Heaven's Law Of Supply And Demand
“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
This gem of a text comes right at the heart of an earnest appeal which Paul is making on behalf of the Christians at Jerusalem for financial help from the church at Corinth. He has boasted everywhere of the generosity of the Corinthian believers and now he writes very tactfully about the matter in case his boasting proved empty, and to ensure that their promised contribution would be ready when Titus arrived and not be exacted and wrung out of them by pressure. God loves, as Paul says here, a hilarious giver, and each one must give as he purposed in his heart.
But finance is certainly not the burden of this message. That is secondary. Nor was it the burden of Paul’s message. He is lifting up this secular matter, if you could call it such—though it is certainly a deeply spiritual one—into a wonderful spiritual area of truth. He is laying down a principle which lies at the very heart of our Christian life, that I have called “Heaven’s law of supply and demand.”
Notice first, a provision which is inexhaustible: “God is able to make all grace abound toward you;” a practice which is inevitable, “that you, having all sufficiency in all things may abound unto every good work”; and thirdly, a principle which is inescapable: verse 6, “He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”
The Christian life, as depicted in the New Testament in all its various experiences, is no more and no less than the outflow from a fountain of life which has its source at the very throne of heaven, an outflow that comes from the great giving of the heart of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Notice how Paul piles on the superlatives here: “God is able to make all grace abound toward you.” This “abound” is exactly the same word that the Lord used when He said, “Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the Kingdom” (Matthew 5:20). “God is able to makeallgrace exceed toward you, abound toward you, that you might have allsufficiency in allthings.” This is the provision for your life from heaven today, right now in your immediate circumstances, a provision that is inexhaustible, and it is all grace and it is moreover abounding grace.
What does Paul mean by grace? It is just one word which sums up all the blessings that come to our lives undeservedly from God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Primarily, this word grace described a disposition in the very nature of God, in His character, which is revealed in His eternal, unchanging and pardoning love. This is grace: a kindness, an overflowing disposition in the heart of God. But then God’s dispositions are never passive or inactive, and grace therefore means love that is expressed and displayed in action, “love that knows no limits to its endurance, no end of its patience, no fading of its hope, a love which can outlast anything” (1 Corinthians 13:7, 8; Phillips).
It is still more than this. Grace is never fruitless. It is always fruitful and therefore the greatest meaning of grace is all the blessedness that comes, and all the lovely and beautiful things that take place and happen in the life of a man who has come to know the indwelling Christ and the very nature of God incarnate in Him by the Holy Spirit. Grace is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control. And God is able to make allgrace abound toward you, in order that you might have all sufficiency in all things.
Very briefly and inadequately, that is the New Testament meaning of grace: love in action in the heart and passion of God expressed supremely at Calvary’s cross. Love in action as expressed in the passion of each of God’s own redeemed family, expressed in redemptive living, in sacrificial, sacramental living, in a life that is broken bread and poured out wine.
God is able to make allgrace abound toward you. You see, there are not many graces. There is only one. What is it that God gives to each one of us and calls grace? It is not an “it.” It is a person, and His name is Jesus. When God gives grace, He gives Jesus, and that grace in Jesus Christ has many-sided expressions in our living, but has only one source. It is from the throne and from the heart of God that there is poured out, in the name and virtue of Jesus Christ by the power of His indwelling Spirit, grace; and it is abundant grace, for He is able to make all grace abound toward you.
When God gives grace, He does not reluctantly open a little finger and maintain a clenched fist full of gifts. I would tell you today that God’s hands are nail-pierced hands and they are wide open. This fountain of grace is always pouring itself out with no limitation on heaven’s side at all. No wonder Paul concluded this chapter with a doxology: “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.” God’s grace is a provision that is inexhaustible.
Because this provision is inexhaustible, and is to be found and expressed in love in action, demonstrated by every member of God’s family—that means you and me, if we are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ—then in the second place, there is a practice that is inevitable. “God is able to make all grace,—all the fullness of His grace in Jesus Christ—abound (exceed) toward you; that you, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” The inevitable result of this constant and (may I use the word in relation to heaven?) exuberant giving (I don’t wish to be irreverent, but when God says He loves a hilarious giver He has set the example Himself and He has given hilariously. He has given gladly, happily, thankfully, and with exuberance in Jesus Christ) from the fountain of life in the very throne of God that the basin of my life which receives from the fountain in heaven must always be full.
Now that is God’s intention: “The water that I shall give you shall be in you a fountain springing up, bubbling up, overflowing into everlasting life.” “He that believeth in Me, out of his inner man shall flow rivers of living water.” The man redeemed by blood and indwelt by the Spirit is receiving from a fountain that is inexhaustible, from a provision that is inexhaustible, and therefore God expects him always to be full up. God says in this word to our hearts “that you having all sufficiency,” in other words, says His grace is sufficient.
