You know, as I looked at this year now, I started trying to think about some themes and some ideas that I could kind of build on and some areas that I wanted to focus on this. And specifically, because I need to grow in those areas. And so, as I study and learn of these things, I would like to present some of these ideas to you.
- The grace of God
- Equipping to Serve
Tonight, I want to start with a study of God's grace.
And so, you know, you think about grace and it is a beautiful word that's thrown out there. We hear it used in many ways. It is easy to sing about, maybe talk about, and pray about, yet sometimes it's hard to understand. But as our understanding grows so do our songs and prayers and conversations about the topic of grace.
We cannot really study it without really being enriched by it. It is a subject of such value and importance that we cannot ignore it without losing a lot. And so, you think about some of the passages we read about grace.
- Ephesians 2:8
"It says, for by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God."
Disavowing Abuses of the Word, Grace
Now, this word is abused frequently, and we'll get more into that in a moment. But the simple statement is that we are saved by grace. We are saved by grace through our faith. Now our faith includes obedience. You cannot have faith without obedience or else there's no point in writing the entire second chapter of the book of James.
- Titus 2:11
And again, that verse can be misused and has been, and we're gonna try to use it correctly in its context in a few. Grace really wouldn't be hard to define at all if it hadn't been for the amount of misuse and abuse of the term grace throughout the centuries. Because of the abuse, it's no longer possible to simply define it. And in so many words, or according to current usage before we can clearly define it we've gotta kind of clear away some of that rubble and let the meaning of the great word grace be seen truly and appreciated.
And so there are many abuses of the concept of grace. The subject has been abused by those who would fence it in with false restrictions, making laws where God did not make them and requiring things which God does not require. It's true certainly that God does require things that we've gotta do to be to receive His grace. But it's not true that it requires everything that some people teach to today.
You think about the question that came up in the first century, one of the great questions that Paul had to deal with was the [question of whether to be] circumcised to be saved. You know, circumcision was so ingrained in the Jewish mindset. It was what really defined them as a people. It is what caused them to believe that they were accepted by God, and they couldn't see anyone being accepted by God who was not circumcised.
And so, the question of what to do with these Gentiles who were converting to Christianity, they were not circumcised, and therefore by the Jews considered to be unclean and unfit for the kingdom of God. So that question was resolved by inspiration in Acts chapter 15.
And, you know, we would do well to heed the principle followed there. Notice what they came up with. Paul got together with the other apostles. These were inspired men of God. They were basically inquiring about what God has taught on the subject of Gentiles and circumcision.
- Acts 15:8-11
Even as they, the Jewish Christians, some at least were saying, you have to be circumcised to receive the grace of God. And so, we need to look to God's word and see what God's word says upon the subject of grace. God doesn't take kindly to those who tamper with His words, saying that He said when He did not say,
- Jeremiah 23:31
And the implication is they're saying that He says when he did not say, God says, I'm against those. You know, God's not going to tolerate anyone who will add unto His word.
- Proverbs chapter 30:5-6
You know, His word is pure as perfect, it needs no addition.
- Galatians 1:8-9
He's talking about letting the curse of God fall upon someone that perverse the gospel of Christ by adding to or taking away from God's word.
- Revelation 22:18-19
And so God doesn't take kindly when we add to His word. When we add to and bind things that God has not bound, when we make laws that God has not made, He does not take kindly at all.
But the subject of grace has also received abuse at the hands of those who would take away the restrictions that God has placed upon it to include more than God ever intended to.
People talk about we just don't know what the umbrella of God's grace is going to cover. And so, they try to say, well the word doesn't specifically say this or that versus whatever this sin is, or whatever this subject is. And they say, well, the grace, the umbrella of God's grace is going to cover it.
You know something similar was said in Paul's day.
- Romans 6:1
"Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?"
And some, apparently, were saying yes, continuance in sin, keep on sinning, so that God's grace expands. They had the idea that Christians are not under any kind of law. This is what is known as antinomianism.
The idea is that there is no law that Christians don't follow any law. One denominational writer said, when a Christian breaks a law of God, there is no penalty. As long as he's in Christ, all things are lawful in the sense that he will never be considered a lawbreaker so far as his justification or salvation is concerned.
And so they're saying, shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? They're saying yes.
But, Paul answered the question by saying, God forbid.
- Romans 6:2
You know, those who would take a mile when given an inch are guilty of applying grace, where grace will not apply. They're seeking to increase grace by the very things that cut us off from grace. And so grace is a subject that is abused a lot in the religious world.
And so in order to know, we gotta clear away some of that rubble in order to get a definition of grace.
The word grace, it's commonly defined as unmerited favor or the unmerited love and favor of God toward man, divine influence, acting in man to make him pure and morally strong. Or God's gift to man, which was not, and could not be merited.
