Monday, January 2, 2023

God’s Sovereign Grace (Ephesians 2:1-10)

We are continuing our series on “Back to the Basics.” So far, we’ve looked at some basic truths about God and the gospel. But another very basic truth that we need to hold with clarity and with confidence is the truth of God’s sovereign grace. That is what we want to look at this morning.

Why is this important? It’s important because you can’t really understand God or the gospel if you don’t understand grace. For God is the God of all grace (1 Pet. 5:10), and the gospel is the gospel of grace (Acts 20:24). And this means that you can’t relate to God in any way other than by grace. If you do, you are going to end up at one of two places. Either you will end up in despair as you try to measure up to God’s standard and then inevitably fail again and again. Or you will end up in self-righteous presumption, thinking that you’ve somehow arrived because you’ve managed to replace God’s standard of holiness with your own. Either way, such people end up failing to see the Biblical solution to our greatest need: the gospel of the grace of God. We need grace, grace which is given to us in Jesus Christ.

However, I think it could also be rightfully said that most of the population in the West is neither despairing of salvation nor in the strictest sense are they preening in their self-righteous confidence of law-keeping. And the reason for this is because most folks now don’t really even think about their relationship with God. Secularism has trained us to live our lives as if God doesn’t even exist. But this is where a message on grace can be jarring in a very good way. It is jarring because the Biblical reminder that we need grace is a counter-cultural reminder that God is holy and that we need to be saved from his just wrath and that we cannot save ourselves. So this morning, whether you are despairing, or self- righteous, or just plain careless, this is a message you need to hear.

But even if you understand your need for grace, this is something that we need to come back to again and again. We need to because our sinful hearts get out of alignment so easily and can start pulling in the direction of pride or despair or carelessness. We need to be reminded again and again of the simple message of the grace of God.

That’s what we want to do this morning. As we look at this subject of grace, I don’t think there is a better place to do that than to look at Ephesians 2, where the apostle Paul declares quite explicitly, “For by grace are ye saved” (8). But what does he mean by that? I think most Christians would say that God is a God of grace and that he saves people by grace. Even many non-Christians would say that God is gracious. However, the Bible is very precise about this grace that saves. We need to understand it Biblically. And as we look at it here in the second chapter of Ephesians, we will discern not only what it means to be saved by grace, but also just how amazing it really is.

It is also a good thing to begin the year this way. A lot of times we begin the year with lots of resolutions to change. And that’s a good thing. But the thing is that this can feed into a legalistic mentality. We begin to put on ourselves burdens that we were never meant to carry. Now don’t get me wrong. We all need to change. There is always something in our lives that we need to repent of. But the very first place to start is not by looking inward for the strength to change. The very first place to start is with God and with his grace, and to recognize that the strength to change and repent doesn’t come ultimately from within or because we deserve God’s help. Rather, it comes from grace, the grace of God. This is the reason why the Sermon on the Mount begins this way it does: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:3). Only the poor in spirit will recognize their need for the grace of God. And that is where changes really begins. Do you want to draw closer to God this year? Do you want to be more Christlike? Do you want to know God better? Do you want to love God above all else and your neighbor as yourself? Do you want to strengthen your marriage? Do you want to be a better parent? Do you want to do something great for the Lord and his kingdom this year? Well, look to the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, grace which pardons and heals and strengthens and supplies every need. It is this grace that we want to talk about this morning.

In fact, let me give you five facts about this grace which also give us five reasons why the grace of God about which Paul is writing in Ephesians 2 is amazing. These five facts are the fallenness behind grace, the fountain of grace, the foundation for grace, the fruit from grace, and the finality of grace.

The fallenness behind grace

You can’t really understand what is meant when the Bible says that salvation is by grace if you don’t believe what the Scriptures say about the fallenness of mankind. We are not what we are supposed to be. You will sometimes hear people say that God loves you just as you are. Well, I can tell you on the basis of the Bible, that is not true, not by a long shot. That’s the whole reason God is in the business of saving people – he saves us from, not in, our sin (Mt. 1:21). If you are saved, you are being changed. And if you do not change, you will spend eternity in hell because of it. God does not like the way we are apart from his saving intervention in our lives; he hates it.

