Saved By Grace

art-2092530_1920

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God  (Ephesians 2:8).

This little phrase “by grace are ye saved” is undoubtedly the favourite of many believers. There is no denying the fact that the Christian life is all of grace from start to finish. Even if you do not know this text, as a Christian, you know or must know that your salvation is all of grace to which you added nothing or contributed nothing and the text is clear in that sense: “and that not of yourselves.” If you don’t know this fact, perhaps I will ask you “how did you become a Christian?” B. B. Warfield, a theologian in the 19th century said that: “The whole gospel turns as upon its hinge on this fact,that salvation is of pure grace.” The text under consideration therefore is one of the glorious truth of the Christian faith that salvation is all of grace.

What Is Grace?

In the world, there are only two religions. There is a religion of grace and a religion of human effort: a religion of faith and a religion of works; True religion and false religion. And Christianity apart from all religions is a religion of grace through faith alone for salvation. Now before we can have a good appreciation of the grace of God, we need to have have a good appreciation of what our problem as human beings is. Grace has become a normal language so perhaps many often lose the true significance of grace. You ask someone how are you and whether they are a Christian or not, you are likely to hear them responding “fine by grace.” Grace is not lost on us I believe, but often many people interpret grace in very shallow and materialistic way. Listen to the words of this contemporary gospel music:

From the planes I fly, the cars I drive, the money I have
Ebe God e dey bless me
Food on my table, houses I’ve built, family I’ve got
Ebe God e dey bless me,
It’s not by power, it’s not by strength, just by the Holy Ghost
And I’m not ashamed to tell the world, my blessings dey come from God

You see what people call blessings out there? Money, cars, houses, food… Not that these are not important. But if these are what we want to point out to the world as God’s blessings, then we are doomed. Our understanding of blessing is very shallow and materialistic indeed. To have a good understanding of grace therefore, we need a good understanding of our condition as human beings. Contrast and compare the words of the song we just looked at with the words of this hymn and the difference will be clear:

Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see

Here is a true reflection of what grace really is and it reveals the condition of the sinner and everyone before they came to Christ: They were wretched, lost and blind. Wretched because we lacked the love of God. Lost because we are distanced from God and blind without an appreciation of the truth of God. Sinners are blinded to the truth of God. Grace, is commonly described as God’s unmerited favour. Others have described it as God’s Redemption at Christ’s Expense using the letters that spells grace.

All these are true. But I want us to look at the text and get our own understanding from the text about what grace is and what Paul is talking about. As we attempt to do that, we will also answer the question.

What Have We Been Saved From?

The text speaks of been saved by grace. Now to be saved means one was previously in a dangerous or precarious situation. And as we look at the Scriptures; what we have been saved from becomes clear.

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
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: 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.

Dead in trespasses and sins

The whole text we are looking at paints a picture of gloom and hopelessness from vv.1-3. Paul here contrasts the life of the Ephesian believers when they were unbelievers with their lives when they became believers. And in this contrast, we learn something true of all humanity before they come to Christ.All of us and all human beings have different personalities. We come from different backgrounds. Different parts of the world. In our own country we come from different tribes. We are different in so many ways. But all of us, despite our different background have one thing in common; we are sinners. We come into his world as sinners. One theologian has said that “we come into this world, dead on arrival” And our sin has actually separated us from God.

Hopelesness

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; 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 (vv 11-12).

To be hopeless is simply to be without Christ and without God. The world’s greatest problem is not poverty or sickness. The world’s greatest problem is separation from God. As Gentiles, the Ephesians, before they came to faith were hopeless. They had no hope.
Not only that, as Gentiles, the Ephesians were outside of God’s family: they were aliens and strangers from the covenants of promise. When God’s people are counted, they didn’t belong. The Jews had a national pride for being the people of God and everyone else was outside of the covenant of God. Remember David’s description of Goliath? “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine?” Circumcision then was a mark of covenant relationship. In simple terms Gentiles did not fit in. They didn’t belong to God’s family. They were far off (v.13).

Enemies of God

For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 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; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby (vv. 14-16).

Because sinners are dead in sin living their lives contrary to God’s commands, they have set themselves up against God. Sinners are enemies of God, they will have nothing to do with God. We hate God. Naturally of our ownselves we will have nothing to do with God. Paul used an actual historical event to illustrate this. There is evidence that in the second temple of Jewish worship, there was an inscription barring Gentiles from entering the temple. Any Gentile who goes against this will suffer death. The inscription reads:

No foreigner is to enter the barriers surrounding the sanctuary. He who is caught will have himself to blame for his death which will follow
So both from the natural point of view and the spiritual, man is lost and helpless without God.
that not of yourselves

The very first three verses of Ephesians as you can see is full of gloom and hopelessness. Natural man is depicted as not having the ability in themselves. to respond to God: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day”(John 6:44). In fact, if left on her own, the sinner would not come to God. To be dead in sin is comparable to a corpse. A corpse cannot give life to itself can it? It is in this sense Paul say “not of yourselves”. You cannot save yourself. You have no power over your life. In Matthew 6 Jesus said you cant even add a cubit to your height. How much more salvation?

