Immeasurable Grace and Infinite Joy
Nick Esch, Cornerstone Baptist Church 4/28/2019
This week I heard someone who claims to be a Christian, yet also claims to be gay say, “If you have a problem with who I am your problem is with my Creator.” And what he seemed to mean by that is that God created him the way he is, with the desires he has, and therefore God must be ok with him indulging in such desires. And that is by and large how the culture around us thinks. “If it feels good, do it… If you were born that way then it must be ok…” But, as we have been working our way through Ephesians, we have seen that this is not the case.
As the opening of Ephesians 2 tells us, all of humanity is by nature dead in their trespasses and sins, enslaved to the ways of the world, the flesh, and the devil; and thus are living in the passions of, in the cravings of the flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and are by nature justly deserving of God’s wrath. Ever since the sin of Adam, all of humanity has been born with a bent towards sin. What we desire and delight in we should despise; and what we should desire, namely Jesus, we utterly ignore. But then comes Ephesians 2:4-5: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…” God made us alive with Christ, thus making us alive to Christ and for Christ. What we once ignored now becomes the center of our life. In our sin we were blind to the beauty and glory of God in Christ; but God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” shined into our hearts and opened our eyes to the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6), and enabled us to see rightly what we should truly desire. Jesus is what we should crave; Jesus should be our true passion. Because for the Christian, Jesus is everything; He is our hope and our all in all. And that’s what I want us to see in our text today. So look with me at Ephesians 2:7.
Our text begins with so that, or in order that, or because… And this ties us back to the context. Paul has been giving us a glimpse into what he prayed for the Ephesian church. He has been praying that God would enlighten the eyes of their hearts that they might truly know and grasp God’s power and thus know and grasp the hope and assurance they have in the gospel. He’s been illustrating this by pointing them to the power of God in the resurrection of Christ, and in the last few verses the power of God in our resurrection with Christ—that just as Jesus was dead and then raised in power, so too were we dead in our sin, but now God has made us alive with Christ. And just as sure as Jesus is alive so too is the hope and assurance of every Christian sure—it’s a living hope; gospel hope, the Christian’s hope is held fast by the same almighty God who has power over death, and the power to bring rebels who are dead in their trespasses and sins back to life in Christ. Our hope is sure because our God is alive and mighty to save. And this is what the so that is tied to in verse 7.
What Paul is getting at here is why God has loved His people and joined them to Christ’s resurrection and exaltation… he’s laying out God’s divine purpose in salvation, why God saved us… So this ought to cause our ears to perk up. When we read verse 7 and see that God saved us, “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus…” we’re being told why God caused us to be born again, why He brought us into His family, why—in His amazing grace—He chose to save wretches like us.
The first thing we see here is that God’s reasoning is going to unfold in the coming ages, though it starts here and now. What’s meant by the coming ages is all of the ages to come; in other words, all of eternity. So God saves sinners so that in and through all of eternity He might show or display His grace. And what’s really interesting here is that the coming ages, or all of eternity is in service to this purpose of God’s grace being displayed. Notice that our text says in the coming ages, in kindness, and in Christ Jesus; and all three of these in statements modify the verb show. So, what this is telling us is that eternity exists so that God can put His grace on display. I mean, it’s mind boggling enough that God is outside of time… in fact He created time; and now, here we see that God created time in order to display the wonders of His grace. How amazing is that?! God is that big and that good!!!
If you think about it, it makes sense logically that God would create eternity to show off His grace. Again, our text says, “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace…” The riches of God’s grace are immeasurable—as in they go on forever; so if God is truly going to display His grace in the beauty of its fullness, it will take forever. As the line in Amazing Grace goes, “When we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun, we’ll have no less days to sing God’s praise then when we’ve first begun.” And not only will we have no less days to praise Him, but we’ll have no less need to praise Him. 10,000 years will barely scratch the surface of God’s amazing grace. And as Paul said in Ephesians 1:6, all of what God has done and is doing is for the praise of His glorious grace. And God’s grace is that glorious, that amazing, that big that every Christian will be marveling at it, reveling in it, and praising God for it—in an ever increasing manner—for all eternity.
