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Sermon #33 — Ephesians Sermons

 

      Title:                                 Grace Alone

 

      Text:                                  Ephesians 2:1-22

      Subject:               Salvation by Grace Alone

      Date:                                Sunday Evening — March 27, 2016

      Readings:           Larry Brown and Rex Bartley

      Introduction:       

 

The title of my message is Grace Alone. I want us to read the 2nd chapter of Ephesians together; and I want to show you from the Book of God that salvation is by Grace Alone.

 

(Ephesians 2:1-22) “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; (2) Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (3) Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

 

(4) But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, (5) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (6) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (7) That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

 

(8) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast. (10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

 

(11) Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; (12) That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: (13) But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

 

(14) For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; (15) Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; (16) And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: (17) And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. (18) For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

 

(19) Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; (20) And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; (21) In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: (22) In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

 

Grace Alone — That is my subject.

 

All that I was, my sin, my guilt,

My death was all mine own;

All that I am, I owe to Thee,

My gracious God, alone.

 

The evil of my former state

Was mine, and only mine;

The good in which I now rejoice

Is Thine, and only Thine.

 

The darkness of my former state,

The bondage — all was mine;

The light of life in which I walk,

The liberty — is Thine.

 

Thy grace that made me feel my sin

It taught me to believe;

Then, in believing, peace I found,

And now, I live, I live!

 

All that I am, even here on earth,

All that I hope to be,

When Jesus comes, and glory dawns,

I owe it, Lord to Thee.

 

Grace

 

“Grace!” — What a wonderful word! The Greek word for grace is beautifully meaningful. It is a word that the Greeks admired. It refers to that indescribable something that causes one to love someone. It is that which causes one person’s attraction to another. It is very near the word love. In some instances the Greeks would use the word grace to refer to a burst of generosity that would bestow a lavish gift, unmerited, without the thought of reward or return of kindness. The Apostles took this word, beautiful as it was, and made it even more so. They exalted it to heavenly use. They used the word of grace to describe the love and mercy of God in Jesus Christ for his people.

 

Grace originally referred to a gift. Then it referred to the forgiveness of a debt. A man could not pay his debt; but the lender would freely forgive the debtor, out of grace. Finally, grace came to refer to the mercy of God in forgiving us and saving us. This is the way God saves sinners. — “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord!” — “By grace ye are saved!” — All of us were perishing like the falling leaves of autumn; but God in his goodness and mercy saved us. He did it by grace alone. — “By grace ye are saved!”

 

Because God is gracious, sinners are welcome at the Throne of Grace! Because God is abounding in infinite love, he forgives us. His mercy endures forever. Therefore we are not destroyed. It is because of God’s marvelous and majestic grace that we are saved. Grace is in God. Paul insisted that salvation is altogether a matter of grace throughout his writings. Above all other truths, he wanted this truth to grasp our hearts. He stated it twice in this chapter. He stated it both positively and negatively. — “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.” Salvation is something God has done for us by grace alone. It is delivered to us as a gift of love and mercy.

 

Criminal Doctrine

 

Children of God, understand this. — The criminal doctrine, the damning heresy against which the church of God must contend in all ages, especially in this day of antichrist darkness, is salvation by works. The great opponent to the truth as it is in Jesus Christ is that pride of the human heart which convinces man that he can, at least in part, be his own savior. This error is the mother of all heresies. It is the universal doctrine of Babylon. It is through this falsehood that the pure stream of truth has been polluted. It is my firm conviction that “Grace Alone” must be our relentless message to this generation. — “By grace ye are saved.” Departure from this message is the root of all religious error, the cause of all heresy.

 

In all times when this doctrine has been obscured, the church has either become heretical or Laodician. She has either held some dangerous and damnable heresy, or she has held the Gospel of God with such feeble hands that she has lost her power and her enemies have prevailed over her like the Philistines over Israel. The mightiest men of all ages in the history of Christ’s church, those who have done the most good for God’s kingdom and the world at large, have been those who made this their message — “Grace Alone!”

 

In Augustine’s day, there had been a grievous falling away from the simplicity of the Gospel. God raised up this man to preach the glorious truth of salvation by grace to his generation. If men had heard his voice, the great heresy of Rome would have been stayed, at least for a while. Popery would have been an impossibility. Later, when Romanism had become very strong, the Lord raised up Martin Luther, who taught this great central truth of Christianity, that sinners are justified by faith rather than by works. After Luther came another distinguished teacher of the doctrine of grace — John Calvin. Calvin was even more clearly instructed in the Gospel of grace than Luther. He pushed the grand doctrine of the Gospel to its proper consequences.

