Sermons

God’s Grace and Our Faith

Sun, Sep 18, 2022
Teacher: Tom Blackford
Passage: Ephesians 2:8
Duration:29 mins 59 secs

Message text

God’s Grace and Our Faith
Ephesians 2:8

INTRO: As you travel this road of life you will meet a lot of people who claim Jesus Christ as their savior. If you engage them in conversation about their beliefs, they have a notion that grace and faith are the tickets to heaven, and in a sense they are right.

Their understanding of just what grace and faith are, as comprehensive Biblical terms, is not always in line with reality however. They know that grace and faith are there, but they really don't have a clear understanding of just what grace and faith are and how each one of these functions in our justification and subsequent salvation.

We had a lesson a few weeks ago on what faith is. For the purpose of this lesson, I want to link these two vital and essential elements that play such an important role in our lives as Christians. We will try to gain a better understanding of them from an overall Biblical perspective.

I. First of all, what is Grace? I have found that many people have little idea what grace really is and how it functions in the life of a Christian.

A. You will find in discussing the topic that some people, especially those among our denominational neighbors, have the belief that God's grace is some kind of mystical, magical thing that transforms an all powerful, perfectly holy, just and omniscient God into Santa Clause.

1. You know, that red suited, jolly character that promises children a lump of coal if they haven't been good but when it is all said and done nice presents are received anyway. I did not deserve the nice things I received. I certainly did not earn them. Santa was under no obligation whatsoever to give them to me.
2. While there are some elements to this little illustration that parallel God's grace, we are overlooking one very important fact. When all the layers have been stripped away and get down to the facts, the Santa at Higbee’s downtown lied to me. I had not been a good little boy for the past year and I knew it. That Santa promised me something that he did not deliver. While that was perfectly fine with me at the time, the fact remains that Santa promised me a lump of coal, but I got candy, clothes and toys. Santa gave me grace, but Santa did not keep his word.

B. God is not Santa and most certainly Santa is not God. Inspiration teaches us in Titus 1:1-2 and other places in scripture that God cannot lie. “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which is according to godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began,”

1. One thing that we can be absolutely sure of is that neither grace nor faith rightly applied in our lives will ever make God out to be a liar. God does not say things that He does not mean. God doesn't make promises that He does not keep.
2. Santa told me that a certain level or standard of good behavior was required in order to receive the good gifts. In other words, I was expected to obey my parents if I wanted the good stuff.

C. God certainly has grace, but unlike Santa, when God promises bad stuff for bad behavior, God is going to deliver bad stuff for bad behavior, no matter how much grace He has.

1. God's grace will not cause God to violate His honest nature or His principles. Second Timothy teaches us that God cannot deny His holy nature: 2 Timothy 2:11-13 - “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” [NKJV]
2. We can be absolutely sure about this, God's grace will never cause God to act in a way that is in conflict with Himself or His standards. He is going to be faithful to His covenant even when we are not faithful to Him. In other words, God is going to keep His promises and do what He said He would do no matter what we do.

D. What is this grace that God has towards us? Someone who is gracious has certain qualities which stand out. Those who are gracious are benevolent, meaning they do things for others that they are not necessarily required to do. Those who are gracious are indulgent or beneficent to others, especially inferiors. Those who are gracious are merciful and compassionate. Does this sound like some of the qualities that our God possesses?

1. Romans 6:23 starts out saying, “For the wages of sin is death” That means eternal separation from God. Sin is a violation against God and causes mankind to lose fellowship with God. The only way man can regain that fellowship is if he pays the penalty for that sin. Man sinned, man incurred a debt. The problem is, the payment for all sin is loss of fellowship with God forever. It doesn't matter what that sin is, the penalty is the same. We have lost our fellowship with God and that cannot be restored unless we pay the penalty in full.
2. Thankfully for us, God is rich in grace and mercy and He doesn't want to see us suffer for all eternity. He wants us to have a chance to regain that fellowship, so He had a plan where we can have a hope of being reconciled without having to suffer an eternity of punishment.

E. God was under no obligation to do this. Nothing we did compelled God to do this. By the way, this means of reconciliation came at great personal expense for God…namely the life of His Son as a substitutionary death penalty for us.

