What does a guy in prison think about? I imagine he’d spend hours feeling sorry for himself, going over how unfair life was and what things were being denied to him.

The Apostle Paul lived at least two years under house arrest, in the constant custody of a Roman military guard (Acts 28:16, 30), and it was during this time that he wrote some of the most positive, optimistic, liberated words in our New Testament. They’re found in his Letter to the Ephesians.

Paul opens the Letter with words about how super-abundant God’s blessing are on those who trust in him. His unconditional love is freely bestowed on us, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:6- 7). He prays that the believers he’s writing to will continue to experience the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance and the immeasurable greatness of his power (verses 18-19). Later in the Letter, he returns to the subject of God’s extravagant grace, praying that the Ephesian believers may experience fully (“comprehend“) what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18-19). Paul is using every word he can think of to express the wonder and immensity of God’s love. In fact, he runs out of words, hoping they will be able to know something that actually surpasses knowledge.

In a wonderful, breathless benediction, he concludes this part of his Letter by heaping superlatives together: Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine . . . (verse 20). I looked this phrase up in its original language and found that Paul put together four different Greek words that are used to express superlatives, combining them so that they magnify each other. If he had lived in twentieth century America, he might have borrowed a word from Dick Van Dyke in the movie Mary Poppins: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

That’s how awesome the grace of God is, even for someone who is trapped in one of life’s prison situations. Like Paul . . . or you.

A friend of mine was reflecting on the many life struggles she had endured and how God had always brought her through. I asked her how she experienced the grace of God, when many of her friends had fallen into deep pits of addiction, depression and hopelessness. She said she had taken the advice she heard from a TV preacher, that she should find the flow of God’s grace and love and stay in that flow. Since then, she had stayed in the flow.


— Pastor George Van Alstine

For other verses about the extravagance of God’s grace, see: Exodus 34:6-7; Deuteronomy 1:10-11; 30:9; Psalm 23:5; 36:7-9; 65:9b-11; Joel 3:18; Malachi 3:10; John 7:38; 10:8-10; Romans 15:13; 2 Corinthians 9:8 (see 8:14, 9:13-15); Jude 1:2