Love from the Beginning: Intentional Grace

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The book of Ephesians presents a magnificent picture of God’s radical grace.  There is so much content packed into this brief book.  As I read through Scripture, I often like to tackle one chapter at a time.  However, after I read the first three verses of Ephesians, I had to stop.  Have you ever thought about how truly amazing God’s grace is?  Grace is one of the overarching themes of Ephesians, and the first chapter alone is intense enough for one to spend weeks simply pondering its depths (hence I spent ten weeks reading through a six-chapter book).  Take a look at Ephesians 1:6-7:

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace, which He made abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence…” (emphasis mine)

We all know the mad scramble for small reward. ("Pigtails and Parade Candy Scramble" by Meegan Reid)

We all know the mad scramble for small reward. (“Pigtails and Parade Candy Scramble” by Meegan Reid)

Paul, the writer of Ephesians, is famous for his run-on sentences, so this is only the first chunk of a theologically-loaded sentence.  But consider what these verses are saying: God has given us the abundance, the fullness of His grace “in all wisdom and prudence.”   His grace is no accident, and He has no qualms about having sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins.  Everything about God’s grace is intentional.  He does not dispense grace as though He were tossing candy in a parade.  He does not fling it at us, requiring us to scramble around for bits of it, some receiving with abundance and others with lack.  Rather, He gives His grace as the perfect gift.  Think of the person who knows you best choosing a gift for you.  This person loves you and knows what the perfect gift is.  This gift is carefully planned, tenderly prepared, and freely given out of simple love.  That is how God gives His grace.  God’s grace is not willy-nilly; it is deliberate.  He planned to offer us this grace, choosing us “before the foundations of the world” (Eph. 1:4), another word for which is “predestined.”  And He offers this grace to each one of us.  There is nothing to which this grace can be compared; it is without equal because its Giver is without equal: the Lord of all creation, the King of heaven.  We have received every spiritual blessing through Christ (Eph. 1:3), being made “holy and without blame before Him in love” (v. 4) and adopted as sons with rights to a full inheritance sealed by the Holy Spirit (v. 5, 11, 13-14) – all because of His glorious grace.

Take a moment to consider:  Your Heavenly Father planned His goodness toward you.  What does this say about His will in regard to you?

golden giftIt is God’s will to show grace, sealing us as His own and drawing us to Himself.  It is His will to be good because His nature is good.  This is why it is His will that none “should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).  This is also why He takes no pleasure in death but instead calls out, “Turn and live!” (Ez. 18:32).  Everything about God’s grace is deliberate, set in place before the foundations of the world were laid and Adam first walked in His presence.  His grace is the most perfect, most thoughtful gift ever given, and He longs for each of us to accept its fullness.  It is only His grace that encompasses past, present, and future and brings us into alignment with Him.

Thus Ephesians presents one of the greatest paradoxes of all time: the comingling of destiny and choice.  Grace is a gift deliberately given that must be deliberately received.  Our choice does not alter the fact that it is offered freely and gladly, nor the fact that it is God’s will for us to choose it.  As Ephesians 1 tells us multiple times, it was His pleasure to give us grace; but more than that, it was the “good pleasure of His will” to do so (v. 5, 9, 11).  This was no whim, no fleeting bout of kindness.  It was not merely a good deed in response to a need.  Rather, this great grace was a deliberate act of His will: it is not only His desire to be good to us – it is part of His very nature. “Good” isn’t just something God does – it’s who He is.  It has always been and always will be His intention to provide grace.  It pleases Him to be good because that is who He is.  It pleased Him to make “known to us the mystery of His will” (Eph. 1:9): His grace, His goodness – nothing hidden, nothing withheld.  He longs for us to live freely and fully in His scandalously kind, utterly glorious gift.  He pursues us with relentless, intentional grace.  We do not deserve His grace, but dare we refuse a Gift He has literally poured His life into?

It is my desire to live unmasked and unashamed in the spacious place of His grace, and I hope that you will join me.  Embrace the good will of the Father toward you, and allow His grace-gift to saturate your life.

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