1. God could have washed His hands of mankind and walked away to leave us to our fate forever. God would have been perfectly within His right to do so. He didn't owe us anything. We got ourselves into this predicament without any help from God. God was absolutely blameless in all that mankind did.
2. Because God loves us so much, He graciously came up with a means whereby we could be reconciled to Him and escape the death penalty of sin. That's grace. Grace as a comprehensive Biblical term which represents everything God did in securing a means of redemption for mankind.

a. For God to give man His law, is grace.
b. For God to let man know he sinned, is grace.
c. For God to provide a means of reconciliation through the sacrifice of His Son, is grace.
d. For God to accept the death of His Son at the hands of man for the sins of man, is grace.
e. For God to make this means of reconciliation known through His word, is grace.
f. For God to allow mankind time to respond, is grace.

3. The availability of salvation, under any circumstances whatsoever, is grace. All of the things God did in providing a way of redemption for mankind is Grace. Grace is God reaching down from heaven to sin-sick, doomed and fallen mankind with a means and method of reconciliation.

F. Grace is God's role in our redemption. Then are we saved by grace only? In other words, are we saved simply because God did everything that He did with no response on our part? Absolutely not. If we were saved by grace only, every human that ever lived would be saved simply by being in existence. Nobody would ever be lost if mankind was saved by grace only.

1. Mankind has an obligation to respond to God's grace before it will be of any benefit at all.
2. What is that response? Ephesians 2:8 starts: “For by grace you have been saved through faith…” Grace operates in our lives through our faith.

II. Since Grace represents God's role in our redemption, then what does the term "Faith" mean? Faith is the response that we must give in order to receive God's grace. "Without faith it is impossible to please Him… " (Hebrews 11:6). We are saved by Grace through faith. Without faith, grace is worthless to us. As we saw in our study of what faith is Hebrews 11:6 continues, “…for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. ”

A. We must have faith if God's grace is going to benefit us in any way whatsoever. What about Faith? Does this term "faith" simply mean belief in God or belief in Jesus Christ? Is faith alone all that is required or is there something else?

1. That's something we can put to the test very easily from scripture. When we read James 2:18-24 we see this, “18. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works.'' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe and tremble! 20. But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21. Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22. Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23. And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.'' And he was called the friend of God. 24. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” [NKJV] Scripture clearly says here, “not by faith only”.
2. Many, many people try to claim that Paul taught salvation by faith alone. If that is the case, then what about what Paul wrote to in Romans 2:5-11? “5. But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6. who "will render to each one according to his deeds'': 7. eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good, seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8. but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9. tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10. but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11. For there is no partiality with God.”
3. What about the Philippian Christians? Philippians 2:12-13, “ Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
4. “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling"... We see very easily that faith means more than faith alone. This is very important because there are vast numbers of people out there who believe that we can be saved by faith alone. When we get the opportunity we need to be able to show them in scripture that biblical faith is more than just belief.

B. Let's look at a few scriptures which help us to define what faith is as a comprehensive Biblical term.

1. Faith is our Shield: Ephesians 6:16 – “above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” We not only believe God exists, we know He is faithful and just to deliver on His promises.
2. Faith is service: Philippians 2:17 – “Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.” Paul's meaning is figurative, referring in humility to his service as the drink-offering which was added to the burnt offering. Paul was comparing all of his own toils to the drink offering (which was the tiniest part) to the main sacrifice.
3. Faith is a Sacrifice: Romans 12:1 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” The believer presents their body for baptism, being an important element in the new birth itself, and this accomplishes a sacrifice which requires the volition and assent of the whole person. But the presenting does not end at the baptistery. There is also the formal and faithful presentation of the body in public, corporate worship, regularly throughout the Christian's life. The body is the chief instrument of the person and is to be presented to God through service to humanity, by preaching, teaching, ministering, and helping people, and not merely for some space of time, but all your life.
4. Faith is Perseverance: Colossians 1:23 – “if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.” And 1 Thessalonians 3:7-8 – “therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.” “This is another of innumerable denials in the New Testament of the monstrous proposition euphemistically described as the "final perseverance of the saints."” “God has written that chilling word "IF" by every name inscribed in the Lamb's Book of Life.” (James Coffman)
5. Faith is a Walk: We see this in 2 Corinthians 5:7 – “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” In Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” And Colossians 2:6 – “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,”
6. Faith is a Work: Paul wrote to the Church at Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 – “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,” And in 2 Thessalonians 1:11 – “Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power,”
7. Faith is a Fight: Look at 1 Timothy 6:12 – “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” The New Testament makes very clear that fidelity on the part of Christians is required of them if they truly hope to enter heaven at last.
8. Faith is a trial: In 1 Peter 1:7 – “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” [KJV] This is not comparing faith with gold but an analogy between the testing of character (i.e. faith) and the refining of gold.
9. Faith is Patient: Hebrews 6:12 – “That you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