 

Calvin preached this great staple doctrine, the message of Ephesians, the message of this Book — “By grace ye are saved.” It is common in these days to call those preachers who dwell mainly on this doctrine “Calvinists.” We accept that title gladly. It indicates that our message is the message of grace. We assert again and again that the truth that Calvin preached was the thunderous message of Augustine before him. More importantly, this is the message Paul preached and the message our Lord Jesus preached. The Gospel of God is the Gospel of Grace Alone!

 

We desire to preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Therefore, we proclaim salvation by grace alone.“By grace ye are saved.” In doing so we keep the best of company. John Knox thundered this message throughout Scotland. In England God had his voices of truth as well. There was the mighty Dr. John Gill, Benjamin Keach, John Rippon, John Bunyan, Philip Doddridge, Augustus Toplady, and Charles Spurgeon. And in America, who can deny that God wrought wonders in his kingdom as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield carried the message of grace into our open fields?

 

We are not the followers of mere men. Yet, we hold dearly those doctrines revealed in Scripture that these men, and many others, have boldly proclaimed. Grace Alone was the grand message of the church in days of old. — “By grace ye are saved.” And to this truth the church must return, if we are to stem the tide of heresy and shake the earth again. God give us men who will not be ashamed to declare to all men, rich and poor, black and white, learned and unlearned — “By grace ye are saved.”

 

Proposition: Salvation is altogether a work of God’s grace. That is the doctrine of this Book, the doctrine of this Epistle, and the doctrine of this chapter. Grace Alone is the message of the Gospel. Now I pray that God the Holy Spirit will open my mouth to proclaim this message once again to you.

 

Grace Alone

 

I intend to drive this nail until this hammer is worn out. God helping me, I will not change my message. Like Jephthah of old, I have lifted my hand to God and I cannot go back. — Salvation is by grace alone! —Salvation is of the Lord!” — From start to finish salvation is by the grace of God alone. There is no part of salvation which is, even in the slightest degree, dependent upon or determined by the will of man or the works of the flesh.

 

ELECTION is the free eternal choice of God’s sovereign grace to save some of Adam’s race, without any consideration of personal merit, potential merit, or pre-known merit (Romans 9:11-13; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

 

REDEMPTION is the particular, effectual ransom of God’s elect out from under the curse of the law by the death of Christ (Isaiah53:8; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 9:12). Man does nothing to make redemption complete, or effectual.

 

JUSTIFICATION is God making sinners redeemed by the blood of Christ the very righteousness of God in him, without works (Romans 4:3-5). We are made the righteousness of God without doing anything righteous, just as Christ was made sin for us, without ever committing sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:19).

 

REGENERATION is the spiritual resurrection of dead sinners to life in Christ (John 5:25; Revelation 20:6). The dead sinner does nothing to make himself live! Repentance, faith, and conversion are the results of the new birth, not the cause.

 

SANCTIFICATION is holiness imparted to the child of God in regeneration. The holy seed implanted, the holy nature created, bears fruit unto God, not by the energy of the flesh, but by the power of the Spirit (1 John 3:9-10).

 

PERSEVERANCE is the believer’s continuation in grace. It is necessary. But it is not our work. It is the work of Christ, who gives us eternal life, holds us in his hand, and will not let us go (John 10:27-29).

 

HEAVEN is the reward of righteousness, bestowed only upon those who fully deserve eternal glory. And it is ours, in all its blessed fulness, not by anything we do, have done, or can do, but by the blood and righteousness of Christ freely bestowed upon us in saving grace (Colossians 1:12).

 

To make any part of salvation dependent upon works is to deny the grace of God altogether and trample under foot the precious blood of Christ (Galatians 5:1-4).

 

Divisions: I want to raise several questions and show you their answers from the Scripture.

1.    Why is God gracious to us?

2.    What does the Gospel of grace proclaim?

3.    What does grace mean, as it is used in the Scriptures?

4.    What inferences may we draw from the doctrine of grace?

 

Why?

 

1st  Why is God gracious to us? — Our text teaches us that God is gracious to sinners. But what is the cause of his grace? Certainly, the cause is not to be found in us (Isaiah 1:2-6).

 

(Isaiah 1:2-6) “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. (3) The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. (4) Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. (5) Why should ye be stricken anymore? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. (6) From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.”

 

The very mention of the word grace destroys all supposed human merit.

Š      There was no beauty in us.

Š      There was no goodness in us.

Š      There was no wisdom in us.

Š      There was no power in us.

Š      There was no inclination to anything good in us.

 

It is obvious to everyone who reads his Bible that fallen man has nothing in him or about him to attract God’s mercy and grace. Therefore, the cause of his grace must be something outside of us.

 

God is gracious to us because he loves us (Ephesians 2:4; Jeremiah 31:3).

