In writing to the people of God the apostle Paul declared, ‘For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich’, 2 Corinthians 8:9. In this he states very clearly that they know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, not that they are ignorant of it, but that they have been made recipients of it as manifested in their experience. Thus the child of God can never truly say, ‘O that I knew’, but – despite fears, temptations and trials which necessarily appear in the way – ‘I know.’
Paul himself could write, ‘I know whom I have believed’, and it came with a persuasion that the Saviour was able to ‘keep that which I have committed unto him against that day’, 2 Tim. 1:12. Paul had committed his whole being for time and eternity into the sovereign hands of Christ, fully persuaded that therein, and therein alone was safety. And this persuasion, as well as having come by the witness of the Spirit, Rom. 8:16, was also strengthened by his ‘counting’, Phil. 3:7,8: his thinking, pondering and ‘meditating’, as Psalm 1:2, upon the truths of the gospel, how they had been, and were being wrought out in him, and therefore of his standing in Christ, regardless of how he might be feeling at any given time. Paul’s confidence in Christ was that it was found in Christ and not in himself. The grace wherein he stood was ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Paul did not trust in his own faith, or in his own repentance; he did not even trust in the abundance of the blessings he had received; and he certainly did not trust in his own natural bent towards the things of God; his trust was in the Person of Christ alone.
Now although the saving grace of Christ was especially manifest in Paul – for the unique work that he was called to do in the history of the church, cp. 1 Cor. 3:9,10, Eph. 2:19,20 – yet this same grace was manifest in all the saints of God; and indeed had to be; for without the grace of God in Christ salvation could not be brought to any man, Titus 2:11. So the apostle writes that all God’s people ‘know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ’, just as he did; for this knowledge, again, was vital to give assurance of eternal life. Jesus had declared that eternal life was to know the Father and the Son, John 17:3, actually to know them in their very Persons. No vague notions of God here; no agnosticism; no unbelief; no doubts regarding God and his Christ could be found in the way of the faith, for it was ‘ye know.’ God’s grace brings with it certainty and assurance; it comes with power and unequivocally educates its recipients, to a greater or lesser degree, of their sure standing in Christ: as in 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10 and Colossians 1:3ff. And how can it be otherwise? For the Spirit of God whose work it is to reveal these things in the elect is true almighty God himself! And is his power to work effectually anything less than omnipotent? It certainly is not. There is no room for longing sighs accompanied by ‘Oh that…’s when the Spirit has brought salvation to one of his own. After all, confirms Paul, ‘we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God’, 1 Cor. 2:12.
When Barnabas, the son of consolation, went to Antioch to see the great number which had believed and turned to the Lord, he saw the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all that, with purpose of heart, they should cleave unto the Lord – and said as much as one full of the Holy Ghost and of faith, Acts 11:20-24. What had Barnabas seen? The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ manifested in the lives of the believers. That is, it was evident that the grace of Christ was upon them and that they knew it. We are not told of levels of attainment reached in their experience; not of great manifestations necessarily, but of substance. It may have been little more than a spark in some, but it was there, and by the Holy Ghost and in faith Barnabas saw it and felt no restraint in encouraging them in it.
Now there is a line of teaching among some which says that one should constantly be examining and questioning every hint of grace that one might discover in their experience. Whereas it is good and right, for fear of presumption – Psalm 19:13, Matt. 7:13-27 – to ‘examine ourselves whether we be in the faith’ – and all of God’s people will be led of the Spirit at times to ‘give diligence to make their calling and election sure’ – yet such over examination to the nth degree can lead one into despair as they will always find within themselves thoughts, desires, carnality and failings which will cause them severely to question whether God could indeed ‘dwell here.’ Also this excessive inward-looking will eventually turn the eyes of faith away from Christ to whom God’s people are constantly to look: ‘looking unto Jesus’, Heb. 12:1-3.
No, but there is a point at which the children of God can confidently say – and their confidence is in the power, witness and anointing of God, 1 John 2:20,27 – that, despite ‘every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset them’, ‘nevertheless… I know.’ As I have said, it cannot be any other way, otherwise the power of God in working and applying his salvation in his people must be severely questioned and doubted; and what a hopeless foundation is that to build upon – if anything can be built upon it.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is something known. His work is sufficient to produce the confession, ‘I know.’ But how can we know? By being brought to realise that we have become rich: ‘…that ye through his poverty might be rich.’ Paul says in this verse that the fruit of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in his people is that they are made rich. What riches are these? Worldly riches? No. Rich in a ‘calm and heavenly frame’? Alas, not always. Oh, the plague of the heart! the power of the flesh! the proneness to wander and grow cold! The assaults of the adversary remain more or less till we breathe our last; and that easily besetting sin will go on plaguing us.
