Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:24a “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ. . .”
If we sought to summarize God’s dealings with believers in one word, we would have to choose the term “grace,” love condescending. All the wonderful blessings we enjoy are captured in “grace,” God’s lovely, free, and unmerited favor.
If we had to capsulize in one word the only appropriate response of saints to this grace, we would have to choose the term “love.” What other response can we rightly make to Him who made the infinite descent to live in our flesh, and whose boundless love to us earned Him the title, Friend of sinners? In the God-man, Jesus Christ, every virtuous and positive quality which can dignify human nature appeared. He crowned grandeur of character with flawless loveliness. To love Christ is to love perfection–spotless purity, moral beauty, unparalleled goodness.
All saints love Jesus. To all “which believe, He is precious” (1 P 2:7). Without love to Christ, there can be no Christian at all, but no believer should ever be satisfied with a minimum level of love. Our gentle, kind Savior deserves better.
Eph. 6:24b “. . .in sincerity.”
Paul’s prayer is that “grace,” the undeserved wonderful goodness of God, will continue to flow unabated toward us. He wants us to enjoy “grace upon grace” (JN 1:16), successive and growing waves of grace. I remind us “grace” does not refer only to the condescending love of God expressed to sinners at conversion, but also to “the whole fullness of blessing and gifts that follow upon that love” (Maclaren).
God’s grace to us is not static, happening only at the moment of conversion, and then becoming a matter of history. It is dynamic, continuing to live and flow.
This ongoing shower of grace is poured out upon us as we love Jesus “in sincerity.” The word, literally an adverb meaning “incorruptibly,” is illustrated by an event from my past. Someone once purchased in Mexico for Ruth and me watches bearing the Rolex brand name. These “Rolexico” watches, exact replicas of the real thing, were crafted not by ordinary thieves, but by very gifted thieves. The watches looked so real that we hesitated to wear them because we feared people would think we had robbed a bank to buy them. They worked perfectly, but soon, when I took my watch off one night, my wrist had turned green. It looked like I had leprosy. The watch had obviously been made of corruptible materials. Our love for Jesus can also corrode, but we must not let this happen. We are to love Him “incorruptibly,” with an abiding affection which proves its genuineness by its endurance.
We are to have for Christ a permanence of devotion. Even as God’s grace to us never stagnates, even so our love for Jesus should never grow stale. Our love must be neither a passing gleam, like the morning fog or early dew, nor a feeling only stirred by a sentimental hymn. It has to be a deep, strong, everlasting emotion that persists through all our varying moods. It should remain incorruptible deep in one’s essence, untainted by selfish thoughts, refusing to be swayed from Jesus by an opposite love of anything displeasing to Him, and ever showing itself in action.
Loving God is the most important trait of a believer. When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (MT 22:37). These words of our Master were not spoken selfishly. Our love never wafts itself to a responseless Heaven. Our love for God has a welding power which draws the blessings of God to itself and rivets them to us. By cherishing Him, we imbibe, we drink ourselves full from the Fountain of grace, and this is our crying need. We desperately need fresh discoveries of God’s grace. Yesterday’s supply cannot suffice. For today’s trials and temptations, we need a new portion of grace. To discharge present duty, and to overcome today’s times of darkness, we need fresh supplies of grace.
More, more, more is ever the Christian’s motto. God says, “I will send My Son to die on a cross.” We say, “More!” “I will send My Holy Spirit.” “More!” “I will save you and live in your heart.” “More!” “I will pour my grace upon you in this world.” “More!” “I will turn on the faucet of My grace full blast, and never lessen the flow forever.” “Amen!” This we want–more from God forevermore.
Ever flowing grace is the living root of a growing love which produces as part of its fruit an ever increasing supply of grace. This is the most important cycle of life–God’s grace producing an ever increasing love in us which draws down ever more of God’s grace. It is an ongoing, ever enrichening experience.
We want this flowing growing grace-love cycle to form ever tighter and tighter concentric circles as the grace and love flow and grow ever more rapidly, drawing closer and closer to one another in shorter circuits, until it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. We want to love Jesus in such a way that we pull His essence into our essence, that we fuse with God and become like Him.
We eventually become what we love. I have a cousin who loves sports so much that he has become a walking encyclopedia of sports trivia. People who love law become legal experts. Computer lovers become technology gurus. Love woos the beloved into our very essence. If we love Jesus, we attract grace, and find ourselves coming into contact with, and thus becoming more like, perfect virtue.
I remind us of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Great Stone Face.” On a mountain side, Nature carved a huge human face, having the glow of one with a sweet, warm, loving heart. Little Ernest lovingly looked upon the face, and his mother told him the old prophecy, someday one would come with such a face as that. Little Ernest looked up at the kind face and longed for such a one to come. Soon a native-born millionaire returned to town, and all believed he would be the face’s duplicate, but he was not. Ernest grew to be a young man, gazing often on the Great Stone Face’s tender, pleasant smile, and ever longing for someone to come with that countenance. One day a native-born soldier returned to the valley as a decorated commander. Everyone hoped he would be the one, but he was not. As Ernest slipped into middle age, he continued to watch the gentle features of the Great Stone Face, living life quietly, being a blessing, and finally becoming a preacher. One day a famous native-born political orator returned to town and everyone thought this would surely be the one of prophecy, but he was not. Ernest finally became an old man, with white hair and wrinkles. He had lived a kind life. People felt he talked with angels as his daily friends. One day a native-born famous poet returned to town. Everyone thought he would surely fulfill the prophecy, but they were again disappointed. However, it was the poet who, while listening to Ernest preach, suddenly by an irresistible impulse, threw his arms aloft and shouted, “Behold! Behold! Ernest is himself the likeness of the Great Stone Face!” The prophecy was fulfilled, the Great Stone Face having been duplicated not by the ones who had money beneath its shadow, fought under its inspiration, spoke eloquently about it, or wrote beautifully of it, but by the one who loved it. To be like God, we must love God. “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.”