But God
Having spoken of how gloomy our situation was, a light of hope is shown through our hopelessness with the words in vv.4-5“But God”. This juxtaposes God’s ability with our inability: what we couldn’t do with what God did in our regeneration. Out of our despondent, desperate, hopeless situation as sinners, hope sprung from God. From v4 onwards, we see the love and mercy of God at display towards the sinner. And that’s what grace is about:

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us (v.4)

Grace is about God’s richness in mercy towards sinners. Grace is God’s great love towards his people.

A New Life

When God intervenes in our deadness, He gives us eternal life. He makes us alive to be able to relate with him. He also grants us eternal life and draws us to himself through Christ. The sinner who once had no hope is now given hope in this life because he is now united with Christ and reconciled to God (v5). We are seated in the heavenly places that means we are now citizens of heaven. We have hope now and hope in the life to come. God has purposed to show us “in the coming ages…the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus “(v7).
This new life is not a result of anything good or meritorious work in us. It is a new life that springs from the love, mercy and grace–unmerited favour– of God

What Must You Do?

If you have not come to faith in Christ Jesus, all that has been said of the former life of the believer is true of you. You are dead in sin, hopeless without God, you are an enemy of God and his wrath is upon you. This is a fearful thing and this very day, God offers you life in his Son Jesus. You have to turn to him in faith and repent of your sins. He makes a call: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

 

Advertisements

Dashed Hopes In Christ

Hopelessness

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel (Luke 24:21a).

These words were spoken by the men taking a journey to Emmaus whom Jesus approached and started asking questions of. Apparantly, they were discussing the events that had happened; i.e. Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection. Jesus joined them and asked a question. Scripture says somehow, they couldn’t recognise him:

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus , about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them . But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” (Luke 24:13-17a).

The first response to that question Scripture tells us was sadness: “And they stood still, looking sad” (Luke 24:17b). These words are not encouraging since it showed a sense of disappointment. Now what better explains all of this is that these were people with misplaced hopes of the ministry of Jesus Christ. They had defined Christ’s ministry according to their most immediate felt needs. During Jesus’ lifetime on earth, the Jewish nation was under Roman rule and hence the Messiah, in their understanding was going to deliver them from that rule. Another of such misplaced hopes is seen in Acts 1:6 before Christ’s ascension: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” the disciples asked.

You see, one thing is clear here. Their agenda differed from God’s. While they looked to the restoration of Israel from Roman rule; God’s agenda was on a global scale gathering a “great multitude…from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev 7:9). Many people in the same sense come to Christ with wrong hopes. Some come with the hope of an improved life, better life prospects, looking for a spouse, seeking healing for a disease etc. In the gospels, we see a group of people who sought Christ for the wrong reasons. And Christ rejected them:

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus f on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man (John 2:23-25).

Clearly, these people didn’t have a true heart in seeking after Christ. And Christ knowing what is in man (speaking of his divinity) rejected them. Now it is one thing to come genuinely to Christ for salvation and another thing to come with our expectations rather than his will. In such situations, you are likely to have your hopes dashed and blame Jesus or say Christianity doesn’t offer what it promises. No, in actual fact, Christianity doesn’t promise some of the things people hold so dearly like prosperity and a good health.

So we are not disappointed in our walk with Christ, let’s bear in mind the only thing guaranteed and promised in Christ is the forgiveness of our sins and the promise of eternal life if we come to him by faith and turn from our old ways. All other things apart from these are not guaranteed and will lead to dashed hopes.

Christ Was Crucified For Our Sins

jesus-1186176-33aezczr0bqhuutqk8qwp6

I find no guilt in him” (John 18:38; 19:4;6).

Three times in his trial, Jesus–the Great and Sovereign Judge of all—was found not guilty by a human judge Pilate. However, justice was perverted and an innocent life killed.

Though innocent, his death was to keep in line with biblical prophecy. His death was no random death in human history. He came to die for the sins of humankind. Isaiah prophesied of his death saying: “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5). Matthew narrating the annunciation recorded the angel telling Mary “thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). John the Baptist, calling the attention of the people gathered, pointed to Christ saying: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29).

Apostle Peter reflecting on Jesus’ death quoted Isaiah saying: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1Peter 2:24). Finally apostle Paul also summarised the intent of Christ’s death saying: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2Corinthians 5:21).

All the biblical writers attested to this one truth that Christ died for sinners. He gave his life so we might have life and be reconciled to God through faith. Jesus died so sinners will be delivered from eternal damnation: “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.” (John 3:16).