The fact of the matter is that we are miserable sinners, and we can’t merit salvation because we are miserable sinners, justly exposed to the wrath of God. The Bible clearly teaches, not that we are a little off the right track, but that we are wholly depraved by nature. We “were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (3). What Paul means by that is that we were born this way. It is why our Lord would tell Nicodemus that he had to be born again. Why born again? Because what we are by our first birth does not recommend us to God; indeed, as Paul puts it here we are all “dead in trespasses and in sins” (1).

What does that mean? What does it mean to be dead in sin? To understand what the apostle is saying here, let’s look more carefully at verses 1-3. In these three verses, he argues that by nature we are enslaved to the world, to the devil, and then to our own sinful desires.

We are by nature enslaved to the world

“Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world” (2). Paul is talking about what the Ephesian Christians were before they became followers of Jesus. He is talking to men and women, many of whom had been pagans before their conversion to Christ. As such, they had been walking according to the course of the world. In those times, paganism was the order of the day. That’s what everyone did, and it took a long time for it to die out, even though it eventually did.

This description of their past is a pointer to the reality that most people don’t really think for themselves. That is the way we like to think of ourselves of course. But most people are not that thoughtful. The reality is that when someone claims to be independently minded, if you examine their thinking carefully, they are really just doing what everyone around them is doing. Today, you hear a lot about deconversion stories. But folks who deconvert from Christianity are not being different from the world; they are just blending into the world around them. They are becoming more like the world, not less like it.

And that is what Paul is saying here. This is the natural state of us all. Now that doesn’t mean, however, that non-Christian people can’t ever be independent minded. One thinks of Churchill, who certainly marched to the beat of his own drum most of the time. What we mean is that most people in this world are just like everyone else – even those who march to the beat of their own tune – in that they are in rebellion against God and his world. The course of this world is not the worship of God; it is the worship of self. We are by nature unthankful and idolatrous. And we are idolators because we don’t want a god who is going to cramp our style. We will be religious, sure; but only so far as the god we serve ultimately serves us. We walk according to the course of this world.

We are by nature enslaved to Satan

“In time past ye walked . . . according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (2). Paul is talking about the devil here. Now he doesn’t mean that everyone is by nature a Satanist or a devil-worshiper. What he is saying is that those who are not born again are servants of the devil in that they do his bidding. They please the devil by living in unbelief and sin. This was true even of the Pharisees, those most religious of people. Our Lord said of them, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (Jn. 8:44).

We are by nature enslaved to our own sinful desires

“Among whom also we all had our conversation in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (3). Not only are we by nature enslaved to the world and to Satan, but our main problem is within. The only reason why we would join a world in rebellion against God is because we are first of all in rebellion against God. It is the reason also why we are subject to and blinded by the devil (cf. 2 Cor. 4:3). The reason we are bad is not outside of us primarily; it is within us. We are corrupt in our minds, affections, and wills. Note that Paul doesn’t just say “lusts of the flesh.” It is also “lusts of the mind.” In other words, Paul isn’t just talking about debauched people here; he is also talking about civilized people whose lives are consumed by things like pride and ambition and greed.

What the apostle is describing here is what theologians mean by total depravity. They mean that there is not a faculty of our soul that is not touched and corrupted and broken by sin. It means our thinking has been affected by sin; our affections have been affected by sin; our wills have been corrupted by sin. We are totally depraved in the sense that our total being is broken by sin. We are not just sick; we are dead in trespasses and in sins.

By the way, we need to acknowledge that by total depravity we don’t mean utter depravity.We are not saying that death in sin means that people are as bad as they can get. Not everyone is a Hitler, and we should be thankful for that. Even the lost are still made in the image of God and still capable of being kind and performing praiseworthy acts of virtue and heroism.

