as the forgiveness of sins, and that it should be presented and accepted on exactly the same ground as the forgiveness of sins. When this sister came to me to pray for her, I prefaced the prayer with, “If it be thy will, Oh, Lord, heal our sister’s body.”
She said to me, “Please, preacher, do not say ‘If it be thy will.’ It is God’s will to heal me just as it is God’s will to save me.”
But although she has sought for healing on this basis and in this spirit for years, she is still suffering from that infirmity.
Now I don’t want to hurt the feelings of any of God’s dear children, but there are many who have taken this ground regarding deliverance from sickness. I do not believe this teaching is scriptural. To say that a Christian who is sick is not in the will of God is a very serious thing indeed. It surely reflects upon some of the most godly saints that have ever lived in all the ages. I believe that this teaching not only results in a great deal of failure, but also in a great deal of fraud. It has made a great many hypocrites. People who are claiming miraculous deliverances have resorted to physicians and means and then have given testimony to miraculous healings when it was nothing more than any other deliverance coming in the ordinary way. Frequently people say they are well when they are ill. This is not faith; it is fanaticism.
I want you to know that I believe most thoroughly in God’s power to deliver us from infirmity and disease if it be His will. I have been healed myself in direct answer to prayer and have seen others delivered, but I have never been able to see that divine healing is in the atonement just as the forgiveness of sins.
When did Paul experience the all-sufficiency of grace? Why, it was when he came to a place where he could say, “Lord, I will accept this ‘infirmity,’ this ‘weakness’ as Thy will. I will glory in it, because it means more grace in my life. ‘When I am weak then I am strong.’” He found that God’s grace was sufficient for him just when he could say “Thy will, not mine, be done in this matter, Oh, Lord.”
Grace In Action
Again it means not only consecration and resignation to His will, but a readiness to serve. I want you to see this. He makes “all grace abound toward you that ye may abound in every good work.” Grace abounds towards you that you may abound in service towards others. The Christian life is like a running river. “Out of his inmost soul shall flow rivers of living water,” said Jesus.
Mr. Moody used to tell the story of a little stream and a stagnant pool. The stream went trickling down the mountainside, dancing through the meadow, and was accosted by the wise old pool who asked the little stream where it was going. “I am off to sea with this cup of cold water which God has given me,” said the stream.
“Oh,” replied the pool, “it is very foolish to let your resources get away like that. The long hot summer days are coming and you will need every drop of water that you have for yourself. Indeed, you will dry up before the summer ends.”
“Well,” replied the little stream, “if I must die so soon, I will hurry on with the blessing that God has given me.”
So the hot summer days came and the old pool husbanded all its resources—every drop for itself. But it became foul and loathsome. It bred malaria and death. The inhabitants from that community were forced to move away or die. The cattle from the hills come down to quench their thirst, but turned from the foul water of the pool with disgust. Even the frogs forsook it and fled. At last God in mercy smote it with a hotter breath and it dried up. What about the little stream? On its way it went, singing a merry song. The flowers sprang up all along its bank and sent their fragrance across its bosom. The great trees lined its shores, spreading their branches as if to protect it from the scorching sun. The cattle came to its brink and drank and drank again, then rested on its shore.
As it went, it grew deeper and widened all the way, until at last it reached the sea and sent up its incense to the sun where the clouds waited to receive it. God hitched the winds as steeds to those clouds and carried them back to the mountain that gave birth to the little stream, filling the fountain to overflowing. Although it was always giving, God saw to it that it never dried up.
That story is a parable. There are many Christians like the wise old pool. Many of them long since have dried up. They have nothing to give away, nor have they anything left for themselves. There are others, however, like the little stream that give and give and give, yet God gives to them again, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.