*“HIS RICHES TO RAGS STORY, AND OUR RAGS TO RICHES STORY” *
*(II Corinthians 8:9)*
* /“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.”/*
*/ /*In Mark Twain’s captivating book, The Prince and the Pauper, Edward Tudor, the prince of England, discovers that he looks exactly like a London pauper, Tom Canty, whom he accidentally meets on the street one day.
Through a series of remarkable coincidences, the identities of the prince and the pauper are reversed, so that everyone thinks that the pauper is the prince, and that the prince is the pauper.
Tom Canty comes to live in the royal palace, coping with the strange role of royalty, and Edward Tudor goes out to live on the streets, begging and using his wits to keep himself alive.
The story is both humorous and pathetic as each person struggles with his new and strange identity.
Though Edward goes hungry, ragged and filthy in his life on the streets, and though he is mocked when he tries to make others understand who he really is, he still never stops acting like a prince.
By another quirk of circumstance near the end of the book, each of the young men is recognized for who he really is.
Edward is returned to the throne, and because of his association with Edward, Tom also is elevated to a noble position in the realm.
When Edward becomes King, he rules the nation with far more wisdom, compassion and benevolence than he ever would have possessed before.
There are several interesting parallels between the story of Edward, prince of Wales, who became king of England, and Jesus.
Jesus left His original royal home and lived among the common people.
While He was on earth, He stated who He really was, but most people did not believe Him.
Some even mocked Him as a madman or an impostor.
Finally, in a conspiracy of evil against Him, men ridiculed Him, spat upon Him, beat Him, and then killed Him.
However, in spite of their malice and violence against Him, He was restored to His royal estate.
From His position of royalty, He was then in a position to bestow upon men, even His worst enemies, all the wisdom, the kindness, the love, the grace, and the benevolence that He possesses.
The Bible text that heads this study tells the riches to rags story of Jesus, and the rags to riches story of every Christian.
And the two are so inseparably connected that, without the story of Jesus’ reduction, man would have had no possibility of elevation.
Let your eyes move slowly over the verse printed above, pondering the rich phrases that occur throughout.
There are at least seven small but full phrases in the verse.
We will build our study around the movements pictured in these phrases.
THE HEAVENLY PLENTY WHICH HE ENJOYED*
First, we will consider /the heavenly plenty which Jesus enjoyed/ with His Father before He wrapped His Deity with our humanity and came to earth.
“You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though /He was rich/, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich.”
What a wealth of revelation and suggestion is contained in the three words, “He was rich.”
Let me explore them by asking a couple of questions.
First, /when /was He rich?
Of course, the only possible answer to the question is that Jesus was rich before He came to the earth.
You see, if you really want to understand Bethlehem, you must go back to a time before Bethlehem.
You must recognize that Jesus’ life did not begin in the manger at Bethlehem, nor in His conception in the womb of the virgin Mary.
In fact, you must recognize that His thirty-three years on earth were only a brief interlude between His existence in “two eternities.”
It is just as great a mistake to /begin /the story of Jesus with His /birth /as it is to /end /it with His /death and burial./
Here, we are concerned with His eternal existence before His birth at Bethlehem.
At one time during His ministry, Jesus declared, “I am the living bread /which came down from heaven.”
/At another time, He asked His accusers, “What if you were to see the Son of man ascending /where He was before/?”
Just before He died on the Cross, Jesus prayed, “And now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with/ the glory I had with You before the world was made/” (John 17:5).
Nothing could be clearer than His teaching that He existed eternally with His Father before He came to earth in His incarnation.
The old /Sunday School Times /told about an argument that occurred one day between a Christian and a Unitarian concerning the Deity of Christ.
The Unitarian was trying to tell the Christian that the Bible nowhere stated that Jesus Christ had any existence before He came into the world.
The humble believer said that he was quite sure the Scriptures were full of verses on the pre-existence of Christ but he could not at the moment remember where they were found.
As they stood discussing the issue on a train platform, an informed pastor appeared.
He listened as they discussed, then he introduced himself.
“What do you think about the question?” the Unitarian asked.