But that isn’t the same thing as pleasing God. You can be nice and still be dead in sins. Your mind and heart are still idol-factories; you are not living by faith in the true and living God. Your life does not please God. Remember that the first commandment is not to love your neighbor as yourself; the first commandment is to love God with all your heart and soul and mind. And by nature we do not do that. We love ourselves, not God. And we do so because we are dead in trespasses and in sins. The result of it all is that we are under the wrath of God (3). I cannot imagine a more fearful place to be. It would be utterly horrifying if that is where we stayed.

But here is why this shows us how amazing grace is. These are the kinds of people God saves. He doesn’t save the righteous and self-satisfied; he saved those who are dead in trespasses and in sins. He saves slaves, people who are servants to the world, the devil, and their own lusts. For Paul doesn’t stay here. Verse 3 is followed by verse 4, and for that we should thank God.

The fountain of grace

But if we are so bad, from where does grace come? From which fountain does this grace spring? What could possibly motivate God to show grace to the spiritually dead and depraved? The answer comes in verse 4: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us.” Notice that Paul doesn’t say that the dead made themselves alive and then God started loving them. Nor does this say that God loved them and made a way for them to make themselves alive. That’s not at all what this says. It says that because God loved these people who were dead in their sins, he stepped in and made them alive. Now I am not saying that we don’t act in our salvation. We do. What I am saying is that our action and willing is not the decisive cause of our being saved; it was God’s action and willing and love that is the decisive reason anyone is saved. As the apostle put it to the Romans, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Rom. 9:16).

Note that God’s love for them didn’t just make salvation possible; God’s love for them actually led to their salvation. “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)” (5). And it came from God and God alone. As the hymn puts it,

My Lord, I did not choose you, 

For that could never be; 

My heart would still refuse you 

Had you not chosen me.

This is pointing us to God’s unconditional election of the believers to salvation. Paul had already reminded them about this in chapter 1. He reminded them that every spiritual blessing in Christ is theirs “according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (1:4). To say that God chose them to be saved is just to say that before the foundation of the world, God sovereignly and unconditionally set his saving love upon them, so that they would not remain dead in sins but be made alive together in Christ.

This election is unconditional (cf. Rom. 9:11) because God didn’t choose them on the basis of foreseen faith or works. Their faith is the fruit of God’s election, not the cause of it. I mean, how could dead people recommend themselves to God anyway? This is why we read this in the book of Acts, explaining why certain people embraced the gospel by faith: “And when the Gentiles heard this [the gospel], they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). I don’t see how you can get any clearer than that. They weren’t ordained to eternal life because they believed; they believed because they were ordained to eternal life!

It is true to say that God has a general love for all mankind (cf. Mt. 5:43-48). God is not a sadist; he does not desire the death of the wicked. But that is not the same thing as the saving love that God sovereignly and unconditionally places upon his elect from all eternity. God is under no obligation to save anyone.

We are all dead in sins. We all deserve his wrath. It is not unjust for God to set his saving love upon some, not all, of the human race. His love and his salvation are sovereign. What is amazing is not that he didn’t save everyone; what is amazing is that God saved anyone at all, especially when we consider the cost at which he did this.

Which brings us to our next point.

The foundation for grace

The question here is how exactly can God show love to sinful men and women? For God is holy. How can he retain his holiness and justice and show mercy and grace to those who are wicked? The answer is found all throughout this passage. It is found in phrases like “in Christ” or “with Christ” (5-7). The apostle is saying that we are made spiritually alive in Christ and seated with him in heavenly places. What he means is that every saving blessing comes to us because of what Christ did for us (cf. 1:3, ff) and because we are united to him. You need to understand that just because God chose a people to be saved, that in itself isn’t salvation. Election is not salvation; it is to salvation. So once a people were chosen to be saved, something had to be done about their sins. And that is why you have this repeated phrase all throughout this epistle, “in Christ.” Because it is in Christ alone that our sin is dealt with.

We need to be released from the grip of sin; we also need to be released from the guilt of sin. And this is why there is this emphasis upon union with Christ. He is the one who dealt with sin upon the cross: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (1:7). He took upon himself the punishment due to us: “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). On the cross, there was a great exchange: our sins for his righteousness. It is because Christ stood in our place that we can have the forgiveness of all our sins and acceptance with God.

