|Vol. 15 No. 12 December 2013||
Clarence L. Lavender
When the Son of God came into the world, it was suffering from spiritual malnutrition. Men were trying to feed their spirit on the husks of human philosophy, traditions and legalistic observances of the Law of Moses. All of these had failed. In the midst of man’s moral and spiritual bankruptcy, Jesus announced, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). The life of which Jesus spoke was eternal life, but His grace in providing the abundant life manifests itself in this life as well in many ways. Christ is the Water of Life (John 4:10). He is the Bread of Life (John 6:33-35). He is the True Vine, through which the branches (disciples) derive their nourishment (John 15:1).
The teachings of Christ, the Good Shepherd, lead to life because they are true. The doctrine of false shepherds leads to death, because it neither comes from nor can lead to God Who is the fountain of life. The life given by the Son of God consists of all good things. The Mosaic Dispensation provided little, even in the promised land, compared to the blessings and privileges possessed by those in the Lord’s church.
Because Christ is the Author of life, He is called the life. “In him was life: and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). He is also called the eternal life. “…this is the true God, and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). From Him proceeded the life that has given light and life to men, the revelation of God which appeals to the conscience and reason of man. This life is imparted through the hearing and obeying of His Word (John 5:24-25).
The life of a Christian is described as “abundant.” Having life “more abundantly” means to have a superabundance of a thing. In this case, it is a rich supply that only God can give (Psalm 33:1ff). The Greek term, perisseup, used suggests the idea of a continuous overflowing—a never-ceasing supply of life for every faithful soul. Literally, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might keep on having it more abundantly.” Such was not the case concerning the false teachers (thieves); they would take the abundant life away by teaching some other means of salvation.
To be a Christian is to know Who Christ is and share in a superabundant life. When men try to live their lives without Christ, life is a dull, dispirited thing. When they have an obedient walk with Him, there is a new vitality, a superabundance of life. It is only when we live with Christ that life becomes really worth living and we begin to live in the real sense of the word. This life has untold capacities about it—beauty, strength, growth and variety.
The grace of God and the abundant life would not be possible without the sacrifice of Christ. He gave His life, psyche (John 10:11), that we might have life, zoe (John 10:10). He gave His physical or natural life that we might have spiritual and immortal life. He gave life to souls dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-5). He makes provisions for the expansion of this life, in all grace, blessings, joy, glory and happiness. The abundant life is indeed overflowing.
Grace, charis, means favor—favor that is not earned, therefore unmerited. The word is used in various ways: (1) Luke 2:40, the “favor” of God was upon Christ. (2) Luke 2:52, Christ grew in “favor” with God and man. (3) 2 Corinthians 9:12, 15, “thanksgiving” and “thanks.” (4) 2 Corinthians 8:1, 4, “contribution.” (5) 1 Corinthians 16:3, the “bounty” was the contribution for the poor at Jerusalem. (6) Acts 2:47, the church was in “favor” with God and men. (7) Romans 5:2, it is by faith we enter into and stand in His grace or “favor.”
Some Instructions for Grace
The grace of God contains certain instructions. There are negative instructions: (1) We must deny ungodliness; (2) We must deny worldly lusts. There are positive instructions: (1) We must live soberly; (2) We must live righteously; (3) We must live godly in this present world; (4) We must look for the object of our blessed hope; (5) We must look for the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Our Need for Grace and the Abundant Life
The grace of God toward man was not a matter of obligation. It was divine love expressed in the gift of His Son to redeem man from sin. Neither Adam and Eve nor any other person can boast of God owing them His favor (grace). As Adam and Eve sinned, so do all men (Isaiah 59:1-2; Romans 3:23). All individuals are not guilty of the same sins, but all are guilty. Only their classifications differ: (1) Sins of the flesh: lewdness, drunkenness (Galatians 5:19-20). (2) Sins of temperament: sullenness, strife, unkindness, outburst of passion, envy, self-righteousness (Luke 15:25ff). (3) Social sins: theft, robbery, extortion, murder, sins of the flesh and temperament. (4) Religious sins: idolatry, blasphemy, sorcery, false doctrine. (5) Sins of neglect: when we know to do good and fail to do so (James 4:17; Luke 10). (6) The sin of misplaced emphasis: concern for the things of this world (Luke 9:59-62; 2 Timothy 6:9-10).
If men are saved, the obligation will be on their part, in that they accept and obey God’s plan to redeem them. Man’s obligation to obey does not merit anything. Salvation, the abundant life in Christ comes by grace through obedient, working faith (Ephesians 2:8-9; James 2:24).
God saw the need for man’s deliverance from sin and provided the medium through Christ. This is God’s grace (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 8:35-39). Active or working faith is the means by which men appropriate God’s blessings. It is by God’s grace such provisions have been revealed. Man must receive these provisions or he cannot be saved by grace (Acts 2; 10:34-35; Philippians 2:2)!
Characteristics of the Abundant Life
The abundant life provides children of God with many blessings. A few of these are: (1) Faith: “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). (2) Forgiveness: “And be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Colossians 3:13). (3) Fellowship: The lives of men never will be spiritually satisfying outside of fellowship with God and His children (1 Corinthians 1-9; Philippians 1:1-2; 1 John 1:3-10). (4) Joy and peace: (Philippians 1:12-21). Real joy and peace in this life come only by learning to live above circumstances (Philippians 1:12-18). The abundant life provides victory over things that may have been intended to discourage us (Philippians 1:14). Paul learned to live above all the circumstances of life for the glory of God. If only we could learn that lesson today. Circumstances come and go. We can live through and above them due to the abundant life revealed in the grace of God. (5) Hope: “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened: That ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18). (6) Love: (John 13:34-35; 15:12; 1 John 2:10; 4:7-21; 1 Corinthians 13:1-7). (7) Prayer: (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). (8) Eternal life: “And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life” (1 John 2:25).
None of the characteristics of the abundant life would be possible without the grace of God. The songwriter put it this way:
“Grace all sufficient, Jesus provides,
Strength for my trials freely supplies;
Cheer when I’m lonely, smiles when I cry,
I know He loves me, I know He cares.
Grace all sufficient, what need I more?
He hath provided life evermore.
Honor and glory, praise His name,
Worthy! Oh Calvary, Savior and King.”