according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
Yes, I realize the above passage starts in the middle of a sentence. To avoid my previous post from being too long I broke it up into two parts.
If you go back to read the preceding verse you will see that Paul is taking about God’s forgiveness of sins. Such a topic can lead to many questions: How much does God forgive? How permanent is His forgiveness? Is there any sin too horrible that is beyond forgiving? (If it were up to me I could probably think of a few). Is there any limit whatsoever to His forgiveness?
Paul basically answers those questions with the last part of the seventh verse. He says that God’s forgiveness is “according to”, in other words, “as big as” the riches of His grace. The degree of forgiveness is equal to the degree of grace. Think with me for a moment of the wealthiest people in the world. Names such as Gates or Zuckerberg come to mind. Their net worth is described in the tens of billions of dollars. I can’t even imagine what so much money would look like! Paul uses the notion of extreme wealth to describe God’s grace. That’s how much of it there is! For all intents and purposes it is unlimited. And so is His forgiveness.
Paul doesn’t stop here with the concept of an extravagant amount. He goes on the say that God has “abounded” His grace towards us. This word means “to exceed a fixed number or measure, to be over and above a certain number.” The idea is of more than enough of something, a super-abundance. There is plenty of grace (and then some) to not only save us but to keep us saved. Whatever we need to live the Christian life is available. Grace never runs out, and no situation is too big.
Over the years I’ve talked to people who’ve expressed their belief that God could maybe help others but certainly not them. What they did was too horrible, or their situation was too difficult, for God’s grace to reach where they were. This verse absolutely contradicts this view! No matter how much grace is needed there is more than enough, and even more is left over!
If anything limits God’s grace, it’s the little word “in.” Grace is found within the limits of all wisdom and prudence. For the Greeks the word “wisdom” referred to such things as “skill in science and learning and daily life, sound judgment, intelligence, and math.” The New Testament adds to it the notion of moral goodness. So you could say it’s being able to discern how things really are, mentally and morally. The word “prudence” means “understanding.” Basically, it’s the practical application of wisdom. It’s knowing how to apply to daily life the knowledge that wisdom gives. As with anything, knowing something in theory is good, but doesn’t bring many benefits until it’s applied. I know in theory that I should do more exercise, but that “wisdom” has not helped my body get fit! Until I actually do it (and I keep promising myself that I will) I won’t benefit.
God’s grace will manifest itself in wisdom and understanding. It will never lie nor bring harm. The person on whom God pours out His grace will receive wisdom and understanding as a result. Now, I know what you’re thinking. There are many people in church who appear to have neither! As we continue through our study of Ephesians we’ll see why that’s the case. I’ll just say here that the problem is with us, not with God’s grace. The Lord has made sure that we can have more than enough!
Picture: Carol Schlorff