All-Sufficient Grace

A Sunday Evening Gospel Address

"Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets to Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord: and the creditor is come to take to him my two sons to be bondmen. And Elisha said to her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid has not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil. Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full. So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out. And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said to her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest" (2 Kings 4:1-7).

We find the prophet Elisha in many different circumstances, and confronted by many great difficulties, but we do not find him in any circumstance, or confronted by any difficulty, that he was not equal to, he was never baffled, never found wanting. He met all sorts of people in all kinds of distresses — kings, soldiers, lepers, bankrupts and he had just the blessing that each needed. He was God's representative in the midst of a distressed nation, and he dispensed to those distressed sinners the grace of God — he brought to them the blessing that was in the heart of God for them — in this way he sets forth in figure the Lord Jesus Christ, and I want you to remember that in speaking of Elisha I am only using him as a type of the great Saviour. Christ is my theme, I want to point you to the One who is the great antitype of God's prophet in this second book of the Kings.

It is a moving story of this widow and the way that Elisha met her need. We see the need first of all, then the grace that met the need. It is a picture in which the dark background of the sinners' need throws into bright relief the wondrous grace which is in Christ for them. A widow in the Scriptures is a figure of perfect helplessness and an object of pity, and this widow was a bankrupt, her case was doubly sad, but it portrays the case of every sinner out of Christ. I want you to look at this picture, my hearers, and see yourselves in it, you are bankrupt sinners, and you cannot relieve yourselves of your liabilities, you are "without strength." The Lord Jesus Christ, who always spoke the truth, propounded a parable in the Pharisee's house, in which He spoke of a certain Creditor who had two debtors, who could pay Him not a cent. God is that Creditor and we are those debtors. I address myself to those present who have not yet come in their need to the Saviour, and I ask you, Have you realized your condition of debt and guilt and helplessness? If you refuse to face it in the day of grace, you will be compelled to face it in the day of judgment.

The widow awoke to her serious position when THE CREDITOR CAME TO PUT IN HIS CLAIM. Thank God, He, the Creditor, is not putting in His claim today. Instead, He is offering to relieve sinners of their debts, He is proclaiming forgiveness to all. "God was in Christ [when He came into the world] not imputing their transgressions to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation."

People in their pride refuse to take their true place before God, they do not like to go down and confess the truth. They delude themselves with the thought, that after all there is something in them that God can accept, and after all they may be able to gain His favour by their works. If you are one of those people, the day is coming when you will be terribly undeceived, when the scales will fall from your eyes, and you will understand, and that right truly, how you stand before God. When will that day be? you ask. It will be when the Creditor puts in His claim You are drawing near to a terrible hour in your history if you are without Christ. Every pulse of your heart brings you nearer to that hour. You say, what hour?

The hour of your death! The clock of time is ticking out your days, and every swing of its ceaseless pendulum brings you nearer to that hour when you will step out of time into eternity. What is it that makes men who do not know God afraid of death? It is what comes after death. After death the judgment. When you pass out of this world, you will meet God and His judgment on your life. Some tell us that there is mercy after death, but God's Word does not say that. We believe in mercy with all our hearts, God is rich in mercy, He speaks of it an His blessed Book, and offers it to all, but not after death. After death, God says, the judgment — the Creditor will put in His claim then, for "every one of us shall give account of himself to God." Then you who have refused to submit to God and own the truth about yourself will discover that you are bankrupt indeed with nothing to pay. Then it will be justice — then it will be judgment without mitigation.

This widowed woman realized that the creditor was about to put in his claim, and in her need she turned to the man of God. There was one person in the land to whom she could go, and to him she went, and found that he was prepared most graciously to listen to what she had to say. So gracious was he that I can understand her telling him the whole story. He would encourage her to keep nothing back the full amount of the debt, and how the debt was contracted and how long it had been standing against her. He said to her (and there was grace in the words he uttered), "What shall I do for thee, tell me what hast thou in the house?" But how shall I describe to you the grace of Jesus? I can tell you how He treated me. I came to Him as a needy sinner, and He made me feel that He was glad to see me, I felt that He was my Friend — the Friend of sinners, and that I could tell to Him what I could not tell to any other. As He treated ins, He will treat you. If you feel your need, go to Jesus, He never cast out any soul; if you turn to Him, you will find that He is the blessed Man of God of whom our picture speaks. You will find Him prepared to take up your case and meet your need.

Said Elisha to the woman, "What shall I do for thee? What hast thou in the house?" And she said, "Thine handmaid has not anything in the house save a pot of oil." House-proud she may have been at one time, but piece by piece the household gods had gone, and now nothing was left but a pot of oil, of little or no value in her eyes. Said Elisha, "That is all you need." That simple pot of oil was all that was needed. I want to tell you, that there is close at hand that which would have met your need long ago, if only you had turned to the Saviour, it is that of which the oil speaks — it is the grace of God that brings salvation. God has got a wonderful blessing for you — His grace is more than sufficient for you. He can not only relieve you of your debt — He can fill your heart with joy and gladness.

This was olive oil that was so near to the widow's hand, for that land abounded with the olive tree from which the oil was procured. How was the oil procured? The olives grow on the green olive tree, and the olive tree speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is the One who in the Psalms exclaims, "I am the green olive tree in the house of my God."

Before the oil could be obtained from the berry it had to be pressed and ground in the mills, and before the oil of God's grace could flow for us this blessed Person, who was the green olive tree in the midst of a barren world, had to go into the mill of judgment. He had to suffer beneath the stroke of God's justice, for righteousness had to be satisfied, and at the cross of Christ we see righteousness satisfied. There He was made sin for us, He was delivered for our offences, He died for the ungodly. The blessed Christ of God rendered to the claims of justice all that justice could claim. He paid a great price when He gave Himself for us, and as a result the grace of God is flowing freely for sinners today.

