Today’s lesson is really very simple. Though St. Paul has much more to say, and though understanding more perfectly what he does say today will take time, in essence his teaching is a simple but life-changing one.
It is this: First, that “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (verse 15); and second, “But the grace of God was exceedingly abundant” (verse 14.)
As a result of this incredible gift of grace, Paul sings a hymn of praise in verse 17: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
This is to be the pattern of our lives as well. The pattern actually begins with the recognition of our own sin, as it did with St. Paul. Paul was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man (verse 13.) He was not just a man happened to stumble into a life of normal selfishness or sin: he was a chief persecutor of Jesus Christ Himself, through His Church (Acts 9:4 – “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”)
But Jesus Christ came into the world to save this Saul of Tarsus, for this man who blasphemed the true God by rejecting His Son. Jesus Christ came into the world to save this Saul who made havoc of the Church, entered every house, dragging men and women into prison (Acts 8:3) and breathed out threats and murder against the disciples of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:1.)
And Jesus Christ came into the world to save Charles Erlandson, who has too often gone his own way and not obeyed or loved the Lord as he knew he ought to. And he came into the world for your name who your list of sins. Jesus Christ, who is God Almighty and who had no involvement with our sin, chose to come to save sinners. The way He chose to come and the way He chose to save us are not only well known – but astonishing.
This “trustworthy” saying may be a part of the apostolic teachings or sayings that were handed down to St. Paul himself. The fact that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners is not only trustworthy but life-changing. The fact that Jesus Christ came into the world to save me is almost incomprehensible.
None of us has deserved the grace of God (or else it wouldn’t be grace or a “gift.”) We are all lost sheep who have followed too much the devices and desires of our hearts. We have offended against God’s holy laws; we have done what we shouldn’t have done and not done what we should have. There is no health in us, and we are miserable sinners who are not worthy to even gather up the crumbs from under His table.
But God’s character is to have mercy, and so God offers us His indescribable gift of grace. This grace is “exceedingly abundant”! It is so abundant that for every sin you or I have committed or ever will, God’s grace is sufficient to absolve us of those sins.
Now if you imagine how many times a day you sin – not only the ones you remember or judge to be sins but every violation of God’s holy commandments, every time you’ve done something selfish or not according to His will, every time you haven’t done the holy things He has told you to do, every time you were upset because you didn’t get your way – and multiplied that number by 365, and then multiplied that number by 70 or 80, you’d arrive at a pretty startling number. And then, of course, should multiply that number by 100 billion people who have ever lived (and who knows how many more to come!). If you then recall that the penalty for each one of those “little” sins is the death penalty and separation from the holiness of God, you might finally arrive at how great our sins are.But where sin abounds more, grace abounds more! This is Paul’s point. The greatness of our sins is a small measure of the greatness of God’s grace. What exceedingly abundant grace, that God would give Himself His Son for not only the sins of the whole world but for the sins of you and me!
How could we possibly hope to adequately respond to such amazing grace? Of course we respond with confession of sins and true repentance, with a lively faith and a life of faithfulness. But even then, isn’t something missing? James commanded us that if anyone is cheerful he should sing psalms (James5:13.)
So St. Paul sings a psalm, and so should we. Paul’s hymn sounds like something straight out of the book of Revelation, and it seems to be an early Christian hymn or part of an early Christian liturgy. Just as in reading Paul’s trustworthy saying and in hearing about his life we feel very close to the source of all things, in this primitive hymn, I feel something sacred, some intuitive, visceral, ancient response to the grace of God in the lives of His saints.
What gift could we possibly give to God that would be worthy of the Giver of Grace, and Love, and Life? We joyfully acknowledge Him for who He is and what He has done.
“Now the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
This is our song today – and every day. How similar it is to the angelic songs in the book of Revelation:
“You are worthy, O Lord
to receive glory and honor and power
for you created all things,
and by Your will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
to receive power and riches and wisdom,
and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12)
“Blessing and honor and glory and power
be to Him who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13)
We were once miserable sinners. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. The grace of God to us is exceedingly abundant. Therefore, let us sings psalms to God!
Prayer: Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to You who alone are wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Resolution and Point for Meditation: I resolve to reflect today upon my sin and God’s abundant grace. I resolve, after my reflection, to sing psalms of praise to Him throughout the day!
© 2011 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Christ the King from van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece – Wikipedia Ghent Altarpiece entry