It is sometimes profitable to trace the use of one word in the Bible – there is much to learn from this method of study, it often brings new thoughts to light. Let us consider the word ‘Exceeding’.
When one begins to trace the word in Scripture we soon realise that there is nothing sparing about the grace of God or the love of Christ. We read of:
1. Exceeding joy (Matthew 2:10)
‘When they saw the star they rejoiced with exceeding joy.’ This marked the beginning of real gladness – the Saviour had been born.
Whenever Christ is in his rightful place in our lives there is exceeding joy. It is possible to have joy even in adverse circumstances. In spite of fetters and a bleeding back we read ‘at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God and the prisoners heard them’. Christ facing the awful realities of Gethsemane and Calvary speaks of ‘My joy’.
True Christians ought to be cheerful people – such an attitude of heart commends the Gospel. Bishop Ryle said that gloomy Christians are like the spies in the Old Testament who brought an evil report of the land! What then is the source of your joy?
2. The Exceeding sinfulness of sin (Romans 7:13)
Paul, in spite of his brilliant mind, never saw sin as it really is until his spiritual eyes were opened by the Holy Spirit. The natural man, he says, is insensitive to spiritual things, he needs divine illumination.
The Apostle is not content only to speak of sin, but will have us see it as something hateful, detestable and intolerable. The cross explains the nature of sin – it is only merely a mistake, a blunder or an accident. It is something much deeper and serious, it is the abominable thing that God hates.
If we would see sin in its true colours we must look at the cross. There we see the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Christ in bearing our sin was forsaken of God. There is nothing cheap about redemption – it may cost us nothing but we need to remember that it cost Christ everything.
3. The Exceeding power of God (Ephesians 1:19)
There is a lovely phrase in one of the collects which declares that God shows his almighty power most chiefly in showing mercy and pity. In ourselves we are weak and powerless but there is strength available for us in him. This power enables us to live for him and to serve him acceptably and with a quiet mind.
The Lord assured Paul – ‘My grace is sufficient for thee, my strength is made perfect in weakness’ and as a result Paul was enabled to turn his trials into triumphs. The sufficiency that God gives is not bare adequacy but large beyond expectation. God often works with broken reeds. When we know ourselves weak we have in effect taken the first step towards strength. In our limitations the power of God finds unlimited scope.
4. The Exceeding ability of God (Ephesians 3:20)
What a rich and radiant passage this is! Here is another instance in which language limps and fails. Who can measure the resources of God? There is an inexhaustible fulness in him. His ability, says the Apostle, is even beyond our imagination.
We ought to encourage our faith by considering afresh his all-sufficiency and almighty power. No situation is beyond him. He can always find a way to help his people. He is not a prisoner in his own world.
The ‘exceeding ability’ of this verse is in connection with prayer. Our best asking falls immeasurably short of the Father’s giving. We are challenged to great praying and God is pledged to great answering. We should not trifle in prayer – the promise stands, ‘open thy mouth wide andI will fill it’. Our desires will never overtake God’s bounty. God’s giving surpasses immeasurably our thought and our petition.
Let us thank God afresh for the wealth that is ours in Christ.
Taken with permission from The Gospel Magazine, November-December 2008.
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