For one to be made rich it is obvious that, before, they had been poor. The first blessing which comes to the children of God in their experience is that which relates to their ‘poverty of spirit’, Matt. 5:3. Unless we have been taught of God our spiritual poverty before him: of our total inability truly to incline ourselves – in thought, desire, intent or will – to God-ward, then no other spiritual blessings can follow regardless of what we say we believe. We have been born in sin and therefore are unrighteous to our core; and out of this nature we have sinned: constantly rebelled against God and broken his law, thus making us debtors; but we have nothing with which to pay. We disobey him continuously; every imagination of the thoughts and intents of our hearts are only evil day by day; we love, naturally, everything he hates, and despise everything he counts good, cp. Matt. 6:24. Whereas this is true of all men only those taught so of God in their experience discover and mourn over this ‘poverty of spirit’ before him, John 6:45.
But is this really the beginning of the blessedness of the children of God? that which relates only to our experience? No, certainly not. Made rich? Our riches are primarily to be found in our standing before God in Christ; in our standing as he sees us and not always as we see ourselves, see Col. 2:10 in context. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, although experienced, has not begun in our receiving it, it has been toward us in him from all eternity, Eph. 1. One of the fruits of the grace of God toward his people is his love; as he has said, ‘Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore…’ because of this ‘…with lovingkindness have I drawn thee’, revealing my love to thee by bestowing upon thee my grace, which ‘ye know.’
The covenant which God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – entered into in himself from all eternity is a covenant of grace freely to be bestowed upon, and surely to be known by all his people in time. The grace of God in the covenant is that which is manifest to and known assuredly by all who receive it. This purpose and work of eternity cannot be frustrated by any thing of time; not by time, not by devils or men; no, nor by the sinful hearts and natural inclinations of the wills of men in unbelief. It is the grace of God which he purposes to bring to all his people to their definite acknowledgement of it, Eph. 3:1-12. He says, ‘I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’ Literally, ‘I, their God; they, my people.’
Accompanying the eternal love of God toward his people in this covenant, which existed before they were made recipients of this saving ‘knowledge’, is his predestinating and electing grace. God has chosen out of mankind a multitude of individuals to whom he is determined to be gracious. They were chosen in his Son as their covenant head before the foundation of the world and given to him to redeem at the cross. And at Calvary their salvation was accomplished, as Christ there said, ‘It is finished.’ Yes, and it was completed so thoroughly that it didn’t require their ‘belief’ to make the salvation effectual. Christ’s blood actually saved them: they were redeemed by his blood, Rev. 5:9.
Again, the grace of God is accompanied by his determination to be merciful to them. Surely one of the most wonderful words that God ever uttered regarding his people are these: ‘I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more’, Heb. 8:12. He will be merciful to whom he will be merciful. The grace of God will always bring mercy. When one is brought to cry to God for mercy – that is for free, undeserved, unwarranted, hitherto unsoughtafter, unobtainable, life saving mercy, with the acknowledgement that it can only come and be bestowed if God will – then that one will receive true mercy and never before, Luke 18:13,14. Mercy is given freely to a sinner when he has nothing to pay, yes, and not until he has given up all efforts to pay with any scrap of supposed righteousness he thinks he can produce or find in himself. Not until he is at the end of self, of hope, of self-effort will he cry, and will God be merciful to him in bestowing his grace. And then, presently, the recipient will ‘know’ the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, as received, Luke 7:41,42.
But what is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? Well, look at the manger in Bethlehem. Who is there? He that was rich, who has become poor. The eternal Son of God. ‘When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman…’, Gal. 4:4. He who was rich in the glories of heaven, the creator of all things, including the angels of heaven who constantly sound his praises; he, the eternally only begotten omnipotent Son of God in his divine nature, he became poor, became a man, a child, a babe, being made in the likeness of sinful flesh. He was a man. In very nature a man as well as being in very nature God – two natures, yet one Person. Oh, Great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh, Phil. 2:5-11, 1 Tim. 3:16.
Yea, what a mystery! Behold the man! He grew in wisdom and stature as a man. He hungered, thirsted, and tired like a man. He learned obedience, was prone to trials and tribulations like men who live solely to please the Father. Jesus was a man of prayer who was often found wrestling in prayer like men of faith. He was like a man in all points, yet, uniquely as a man, without sin, not knowing sin, having no nature that could beget actual sins; and yet made like unto his brethren: surrounded by, walking amidst, harassed by, troubled over, suffering at the hands of sin, in all its manifestations in men, Matt. 17:17, Heb. 12:3.