Is that rather an anti-climax? Certainly in days when we have to exaggerate everything to make anybody believe anything, it sounds rather like it. Sufficiency—couldn’t He have used a stronger word than that? But then, how much more do I need for my life than sufficiency, and where else do I get sufficiency for anything except I get it from the very heart of God? “He is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you may have allsufficiency in allthings,” and the grace of God and the supply from the fountain of heaven is always proportioned to the need of each one of His children.
Could you not bear testimony with me when I say that there is nothing in life so wonderful and so satisfying as day by day to receive from the fountain strength for the task? Strength to carry the cross, to bear the sorrow or the persecution, strength to stand in the day of adversity, strength sufficient for every demand that could ever be made upon me, as I live in God’s will, and all this out of the fullness in Jesus Christ.
Thomas Fuller once prayed, “Lord, please either lighten the load or strengthen my back.” The word from heaven is, “As thy days so shall thy strength be.” God has never hurled a battalion of His soldiers into some blundering attack against some impregnable situation to stand and watch them defeated and discomfited. He lays His command upon them to do this or that, then He infuses His strength and His power adequate for the task, and He makes the back to carry the load. There is never one bundle of affliction that can come into the life of any of His children, but that when you unwrap it, you will discover sufficient grace. For every increasing responsibility in life, God gives spiritual maturity and manhood. Therefore, the basin should always be full. Full because it isn’t there simply for your own enjoyment of grace, but for the blessing of other people.
“The service rendered does much more than supply the wants of the saints: it overflows with many a cry of thanks to God. It shows what you are. It makes men praise God for the way you have come under the Gospel of Christ which you confess, and they are drawn to you and pray for you on account of the surpassing grace which God has caused to rest upon you” (v. 12-14, Moffat). Grace, all sufficient and abounding, in order that I may abound to every good work and supremely that I might become an attractive person! I don’t mean necessarily physically, but I mean that, by a character transformed by the surpassing grace of God, other people will see this that is caused to rest upon us, and they will be drawn to us because of it. The church then grows with spiritual attraction because every basin is filled up. That is why God gives grace, that you may abound unto every good work.
Now please follow me very carefully. It is a strange thing that God lays upon the heart of a preacher on one Sunday two messages that lie at the opposite ends of the theological pendulum. This is what He has done to my heart today, for this evening I shall be speaking on the objective side of truth, justification. This is the subjective. There have been terrible evils arising from the way in which some evangelical preachers have talked as if the end of God’s dealings with us is a vague sort of experience which we call salvation, which means little more than dodging hell. The New Testament declares that the purpose of God is that we should be filled with all the fullness of God and that the basin of our life should be full because of the fountain being inexhaustible. We have received of His fullness that we may abound unto every good work. “We are created…unto good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). A correct creed is intended to become a Christ-like character, and if it does not do so, then the creed is worthless. The avalanche of grace that rushes down upon us from the throne of God in Christ is supremely for the reproduction of character and conduct which will make men see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven. We are not saved by our good character. We are saved from our character, and to demonstrate our salvation will be the evidence of it in the display of the character of Jesus Himself whose grace abounds in His children. Any profession of salvation which does not issue in this is certainly not authentic.
How could it ever be possible for the grace of God in Jesus Christ to be in Him and not in His people, when He is actually living within them? It is fantastic to think about it. This inexhaustible provision—all grace abounding that you might have all sufficiency, and all things abounding to every good work—reaching my life, touching my heart, filling my soul, must result in this inevitable practice.
I suppose every preacher, if you asked him, has a burden on his heart. He is not worthy to be a preacher if he doesn’t, for he has a major concern which brings him constantly to God in prayer upon his face, a burden that is with him not merely days but nights. I can truly say before the Lord I have that, and if you want to know what it is these days—it changes, I suppose, but this has lain upon me now for some years with increasing heaviness—my soul is burdened for any within the sound of my voice whose lives are a complete contradiction of this principle, who profess to glory in the fact that salvation is all of grace and who claim to rejoice in forgiveness by grace, but whose lives are utterly bereft of that quality in which they boast.
To claim to have experienced the grace of God in forgiveness, and yet to be ungracious is a fantastic contradiction of New Testament thought. To claim to have experienced the grace of God, yet fail to display the grace of God in action is a total contradiction of New Testament truth, and let me say it, if I died in the saying of it, such a man is as lost as a man down on skid row: in fact, more so, for in that memorable, immortal parable of the prodigal son, the man who was in the far country knew it. When he was starving and knew (as Paul later came to know) that in his flesh dwelt no good thing, he said, “I will arise and go to my father.” But there was an elder brother who geographically was very near his father and under the sound of his father’s voice all his life, but spiritually he was in a far country, far worse and far more final than that of the prodigal. He was in the far country of self-righteousness and religious formality and correctness of creed which was unsupported by the passion in his heart for his brother who was without God. Oh, you who are so near geographically to the sound of the Gospel, who have been brought up under the sound of fundamental teaching, who claim forgiveness by grace, are you really saved?