There's an English acrostic of the word grace.
Grace; favor, goodwill, or kindness. A disposition to oblige another, the love and favor of God. Divine influence, renewing the heart and restraining from sin, the state of reconciliation to God, virtuous or religious affection or disposition, proceeding from divine influence. Mercy, pardon and favor, are conferred. virtuous or religious affection or disposition, proceeding from divine influence, mercy, pardon, and favor, conferred a licensed dispensation or peculiar privilege, a short prayer before or after meals, acknowledging the grace and goodness. — Webster's Dictionary, 1828
You see all these ways in which we use grace in the English language. And so English words are defined according to their current usage. And of course, this is no exception.
Now, this is basically a correct definition for the most part.
But the Greek definition, the word Charis is translated as grace in the English language. It's used in kind of an objective, and a subjective sense.
- In the objective, carries the idea of that which bestows or occasions pleasure, delight, or causes favorable regard.
- In the subjective, it carries one of two ideas on the part of the bestower it is the friendly disposition from which the kindly act precedes. And so, words like graciousness and loving kindness, goodwill generally as found in Ephesians 2:8, for by grace, are you saved.
- And on the part of the receiver, it is a sense of the favor bestowed, a feeling of gratitude. — Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
- Romans 6:17
And so that's the definition of grace.
Correct Application of Grace
Now, you know, there are a lot of ideas out there about grace and when a subject is abused as grace has been, it's helpful to look at what it is not in order to determine what it is and make the correct application of it.
1) Grace is Not Law
It is not a set of rules which when kept will merit the doer, the reward. You know, we don't follow a set of laws in order to be saved. Now, we're not saved unless we keep God's commandments, but it's not the keeping of those commandments that brings God into an obligation to save us.
- Luke 17:10
We have done that, which was our duty to do. You know, the very act of making grace law destroys it.
- Romans 11:6
If you say that you know you can work yourself into the grace of God, you destroy the grace of God. If you try to define work as something other than work, then you destroy the concept of work.
f you know, if you make a favor a law, then is it still a favor? It ceases to be a favor if you make it a law. If you make it law as though grace is not law.
2) Grace is Not License
On the other hand, at the other extreme, grace is not license. You know, some have reasoned that since God has an unlimited supply of grace, which he wishes to bestow upon us, then we should increase sin to increase the need for grace, thereby increasing the amount of grace, which God can bestow.
- Romans 6:1-2
Those who would advocate or practice such a thing as turning the grace of God into lasciviousness [deny God].
- Jude 1:3-4
If we say that grace gives us the license to do whatever we want, then it destroys the sacrifice and it destroys the grace of God. It just turns it into lasciviousness. You know, there are those that want to take advantage of God's grace. If that is our motivation, then grace is not available.
If we're just gonna say, I'm gonna do this and then I'll repent tomorrow and God will forgive me once more, you need to check your attitude. Grace doesn't give you the license to do that.
3) Grace is Not Salvation
Now some people want to equate the two things. They're not the same.
- Ephesians 2:5
Notice it is by grace that we are saved. Grace and salvation are the same things.
- Titus 2:11
If that's the case that it has appeared to all men, and all men are saved by grace and grace only, then no one is lost.
And then, Matthew 7:13-14 is made meaningless. You know my salvation and God's grace are two different things. I can have salvation because of God's grace. Without God's grace, I can't have it. But Grace is not in and of itself salvation.
4) Grace is Not Mercy
Also, there are folks that tend to combine the idea of mercy and grace. Grace though is not mercy. Grace means bestowing an unearned benefit. You think, there are three related terms.
- God's justice
- God's mercy
- God's grace
You're under a system of justice. What happens? We get exactly what we deserve. Mercy simply means that God does not give us the punishment that we deserve.
Whereas grace is, we get something that we do not deserve. And so we need to keep those ideas in mind. You know, grace means bestowing an unearned benefit. Mercy means withholding just judgment or punishments. Grace is beneficial because mercy is available.
You know, if it wasn't for God's mercy, the moment that we die that we committed sin, not only would we die spiritually, we would die physically. It is by God's mercy that we are able to be recipients of God's grace.
- Hebrews 4:16
5) Grace is Not Universally Received
Another thing we need to understand about grace is that grace is not unconditionally received. You know, the idea of Universalism or Calvinism. They cover up the truth that God has placed conditions upon receiving Grace.
- Titus 2:11-12
Grace teaches us how we ought to live, how we ought to live as a recipient of God's grace. And, how we ought to live to become a recipient of God's grace. We've got to deny ungodliness and turn away. That's talking about repentance.
And, we ought to live righteously, soberly, and justly, live godly in this world.