Then said the prophet of God, "Go, borrow thee vessels of all thy neighbours, EVEN EMPTY VESSELS NOT A FEW, and bring them into the house, shut the door upon thee and thy sons, and pour out into all those vessels." Away went the widow, believing the word of the prophet, and gathered into the house empty vessels, and when the house was full of empty vessels and the doors shut, then she took the oil, and to her astonishment it ran and poured and flowed until every empty vessel was full. I have no doubt those vessels were all very different in size, shape and material — there would be among them some small and some great, some beautiful in shape and others rude and rough — they were no doubt very different in outward appearance, but they were all alike in this respect — they were empty vessels. What is an empty vessel? An empty vessel is a vessel out of which you can get absolutely nothing, but into which you can put exactly what you please. Are you prepared to go to the Lord like that — to tell Him you have nothing to give Him, — that you cannot bring anything to Him in payment for the blessing that He is prepared to give to you?

Oh come to Him, and say —
"I am an empty vessel,
Not one thought or look of love to Thee I ever brought,
Yet I may come and come at once to Thee

With this the empty sinner's only plea, Thou lovest me."

There are no two sinners exactly alike as to external appearance, character, or circumstances; some are rich, others poor, some learned, some ignorant, some are religious and others profane, these things do not matter, but this does matter — they must be empty vessels. This is essential to blessing. I press it upon you, you must lift empty hands to God if you would have His blessing. You can pay nothing and do nothing and say nothing on your own behalf, except that you need the grace of God.

The oil flowed and poured until all the vessels were full of the oil and there was not a vessel left, and WHEN THE LAST VESSEL WAS FILLED, THE OIL STAYED. That is a serious consideration. If you refuse to take the place of an empty vessel before God, you will surely miss the blessing, for the day is coming when the grace of God will cease to flow or you will be beyond the reach of it. In the New Testament: we read that "the door was shut." Those who had got the oil in their vessels went into the marriage feast and the door was shut. Those who had not got the oil went to buy it, and they found that it could not be obtained. They were too late, the oil no longer flowed, they had neglected this great salvation and were shut out of the marriage feast. Ah, be not like them.

"Make haste, make haste! the blessing is for thee;
The cup of everlasting love is free."

When all the vessels were filled, the widow hastened away to the man of God and told him what had happened, and what joy must have filled her soul!

Then Elisha said, "GO AND SELL THE OIL AND PAY THY DEBT." Was there sufficient oil to pay the debt? There was sufficient. I can understand some sinner saying, Is there sufficient grace to clear away my debt — is there forgiveness for me? I remember when I came to Christ, I had the feeling in my heart that there could not possibly be anything greater than my sins, but I learned that where sin abounded grace did much more abound. The grace of God was sufficient to pardon my sins and to justify even a guilty sinner like me. The grace of God is sufficient to pardon you. Just as the flood in Noah's day covered the highest mountain, so can God's grace cover the highest mountain of your guilt today, and if you come to God, no matter how foully stained with sin you are, He can cleanse you and can justify you freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Then you will look back on the dark past, and say, The debt is paid, the past is all wiped out, God Himself has got nothing against me. He has justified even me.

In the 8th chapter of Romans we read, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." If God justifies a man, He is justified and cannot be condemned, for God's verdict must stand. But that does not come to a man because he deserves it. It is a wonderful thing to see that those who are justified are not so blessed because of what they are, not because of what they have done, but because of what God is and because of what Christ has done. It is what God is that is set forth in His great salvation, He is the God of all grace and He has got a righteous basis for thus blessing us, and that basis is the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. The work of Christ has given God a right to justify those who believe in Jesus, and if you will believe in Jesus tonight God will justify you. It is "To him that works not, but believes on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteousness." I ask you, can you refuse to believe in a God like that? Can you refuse to believe in a God who has provided such a wonderful salvation for you, a God whom we see set forth at Calvary? That is the God whom I desire you to know. Upon Him you must believe, and if you believe in Him, then this wonderful blessing is yours.

But that is not all! The man of God said to the widow, "Pay thy debt, and LIVE THOU AND THY CHILDREN ON THE REST" There was a wonderful balance. There was a superabundance enough to keep this woman and her children until the end of the story. So you will find it with the grace of God. The grace of God is not exhausted when it pardons our sins — nor when it justifies us. Oh no! there is the rest of the grace and it is at our disposal until the end. We need the grace of God, and shall need it until our feet stand in heavenly glory — until we pass from this world of difficulties into our eternal home. The grace that is in our Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient for every need. There is no circumstance in which any Christian can be found, allowed by the Will of the Lord, but the grace of the Lord is sufficient for him. There is no circumstance into which any Christian can be led by his own folly, out of which the grace of God cannot bring blessing to him — there is grace to restore us when we fall — there is grace to keep us from falling.

Elisha said, "live thou and thy children on the rest," and when the man of God said live, he meant it. To live means to enjoy life — and it is life that God wants us to enjoy. He wants us to live as those who have eternal life, to live as His children ought to live. He wants us to bask in the sunshine of His blessed love. God Himself is the source and fountain of life to us and Christ is the way the waters flow. And God's blessing is free. He will not sell it. There are two reasons why He will not sell it. The first is, we are far too poor to buy it, and the second is, He is far too rich to sell it. He gives it, and gives it freely, to undeserving objects, for that is just what grace means. Have we thanked Him for it? And do we show our gratitude by still drawing upon His inexhaustible stores of grace, so that we may truly live, and show forth His praises, who has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light?

How happy is the Christian who knows the grace of God which is in Christ Jesus. Grace has justified him from all the past, he stands in this same grace for the present, and he will be a monument of the exceeding riches of God's grace for ever and for ever.