Thirdly, there is a principle which is inescapable. A fountain that is inexhaustible, and because of that there is a basin which is my life, and it must always be full. Because it is filled up from the fountain, that which is in the basin must be the same quality and character as that which is in the fountain, and therefore it will be displayed in love, in joy, in peace, and in the grace of Jesus Christ. Now observe the principle that is inescapable, because there is something in our text that is quite shocking: “God is able to make all grace abound toward you.” He does not say, God will do this: he says, God is ableto do it. He puts the whole weight of responsibility upon us to make God’s ability to do this mighty work an operating factor in each life, seven days a week.
God is able! I pause to think about the marvel of it, that he is able to make all grace abound toward me that I might have all sufficiency in all things. But there are conditions. I may have access to this fountain from the throne in heaven, but it may gush by my side and pass me by, and the reason is not that I am straightened in God but straightened in my own life.
Does not what I have said to you make you ask the question, as it certainly does me, why the breakdown? Why the lack of display in my life of all this which heaven supplies in Christ? Why the ungraciousness? Why the un-Christlikenss? Why the doctrine without the practice? Why the deceit and emptiness? Ask why until He gives you the answer.
You have learned something, I trust, about heaven’s law of supply, but what about the demand? There is a principle here, and it is that of harvest. I cannot take a text like this out of its context. “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” Here is a principle of harvest, of sowing and of reaping. You remember that statement in Galatians 6:8 “He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” If you want God’s supply, this great harvest of grace—to change the metaphor for a moment, if you want this fountain of life and to be supplied with an all-sufficiency—then, you must show God that you are desperate for it, and you must sow and sow that you might reap.
Oh, how sparingly we have sown in the Spirit! How little we pray, how little time we give to meditating upon the Word, how rarely do we witness to others. Examine your sowing, and if your sowing is poverty stricken, no wonder the supply is held up. Even in Christian work, you can sow to the flesh and reap a harvest of corruption. You can make the church the opportunity to demonstrate your authority, and you can use it in the flesh and substitute service in the house of God for nourishment of your own soul in quiet alone.
God is able to make all grace abound toward you that you may have all sufficiency in all things and abound unto every good work, but does heaven hear you knock at the door? “Ask and ye shall receive; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.” God’s supply is there, but the door is shut because He has never heard the cry of your heart.
God’s principle of supply and demand: “Concerning the works of My hands, command ye Me” (Isaiah 45:11). He is able, but his doing depends upon your sowing; His supply depends upon your demand. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in the nick of time” (Hebrews 4:16). You see, you don’t ask and demand and knock until heaven’s door is opened and the fountain gushes out, do you? God is not going to dispense heaven’s treasury upon a self-satisfied individual.
Perhaps someone says, quite frankly, “If I would be honest with you, I’ve lost every bit of desire to sow to the Spirit. I’ve no heart concern for other people. I just couldn’t care less. As a matter of fact, in all practical matters, I’m learning to live without God, even though I profess to be a Christian.” In other words, my dear friend, you’re prepared to settle for the delusion, for the mockery, and travesty of a salvation that isn’t real or genuine, that will land you in a lost eternity, simply because you profess such and such a thing and have been in a fundamental church, but you don’t really care.
You say to me, “Are you telling me that for this fountain to flow into my life, then there must be desire and demand? Then I haven’t got it, then I’m lost, then it’s hopeless.” Is it? Look at v. 10: “He that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness.” When I have no desire and no heart for God, when my appetite for the Word has turned sour, when my prayer life has gone shattering apart, when I’ve just shown to everybody and to God especially that I don’t really care, when I don’t witness or really pray or show any deep heart concern, what does God do about it? Does He leave me to perish eternally? No, He ministers seed to the sower.
If that isn’t the overplus of grace, I don’t know what is. When He sees someone who has lost their spiritual appetite and concern, who has recognized the provision as being inexhaustible, but has seen that the basin of their life is so empty; they have no desire and no heart for the things of God any more, and therefore the supply to their soul has broken down because the demand is never going up to heaven. Does God deliver them up completely to perish? No, He holds out the hand of the overplus of grace, and He ministers seed to the sower. There was a corn of wheat that fell into the ground and died that it might not abide alone, and because it died, it shall bring forth much fruit, and that seed that fell into the ground and died and rose again is the seed which He offers to us in our desperate spiritual poverty in the overplus of His grace. He doesn’t leave the sour appetite of the professing believer, who settled for a salvation that isn’t real, to descend to a lost eternity. He gives them the seed of His life, and if you will come to Him today with all the sourness of your appetite, the ungraciousness of your life, the evidences that have abounded that you are not a genuine Christian at all in spite of all your profession, if you will come like that, He will put into your heart the seed of His crucified, risen life and create within you the hunger which is the longing of the Holy Spirit Himself to express Himself through your life.