In recent days we have all been reminded of the fact that there is suffering and pain and evil in the world. Whether it’s an island totally devastated by a hurricane or a city reduced to shambles by a deadly earthquake or concert goers mowed down like fish in a barrel by a crazed gunman, it is manifestly evident that all is not right with the world.
And in our fleshly, sinful pride, our tendency is to think that the fact that we are not victims is because we are undeserving of such. We need to carefully remember the words of our Lord when he spoke of the Galileans whose “blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifice” (Lk. 13:1) and of “those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell” (Lk. 13:4). “Do you think,” He asked, “that they were worse sinners above all the rest?” No, His word to them and to us is this, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:5).
The fact that calamity has not befallen us is not our doing. Our presence here this morning, beneficiaries of prosperity and good health, surrounded by friends and fellow-believers, is a gift from God.
I need to be reminded every day that whatever evil comes to me is less than I deserve and whatever good I may enjoy is a manifestation of God’s grace. As Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians, “[B]y the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10). “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7)
When it comes to grace, I feel like I’ve barely set foot on the first step of the stair case. I sense that the view from the top is so wide and deep and long that not even eternity will be sufficient for this finite heart to fathom its wonders
Hymn writers have tried through the years to describe it.
“Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.”
“Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace”
“Amazing grace (how sweet the sound)
that saved a wretch like me!”
- Grace is revealed in the Gospels. (John 1:14, 16, 17)
- Grace permeates the early proclamation of the Gospel. (Acts 15:1; 20:24)
- Grace is not only how we receive Christ, it is also how we walk in Him.
- Grace is central in the apostolic letters to the churches. (Rom. 6:14; 1 Cor. 15:10; Gal. 1:15; Eph. 1:7; 2 Tim. 1:9)
Grace is at the very heart of Christianity. In fact, J. Gresham Machen says, “The very center and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God.”
Grace and the Reformation
That grace was at the center of the Reformation, 500 years ago. Martin Luther came to understand that man is saved by God’s grace, but the Roman Catholic Church also teaches that we are saved by grace. So what was the difference?
Guy Waters explains, “[T]he line of difference between Rome and the Reformation … lies in a single word—sola (“alone”). The Reformers maintained that the sinner is saved by the grace of God … alone … nothing the sinner does commends him to the grace of God … Salvation, from beginning to end, is the sovereign gift of God …”
Luther and the other Reformers came to understand that salvation is through faith alone by grace alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone. And the authority for this is Scripture alone, apart from the tradition of the church.
We could go to several passages to show the Biblical foundation for the doctrine of grace alone, but this morning let’s look at just one, the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. Ephesians 2:1-10.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship,created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians opens to us the marvelous riches of God’s grace in a wonderful declaration of the “spiritual blessings” with which God has blessed us. The first chapter alone points to the wonders of what is ours in Christ.
- -chosen in Him
- -predestined for adoption through Him
- -in Him we have redemption and forgiveness
- -we have obtained an inheritance, being sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee
And He did all that in love, “before the foundation of the world.”
Then, we come to chapter two, and, in our text, we find three statements that point us to the glorious riches of this thing called grace, this amazing truth that we are saved by grace alone: We were dead. But God is rich in mercy. So grace is given.
- We were dead. 2:1-3 (under condemnation, captives of sin and the devil, and under God’s wrath).
- God is rich in mercy. 2:4-7
- Grace is given. 2:8-10 (Salvation is not our doing, a free gift, and for God’s glory).
“When we’ve been there 10,000 years,” we will have only begun to see the glories of His grace, the grace that alone has saved us.
Nothing earned. Nothing deserved. Nothing added. No boasting.
Saved by grace alone to the glory of God alone.
-(sermon by) Larry Oldham
photo credit: https://www.nps.gov/blri/planyourvisit/tunnel-heights.htm