Abounding Grace For Abounding
God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that…..you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
Every thought of abounding grace is to be connected with the abounding in good works for which it was given. And every thought of abounding work is to be connected with the abounding grace that fits for it.
Abounding grace has abounding work for its aim. Grace and good works are not at variance with each other. What Scripture calls the works of the law, our own works, the works of righteousness which we have done, dead works- works by which we seek to merit God’s favor- these are indeed the opposite of grace. But they are also the opposite of the good works which spring from grace, and for which alone grace is bestowed. As irreconcilable as are the works of the law with the freedom of grace, so essential and indispensable are the works of faith-good works- to the true Christian life. God makes grace to abound that good works may abound. The measure of true grace is tested and proved by the measure of good works. God’s grace abounds in us that we may abound in good works. We need to have the truth deeply rooted in us: Abounding grace has abounding work for its aim.
And abounding work needs abounding grace as it’s source and strength. Men may be diligent doing religious work in their own strength, with little thoughtful that grace which alone can accomplish true, spiritual, effective work. For all work that is to be really acceptable to God, and truly fruitful- not only for some visible result here on earth, but for eternity- the grace of God is indispensable. Paul continually speaks of his own work as owing everything to the grace of God working in him: “ I labored more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)
For centuries there has been an unfortunate tension between doing the works of God and living by faith. Many have viewed the work for God as a necessary part of their salvation; going so far as believing that in some way they are either earning, meriting or contributing to their salvation. Others live “by faith” believing that if they have become Christian, that’s sufficient and they have no need to do any work in the kingdom of God. Both are wrong. This debate occurred in the Acts church as Paul insisted that salvation was through faith alone- no work required and Peter who promoted the observation of Jewish law and its ensuing works. It was James who tied both faith and works together. No work of any human is sufficient to earn salvation but those who have been born again by the Spirit are moved upon to work in the kingdom of God.
While work isn’t necessary to merit salvation it is the outcome of a life transformed by the Spirit much in the same way that every relationship is not only feelings but action. Most of us would not consider words enough to describe a relationship. We would expect action that fits the relationship to follow. Though action doesn’t create nor prove love it accompanies it. It is the way we express our love for another.
In our relationship with God, He set the parameters defining the expression of love. We see it first in creation as God worked in providing a world in which He would place and give to the man created in His image. That it was work is seen in the Scripture as we read, “And on the seventh day, God rested.” Before He created man, God had chose to be in relationship with him and by working in creation, God expressed the
love of that relationship.
Furthermore, God again demonstrated His love for humanity even after their sin and rebellion with another action-expressed love. We read in John 3:16 that: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son….” Here is the highest expression of love as God placed His Son in the flesh. What a powerful work of love that was.
As Jesus is discussing the plan of redemption with the disciples He tells them:
13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.
Again we see that the love of God produced the work of God. In the previous verses Jesus tied His love to us with the work of laying down His life for us and our reciprocal love back to Him of doing as He had commanded. Do you see then that works do not qualify us for salvation but they are the outflow of our love toward God.
In any relationship the measure of love is in direct proportion to the action of love for love moves one to act in a certain way. Love moves us to kindness, caring, and serving without demand. The receiver may not demand certain action as is heard in the statement, “If you love me you will….” but the receiver benefits from the actions of the giver. We cannot demand that God prove His love toward us by answering a particular prayer but we can see how He loves us through the cross. God on the other hand does not demand that we do certain things or works but we cannot say that we have a true relationship with Him and have no desire to participate in His work. You may tell someone that you love them but if you don’t want to be with them and share with them the things that give them joy, you may not really love them for true love relationships have a shared interest.
Let us who have been blessed through the work of God now come to the place where our life purpose is to bless the One who first loved us and demonstrated that love through His actions. Let us who have told someone that we love them show that love through our actions toward them. By this the whole world will witness this powerful work of God through love.
Dr. John Thompson