And will all for whom Christ died be saved? Yes. Think about it like this. God chose his elect in Christ. In Christ, God raises his elect from a spiritual death. The salvation of the elect is sure because Christ died for them. All whom God has chosen to be saved will be saved because of the redemption purchased by Christ. That’s what Paul is saying here. The salvation of the elect is a certain salvation. Christ is a successful redeemer.

As a church, we confess a belief in what is sometimes called limited atonement. Now I don’t like that phrase because it implies our Lord’s redemptive work is somehow deficient. But it isn’t. The phrase is unfortunate, but it just means that since the number of the elect is limited, the number of those who are embraced by the saving benefits of Christ’s death is also limited. It means that the purpose of our Lord in dying was not to save some unknown mass of humanity who may or may not be saved, but to certainly save his elect. He came to give his life for his sheep (John 10:15) and for the church (Eph. 5:25-27). As Jesus put it in John 6, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (Jn. 6:37-39). In those verses, our Lord is saying that his will in salvation is the same as the will of his Father. And that means that the elect are the ones for whom the atonement was meant to save.

Now we have to be careful that we don’t take that doctrine in directions the NT does not allow. There are some who take that and say that because election is limited and the atonement is limited, therefore our preaching should be limited. But the same Scriptures that teach us about unconditional election and limited atonement also teach us that the gospel is to be preached to all, “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations” (Lk. 24:48). You don’t see the doctrines of sovereign grace cramping Paul’s preaching in the book of Acts. And this is why I think we also need to hear verses like John 3:16, 1 Jn. 2:2, 1 Tim. 2:4, and so on. They remind us that the preaching of the cross is a message for all the world to hear. And God will draw his elect to faith through this message so that they too will find the forgiveness of sins. In the final analysis, we can be confident that there is no contradiction between the full preaching of the gospel and sovereign grace.

But how does this show us how amazing grace is? Well, you see it, don’t you? Is it not breathtakingly amazing that God would die for sinners? That the Son of God would lay aside his glory and enter into a sin-cursed earth and live among rebels and die an infinitely inglorious and awful death at their hands? This is the amazement of grace: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6-8). Or as Paul would put it to the Corinthians, “You 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” (2 Cor. 8:9). What riches forsaken! What poverty endured! Yes, this is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The fruit from grace

What happens when God shows grace to sinners though Christ? These verses tell us this as well and explain for us what is the fruit that comes from grace.

Now we’ve noticed the work of the Father who out of love chose some to everlasting life. We’ve seen the work of the Son, the Lord, who died for the elect so that through union with him they might be given eternal life. What about the work of the Spirit? It is true that the Spirit isn’t explicitly mentioned in these verses. But this is why it is important to read passages in light of the larger context of a book, and then in light of the overall context of the Bible. In Ephesians, we learn that God’s people are sealed (Eph. 1:13; 4:30) and filled (5:18) and strengthened (3:16) by the Holy Spirit. If it is true that the Spirit strengthens us, it should not surprise us that the Spirit give us life. And this is exactly what our Lord said to Nicodemus, when he spoke to him about the new birth in John 3: “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (5-8). The new birth in John 3 is almost certainly the same thing as being made alive, or quickened, in Ephesians 2. And since the new birth is a work of the Spirit, that means that this quickening from a death in sins is accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit. This is the great fruit of grace that is put on display in this text.

And this work is effectual. What I mean by that is just that those whom God makes alive are actually made alive. They are not put in a state where they can possibly, if they want to, make themselves alive. No, they are in fact brought from a state of death in sin to a state of death to sin (cf. Rom. 6). Paul put it this way to the Colossians: “[God] hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13). This is an effectual work in the sense that everyone whom God calls in this way is brought to newness of life (cf. Rom. 8:30). Our Lord said, “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (Jn. 6:45). Note the emphasis here on every man. . . comes to me. Those whom the Father draws to himself through the Spirit comes to faith in Christ, no exceptions.

