The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

A Sunday Evening Address

"Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich" (1 Corinthians 8:9).

This gem of Scripture cannot strictly be called a gospel text, for it was written to those who were already saved, and forms part of an exhortation to them not to be mean and niggardly in their giving, but to give cheerfully and liberally as those ought who have been enriched by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Nevertheless it is full of gospel, for it is full of Christ, and the gospel of God is concerning Him, so that I am glad to have it as my text.

I will ask you first to take notice of the confidence that rings triumphantly in the opening words of it. "Ye know," says the apostle. And is not this worth something in a world in which men can be sure of nothing except that they must die some day? This is not the first time that such language is used in this epistle. In chapter 5 we read, "We know that if this earthly house of our tabernacle were dissolved we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." Only the gospel can give this confidence; such language as this belongs only to the family of God; it can only be learnt by His children, for it is only taught by the Holy Ghost. The agnostic cannot use such words. He may laugh at faith and be proud of his ignorance when in health and buoyed up by the shams of this life, and yet the cry of the soul of the agnostic for light cannot be altogether silenced. Hear what one of them has written:

Is there beyond the silent night
  An endless day?
Is death a door that leads to light?
The tongueless secret locked in fate,
  We hope and wait."

Yet when brought face to face with death this same eloquent atheist was compelled to abandon the "don't know" mood, and own that he was sure of something, but it was only of darkness and disaster. Speaking at the graveside of his own brother, he said, "Whether in mid-seas or among the breakers of the farther shore, a wreck must mark at last the end of each and all. Every life, no matter if its every hour is rich with love and every moment jewelled with a joy, will at its close become a tragedy as sad and deep and dark as can be woven of the warp and woof of mystery and death." How differently can the Christian look into the future. I had a friend in Australia who had served the Lord for fifty years, and he was dying. A stroke of paralysis had robbed him of the power of speech. His Christian family was gathered at his bedside, and one of them, longing for a farewell word from the dearly loved father, asked, "Have you not something to say to us, father?" He heard the earnest question and his eyes expressed his desire to answer it, but his lips could not frame the words. But some years before he had learnt the deaf-mute's alphabet in order to preach the gospel to an afflicted neighbour, and now this knowledge came to his aid, and he spelt out upon his fingers one word — G — L — O — R — Y; and in five minutes he was there. There was no tragedy there, no wreck. He sailed into harbour triumphantly, more than a conqueror through Him that loved him.

But my text speaks not of the future but of the present — it tells us of a present possession. "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ." We are not waiting for this, we know it now, and notice how the Saviour is described — He is OUR Lord Jesus Christ. Thus can the believer speak of Him, and no power can rob us of His grace, no change can separate us from Him —

"Jesus, my soul from Thee,
  No power can sever:
Saviour Thou art to me,
  Now and for ever."

And here stands out in contrast the Christian's possession to those of which the man of the world boasts. He talks about his home, his wife, his family, business, money. Your money, your business, sir! But whose may these be tomorrow? If they are yours, hold them. Let no thief rob you, let no reverse beggar you. And your home? If it is yours, guard it well, keep all sorrow out of it; and as for death! Well, death has entered many a home as happy as yours. Yes, entered though the doors were locked and barred against him, and having entered he had his way in spite of doctor's learning and nurse's skill. Some day he will enter your home, and though you stand up and challenge his right to be there, he will not heed you; and you will discover that the tenure of your possession was a short one, and that your loved treasures were but loaned to you for a while, and that death had a claim that could not be denied when his turn came. And what of yourself? Think of the day when death will claim not yours but you. Ah, how poor you will be then if Christless!

But how do we know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? His wisdom and power are plainly written in Creation —

"All worlds His glorious power confess,
His wisdom all His works express."

But here it is not power or wisdom — these could never have won the hearts of sinful men — it is grace; and we know His grace by the fact that He became poor for our sakes. Mark well what the Scripture says. He was rich and He became poor. A Christadelphian in conversation with me denied the eternal deity of our Lord Jesus Christ; he argued that He began His existence in the manger at Bethlehem. My answer was this text. If what the Christadelphian professed to believe was the truth, then our Lord never was rich before He was poor, and our text is a lie. There was none poorer than He on that day when He was born in David's city, for a manger was His cradle and His shelter a stable! And why? Because His virgin mother could not pay for a room in the inn when the time for His birth had come, so poor was she. There was no room in that inn, I know, but if Mary could have paid more than people more fortunate in that respect than she had paid, would not the inn-keeper have made profit for himself out of consideration for her need, and driven somebody else into the stable? But it was not to be. The Son of God must come into the world in the direst poverty, an outcast from His birth. Yet He was rich before He became poor. And if any ask how that could be, the one and only answer is, He was God before He became man; if His Deity is taken out of the verse it is robbed of all its meaning. The Christadelphian was deceived, he had believed a lie. Our Saviour is the eternal God, He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich.