Now, many people get hung up on this. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Nick, you’re telling me that all of creation, and all of time even, exists to display the riches of God’s glorious grace; it sounds like you’re saying that God is a show off…” And if that’s what you’re thinking, you’re right. Of course God is a show off. I mean, have you ever looked at the sky on a clear night? Was God not showing off a bit when He lit up the night sky with what seems to be an innumerable amount of stars? Of course He was… And this was by intent. As the Psalmist says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). And it’s not just the sky above: if you go to the beach and look out at the ocean do you not see a reflection of God’s glory and majesty? If you go to the Grand Canyon does not something within you recognize that a BIG GOD is behind such things? Or if you were to go to the Himalayas and look up at Mount Everest… something within you knows that an infinitely glorious God made these big things. And if He can make something that big, how much bigger must He be?
God is all about showing off. Creation proves it. And though it’s wrong for us to show off, for God it’s right and good. For us, when we show off we are actually trying to portray something false about ourselves; we’re trying to get others to think we are better than we are, and to think more highly of us than they ought, because we think more highly of ourselves than we ought. But God is perfect, and perfectly good in every way. We cannot think too highly of God. In fact, our thoughts of God are too small; we need a bigger view of God, because He’s infinitely good and glorious. And in His infinite goodness, He has actually linked our joy to the magnification of His glory.
Why do you think we delight to look at the night sky? Why do you think we delight to stand in the sand and look out at what seems to be an endless sea? Why do you think we delight to look down into the Grand Canyon, or up at the peaks of the tallest mountains? It’s because we were created for the glory of God: to glorify Him and to enjoy Him forever. And these great things declare the glory of God to us… So we save up our money and we go on vacation in pursuit of glory, all be it unknowingly. But, it’s true nonetheless… And that’s because God has so created us that our greatest joy comes from Him and the magnification of His glory.
So, on the one hand it is not wrong or egotistical for God to show off, or to be all about His glory, like it is for us, because God is God… He really is as glorious as He says He is… We need only look at His creation to see that truth. But, it’s also not wrong or bad in any way for God to be a show off, and to be all about His glory, because our joy and the magnification of His glory are linked. Again, we can see that in the creation and how we relate to it; but, here in our text we get an even greater insight into this truth. Again, here we’re told that God creates and saves His people, “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus…” He does what He does, so that for all eternity He might display the wonders of His love and the glory of His grace, and so magnify His glory in and through His grace and His grace recipients.
Just as mountains, oceans, and star-lit skies are some of the most majestic things in all of creation, so too is God’s grace the most majestic thing about God in His glory. The glory of God is the display and manifestation of who He is and what He’s like. And the grace of God, as we see it here, is God’s love and kindness towards us in Christ Jesus; it’s His love, favor, and blessing upon infinitely undeserving and sinful people in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ. And so, God’s grace is actually the peak, or the high point of the glory of God. Which makes sense if you think about it: as Scripture tells us, Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God, He is the image of the invisible God, in Him all of the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:15, 19). So, Jesus is the glory of God incarnate, but, He’s also the grace of God incarnate. Just as our text says, God’s grace is lavished on us (notice the last 3 words of verse 7) in Christ Jesus. The grace of God is the peak of the supremely majestic mountain that is God’s glory, and they both shine out in their fullness in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The glory of God and the grace of God were chiefly displayed as the Son of God took on the wrath of God on the cross so that rebellious sinners could become children of God. In and through Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial wrath absorbing death, and death defeating resurrection the manifestation of who God is and what He’s like—His glory—shines out in supreme clarity, with more majestic beauty than the tallest mountain under the clearest night sky on the coast of the bluest ocean. In the gospel we see God’s kindness, His love, and yes His wrath and holy hatred for sin; and all of these things serve to magnify the glory of His grace. This is why Scripture says that angels long to look into the truth and the beauty of the gospel (1 Peter 1:12); because in the person and work of Jesus Christ God in all of His glory is chiefly magnified…
This is why the message about the person and work of Jesus is called the gospel: because it truly is good news. It’s the most amazing news in the universe. God is all about His glory—His glory being magnified and displayed. And in His sovereign goodness He has chosen to display and magnify His glory in and through His grace being lavished upon sinners. So God being a show off, in this sense, is what leads to our salvation. As Romans 3:23 says, we’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. That’s actually what sin is. We were created for God’s glory—to love Him, live for Him, and make much of Him—but we have all rebelled against that and sought to live for our own glory instead. And in so doing we fell short of God’s glory, and thus offended an infinitely glorious God. That’s why we all deserve wrath. But in Christ God saves us from our sin and takes the wrath we deserve upon Himself.