Now this doesn’t mean that we are like robots in this process. God doesn’t remove our will in this process or make an end-run around it. He doesn’t force us against our wills to embrace his Son by faith and to trust him for salvation and to repent of our sins. God doesn’t work against us; he works in us so that we willingly and freely embrace him. He gives us a new heart and takes away the heart of stone (Ezek. 36:26). For this reason it shouldn’t surprise us that every person’s experience coming to life in Christ will different, since each person is different. But whatever our personality and whatever our background, God is able through the sovereign Spirit to effectually bring his chosen ones to faith and repentance.

This is sometimes called irresistible grace. But what about those in Scripture who are said to resist the Sprit? Doesn’t that mean that grace is resistible? Yes, it is true that the Bible speaks of people resisting the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 7:51). Every time someone rejects God’s word, that is what they are doing, for the word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). But not every work of the Spirit is resistible and that is what our text teaches. When God regenerates a sinner, he moves him/her from death to life, irresistibly, just as Jesus called Lazarus from the dead.

One of the implications of this is that God, not us, is the decisive mover in our salvation. We do respond. We do willingly embrace Jesus by faith and repent of our sins. Believing and trusting in Jesus our Lord and Savior is something we do and something we must do if we will be saved. But what Paul is saying here in Ephesians 2 and what the Bible says in many other places is that we do all these things because of God’s effectual grace, because of the work of Spirit in our hearts, giving us life and bringing us into God’s kingdom and family. The answer to the question, “Who makes you to differ from another?” is not, “Me!” The answer is, and must be, God, and God alone (cf. 1 Cor. 4:7). As Paul put it to the Corinthians, “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:27-31).

This is amazing grace because it can take the most depraved sinner and make him or her a child of God, can take away the stoniest heart and make it a heart of flesh. God can take the most stiff-necked rebels and make them into the happiest and holiest followers of Jesus. Think about the apostle Paul himself, who wrote this. To Timothy he would write, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” (1 Tim. 1:12-16).

Brothers and sisters, let this amaze us. Let it give us hope. Let it humble us, God’s effectual grace.

The finality of grace

But can God’s grace be in vain (cf. 1 Cor. 15:10)? Will it stick? The answer is yes. I must confess that it always surprises me when I hear of people who embrace the doctrines of grace, but who waffle on the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints. They contradict themselves by implying that God’s grace to get a sinner born again is effective, but God’s grace somehow loses its effectiveness after that. They think a born-again person can lose their faith (although not their salvation). But this is not what the Scriptures teach. Hopefully, our recent messages on Hebrews has shown not only the importance but also the necessity of persevering in the faith to the end. But what I want to point out here is that it is the fruit of God’s grace that keeps us.

You see it in verse 10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” This is a purpose of grace (8-10). What we see in these verses is that God’s gracious purpose for us is not just to bring us to faith (8), but also to create a life of good works. God ordained that we should walk in them. This is not talking about a one-off thing. This is talking about a life of good works. God doesn’t plant rotten trees; he plants good trees and good trees produce good fruit. If God has ordained that his elect walk in good works, you can be sure that they will do so.

This doesn’t mean that the elect don’t or can’t sin. The doctrine of perseverance is not a doctrine of sinless perfection. It doesn’t mean that they don’t sometimes do really bad things. That is not what the doctrine teaches. We do sin and sometimes grievously (1 Jn. 1:8, 10). Just as we are not robots when God draws us to himself, so we are not robots after God draws us to himself. And that means at least partly that we can make choices that are less than admirable.

However, there is a limit to this, and this is what it means that God preserves us so that we persevere. We are God’s workmanship, not just in terms of the new birth, but also in terms of the life that follows. God doesn’t give up on us so that we will not give up on him. Christ prays for us Peters that our faith fail not (Lk. 22:31-32). He will not let us slip away. Indeed, he is the one who “is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). If he is able, do you not think he will also do it?