- Titus 2:13
Notice the connection between the grace of God and the works we are to be involved in. And so, grace is not unconditionally received.
6) Grace is not Unconditionally Retained
You know some teach that once you are a recipient of God's grace, you can never be lost regardless of how you live. But this is not what the Bible teaches.
- 2 Corinthians 6:1
What does it mean to receive something in vain? It means it doesn't do you any good, it's worthless to you. Dealing with those that would add circumcision and make a law where God has not made a law.
"Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." — Galatians 5:4
If there is no way to ever be lost, once we become a recipient of God's grace, then what does it mean to fall from Grace doesn't have any meaning at all? Then we can just ignore that verse, We have fallen from grace?
If we add to God's grace, if we bind things that God did not bind, we can be lost. You know, to speak of receiving in vain and falling from it is to affirm the blessing of grace can be forfeited if we don't meet the requirements or we reject those things.
- Hebrews 12:14-15
And so, lest you fail of the grace of God. So grace is not unconditionally retained, nor is it unconditionally received.
Grace and mercy are not the same things. Grace is not the same as salvation. Grace is not a license to do what we want, and grace is not simply law-keeping. None of these things are grace, God's grace.
You know, just even in the temporal realm to men in general, you know, God's grace is offered to all men.
- Matthew 5:45
God's favor is bestowed upon mankind in general. He provides the things that mankind needs to live and to thrive, and he gives him the opportunity, of course, for salvation through Jesus Christ.
- 1 Timothy 4:4-5
Again, everything that God has given us to allow us to live and thrive on this earth is an aspect of his grace. It is that unmerited favor bestowed upon man daily for needs met are daily experiences of God's grace. In the temporal realm and the spiritual realm, we see illustrations of God's grace every time we see a life changed or a faith strengthened.
Multitudes can say
- 1 Corinthians 15:10
Think about who Saul of Tarsus was and the evil this man did in, in his desire, in his zeal to do what he thought God wanted him to do. He murdered people and put them in prison. He persecuted the church in every way that he could, and yet we see a complete change in his life.
- 1 Timothy 1:1
He recognized that he had been the chief of sinners, and yet by the grace of God, he was saved. we see the complete change in Paul's life. It is by the grace of God that we are saved.
- Ephesians 2:8-10
But notice not of works lest any man should boast. Maybe one will say, look at me. Look at what I've done, I deserve salvation, you know because I'm such a good person. Now, Paul could have said that, or, he might have said that at one point.
Now, the works that we are to be involved in, the good works that God has ordained, those are the things that we're talking about.
Paul is referring in verse nine to people thinking of their own goodness, of their own righteousness, that they merit salvation. There's a great difference between those two kinds of works. The works which God has before ordained that we walk therein and the works that man devises to save himself.
It is by the grace of God that we also remain safe.
- Romans 8:35-39
We think about the example that we looked at this morning of Job, all of those things, and yet he said, I know that my redeemer liveth, he maintained his faith going through all these terrible things that he went.
And we remain saved because no one can take us from the hand of God. No one can take us against our will, outta the grace of God. But you notice one thing he omitted from that list is ourselves. We can reject the grace of God and we can cause it to fail. We can cause it to be received in vain if we are not faithful to him, but it is by God's grace that we can overcome temptation.
- 1 Corinthians 10:13
God's grace means that he is going to not allow anything to overcome us against our own will.
How to Receive God's Grace
You know there's so much more to learn about this greater majestic grace of God. But for now, let's just look to the answer of how to receive God's grace. You know, we notice it's available to all. But not all men will believe in God and receive it, and that's, that's a sad reality of this world. That's the sad reality that Jesus alludes to.
- Matthew 7:13-14
It's available at all, but not all will receive it. You know, to receive God's grace you've gotta believe in God. There are a lot of people in our world today that believe the world is God. They don't believe there is a higher being or a higher power. You know, you can't receive God's grace if you don't believe in God. If you don't believe in His Son, who is the one that brought grace to man, that brought salvation. To receive His grace, you've gotta repent.
"Teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age." — Titus 2:12
You've got to repent. And, confess your belief and be baptized to wash away your sin and be faithful to Christ.
Or else, you could also be one that received the grace of God in vain.
- 2 Corinthians 6:1
You know what is grace? It is, simply put, God's love and action, and may we ever praise Him for His grace, sufficient grace. We urge you that if you are not a Christian consider putting on Christ in baptism to have your sins washed away, be added to the body of Christ, and receive the grace of God.
If you're a Christian that's turned away, turn back to come home to Him.
If we can assist you in coming to receive the grace of God, please contact us.
Sermon Adapted from the book Sufficient Grace by: Jim O'Connor.