So if you are here and you’re not a Christian, I’m pleading with you, repent and believe the gospel. Surrender your life to Jesus and be saved. When we look to Jesus by faith our future and who we are is no longer defined by our past or our sinful desires, but by Jesus’ past—the cross—and a new holy desire. You see, for all of us who are saved or will be saved, God doesn’t merely save us from our sin, but He saves us and brings us into right relationship with Him, and into eternal joy, where we can eternally delight in His glory and grace. Just as we delight in the things that declare His glory in creation, so even more does the Christian delight in the glory and grace of God incarnate, namely Jesus Christ—He becomes our supreme desire and delight. And that’s what we see in the rest of our passage.
Again, in Ephesians 2:7 we’re told that God saved us, “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” So, for all eternity God’s infinite grace is going to be displayed, is going to be magnified as God exercises His grace in kindness towards His people. And again this is all tied to Jesus. Paul says this grace in kindness is towards those in Christ Jesus; meaning those who have been born again, made alive in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and have repented of their sin, trusted in Jesus as their only hope of salvation, and have thus surrendered themselves to His Lordship and have become true followers of Jesus (something I encourage everything single one of you to do).
As Paul has already said, all of humanity is by nature dead in sin and rebels against God and thus rightly deserve God’s wrath. But Jesus changes all of that; by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, our eyes are open to God’s glorious grace in Christ, and we repent and believe the gospel, and thus we are forever linked to Jesus. And so for all who are in Christ, we are promised that the immeasurable riches of God’s grace will be lavished on us in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus, forever. And as Titus 3:4 says, the goodness and loving kindness of God is shown in and through our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. So how will God lavish His kindness upon His people for all eternity? Just as He has already here and now, yet infinitely more so: in and through Jesus…
Again, in this verse we see three in statements: in the coming ages, in kindness towards us, and in Christ Jesus; and they all three modify the verb show, or to display. So, just as eternity is in service to the grace of God being displayed, so too is God’s kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. Sinners who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ will forever enjoy and delight in the grace of God manifested in and through God’s kindness in Jesus. We will spend forever in perfect communion with Jesus, and the rest of the family of God. And because God’s grace is immeasurable—because God’s grace is an inexhaustible fountain, we will spend forever in ever increasing delight in Jesus. It will never get old, and will only get better and better. Forever we will marvel at, revel in, and praise the glorious grace of God in Christ Jesus. No doubt, the saints will exchange stories, and tell of God’s grace in our lives before glory; but the most incredible thing will be enjoying the apex of the glory of God, the glory and grace of God incarnate: Jesus Christ. We will be with Jesus in ever increasing joy forever.
Now, think back to what I said earlier about all of the amazing places we delight to go and to enjoy the experience of here on earth. All of those things, in fact every good thing this world has to offer is only a shadow or a reflection of the goodness of God in Jesus. Whatever joy or delight we have experienced in this life, multiply that times infinity and you get the joy that we will forever experience in Christ. The riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ are immeasurable, they’re inexhaustible, they are infinite. And again, they are towards us; that is, towards those who love and trust Jesus. God is for us… He is for those who love Christ, who are in Christ. And here we see that this is what heaven is all about: God’s people forever enjoying God’s Son. A lot of people claim to be Christians, and claim to want to go to heaven simply because they don’t want to go to hell; but in actuality they have no true desire for heaven because they have no true desire for Jesus… And that’s what heaven is all about: delighting in and enjoying forever the glory and grace of God in Christ Jesus. So if you have no desire for or delight in Jesus, you really have no desire for heaven, and thus no real reason to think you’re a Christian.
God’s design for eternity is to display the glory of His grace in kindness towards redeemed sinners like you and me, in Jesus. He will be good to us, He will be kind to us, He will lavish His grace upon us and we will ever increasingly delight in Jesus, our Lord and Savior. And if that’s true of eternity; like, if that’s what will bring us ever increasing joy forevermore, then likewise, that’s where true joy is found now: in Christ alone… in living for Him, in growing in our knowledge of Him and love for Him, in communing with Him and His people, and in pouring ourselves out for His fame—seeking to make much of Him and magnify the glory of His grace with all that we are and all that we have.
That’s what Paul did. In Philippians he tells us that his aim was for Christ to be honored (or magnified, or made much of) in his body, whether by life or by death. He said that for him to live was Christ, and to die was gain. He said that to be with Christ is far better than anything this world could give or take away; so he counted everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus His Lord. He suffered the loss of all things and counted them as rubbish (1:20-21, 23, 3:7-8). That may sound extreme to us; but its not if Jesus really is who the Bible says He is. Jesus is far better than everything; He’s of surpassing worth. Everything in comparison with Jesus is rubbish. That’s why Paul says that his life, and even his death is dedicated to Christ and honoring Him and magnifying His glory and worth. And Paul’s example shows us how to do the same thing: how to magnify the glory of God in Christ. We make much of Jesus by living and dying in such a way that everything we are, everything we have, and everything about us proclaims to the world that Jesus is better than the world.