Saved by grace through faith

This then – the eternal love of the Father who unites his chosen ones to Christ who sends his Spirit and raises them from a death in sins to newness of life and creates in them a life of good works – this is the context for verses 8 and 9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” The “for” points us to verses 1-7 and the “for” of verse 10 points us back to verses 8-9. Together, this text illustrates and defines for us what it means to be saved by grace.

  • To be saved by grace, to be given this unmerited favor by God, means that we fundamentally don’t deserve salvation, for we were dead in trespasses and in sins. That is the truth to which the fallenness behind grace (total depravity) points us.

  • To be saved by grace means that the source of our salvation didn’t originate in ourselves – how could it, for we were dead! – but rather in God’s surprising, eternal, unchangeable, and unconditional love by which he chose some of the human race to be saved in Christ. This is the truth to which the fountain of grace (unconditional election) points us.

  • To be saved by grace means that we don’t merit our salvation but rather that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the God-Man, merited it for us on the cross by suffering the punishment due to our sin. He accomplished redemption for his elect so that his death is the death of death. This is the truth to which the foundation for grace (particular redemption, or limited atonement) points us.

  • To be saved by grace means that in time God sends his Spirit to regenerate his elect and to bring them effectually from a death in sin to newness of life in Christ, so that they willingly and freely embrace Jesus Christ by faith as he is presented to them in the gospel so that their sins are forgiven, and they are justified and accepted before God. That is the truth to which the fruit from grace (irresistible grace) points us.
  • To be saved by grace means that God keeps what he created, that his elect are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed on the Final Day. This is the truth to which the finality of grace (final perseverance of the saints) points us.

Now how should you respond to this? What is the only way to respond to a message of grace from God? And there is only one answer: as verse 8 indicates, you must respond by faith in Jesus Christ, by embracing him as your Lord and Savior and by trusting him and him alone for your salvation. As we close, I want you to notice in verse 8 how grace and faith go together. You see this all over Paul’s writings. In fact, he puts it this way to the Romans: “Therefore it [God’s saving promise] is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed” (4:16). We are saved by faith in order that we might be saved by grace. To be saved by faith means that we personally appropriate the gift of salvation when we put our trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The Bible teaches that all who believe will be saved, will have their sins forgiven and enjoy eternal life in the presence of God forever.

And this is by grace because faith is the empty hand of the beggar. Faith is the open mouth of the starving soul. It is the empty pocket of the morally and spiritually bankrupt sinner. When we come in faith to Christ, we are saying that we are looking to him and to him alone for our salvation. Faith is the plea to God to save us by grace alone through Christ alone. Have you? Do you? Are you? If you are staying away from Christ because you think he won’t receive you, and if you think he won’t receive you because you are just too bad, then you are waiting for something to boast in. But salvation is not for boasters. It is for people who recognize that they cannot save themselves. And the good news is that God saves sinners. Not the righteous but the ungodly (Rom. 4:5).

On the other hand, if you are staying away because you don’t think you need to be saved by Jesus Christ, if you think you are good enough, that you can stand on your own two feet before God, then go ahead. But you have made a tragic choice. You can make yourself believe that you are as good as others, but the standard is not others, the standard is God and his perfect holiness. You won’t stand before God without a perfect righteousness, and you can only get that righteousness through faith in Christ alone. He is the only hope for you or for any sinner. May the Spirit of grace open your eyes to see your need of him! Repent of your self-righteousness and trust in Christ alone for your salvation and you will find grace upon grace!

So, brothers and sisters, let this year be marked by a renewed embrace on our parts of the grace of God. Let us trust in him through our Lord Jesus Christ for every spiritual blessing. Let us hope in his grace. Let his grace empower lives of happy holiness. And let it flavor the way we interact with others, beginning in our own homes. Do you embrace of the grace of God? Then let it show in the way you love your wife oryour husband, your children, your brothers and sisters, your co-workers, the church, and the lost. Receive the free grace of God by faith in Christ. And then live out the grace of God by faith in Christ.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-five-not-points-of-calvinism

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