The Exceeding Grace of God

IN SPEAKING OF the grace of God toward his people, it will be noticed that the New Testament writers often use the strongest adjectives they can find as they describe this Divine characteristic of grace. We see the wonder, infinite wisdom, and the loving concern on the part of the Creator for his creatures, both for their present and for their eternal welfare. It is very encouraging to note a few of these emphatic expressions of Divine grace respecting those now being gathered out from the world, and called with the “High Calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14) Among the very strong terms frequently used with reference to various phases of God’s grace toward his people, especially by the Apostle Paul, are the words ‘exceeding,’ and ‘exceedingly.’

For instance, Paul tells us that one reason the Law was given to Israel was that sin might become “exceeding sinful.” (Rom. 7:13) If no Law Covenant had been made with Israel, or if God had not revealed the perfect standards of his Law to any people, the sense of sin in the human family would have become gradually lost, and man’s natural impulses would have come to be regarded as the right and proper ones. Selfishness and self-gratification gaining full control would have been the unfortunate and sorry principles governing mankind.

But, as the Apostle Paul states, “When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” (Rom. 7:9) This reminds us how mankind had, to a considerable extent, lost sight of the fine principles of the Divine law and that many things were being said and done which were transgressions of the Divine law. But because of having no perfect standards before them these transgressions were not realized as such, until through the Mosaic Law the Divine principles of righteousness and truth were again set before them, even as these principles had been at the beginning put before God’s perfect creature Adam by being written in his heart.

As soon as the Israelites saw these perfect standards they realized they were much greater sinners than they had previously thought they were; and Paul says, ‘Sin revived, and I died.’ Israel of old lost the hope of life and Divine favor they thought was coming to them under the Abrahamic Covenant. God’s people of spiritual Israel, during the Gospel Age, have been similarly affected. Many of these, before coming to the Lord, had long wandered in ways of the world, where the great principles of right and wrong were but dimly appreciated by the fallen mind.

There came a time of mental and moral awakening under the influence of God’s Holy Word. Sin with its ruinous nature was seen to be exceeding sinful; was seen to be terrible, the source of all the suffering and misery which are the present lot of mankind.

The result of this enlightenment was to cause one here and one there to strive against unrighteousness, for “All unrighteousness is sin.” (I John 5:17) Those who came to the Lord in full consecration found that their sins were covered by the merit of Jesus’ sacrifice. Thus they experienced deliverance from Divine condemnation into a condition of justification by faith. Then they realized that it was only in the heart that one can live up to the perfect standard of the Divine requirements, while Christ’s merit covers all the unwilling shortcomings and imperfections of the fallen flesh.

Sin, therefore, became ‘exceeding’ sinful as the result of the revelation God gave his people. It enabled them to see that it had been through sin that all the deceptions and trouble, pain and death, have come into the world. They saw it cost the Father a stupendous sacrifice in order to provide a Savior, even his well-beloved Son, the One able and willing to carry out God’s loving plan for human salvation and for the removal of sin and its awful results.


This strong word, ‘exceeding,’ is used in I Timothy 1:14. Paul reminded Timothy (vs. 13) that at one time he himself had been a “blasphemer” and a “persecutor” of God’s people, and “injurious” to the cause of truth, and in spite of his past sinfulness, “the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant.” This was on account of the faith and love Paul was able to exercise in Christ Jesus.

Although “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), some have drifted much farther from the paths of righteousness than others, and in many cases some of these have been much more responsible for their condition than others. “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” (Rom. 5:20) And the grace of our Lord which is to take away the sin of the world, can indeed be described as grace, or favor, that is abounding exceedingly toward those who come to God in true penitence and consecration, and also in the heart attitude necessary for forgiveness and justification to life.—Rom. 5:20,21

And when we think how the child of God may daily come to his Heavenly Father to receive forgiveness for his many sins and shortcomings, such a gracious arrangement for God’s favor to continue toward those who have hearts that are right and pure toward him may indeed be thought of as grace that abounds exceedingly. The New International Version renders the verse: “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”


Paul says (II Thess. 1:3, Americn Standard Version), “We are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren, … for that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the love of each one of you all toward one another aboundeth.”

The Scriptures intimate that in many cases the faith of the Lord’s people at first is small. In our early days in the way of the Lord, we see something of Christ’s salvation and the Divine plan as a whole, and there is not a great deal of ability to step out by faith upon the Lord’s promises, and trust him where we cannot trace him. Hence, almost all need to pray “Lord, increase our faith.” (Luke 17:5) We see from Paul’s words that as a result of the Lord’s providence and his wise dealings with us, our faith and confidence in him increases. We have faith in his goodness, love, great wisdom and power, whereby he is able to make all things work together for our highest good as New Creatures in Christ Jesus. As Paul said of his brethren in Thessalonica, ‘Your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity [love] of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth.’—II Thess. 1:3


In view of the course the Lord’s people are called to take, described by the Master as the “narrow … way … unto life,” (Matt. 7:14) they must of necessity meet many trials and other tests of faith as they seek to take up their cross and follow in the footsteps of Jesus. The apostle, in referring to these experiences, tells how in his own case he thought of them as “light affliction” which endure for a moment, but “worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”—II Cor. 4:17

It is indeed a great aid in enduring the trials of the narrow way patiently, to remember that they will soon be over; that the period during which they are being experienced is very short, especially if we take into consideration the eternity of blessing to follow. How thankful we are to be assisted by the Lord’s promised grace! This makes our trials very ‘light’ when compared with the eternal weight of glory to be bestowed upon those who shall be rightly exercised by them to the full, and become partakers of the Divine nature.

