by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 3 Study # 3 Lincolnton, NC April 25, 2004
14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
1901 ASV Translation:
14 and the grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
There are no variations between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26 in this verse.
1. Paul, in this verse, establishes the reason for his conversion: the grace of our Lord. No one can dispute the fact that Paul was not inclined to accept the truth about Jesus of Nazareth, and, though it is mere speculation, it is highly unlikely that he was going to "come to Christ" without a pretty strong confrontation. The Damascus road experience provided that, and Paul unabashedly calls that "the grace of our Lord".
a. The question here is this: is Paul's statement regarding the fact that his conversion was for the purpose of establishing an example for those who would come after (verse 16) a statement that his conversion was a "pattern" of grace?
1) The claim in verse 16 is actually a claim that his conversion was an example of the mercy of Christ in reaching the "chief of sinners".
2) However, Paul calls this "example" a manifestation of "grace". Thus, if salvation is by grace, how can it be argued that Paul's experience of divine, interruptive, initiative is not a pattern?
b. If Paul's experience is the normative pattern, it is very difficult to see it operating in the case of Cornelius (Acts 10).
2. Paul's word "was exceeding abundant" or "abounded exceedingly" does bring the issues of grace and Saul's blasphemy, persecutions, and insolence together in contrast. This is a part of Paul's typical thinking as is shown in Romans 5 ("...where sin abounded, grace super-abounded..."), but it cannot be escaped that Paul clearly thought in terms of "the greater the sin, the more needful the grace" if any good is to come. In other words, sin does pull the justice issues into the mix and the greater the sin, the more justice demands; thus, if justice is to be denied in the sinner's case, grace must cancel the claims of justice in a just manner and to very same extent of those claims.
a. The translations differ on how to handle Paul's word.
1) The KJV presents it as a "stative" verb describing the "existence" of abundance in respect to grace. ["A stativeverb is a verb that expresses a state of affairs or being rather than action." -- definition found on the Internet]
2) The ASV presents it as an "indicative" verb describing how grace expanded to meet the demand the blasphemy, etc. put upon it by reason of justice.
b. The difference in the translations present different pictures of the grace of God. The KJV picture is of an abundant grace that exists so that human sin is simply absorbed into it. The ASV picture is of individual applications of grace that measure the need created by the magnitude of sin and then apply the "amount" of grace that the need calls for.
c. The ASV is closer to the actual statement built into the verb.
3. Then Paul moves into the very crucial areas of faith and love.
a. His description of abounding grace focuses upon two very fundamental issues [faith (addressing what is true) and love (addressing what is valuable)].
b. His description does not address the more superficial issues of behavior even though it was both behavior and attitude that was at stake in his self-description as the chief of sinners.
c. The implication is this: for attitudes and actions to change, grace has to provide a remedy in the most basic levels of human function: what is true and what is valuable. One cannot approach these things with the "Band-Aid" approach; there must be a solution at the root of the problem. It is not sufficient to stop "blasphemy" and "persecutions", or even "insolence". Rather, one must stop the "faith" that produces these things and the "love" that embraces them.
d. Galatians 5:6 is a crucial statement in this regard: nothing avails in Christ except faith which is fundamentally energized by love.
1) At the very core of man's depravity stands one stalwart conviction: I must be permitted to determine my own course in my existence.
2) Following hard on the heels of this one stalwart is the inevitable extension: I must be permitted to dominate the courses of all others who will enter into the sphere of my existence. It is fundamentally impossible to "determine one's own course" without being able to "determine the courses of others". This is the "divided house" which cannot stand. As long as men think that it is their inherent right to take the Single Place of absolute sovereignty in the universe, chaos and strife will reign. Divided houses cannot stand.