Rich Through Christ’s Poverty

“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.” 

II Cor. 8:9

To give, liberally and cheerfully, is possible only by the grace of God. We read in verse 1 of this eighth chapter of II Corinthians: “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia.” Paul is speaking here of the churches of Macedonia which, notwithstanding their great affliction and deep poverty, according to verse 2, abounded in their liberality in their collecting for other needy churches. And in verse 1 the apostle ascribes this liberality to the grace of God bestowed upon these churches of Macedonia. Indeed, to giver liberally and cheerfully one must first receive the grace of God; however, when this happens one must give. This follows from the grace of God, is its absolutely necessary fruit.

And now, in this text, verse 9, the apostle refers to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, although rich, for our sakes, because of us, He became poor, that we might be rich. This is a very profound word, and it reminds us of another equally profound word of God, recorded in Philippians 2:5ff: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. . . .” But, as is also the case in Philippians 2, this very profound scripture is recorded with a very practical intent and purpose: knowing this grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we, being so tremendously rich, must also reveal this as we consider the needs of others in the midst of the world. Being rich, having been so unspeakably poor, it is hardly proper to shut up and close our bowels of mercy and compassion.

Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. What a knowledge!

The word grace, which means fundamentally “beauty, attractiveness,” referring to the truth that God is beautiful and eternally attracted unto Himself, as the triune God, in the bond of infinite goodness and perfection, also appears in the Word of God as meaning unmerited and condescending goodness and favor, viewed subjectively from the viewpoint of the sinner. The sinner is wholly unworthy of the grace of God, and therefore the grace of God, from the viewpoint of the sinner, is completely unmerited. It is this thought of God’s condescending goodness which receives the emphasis here. This is plain because we read that Christ, although rich, became poor for our sakes, because of us.

What a knowledge this is! We know this. We know that Christ, being rich, became poor because of us. We know that the eternal Son of God, although rich, impoverished Himself in order to make us rich! Surely, this wonderful truth is not known by us through natural observation, with our natural eyes and ears. This is not something we could ever conclude from what we could see and observe. How could we, viewing Calvary, ever conclude that we were being made rich by the suffering and poverty of the Sufferer upon Golgotha?! Does not all appear hopeless upon the cross of Calvary? How, then, can and do we know this? We know this, first of all, by divine inspiration. The Lord has revealed the wonder of this upon the pages of Holy Writ. And, secondly, we know this by the testimony of the Holy Spirit in our hearts; this knowledge is the experiential knowledge of divine grace; by His Spirit we have experienced this amazing wonder in our hearts. Spiritually the Lord has made it known unto us.

Our Lord Jesus Christ became poor. Must this poverty be understood as according to His divine nature? Does the Word of God here teach that Jesus, the Son of God, while in the state of humiliation, laid aside His divine nature and riches? Or does this text teach us that Jesus hid His glory which He possesses as God, so that it was covered by His humiliated human nature? This cannot be the meaning of this scripture. We read a similar thought in Philippians 2:6: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” We read in our text: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, being rich, He for your sakes became poor.” Literally, however, we read: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, being rich, He for your sakes became poor.” We do not read in Philippians 2:6 that He was in the form of God but “being in the form of God.” And this means that He continued in the form of God, essentially. And in our text we do not read that He “was rich,” but “being rich.” He therefore continues to be rich while becoming poor.

The idea of this scripture is therefore plain. Even as inPhilippians 2:6 He is and remains God, but made Himself of no reputation, emptied Himself according to the human nature, so, in this word of God, while being God and remaining rich, He became poor as in His human nature. In His becoming poor His being rich as God remained unaffected.

Our Lord Jesus Christ became poor. How true this is at the time of His incarnation, when He was born in Bethlehem! No, this does not mean that He became poor simply by becoming man. In the first place, He is and remains God. The birth of the Son of God in our flesh and blood did not involve Him in any change of His Godhead. And, secondly, He is still man, also in His state of exaltation and glorification; but He surely is no longer poor. His poverty does refer to how He became man: He was born in our guilty relation to the law. He took upon Himself the humiliated human nature, assumed responsibility for all the sins of all the elect throughout all the ages. However, He became poor, throughout His life, especially upon the cross of Calvary. How He impoverished Himself, became poor! He made Himself of no reputation (Phil. 2:7); He emptied Himself, as we read it literally in this passage inPhilippians 2. He destroyed Himself. He descended into death and hell; He destroyed Himself eternally, submitted Himself to the eternal and infinite wrath of God, cried out in utter amazement, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Indeed, He made Himself of no reputation forever; He perished everlastingly. This is the unfathomable mystery of the cross. What a poverty!