Our tests of faith are also light in proportion as we are able by faith to cast our burden upon the Lord, and to keep continually before us the great honor of reigning with Christ to be bestowed upon the faithful. Our burden is light, too, because we have taken upon us our Lord’s yoke.


It is well for us to remember Paul’s prayer for the church, that “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, and what the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe.” (Eph. 1:15-20) Frequent meditation upon the hope set before us will increase our present blessing and rejoicing. The Master says, “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven.”—Matt. 5:12

To have experiences similar to those which came to the Lord Jesus is indeed a great privilege. It brings deep joy of heart as we consider that “as he is, so are we in this world” (I John 4:17), and that such experiences are a prelude to a share with him in his kingdom. His own words, “That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom,” suggest the closest possible association.—Luke 22:30

The Apostle Paul, who realized the greatness of the calling, exhorted his fellow runners in the heavenly race, “Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, Rejoice.” (Phil. 4:4) He would have the Corinthian brethren know—in spite of some disappointments with them—“Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.”—II Cor. 7:4


The manifestation of unselfishness or generosity in a child of God, a willingness to share with others that which we have, is surely a manifestation of the grace of God in the heart. Some of the Corinthian brethren, it would seem, had gone to exceptional lengths in helping their brethren, “the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.” (Rom. 15:26) This the apostle describes as a manifestation of “the exceeding grace of God” in their hearts.—II Cor. 9:14

The question may be asked, Why should the poor saints at Jerusalem receive financial help from these Gentile brethren? Paul records for our information, “they owe it to them.” (Rom. 15:27, NIV) To find a reason for this we must go back to the early days after Pentecost and note the sacrifices made by the Jerusalem church in order that the Divine purpose might be fulfilled, that the glad tidings of salvation might go eventually to “the uttermost part of the earth.”—Acts 1:8

We read how these Jewish brethren sold their houses and lands, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:34,35) as their only means of survival, because prejudice and animosity made it difficult to earn a living. This resulted in there being ‘poor saints at Jerusalem’ deserving the help of their better-off Gentile brethren. Circumstances being equal, if one gives much in the way of service, it is surely because one loves much, the result of ‘the exceeding grace of God’ in the heart.


In Ephesians 1:19, Paul says he would have us know “the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe,” whether it be in the way of assistance toward measuring up to the standard of character set by the Master, or in the way of power to overcome in other directions. All vital progress results from ‘the exceeding greatness of his power’ operating in the mind and heart; and further, it is a power upon which we can place no limit. None of the called ones, therefore, can possibly say, “I cannot be an overcomer and attain a place in the little flock,” for this would be tantamount to saying that the great power of God is insufficient to accomplish that to which he has sent his hand.

Rather, we must admit that any failure on our part means that we have not been laying hold of, and responding sufficiently to, the grace and strength promised in such abundant measure. Paul, in calling our attention to God’s power operating for the development and exaltation of the church to the Divine nature, tells us that it is the same power that was sufficient to raise Jesus from the dead and set him at God’s right hand in heaven. For our encouragement the apostle reminds us that this same great power is being used on our behalf.

Paul further tells us that this exceeding richness of God’s grace, or favor, that we have begun to experience, is to be continued increasingly into the ages to come, into the countless ages of eternity, “that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”—Eph. 2:5,7

Again, speaking of the grace of God operating in the calling of the church, Paul would remind us that God is prepared to strengthen us so as to be “rooted and grounded in love.” (Eph. 3:17) For our Heavenly Father “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” (vs. 20) Hence, if at any time we feel discouraged or cast down, let us remember how God has promised to do for us exceeding abundantly through the various channels by means of which he operates to encourage his people, and that the power by which he is pleased to help us is not only exceedingly abundant, but also exactly suited to our needs, and is being exercised according to his infinite wisdom.

The apostle, having frequently spoken throughout his writings of God’s superlative exercise of his power and grace to help and encourage his people, to bring them off conquerors, emphasizing it by the use of the words ‘exceeding’ and ‘exceedingly,’ speaks in this same way of his own deep love for the brethren and of his desire to help them. (I Thess. 3:10) Doubtless, too, Paul prayed exceedingly for his own progress and growth in grace, and especially because such progress would make him more useful to others. In Jude 24 we are told that when the members of the church have apprehended that for which they have hoped, and have reached the presence of his glory, they also will have reached a state of “exceeding joy.” And what lengths, breadths, heights, and depths of joy will be the portion of the overcomers suggested by the vast infinities of the Divine nature!

Words are very imperfect vehicles of thought when we attempt to describe the glory of the Divine plane. It was not only of the Master that the psalmist spoke prophetically, but also of the church when he said, “In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”—Ps. 16:11

It was the Spirit’s revelations to Paul that constrained him to make such frequent use of the words ‘exceeding’ and ‘exceedingly,’ in his endeavor to express for our learning and encouragement the exceeding riches of God’s grace provided for us in Christ Jesus. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”—I Cor. 2:9,10

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