Š      God loved us eternally (Ephesians 1:4).

Š      God loved us particularly (Romans 9:13).

Š      God loved us perfectly.

Š      God loved us freely.

Š      God loved us graciously.

 

Š      He gave us his Son because he loved us (1 John 4:9-10; John 3:16).

Š      He adopted us as his sons because he loved us (1 John 3:1).

Š      He gave us his grace because he loved us (2 Timothy 1:9).

Š      He gave us himself because he loved us (1 John 3:16).

 

God is gracious to us simply because he delights to show us grace (Romans 9:18).

 

(Romans 9:11-18) “(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) (12) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. (13) As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. (14) What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. (15) For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (16) So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. (17) For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. (18) Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.”

 

Message of Grace

 

2nd What does the Gospel of grace proclaim? — What is the message of grace? You will observe that Paul addresses certain people to whom he says, “Ye are saved.” He does not say, “Ye shall be saved,” or “Ye hope to be saved.” He speaks to them as people already saved. Now, there are no people upon the face of the earth to whom it can be said, “Ye are saved,” unless it can also be said of them, “Ye are saved by grace.” I see two things in this.

 

First, the Apostle speaks of a present salvation. The Gospel of grace proclaims a present salvation to all who trust Christ. He speaks not of people who would be saved when they died, or who hoped to be saved in some future state. Paul addresses those who are saved — who had salvation in possession.

Š      It does not honor Christ for his people always to doubt their salvation.

Š      A present salvation cannot consistently be preached by those who hold to a system of salvation by works.

Š      No works monger can claim a present salvation.

Š      The Arminian claims that he is saved, but he does not know whether he will be saved tomorrow, or not.

Š      A present salvation can be proclaimed only by a Gospel which proclaims, “By grace are ye saved.”

 

The Gospel of grace proclaims that salvation in all its fulness, all its riches, all its length and breadth, depth and height is a present reality to be enjoyed now.

Š      God’s law is now silenced.

Š      My sins are now pardoned.

Š      I am now justified.

Š      I am now God’s son.

 

The terrors of the law, and of God,

With me can have nothing to do;

My Savior’s obedience and blood

Hide all my transgressions from view.

 

My name from the palms of His hands

Eternity will not erase;

Impressed on His heart it remains

In marks of indelible grace.

 

Yes, I to the end shall endure,

As sure as the earnest is given;

More happy, but not more secure,

The glorified spirits in heaven.

 

Second, the Gospel of grace proclaims a perfect salvation (Hebrews 7:25). — We teach that the moment a man believes in Christ, he is completely and perfectly saved. He is not put into a savable state. He is not half saved. He is not in danger of being lost. He is saved, and saved perfectly. I truly believe that though the saints in heaven have received the ultimate crown of salvation, they are not more perfectly saved than the poorest sinner on earth who believes in Christ.

 

(Colossians 1:12) “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”

 

(Colossians 2:9-10) “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (10) And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.”

 

Our salvation was completely accomplished when our triumphant Savior cried, “It is finished!”

Š      He finished a perfect obedience to God for us.

Š      He endured the penalty of the law for us.

Š      He washed away our sins.

Š      He reconciled God to us.

 

When a man receives Christ as Savior, God gives him a perfect salvation. The good news of heaven is not “Christ can save.” It is “Christ has saved.”

Š      We are accepted in the Beloved.

Š      We are made righteous.

Š      We are secure (John 10:28-30; 4:14).

Š      We are complete in Christ.

 

Only the Gospel of grace can proclaim salvation as a present reality.

Š      The legalist cannot make this claim.

Š      The ritualist cannot make this claim.

Š      The Roman Catholic cannot make this claim.

Š      The Arminian cannot make this claim.

Š      But the Gospel of grace enables the child of God to claim with confidence, — “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

 

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now I’m found –

Was blind, but now I see.

 

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear,

The hour I first believed!

 

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,

I have already come;

‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.

 

The Lord has promised good to me,

His Word my hope secures;

He will my Shield and Portion be,

As long as life endures.

 

And when this flesh and heart shall fail,

And mortal life shall cease;

I shall possess within the veil,

A life of joy and peace.

 

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,

Bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,

Than when we first begun!

 

Still, there is more. — The Gospel of God, the Gospel of the grace of God, proclaims an eternal salvation, the salvation proclaimed by the preaching of grace alone is salvation finished from the foundation of the world (Hebrews 4:3; Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:2-6; 2 Timothy 1:9-10).

 

(Hebrews 4:3) “For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.”

