“Saved by Grace”Categories: Sermons
During the singing last Sunday evening, Tyler led us in “O Come, All Ye Faithful”. That’s one of my favorite hymns, so after services, I went over to him and thanked him for doing so. As a result, we got to talking about the brethren who might object to singing such a hymn in worship because it’s commonly used as a Christmas carol.
Frankly, that objection has never made any sense to me. If we are using a hymn to worship in spirit and in truth, who cares if somebody else somewhere else has misused it? We need to pay less attention to the somebody elses and more attention to the truth.
I think this also is true when it comes to Bible teaching on grace. We know that false teachers have taken that teaching and corrupted it into a contradiction of Bible teaching on baptism. However, that’s not the Bible’s fault. That’s their fault. When we are teaching Bible truth on grace, then, we shouldn’t feel the need to fill that teaching with asterisks and disclaimers, like the Holy Spirit can’t speak for Himself. Instead, we should teach the truth without apology because God’s truth belongs to God’s people. Without further ado, then, let’s consider what the word says about being saved by grace.
One of the greatest Biblical texts on the subject is found in the early part of the book of Ephesians, so I thought it would be appropriate to work through that this evening. The context begins with Paul helping us with UNDERSTANDING OUR BLESSINGS. Let’s read here from Ephesians 1:16-19a. Here, Paul says that He wants the Ephesians, and indirectly us, to understand three things: the hope of their calling, the riches of their heavenly inheritance, and the greatness of God’s power.
This understanding might seem awfully abstract, but in reality, it’s something that’s critically important to the spiritual health of every Christian here. Ever asked a Christian if they’re going to heaven and get the reply, “I hope so”? Ever heard a brother say they know God has forgiven them, but they struggle to forgive themselves? Those are brethren who do not understand these three things. Because they don’t understand their hope, their inheritance, and God’s power, they are putting their trust in themselves instead of Him.
Brethren, it’s tragic when a Christian who should be rejoicing in God’s grace is miserable because of their own shortcomings! When it comes to salvation, we all need to take the focus off ourselves and put it on God where it belongs.
Next, Paul examines GOD’S WORK IN CHRIST. Look here at Ephesians 1:19b-23. Notice that this reading begins with Paul saying that the blessings from the last reading are in accordance with the power that God showed in raising and exalting Jesus. In other words, if we want a measuring stick to understand what God has done for us, we find that measuring stick in what He has done for Christ.
By any standard, God’s work in Christ is spectacular. When God’s work in Christ began, Jesus was nothing more than a corpse in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. Even His own followers thought He was a failure. However, God took a dead man, brought Him back to life, seated Him at His own right hand, put all things under His feet, and made Him the supreme head of the church. The One whom everybody thought was a failure was instead revealed as the King of heaven and earth, and His reign will last until the end of time.
That’s too much for any human being to do or even to contemplate. Nobody even imagined that God might do such a thing before He did it with Jesus. This is the God whom we worship and serve, brethren. We can look at His work in Jesus and know that the blessings He has stored up for us are literally beyond our ability to imagine too.
In case we have any doubts about this, Paul then goes on to compare God’s work in Jesus to HIS WORK IN US. This comparison appears in Ephesians 2:1-6. Let’s pay attention to how closely parallel these two works were. Just like Jesus was dead when God started with Him, we were dead when God started with us. However, in our case, we weren’t merely physically dead. We were spiritually dead in our sins. We were so steeped in evil that we had corrupted our very natures with our sin. We were beyond hope.
However, just like God gave life to dead Jesus, He gave life to us in our spiritual death. Because of His great mercy and love, even though we did not deserve to live, He made us alive anyway. Third, just as God seated Jesus in the heavenly places after His resurrection, He has seated us in the place of honor right next to Christ.
Why did God do all of these things? It’s so that our redemption can proclaim the riches of His grace forever. A powerful earthly ruler might spend his earthly riches on building some monument to his greatness. Think of the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal. God, though, lavished His spiritual riches on us so that for eternity, anybody who looks at us can know how great He is. We are a monument to His greatness, and we always will be.
In the final section of this context, Paul explores the contrast between GRACE AND WORKS. Let’s finish our reading with Ephesians 2:8-10. I’ve had people use vs. 8-9 on me to “prove” that you don’t have to be baptized to be saved, but in context, that’s not Paul’s point at all. Instead, he is explaining that our salvation glorifies God because God is responsible for it and we aren’t.
This makes perfect sense. Even in earthly terms, we don’t look at the Taj Mahal and think of the Pharaohs because the Pharaohs didn’t build the Taj Mahal. In the same way, if our own good works were enough to justify us, our self-justification would not glorify God. He would not be responsible. We didn’t make ourselves righteous so that we could boast in ourselves. Instead, God made us, so that His workmanship would proclaim His glory. Our hope, then, is not in ourselves, but entirely in His grace.
However, that doesn’t mean that we can take God’s grace as an excuse to live however we want and then come scampering back to take a grace bath. Instead, though we are not justified by our good works, we are created for good works. If we choose not to walk in those good works, we no longer glorify the One whose grace redeemed us. We’re putting Him to shame instead, and believe me, brethren, putting the living God to shame is not something any of us want to do!