Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you.
II Corinthians 9:13-14
I sat with him for some hours in a hospital emergency cubicle waiting for critical test results. As a university professor of quantum physics he made for fascinating conversation. He thought daily about a nanoscopic world of protons, neutrons, quarks, hadrons, and other subatomic enigmas; he thought deeply about the mystery of the universe and life. He told me of having just published a textbook on quantum physics in which he concluded: “If you don’t understand anything about what you have just read, keep in mind that none of your professors understand it either. There are things beyond our understanding.”
I think of that professor as we come near the end of the apostle Paul’s discourse on receiving grace and giving grace. Paul writes in today’s Scripture about “the surpassing grace of God that he has given you”. Here again the usually eloquent Paul is straining for words. The Greek word that Paul uses is translated as “surpassing”; it is a favorite word of Paul and unique to him in the New Testament. He uses this word to express his awe at “the surpassing glory” (II Corinthians 3:10), “the surpassing greatness of God’s power” (Ephesians 1:19), “the surpassing riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 2:7), and “the love of Christ surpassing knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19).
The word “surpassing” is a translation of the Greek hyperballo which means “to go beyond, to exceed, to be extreme and immeasurable”. Dr. Ralph Earle, a Greek scholar and professor emeritus at the Nazarene Theological Seminary, says that Paul’s use of this word reflects “his almost frustrated desire to seek to express in words the inexpressible greatness of God’s grace”. Dr. Earle continues:
This sense of inadequacy of language to convey spiritual truths is even more prominent in the Greek text than in English translation. Paul is struggling to say what cannot be said. It is utterly impossible to put the fullness of divine reality in human language, to compress the infinite into what is finite. (Word Meanings in the New Testament)
Like the quantum physics professor Paul strains to describe the indescribable! He writes as “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence…and the grace of our Lord overflowed me” (I Timothy 1:12-13). Paul knows that it is not a trickle, but a whole Niagara Falls of God’s grace washing over him. He delights in knowing that sin doesn’t stand a chance, because “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). There is always more grace in God than there is sin in us. All the sin and evil of the world do not stand a chance against God’s grace. Everything that went wrong with Adam and with us, God puts right through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:15-19). We can never overestimate or overstate “the surpassing grace of God that he has given you”. We do not wait to become grace eligible! Grace unearned, inexhaustible, and unfathomable, is ours, right now, for the receiving.
The professor was right! There are some things beyond our understanding!
- What are your thoughts about the apostle Paul’s words: “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”? What does that say to you about your sin?
- What does “surpassing grace” mean to you?