Abounding Grace (3)
And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 1.14
Abounding grace, increasing fruit
Within the framework of God’s covenant, Kingdom, and Church, grace abounds as divine communication and working power. The first fruit of the Gospel is eternal life, that is, knowing God and Jesus Christ. We have seen all the wondrous, transforming effects grace brings with it as someone comes to faith in the Lord. From that beginning, God works by grace to bring forth the fruit of Jesus in us, transforming us increasingly into His likeness (2 Cor. 3.12-18). The effect of abounding grace is to bring forth fruit and increase (Col. 1.3-6) in those who truly believe.
Thus, abounding grace becomes visible; it can be seen. The increase of grace is what all seek who have truly come to know the Lord. They want more of God’s grace so that they might know more of Jesus, more of the Father, and more of the Spirit; and so that they might have increased faith and love to serve Him well.
The more grace abounds, the more faith and love increase.
Let’s look more closely at this fruit.
What is faith? I suspect that most Christians would answer by saying something like “Believing in Jesus” or “Believing in God”. That would be true, as far as it goes. And, frankly, that’s as far as faith does go with far too many of us, which is why thinking about faith increasing as a fruit of grace rarely comes to mind for most of us.
The writer of Hebrews defines faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11.1, my translation). Three things immediately stand out about this definition.
First, faith has an object: “things hoped for” and “things not seen”. What true faith hopes for is neither temporal nor material in nature. It is unseen and spiritual. We do not see such things – God in His glorious heaven, Christ exalted at His right hand, an infinite spiritual space filled with joyful, worshiping saints and angels – except with the eye of the heart (Eph. 1.18). If our minds are not framed and filled with such a glorious vision, it is probably because we have not set our hope on the right objects. We’re hoping for a happy life, or safety in a crazy world, or a good job, or a faithful relationship. These things are important, but if they are the commanding vision that fills our thoughts and stirs our heart, we will never realize the kind of assurance God intends by extending His grace to us.
Second, faith has an inward dimension. Assurance is an affection of the heart – a sense of wellbeing, peace, and joy. Assurance that comes from the vision of faith is unshakeable. Whatever assurances we may obtain from temporal items or circumstances are always fleeting and changeable. But changes in material circumstances do not affect the assurance which comes from true faith. This assurance can grow, as our vision grows and becomes more truly that which we focus on and aspire to in life. The more we are assured about the object of our faith – the more real and constant we are about that unseen, hoped-for goal – the more our faith increases, and the power of grace comes through in our lives.
Finally, the power of grace, which faith ignites and sustains, brings forth the evidence of faith in the form of good works of love. Thus faith is not merely inward and assuring in nature; it is also outward and working. Where grace as communication is truly operating in the soul for assurance, grace that can be seen flows in power as good works of love.
God gives abounding grace to increase faith in us, as we sharpen our vision of and hope in unseen things; and increased faith generates increased evidence of faith in good works of love – the power of grace at work.
But what forms of evidence does that love assume?
We all have a sense of what love looks like as it is expressed: Love is patient, kind, never jealous or envious, boastful or proud, and so forth. But how do such attributes of love become part of our working and gracious character?
By keeping the commandments of God: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 Jn. 5.3). This should be obvious. Imagine a world where everyone loved God, never looked to idols, never took the Lord’s Name in vain, and honored the Lord’s Day. Imagine a world where parents and other authorities were properly honored; where people did no harm to one another, and hated no one; where lusts were controlled and marriage honored; and people respected the private property of others, always told the truth, and were content without coveting what others possessed. Would that be a loving world? It would, indeed.
How does such love come to be more present in the world? By grace, working through faith, to engender assurance about unseen realities, and good works of love. Faith and love increase where abounding grace does its work in our lives. God communicates grace to us by His Law – and all His Word; and He works the power of grace in and through us by His Spirit, empowering us for obedience and good works of love.
We need grace to abound within us, so that we may be firmly and unshakably convinced about the unseen things we believe, and can demonstrate the power of abounding grace in works of love for God and our neighbors.
And where we have such a need, God has grace to help, if only we will seek it as He commands.
1. How does grace engender faith in the soul? Why is it important that our vision of unseen things be clear and expansive?
2. True faith has both an inward and an outward component. Explain.
3. How can we have access to abounding grace for increased faith and love?
Next Steps – Transformation: How can you nurture a clearer and more compelling vision of unseen things? Why should you? Talk with a Christian friend about these questions.
Grace flows from our relationship with Jesus Christ. The better we know Him, the more His grace will do its work in us. Our book, To Know Him, can help you in drawing closer to Jesus and increasing in Him. Order your copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.