C. It's God's grace, and our faith. God's grace represents everything He did to make salvation available for mankind. Our faith is the response we must make in order to receive God's grace. By grace we are saved through faith. The grace that saves us is God's. The faith that saves us is ours.

D. We all join together in our hope for eternal life. We are here today because we want to worship God and to live with Him in heaven after this life is over. Jesus said in John 5:28-29 – “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” Paul reminds us of this in 2 Corinthians 5:10 – “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

1. There is a day coming when every single one of us is going to face God and give an account of the life we have lived. Based upon the life we lived, we will either live in heaven with God forever, or we will suffer in Hell for eternity. Those are our options. In the end it will be the life of faith we live that will make the difference.
2. John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." We absolutely have to believe and have faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. As we have seen, there is more to it than just faith only. Our faith must be an obedient one if it is to be the proper response to God's grace.
3. Jesus declared in Matthew 7:21, "Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven." God's grace and our faith will not get us into the kingdom of heaven if we fail to do the will of God.
4. Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 – “and to you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” God's grace and our faith will not save us if we fail to obey the Gospel.

III. How do we obey the gospel? We obey the gospel by becoming participants in it. We saw in our look at faith last time that this was one of the conditions of salvation to be obeyed but there are more conditions.

A. Repentance: Jesus said in Luke 13:3 – “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” If we do not repent, Jesus says we will perish and He's talking about eternal punishment here. Repentance is a sorrow of heart that leads one to a change in behavior. We must stop living for the world and start living in accordance with God's will. Those who do not change their behavior did not repent. God's grace and Our Faith will not save us if we fail to repent. Our faith must include repentance.
B. Confession: Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33 – “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” God's grace and our faith will not save us from being denied by Jesus if we fail to confess Him before men. We have to become participants in the command to acknowledge our faith to others. Our faith must include confession.
C. Baptism: Jesus taught in Mark 16:16 – “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” He also said in John 3:5 – “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Baptism is a very important step in the salvation process.
D. When we look in scripture for a clear and concise description of just what the gospel is, we find 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, where Paul wrote: “1. Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2. by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you unless you believed in vain. 3. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4. and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” Simply put, Paul declared that the gospel is summed up in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
E. How do we today participate in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Paul tells us how, starting in Romans 6:3 – “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” When we obey the gospel we become participants in the death of Christ at baptism.

1. Continuing in Romans 6:4 – “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death… ” We obey the gospel when we become participants in the burial of Christ, through baptism when we are buried/immersed in water. “that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
2. We become participants in the resurrection of Jesus Christ when we arise from the watery grave of baptism to walk in our new life. Jesus was raised from the dead to a new life. When we arise from the waters of baptism, we arise to a new life. That new life is the life born of Spirit and water that Jesus taught. Through baptism we obey the gospel by becoming participants in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
3. God's grace and our faith will not get us in to the kingdom of God if we fail to be born again in the waters of baptism. Our faith must include baptism.

F. Faithful living: Jesus said in Matthew 10:22, “And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” and in Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” God's grace and our faith will not get us a crown of life if we fail to be faithful. Our faith must include being faithful and enduring to the end.

CONCLUSION: Grace is God reaching down to the lost from heaven with a chance for eternal life. Faith is man reaching upward to God in hope of that salvation. The source of our salvation is not our work or activity, but a work that has been done by someone else—Jesus. To be saved we must accept and rely upon what has been done for us. This act of relying on Jesus and His work is the very essence of faith. Grace won't save without faith and faith can't save without grace. It's God's grace and our faith. We can't have one without the other. Faith is our response to the grace offered.
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We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and be baptized for the remission of our sins… If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

If anybody needs to respond, either to dedicate themselves to Christ, be buried with Him in baptism, and become a part of the work He has for us; or if you need to ask for prayers on your behalf, won’t you come forward as we stand and sing our Invitational song.

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Reference Sermon by: David Hersey

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