“The forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Ephesians 1:7
Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:5-11
Paul proclaimed the grace of God—free, full, sovereign, eternal grace—beyond all the glorious company of the apostles. Sometimes he soared to such amazing heights, or dived into unsearchable depths, that even Peter could not follow him. He was ready to confess that “our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given unto him,” had written “some things hard to be understood.” Jude could write of the judgments of God, and reprove with terrible words, “ungodly men, who turned the grace of God into lasciviousness.” But he could not tell out the purpose of grace as it was planned in the eternal mind, or the experience of grace as it is felt and realized in the human heart, like Paul. There is James again: he, as a faithful minister, could deal very closely with the practical evidences of Christian character. And yet he seems to keep very much on the surface; he does not bore down deep into the substratum on which must rest the visible soil of all spiritual graces. Even John, most favoured of all those apostles who were companions of our Lord on earth—sweetly as the beloved disciple writes of fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ—even John does not speak of grace so richly as Paul, in whom God first showed forth “all long-suffering as a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” Not, indeed, that we are at liberty to prefer one apostle above another. We may not divide the Church, saying, I am of Paul, I of Peter, I of Apollos; but we may acknowledge the instrument which God was pleased to use; we may admire the way in which the Holy Ghost fitted him for his work; we may, with the churches of Judea, glorify God in Paul.
For meditation: Paul always looked back with amazement when he recalled God’s grace to him, the chief of sinners, who so persecuted the Church (1 Corinthians 15:9-10; Galatians 1:13,15; Ephesians 3:7,8; 1 Timothy 1:13-15). Our gratitude and love to God can sadly be limited by our failure to realise how sinful we really are and how much he has forgiven us (Luke 7:41-47).
Sermon no. 295
22 January (1860)