We magnify the glory of God’s grace in Christ with all that we are and all that we have by living in such a way that our life proclaims that Jesus is our greatest treasure. And how do we do that? By enjoying Jesus supremely. And in God’s kindness the greatest joy in existence is found in Christ. So this is another reason why it is a good thing that God is a show off—that He’s all about His glory—because we glorify God supremely when we treasure and enjoy Christ supremely; and Christ actually is the greatest treasure in existence. In Matthew 13:44 Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” He gave up everything he had for the treasure, and he did it with great joy because the treasure was better than everything he had. And what God’s Word is telling us is that Jesus is the treasure. As Paul said, He is of surpassing worth, He is far better than everything. And so, the way we glorify Him is by living in a way that shows He is our greatest treasure; and if we have Christ, if we are in Christ then He really is our greatest treasure, so there’s no rub here… Our joy and God’s glory are linked: God is glorified supremely—in and through our lives—when we treasure and enjoy Jesus supremely…
Now think back to what Paul has been saying. Everyone outside of Christ is living for the passions of their flesh; they are chasing joy and delight in sin and the things of this world. And in their sin they think it is right and good to do so. But the problem is, their desires are broken. They’re blind to the beauty, the goodness, and the joy that are in Christ. They’re blind to the glory of God’s grace in Christ Jesus, and thus they are sinning and falling short of the glory of God that they should be living for and delighting in. This is how we all once were, and this is how everyone is outside of God’s grace. It’s like that 80s song, “Searching For Love In All The Wrong Places,” only we’ve been searching for joy in all of the wrong places. But God’s immeasurable grace changes all of that. Yet, even as I say that, the truth of the matter is that all of us, even all of us who truly are Christians still sin each and every day; we still seem to have this ongoing love affair with sin. But why? Why do we go to sin when we have true love, true joy, and true satisfaction in Christ?
This week I came across a quote by John Piper that explains why. He said, “Sin is the power that makes anything in life look more valuable than Jesus… which is why you choose those things rather than Jesus.” Again, sin is not merely making a mistake, it’s falling short of the eternal glory of God; and the reason we fall short of the glory of God is because we are enticed by the temporary glory of this world and the pleasures of the flesh. Even as Christians who are no longer enslaved to the world, the flesh, and the devil, we are still tempted to believe their lies. But, as we have seen, there is nothing in this life that is more valuable than Jesus; He’s of surpassing worth. He’s far better than everything. So when we sin we are settling for less… infinitely less…
So beloved, what God is showing us in and through Ephesians is a life transforming reality. If we can truly grasp this it will totally transform our lives. Paul is writing to Ephesian Christians who live in a very pagan society that was not friendly to Christianity. No doubt, they were receiving pushback from the culture around them, they were being marginalized and looked down upon for following Christ; and not only that, but they were being tempted to sin in a variety of ways, given all of the sin around them. And they were likely tempted to forsake Christ. In other words, their context was pretty similar to the way ours is going. So Paul tells them what he’s praying for them: that they might know God more, and know His power and hope more; the power and hope that we see in and through the resurrection of Jesus. The same power that has pulled us out of spiritual death and made us alive with Christ and has given us a guaranteed future, where we will eternally delight in Jesus with ever increasing joy, because God in His kindness in Christ will spend all of eternity displaying the immeasurable riches of His grace by lavishing His grace upon us. That’s our sure and certain eternal hope. But that hope starts now, and changes everything now. Even now, as Christians, we are in fellowship with Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit are enabled to live for Christ, and in God’s kindness, not only is that how we glorify God with our lives, but that is where true joy is found.
Being a Christian means dying to self, dying to the passions of our flesh and the ways of the world and seeking to empty ourselves of sin; but, it also means filling ourselves with Christ, and seeking to live in obedience to Christ and to make much of Christ, and He is where true joy and delight are found. And this is the greatest news in the universe: that the greatest joy in existence and the glory of God are linked. That when we love, live for, and truly treasure Christ supremely we not only glorify God as we ought, but we tap into ever increasing joy. So look to Christ and see your hope; look to Christ and see your treasure; look to Christ and see joy; and stop settling for less.