The message of Easter is Christ’s death for sinners. God condemns all human beings as sinners separated from him and culpable of death (Isaiah 53:6,Romans 3:23;6:23). However, hope is provided in the death and resurrection of Christ to reconcile sinners unto himself (1Peter 2:25).

The Great Work Of Salvation

art-2092530_1920

Israel was carried into captivity from their land of habitation into foreign lands. (Ezekiel 36:16-20) because of sin. Ezekiel as a priest and prophet of God was among those carried into captivity hence the scene of his prophecies is that of captivity (Ezekiel 1:1). In Ezekiel 36, God announces a restoration of the nation Israel despite their sin and rebellion: “I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land” (v.24). In these prophetic words of restoration, we learn many lessons about how God restores and reconciles sinners unto Himself.

1: Salvation Is A Work of God

God speaks through the prophet Ezekiel saying “I will…” In this phrase appearing about six times in the text, we notice that every action towards the restoration of the Israelites was solely a work of God. Salvation is monergestic as opposed to synergistic. God was restoring Israel for the sake of His name not because of any meritorious deed by them.

In an earlier verse, He told Ezekiel “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name …” (v23). God acted in the interest of Israel “for the sake of [His] holy name”. David in Psalm 23:3 echoes this same truth: “He restores my soul. He leads me in the path of righteousness for his name’s sake”. (see also Ps.115:1).

No Place For Boasting

“For His name sake”

Here is an overarching theme of the Bible. Everything God does is to “the glory of God alone”—Soli Deo Gloria (Rev 4:11). There is no room for boasting in ourselves and our good deeds because salvation is “not a result of works” (Eph 2:9). It is by “grace” we “have been saved through faith”, It is not our own doing (v8). We owe our salvation to the glory of God. We are saved “to the praise of his glory”(Eph. 1:12, 14). The grace of God strips us off of all avenues of boasting. God saves on the merit of His grace. John Piper rightly noted: “When it comes to being a candidate for grace, your background has nothing to do with God’s choice.

Simply, we contributed nothing towards our salvation.

2: Cleansed By The Water Of The Word And Of The Spirit

Like the Israelites, we are also a people unclean by nature and in captivity to sin. We need cleansing and restoration. The Bible records that God created Adam and Eve and gave Adam a commandment to keep (Gen 2:16-17). Adam disobeyed God and by his disobedience, sin entered the world (Gen 3). Now, Adam in the garden of Eden was acting as a federal head for all of humankind therefore his fall became the fall of all who will ever walk this earth (Ps 51:5, Rom 3:23, 5:12), except Jesus who lived a perfect life without sin. In Adam, we are all separated from God by virtue of an inherited sinful nature and total depravity. As Adam was driven away from the presence of God (Gen 3:23-24), sin has driven us away from the presence of God and like the Israelites, we are under captivity and bondage to sin.

To The Rescue

However, despite our captivity and bondage to sin, God didn’t leave us in a hopeless state. He sent Christ to die in place of sinners to reconcile us unto Himself. God cleanses us from our sin by the water of the word and of the Spirit. Wherever the word of God goes forth, the Spirit of God follows to do His work (Acts 2:37). In John 17, what is termed Jesus’ High Priestly  Prayer, He prayed that the Father sanctifies the disciples in the truth, because His word is truth(v17). Peter taught that, we are “born again not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God”(1Pet1:23). The Spirit convicts sinners of sin when the word is ministered. The sinner is brought to a point of self-awareness of their sinful nature then they are brought to Christ for forgiveness and cleansing.

3: Regeneration

As said previously, all humankind are sinful, born in sin from the womb. The Christian, prior to his salvation was “dead in…trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1) If we were indeed dead in trespasses and sins and separated from God then the sinner can’t save herself. Dead men have no life neither can they inject life into their deadness. To be dead in sin is to not possess the ability to choose God; the inability to come to life by ourselves: To be alive therefore and come to salvation, we need an external influence to resurrect and give us life from our deadness (Jn. 6:44).

4 Alive To God

What God does in regeneration is to infuse life into our dead heart through His Spirit. Our cold, dead, unresponsive heart to divine truth is made alive to divine truth. Our unyielding heart now willingly yields to God. God’s Spirit then indwells the sinner as a guarantee one has been born of God and they belong to Christ (Eph1:14. Rom 8:9).

If God doesn’t intervene in a sinner’s life, there will be no spiritual life and spiritual birth. We must therefore pray that God will intervene in the lives of unbelievers so they will come to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus.

What Has This Got To Do With Christmas?

Genesis 3:8-15

 

comic-characters-2061817_1280

I have been given this text to read as one of the lessons in a community carol’s night organised by our resident’s association. The first question I asked when I had the text was “what has this got to do with Christmas?

