The Riches of His Grace (continued)
If you will turn again to this man Paul who is speaking this way about himself, not only does he say, "To me, who am less than the least of all saints" (Ephesians 3:8), he also says: "I am the chief of sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). Now that is positive: "not only less than the least," but positively, "the chief of sinners." "I persecuted the Church of God, and wasted it" (Galatians 1:13), "I gave my consent to the murder of His beloved servant Stephen (Acts 8:1). And he will tell you not only of his lack of merit but a great deal more about his demerit. Everything that was there in that man was an offence to God; and if anything could stand in the way of grace, it was there in that man. But, you see, grace just means that demerit, not only no merit, whatever the condition, however great the demerit, that is grace.
As Christians, you and I have got to learn a great deal more about grace as we go on. Perhaps all this is something that the Christian has to reckon with even more so than the unsaved. If you and I are really moving with God, you and I are coming more and more to the place where we do say from the depth of our being, "But for the grace of God." For me, even as a Christian, after all these years, I will not get through except for the grace of God. As I see and understand it, it takes a great deal more of grace for me now as a Christian than it did to save me at the beginning.
Now to some, that may seem a strange thing to say, but again I am referring to grace. For are we not discovering all the time what we did not know even at the beginning, which is, the presence of the demerit in ourselves?! Oh yes, but don't you see that is just the character of grace, and that is what grace really means. Grace has no meaning unless that is true.
So, then, let us note this second thing about grace. Grace never recognizes any debt. Grace is not a payment of any debt; grace is not in our debt at all. God is not dealing with us in grace because He owes us something. This is only another way of speaking about the absence of merit and the presence of demerit. You see, no one has a claim upon the grace of God. God is not our debtor; grace does not recognize any such thing as being in debt and having to pay its way with us. Grace is free, grace is not something for which God is trying to pay us back. It is all the other way around. We are the debtors, God is the creditor, and grace is just grace; and there is perhaps nothing else that we can say about it, because grace is just His free, spontaneous movement without any obligation. That is the basic nature, the character of grace.
When we realize this true nature of grace and the positive demerit about ourselves, and that God is under no obligation to us, then we realize God just makes "grace abound" - "where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly" (Romans 5:20).Now is that not true? - "where sin abounded," grace does so much more abound?! Then we begin to understand what the depth of the riches may be. We are introduced into a realm that is beyond us. Beyond us, is it not? And any soul that has not come to the time and state of just wondering in amazement at God's voluntary, spontaneous, free, unmerited favor, the soul that has not come there, has not begun to know the meaning of such words as "the riches of His grace"; and that one can never truly be a wealthy soul.
(continued with # 4 - (The Works - The Appreciation of Grace)