Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Past, Present and Future Grace (1 Corinthians 1:4-8)

“(4) I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, (5) that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, (6) even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, (7) so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, (8) who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:4–8, NASB95)

This is a bigger chunk of Scripture that I usually tackle, but there is something seen here that is important that we consider in the bigger picture. The keys are found in the words “was given,” “were enriched,” “was confirmed,” “are not lacking,” and “awaiting eagerly.” Here in these verses we see the grace of God expressed in its past, present, and future benefits.

Another verse came immediately to mind when I thought about the past tense aspect of the grace of God. It is Ephesians 2:8. But, even when I turned there and read the verses before and after I was reminded once again about the complete picture of God’s grace shown in the past, present and future. Starting with verse 4, I read, “(4) But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, (5) even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (6) and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (7) so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (8) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; (9) not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:4–9, NASB95)

I am reminded that apart from God extending grace to us that we are all lost in our sins. In fact, we read that we were dead in our transgressions. We were separated from Him, and once we die we stand judged and eternally condemned to separation from Him and eternal torment. The consequence of my sin is bad, and there is nothing that I could do myself to change it. BUT GOD! He sent His Son to shed His blood for our sins. By His grace we have been saved. This is past tense for me because I have received His gift of salvation in Christ. It is true for you also if you have done the same. And, the great news is that if you have not done so it can quickly become past tense for you by simply going to Him and asking. For the Corinthian believers (in general) they had received that same grace through salvation in Christ, and Paul made sure to begin his letter with this solid reminder of what it was that brought them together—the grace of God in Christ and not any merit or good works which they thought they might have done.

Next, we read, “that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, (6) even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, (7) so that you are not lacking in any gift….” We move from “have been given” to “were enriched,” “was confirmed,” and “are not lacking.” The result of being saved is that God begins a work in us. This work means that we have been moved from a place of spiritual poverty to having been given the very riches of God. We read in 1 Peter 1:3-4, “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” (2 Peter 1:3–4, NASB95) I love all of the things that we read that He has done for us in just these two verses. God has blessed us far beyond imagination in graciously giving us the ability to live the life which He has freely given us in His Son. We have truly been enriched because of His grace, and this was the confident assurance of which Paul was reminding the Corinthians believers.

And, this grace has been confirmed. We read that the “testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you.” From the moment we believed this became a settled fact in theirs and our lives. God promised that He would do it, and with salvation He begins to prove it day by day in our lives. Because we have been made at peace with God we can know the peace of God even in a world that knows no peace. We have been given the Spirit of God to seal us and indwell us to provide that constant comfort, counsel, and help as we look to His Word, hide it in our hearts, and let it guide our steps. This is not something that we can really put a measuring stick to, but it is something that we can definitely know. The testimony or words of Christ have become real in us.

And the third present reality of His grace is, “so that you are not lacking in any gift.” God graciously gave them, and He gives us what we need to live the life He has given us to live. Later in this letter we will look at the supernatural spiritual gifting that the Spirit gives us at the moment of our salvation, but even this gifting is just a part of the picture of what He has and is doing. Whether we avail ourselves of His gifts is a totally different issue. His Spirit continually works in us to develop fruit in us as we seek after and follow Him. But when we take our eyes off of Him we really shouldn’t be surprised that we also find other things crop up that are not consistent with who He has called us to be. This letter to the Corinthian believers will deal in large part with their lack of growth in Christ and their holding on to the things that they did before coming to Him and receiving these great grace gifts. This same lack of growth and holding onto sin can be true of us as well if we ignore Him in our worship and our walk.

Then there is the future aspect of grace. We read, “awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, (8) who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We have a great hope for the future. We have the promise of God that one day we will see our Lord Jesus Christ face to face and be united with our God for all eternity. All of the struggles, the pain, the disappointment, and even the sin will disappear as we enter His perfect presence. This is the great hope we have, and He has promised that He will not disappoint. There will be no getting there and hoping that we have done enough. There will be no getting there to find our reservation cancelled. We have already been judged righteous because of Christ’s righteousness credited to us. We have His Word that because of the grace of God shown to us in His Son that we have already been made fully righteous and fully accepted by Him. Our reservations in heaven have been sealed, and we will be received blameless into His presence on that great day.

Past, present and future grace. All of these are given to us freely in Christ. This is the assurance that Paul began his letter to the Corinthian believers with, and it is the same assurance that we have even today.

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