… that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Having considered how God has blessed us – made us alive, raised us up, and seated us with Christ in heavenly places – now, in verse 7, we come to the designed reason that God has done all of this. A part of God’s motive in salvation has already been stated in verse 4: because of the great love with which He loved us. But now we come to His actual intent and purpose. The first word of verse 7 is the Greek word hina, which suggests a conclusive statement about the designed intent is to follow. This designed purpose, revealed in verses 7-10 is two-fold, and both reasons are related. First, in verse 7 we find God’s intention to make His children the objects of endless displays of grace. This is both to our eternal benefit and for His eternal glory. The second intention is that His people would manifest His saving grace by doing good works – the ultimate object again being that these works would manifest God’s glory on earth (Mt 5:16).
The words, “He might show” translate a Greek verb suggesting to display or exhibit. In the New Testament this verb is always in the middle voice meaning “to show for oneself.” In the eternal life of His people, God purposed to place the exceeding riches of His grace on exhibition. Thus believers can be considered trophies of God’s grace, created in Christ Jesus, to display that grace now – in this life – and forever. The kindness toward us, described here, is more than the general providential goodness and mercy that God extends to all creation, but is specifically a saving kindness found in Christ Jesus. Notice how Paul lingers long and lovingly on the themes of God’s amazing goodness to those who deserve condemnation. His mercy is rich; His love is great; His kindness immeasurably gracious!
It is also important that we not fall into the error of thinking that the love, grace and kindness of God toward us are because of Christ’s work; in fact, the opposite is true – God demonstrates His prior love for us in Christ’s death (Rom 5:8). The atoning work of Christ did not need to persuade an otherwise angry Father to love His children. On the contrary, the Father loved us and did not spare His own Son to save us as a result. Let us not miss the message which Paul is emphasizing here – that the lavish kindness of God displayed in Christ toward an undeserving people is the best manner in which God fulfills His ultimate purpose to display His glory. It’s a win-win scenario – human blessing and God’s glory are in perfect accord.
Further, we see that this display of grace will be for “the ages to come.” This has been understood in one of two ways. First, it refers to the future generations between Paul’s writing until the second coming of Christ. Every generation can look back to God’s grace and mercy in saving a remnant before them – and so can have hope that God is indeed mighty to save. But then, beyond this earth, “ages to come” describes the future of believers in eternity with Christ. God’s utmost end in the salvation of His people is not fully attained until we come to this. The Gospel reveals infinite grace to us, but there is, in the realm of our experience, an aspect of grace which is reserved for eternity, which we cannot fully comprehend now – one in which the present blessings, as great as they are, are only preparative. The effect of grace in our lives will shine out of God’s display cabinet for all eternity, and you are beneficiary of it!
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