Friday, July 26, 2013

Showing His Grace

When I was a child, my mother complained that if she ever needed to shout for me to duck, I'd probably be asking "Why?" when whatever she'd seen coming hit me in the head. I haven't outgrown my desire to know the reasons for things. I still need to see how everything fits together.

Maybe that's why I love the purpose statements in scripture. (You know, the sentences with phrases like "so that," or "in order that," or even just "that.") They give us the reasons for God's acts. They help us piece together the big picture, or the whole story, of God's work in history.

See the "so that" at the beginning of Ephesians 2:7? that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Yes, this is a purpose statement telling us God's reason for his saving action in the preceding passage, Ephesians 2:1-6. To sum it all up: God takes people who are spiritually dead, who are by nature objects of his wrath, raises them to spiritual life, and seats them "in the heavenly places," so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus

To be sure, this is not the only reason God saves people. Years ago, I did a study of scripture's explicit purpose statements for Christ's death and found ten different ones. John Piper wrote a book containing Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. Many of these purposes—or reasons—would also apply to the saving actions described in this passage. But the reason given in Ephesians 2:7 is God's ultimate purpose for saving sinners: He saves in order to show his limitless grace throughout eternity.

God gives us a glimpse of the fulfillment of this purpose in Revelation 7:9-12, where we see all of heaven praising God for his salvation. God planned this heavenly scene before time began, and acts in history to bring it about in eternity. To this end, as an eternal demonstration of "the immeasurable riches of [God's] grace," sinners deserving nothing but wrath are given salvation instead. In response, those who have been rescued by God's grace—and the angels, too—will eternally praise him for it.

Of course, there's no reason to wait until eternity to begin praising God for his glorious grace.