He who had enjoyed the unsullied glories of heaven from all eternity, rich beyond comprehension, became poor; poor in the struggles of daily existence, poor in his frequent need of rest and sleep, cp. Psalm 121:4; poor in his self restriction of being in one place at one time – he, ‘the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity’, Jesus Christ the righteous who suffered at the hands of wicked men: poor in his total refusal ‘when he was reviled, to revile again; and when he suffered, to threaten’, that is, to ‘stand up for himself’ when sinners mocked, scourged, spat upon him; when they despised, rejected, denied and betrayed him – the Lord of glory humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross: yea, ‘they pierced my hands and my feet.’ Death? But how could the sinless man die? Only thus: by ‘giving his life a ransom for many’. Oh, what poverty he suffered: ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ Is there greater poverty than separation from God? But ‘for your sakes he became poor.’ Psalm 22.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? Again, look at Calvary. Look, if you can, into those three eternal hours of darkness which he endured upon the cross. Nay, who can look therein. His grace? Where is your sin child of God? Your nature? There. He was ‘made sin’ for us. Where, sinner, is your blood sacrifice to bear away your sins? There upon the cross: ‘Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.’ But it is a blood sacrifice given by God, not by you: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ It pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief…’ It is your sins, ye that rebel against God, your sins that are being punished, but not in you; in him, in the substitute, your substitute. ‘The LORD’, say his people, ‘hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.’ Yea, ‘he hath put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.’ Isaiah 53, Heb. 9 and 10.
Where is the justice of God? There at the cross. Sin is rightly being dealt with in holy wrath, hatred and righteousness; yea, the righteousness of God, the righteousness of the law is being meted out upon sin, and free justification is being brought in by the blood of the cross. An Innocent, Jesus Christ, who in his very nature is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, is being made sin, and bearing the punishment for the sins of the guilty – God’s way of doing things (it would never be ours) – and if that sin is not dealt with in him then it must be borne by you for all eternity. What is that? It is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, being made poor, that ye, through his poverty might be rich. O Rejoice! Rejoice!
Here are riches indeed: the rich fruit of the work of the cross, of his poverty. ‘Ye’ are rich in forgiveness of sins received, rich in liberty from the power of sin in having died with Christ, being reckoned dead to a condemning, cursing law – which has nothing more to say to, nor command, the dead. Rich in a free salvation having been fully wrought out – again, ‘It is finished.’ Rich in the gift of the Holy Spirit to regenerate, indwell, convict, convince, teach, show, and apply all the things which Christ has accomplished for you, in you. Rich in life, life from the dead; saith Christ, ‘I am the resurrection and the life… I was dead, and, behold, I am alive for ever more’, and ye in him! Eph. 2:5,6. Yea, eternal life freely bestowed in Christ, 1 John 5:20. Rich in that there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus; who are found – as having received these riches – no longer walking after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Why? For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made them free from the law of sin and death, Rom. 8:1,2. Rich in access to God the Father at all times through the mediator, the high priest, by his shed and sprinkled blood, to justify freely, redeem and cleanse, who ever liveth to make intercession for you. Yea, ‘being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’, ‘being justified by his blood’ alone; therefore being clothed in the very righteousness of God itself. Oh, the riches of his grace!
Abundant riches! Peace with God by the blood of the cross of Christ, peace when there had been war. Hope, a good hope – not a little hope – through grace. A purged and clear, good and pure conscience, void of offence toward God and man. The riches of an overcoming faith – there’s no unbelief on this ground – the faith of the Son of God who has overcome all things. Not the perverse ‘name-it-claim-it’ pseudo-faith of so many false professors, but the faith of God’s elect exercised in ‘Ask and ye shall receive, seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you.’ ‘Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?’ John 11:40.
Believest thou this? ‘Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say?’ Have faith in God! The riches of faith beyond our imagination. ‘He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?’ Well, will he not? ‘For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s’, 1 Cor. 3: 21-23; Rom. 8:32.
Oh, cease from seeking salvation, mercy, forgiveness, repentance, faith, peace, joy, and fulness outside of the realm of his grace. Paul honestly confessed, ‘For to me to live is Christ’. How could he say such a thing? Because he knew the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though Christ was rich, yet for Paul’s sake He became poor, that Paul, through His poverty, might be rich.
Now dear reader, are you thus rich? If not, why not?
[Due to the style of writing in one or two instances, this article was obviously written a few years ago before I left the ‘Gospel Standard’ denomination. The seeds of my ‘Contentions’ can clearly be seen.]