Who can tell how rich He was? Creature thought, no matter how high it soars, is here confounded. We know that the universe proceeded from Him, for "all things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made" (John 1). The Russellites teach that He was the first of all creatures to be created, wrongly interpreting the Scripture which speaks of Him as the "First-born of every creature" (Col. 1) — if so, then He must have created Himself — which is utterly absurd, for that same Scripture continues, "For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist" (Col. 1:16-17). He is the Creator and not a creature, though He became a Man and was poor for the sake of His creatures, He was never less than their Creator. What infinite resources and power and wisdom were His, the greatest Spirit among the principalities and powers in the heavens, and the minutest insect that functions for an hour and dies, were created by Him, and each has its place in the universe according to the design of the Creator. But more than this, He was the Only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father. He could speak of the love that the Father bore Him before the foundations of the world were laid, and of the glory that He had with the Father before time began. How rich He was, yet He became poor for our sakes. For your sake, burdened, anxious sinner! Does not this thought overwhelm us, and fill our hearts with gratitude and praise, not for the sake of angels, or for sinless creatures who had never dreamt of defying His will, but for us who had sinned and were saturated with sin! He who spake, and the worlds were made, He, who upholds the universe and controls every force within it; even "fire and hail, snow and vapour, and stormy wind fulfilling His word." He became poor for us, who slighted and hated Him.

"Unfathomable wonder,
And mystery divine;
The voice that speaks in thunder
Says, 'Sinner, I am thine.'"

This is grace, indeed! Unmerited favour! It is the love and mercy of God shown out to those who only deserved His wrath.

I pass by the poverty that He must have known in the humble home of a village carpenter, only remarking that He who was to preach the gospel to the poor must Himself know in His own experience the hardships and trials that the poor have to endure. Yes, He suffered these hardships and He does not, He cannot forget. He grew up amid circumstances of poverty, He lived, a poor man, without a resting place for His head, He suffered hunger, thirst and weariness. He was no mere philanthropist or patron of the poor, paying sympathetic visits to their mean dwellings, and when weary of the sordid surroundings retiring to the comforts of a lordly home. No, He was one of the poor Himself, He shared their struggles, their sorrows, their woes. He was the Man of sorrows. And it was for our sakes. And He who was poor, is now the poor man's Friend. I proclaim Him as the Friend of the sinful and the poor. O, if men understood this, they would turn from their false friends, whose vain words and empty promises can only fill them with discontent, and deceive and: disappoint them, and they would find a Friend in Jesus. Weary, burdened, broken-hearted men and women He calls you today. O, hear His blessed voice, "Come to Me and I will give you rest." Did ever agitator or politician talk to you like that?

But it was not until He hung upon the Cross that He reached the depth of poverty. He was there for our transgressions, delivered for our offences, suffering for our sins. For our sakes He endured that cross. "It was for sinners Jesus died." No riches, no blessing, could ever have reached us if He had not suffered there; we should have been bankrupt sinners for ever, unforgiven and lost, if Jesus had not died.

We have the forgiveness of sins through His blood. God will remember no more the sins and iniquities of all who believe, because Jesus died and paid in death the price that cancels them for ever. How wonderful is the proclamation of sin's forgiveness through His Name, but there is more than this; that would have been a priceless boon if it had stood alone; but there is more, we are enriched; the unsearchable riches of Christ are opened up for us by the gospel. Who can tell the value to us of the Holy Spirit who is given to us? Who can measure our possessions as heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ Jesus? How shall we explain what it is to be accepted in Him, the Beloved? The very fullness of God is revealed for our joy, and the love of Christ that passes knowledge. Yes, beggars from the dung hill are set among princes, those of low degree are exalted and the hungry are filled with good things, but it is because He, who was rich, became poor for our sakes.

He is no longer poor, for He rose again from the grave. Jesus lives! God has made this same Jesus both Lord and Christ, and in this we can rejoice. If we know Him as our Saviour, we love Him, and rejoice in His exaltation, but that which draws the sweetest praise from ransomed hearts is not the exaltation of the present or the glory of the future, but the sorrow of the past; for us He became poor. This will be the subject of our wonder and worship for ever.