“One verse should settle the issue,” the preached replied.
“What verse?” asked the skeptic.
“Second Corinthians eight nine,” the preacher answered, and he quoted the verse.
“How does that prove the pre-existence of Jesus Christ?” the Unitarian asked.
The preacher gently asked, “Tell me, /when was/ /Jesus rich/?
Was He rich when He was born in a stable, or at any time in His earthly life afterwards?”
The preacher’s train had pulled into the station as they were talking.
As he stepped away to board the train, he looked back over his shoulder and asked again, “Tell me, sir, when was Jesus rich?”
As I have said, the only possible answer to the question is that Jesus was rich in His pre-existence in Heaven before He came to the earth.
It is very remarkable that throughout the Gospels, when referring to His coming into the world, Jesus never uses the word “born” but once, and that was when He was on trial before Pilate, the Roman governor, who would not have understood any issue concerning His birth and would not have cared if he /had /understood.
Facing Pilate, Jesus said, “To this end was I born.”
But even then, Jesus was so conscious that the word “born” did not express the whole truth that He added, “and for this cause /came I /into the world.”
Look at the two statements together: “To this end was I /born/, and for this cause /came I /into the world.”
The two phrases of the statement are not by any means synonymous.
The word “born” expresses the earthly beginning of Jesus; the word “came” indicates that He had a previous existence before He “came.”
He stated it even more definitely when He said, “I /came forth from/ the Father, and have /come into/ the world.”
Furthermore, the verb “was” in our text is a present participle, which means, “/being /rich.”
He was rich /throughout/ His Heavenly pre-existence.
/How /was He rich?
In what way was He rich?
Of what did His riches consist?
What constituted His wealth?
What made up His fortune?
Can the inventory of His pre-existent state be itemized?
Any effort to answer those questions sends the researcher on a giant quest through his Bible, and the outcome staggers the imagination.
Though thoughts cascade, words fail in trying to describe the eternal riches of Christ.
So I will only make a few suggestions of His pre-existent riches in the next lines.
However, these suggestions should not be minimized, for each is certainly true.
When the Queen of Sheba finally saw Solomon’s vast riches in person, she said, “The half has never yet been told.”
The same must be said about the riches of Jesus Christ in His pre-incarnate state.
In what way was He “rich”?
The following “inventory” of His riches is only suggestive, not exhaustive.
First, He was certainly rich in /person.
/The writer of the book of Hebrews referred to Him as “being the effulgence of His glory, and the very image of His substance” (Hebrews 1:3) In Colossians 1:19, the Apostle Paul wrote, “It pleased the Father that in Him should all the fulness dwell.”
Charles Spurgeon said on this point, “Go back in thought to the glories of the eternity when, as very God of very God, He dwelt in the bosom of the Father.
He was so rich in /person/ that all that He /possessed/ was as nothing to Him.
He was not dependent upon any of the angels He had created, nor did He rely for glory upon any of the works of His hands.
Truly, heaven was His abode; but He could have made ten thousand heavens if He had willed to do so.
He was emphatically rich.
You cannot press into the word ‘rich’ all that Jesus was.” Paul spoke in Ephesians 3:8 of “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
His words could be used to describe the riches of Christ’s person in His pre-incarnate glory.
Second, the pre-existent Christ was certainly rich in /place/.
He was in Heaven with the Father, enjoying a place and an environment such as only a Holy and Loving God could conceive.
The Biblical description of Heaven which we think of as a part of our /future /was forever His in the /past/ -- up to the time of His incarnation.
Third, the pre-incarnate Christ was certainly rich in /position./
Philippians 2:6 says that He was “equal with God.”
In His high priestly prayer which He prayed just before the redeeming events were set in motion, Jesus referred to “the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”
He shared all of the Father’s eternal glory.
Seated on the throne of the universe, all beings and all things were subject unto Him.
He was rich in position.
Fourth, He was also rich in /possessions./
Though His Person surely excelled His possessions, He was still fabulously rich in possessions.
Everything was His, for He created it.
Colossians 1:16 says, “For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him.”