We are become rich. What an amazing riches!

What a riches of grace, even in a negative sense of the word! We have been saved, delivered from hell, from everlasting damnation! We have received the forgiveness of all our sins; we have received a payment that covers all of our iniquities; we have been declared righteous before God. What a wonderful. salvation, when viewed negatively. This is surely great and wonderful! Yes, but it is merely the negative aspect of our deliverance. And if our salvation be great when viewed negatively, how great our deliverance must be when viewed positively! Indeed, we have been made rich. And, what a riches!

Imagine if we were to receive all the gold and all the silver and all the cattle upon a thousand hills; imagine if we were to receive title to all the goods of this present time, if we were to inherit all of this world’s wealth. Receiving all this we would have nothing in comparison with the riches we have now received. After all, this world is a perishing world, and it is this with all that it contains. We are heirs of everlasting life and glory. To be sure, in that city of our God there will be no sickness, no pain, no death, no sorrow, no crying, no distress of any nature, no sin. But, positively, we shall inherit a riches, a glory so great that, upon receiving it, we shall declare that the half was never told us, that no human heart could ever conceive of it, no human eye could ever see it and no human ear could ever hear it, a glory so great that it could never enter into the heart of man. .We shall receive new heavens and a new earth, shall receive a salvation according to body and soul, of heavenly life and immortality. We shall never hunger again, never thirst again; we shall be perfectly adapted to the service of the Lord, the one and only blessed God; we shall see God face to face, in Jesus Christ our Lord, together with all the saints from the beginning until the end of time. We shall enjoy perfect liberty, free from all sin and death, to serve the living God forever and ever, in never ending heavenly life and glory.

We have become rich—how? O, the text does not mean that He became poor in order that we should be rich in the sense that we became rich merely by viewing Him as our example. A mere example can never change and therefore help us. We are dead in sins and in trespasses and no example can ever induce us to turn to the living God Whom we hate and despise. We read literally: He became rich for our sakes, because of us. Indeed, the secret, we must understand, lies, of course in His poverty, in His atonement. How seemingly impossible and contradictory! How can poverty make one rich? He became poor, made Himself of no reputation, emptied, destroyed Himself. The secret lies in His emptying of Himself, in His bearing of the eternal and infinite wrath of God, in His vicarious atonement, His suffering and dying for us as our Substitute, for His people. He became poor for our sakes, because of us, in order that we should be rich; that is the purpose that drove Him and the result He achieved. His poverty is our riches, inasmuch as His poverty is the bearing of all God’s wrath upon our sins and the meriting of everlasting life and glory.

How was this possible? This we can understand only in the light of the truth that He, being rich, became poor. This can only be explained in the light of the truth that this amazingly poor and impoverished Sufferer is the Son of God, is rich as the eternal Son of God. This is what we read here: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that, being rich, He became poor.” He became poor while being and remaining rich. It is because He is the Son of God that He could die for others, pay the guilt of others, inasmuch as, being the Son of God, He had no guilt of His own. It is because He is the Son of God that He could bear the eternal and infinite wrath and indignation of the Lord. It is because of the fact that He is rich, as the eternal Son of God, that His amazing humiliation into the depths of hell demanded an exaltation of like degree, into everlasting life and heavenly immortality. What a miserable caricature the Arminian presents to us of the cross of Jesus Christ, our Lord! He would have us believe that this Man of Sorrows died for all men, head for head. He speaks of a Christ Who also died for those who perish. He would therefore have us believe in a Christ that died in vain. He would rob us of the wonderful atonement of Calvary. Indeed, we who were poor have now become rich, unspeakably, unbelievably rich. What shall we say? In the cross of Christ we glory. Do we glory in that cross? Shall we then present ourselves, body and soul, as living sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving? What else can we do? To Him be all the praise and the glory, to God as the God of our salvation in Jesus Christ, our Lord.