 

(Romans 8:28-30) “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (29) For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (30) Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”

 

(Ephesians 1:3-6) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (4) 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: (5) Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (6) To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

 

(2 Timothy 1:9-10) “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, (10) But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

 

Meaning of Grace

 

3rdWhat does grace mean as it is used in the Scriptures?

 

Quote: “When used in the Bible to set forth the grace of God in the salvation of sinners, the word “grace” discloses not only the boundless goodness of God and his kindness toward man, but reaches far beyond and indicates the supreme motive which actuated God in the creation, preservation, and consummation of the universe…It is nothing less than the unlimited love of God expressing itself in measureless grace.” — Lewis Sperry Chafer

 

Let me just give you a few statements about the meaning of God’s grace.

 

Grace is the good favor of God. — There is nothing in us that could ever merit God’s esteem, or give him such delight as to lead him to bestow upon us the blessings of eternal salvation. If we ask why any individuals are rescued from the ruins of the fall, and enabled to believe in Christ, the only answer is, “Even so Father, for it seemed good in Thy sight.”

Š      We were not saved because of our talents.

Š      We were not saved because of our wealth.

Š      We were not saved because of our good character.

Š      We were not saved because of the excellence of our disposition.

Š      There is much in us to repel God, but nothing to attract him.

 

Grace is the marvelous operation of God.

Š      It was God who gave us our first holy desire.

Š      It was God who made us willing to hear the Gospel.

Š      It was God who gave us faith.

Š      It was God who gave us repentance.

Š      It was God who gave us life.

Š      I will go yet further and say that if God brought us within one foot of the gates of heaven, and left it for us to enter in, we would all surely perish.

 

Someone may say, “Is it not man’s duty to repent and believe the Gospel.” I reply, yes, indeed it is. But I am not talking about man’s duty, but his ability. If the poor beggar owes the local grocery store a thousand dollars, it is his duty to pay; but he doesn’t have the ability. So it is our duty to repent and believe, but we had no power. And here is the glory of God’s grace. He gives us repentance and faith.

Š      Grace alone preserves us to life everlasting.

Š      Grace alone gives us eternal glory.

 

Grace is the sovereign prerogative of God. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious!

 

Our sov’reign God maintains

His universal throne;

In heav’n, and earth, and hell He reigns,

And makes His wonders known!

His counsels and decrees,

Firmer than mountains stand;

He will perform whate’er He please;

And none can stay his hand!

 

All things His will controls;

And His all-wise decree

Has fixed the destinies of all

In matchless sov’reignty. —

Jacob by grace He saved,

And gives no reason why;

But Esau’s heart He left depraved. —

And who shall dare reply?

 

What if the Potter takes

Part of a lump of clay,

And for Himself a vessel makes

And casts the rest away?

Who shall resist His will, or say,

“What doest Thou?”

Jehovah is the Sov’reign still;

And all to Him must bow!

 

My soul, bow and adore

The Lord in all His ways;

His sov’reignty none can explore;

But I will trust His grace!

For of Him and through Him

And to Him are all things:

To Whom be glory evermore!

Amen! Amen! Amen!

 

Inferences

 

4th — Let me briefly answer this question. — What inferences may be drawn from the doctrine of grace?

Š      If we are saved by grace, we should be humble.

Š      If we are saved by grace, we should have great compassion on those who are not saved.

 

John Newton wrote, “A Calvinist who gets angry with the ungodly is inconsistent with his profession. He knows that no man can receive this doctrine except by the grace of God; so, if God has not given these men the grace to receive this doctrine, rather pray for them than get angry with them, and ask that they may receive the truth in which your soul delights.”

 

If we are saved by grace, then nothing should bring us discomfort.

Š      Are you afflicted? You are saved by grace.

Š      Are you poor? You are saved by grace.

Š      Are you neglected and despised? You are saved by grace.

Š      Are you sick? You are saved by grace.

 

Children of the Heavenly King,

As ye journey sweetly sing;

Sing your Savior’s worthy praise,

Glorious in His works and ways.

 

If we are saved by grace, we should be utterly devoted to him who saved us by his grace.

 

Application

 

1.    Some of you are not yet saved. Yet, there is hope for you, for salvation is all of grace.

2.    Children of God, rejoice in this: — Salvation is by Grace Alone!

3.    Carry this message throughout this little community of ours — “Salvation is of the Lord!” — “By grace ye are saved.” — Salvation is by Grace Alone!

 

Grace! ‘Tis a charming sound,

Harmonious to mine ear,

Heaven with the echo shall resound,

And all the earth shall hear.

 

The headstone of God’s spiritual temple shall be brought forth with shoutings, crying, “Grace, grace unto it!” Let us now begin the heavenly shout! — “Grace, grace unto it!” — “Grace, grace unto it!

 

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Don Fortner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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