However, reading and pondering the text, it is as relevant as any other account of the birth of Christ in the gospels. If you are familiar with Genesis 3, that is where the fall occurred; sin entered the world and thus all of humankind became sinners.

In Genesis 3 also, God announced his redemptive plan for salvation. In that pronouncement, Christ—the seed of the woman was revealed. The seed of the woman shall bruise Satan’s head, and Satan his heel.” (Genesis 3:15). Theologians call this (v.15) protoevangelium; that is, the first gospel. The bruising of the heel of the seed of the woman paints a picture of the passion of Christ and bruising the head of the Serpent is the victory Christ won over the devil in his Crucifixion (1Corinthians 2:8; Colossians 2:14-15).

The point is that Christ’s incarnation which we celebrate as Christmas was for the purpose of destroying the work of the devil and deliver sinners from bondage (1John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14-15). This is why we celebrate Christmas: the ‘seed of the woman’, prophesied in Genesis 3:15 was born to bring hope to a dark dying world burdened with sin. Of course, we know the date of his birth is only commemorative, but he was born and the importance of the season is that his birth was God’s plan from the beginning by which he will reconcile sinners to God.

Genesis 3:8-15 has everything to do with Christmas. The deliverer from sin and destroyer of Satan’s work was revealed.

The Light Of The World

lighthouse-2307273_1920

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Light dispels darkness. Where there is light, darkness cannot be present. Metaphorically, Christ speaks of himself as the light of the world. This points us to the fact that there is darkness in the world. He goes on again to say whoever follows him will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of the world. This also means is anyone not following Christ is in the darkness which is in the world. Again, anyone who follows him has come out of the darkness of the world.

Here we see a contrast between light and darkness.

Now the ” I am the light of the world” is one of a number of “I am”  statements by Jesus  Christ recorded in John’s gospel. These “I am” statements are not a simple first person pronoun usage; rather, they point us to Christ’s divine identity and his saving relationship with sinners in a fallen world (John 4:26; 6:20; 8:28, 28, 58; 18:5). You may also be familiar with some of these specific metaphorical rendering of the “I am” statements:   “I am the bread of life, the door of the sheep, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way, the truth, and the life and the true vine (John 6:35; 48, 51; 10:7; 11; 14, 11:25; 14:6; 15).

All these words were spoken in various contexts where they addressed specific needs ultimately pointing to our need of a Saviour.  “I am the light of the world” is an identification with divinity –Jesus is God— which we can trace back to John’s prologue : “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it … The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:4-5, 9).

Now if Jesus says he is the light of the world, it means that;

The World Is In Darkness.

Darkness here depicts a world of sin and ignorance; lack of knowledge of God. Darkness contrasting with light is the realm of evil; the kingdom of darkness. The whole world, Jesus said lies in wickedness (1John 5:19). In the beginning, God created a perfect world and he saw that all he made was good (Genesis 1:31). However, this perfect world was plunged into sin when Adam disobeyed God’s command subsequently inflicting the world with sin causing a separation between God and man (Romans 3:23). This darkness is a universal darkness. Every human being is affected by the effects of this dark sinful world. It is called total depravity. We are all badly hurt by the sin problem

Life Without Christ Is A Life of Darkness.

If the world is in darkness, it follows that everyone who enters it enters a world of darkness–filled with sin and ignorance of a knowledge of God. We all enter the world corrupted by a sin nature. Burk Parson in a sermon notes that “we enter the world dead on arrival.” Further, there is a kingdom of darkness ruled by Satan and any person who enters the world is automatically under the bondage of Satan and until they come to faith in Christ, they are doomed for destruction and under Satan’s rule. Paul says this clearly when he described the former world of the believer which is the present world or reality of the unbeliever. They are dead in trespasses and sins. They are following the course of the dark world which is  sin and bondage under Satan’s rule (Eph 2:1-3).

If you don’t know Christ and have no relationship with him as your Lord and Saviour, this is your world. You are dead in sin and living in darkness.

Life With Christ Is A Life of Light.

Where light is, darkness gives way. Because Jesus is the light of the world, the darkness of the world must give way. So if a person walking in darkness encounters Christ and comes to saving faith in him; they are rescued from darkness and brought into the light; the light of the world, Christ Jesus. Just as darkness depicts sin and ignorance, light represents righteousness and life. When we come to Christ who is the light of the world, our dark; sinful and ignorant life is illuminated with light, which is the life of men.

All human beings are in bondage to sin until they come to faith in Christ. Are you burdened with sin? Are you heavy laden with guilt? Christ calls you to come into his life. He will forgive you of your sins and bring life into your dark world. Come; Christ calls

The Author Of Eternal Life

light-through-clouds-1264548_1920

And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him (Hebrews 5:9).

The text is speaking about Christ. Indeed, the whole of the book of Hebrews speaks of Christ and his superiority over all things. Christ offers salvation and eternal life. But one may ask, why Salvation?

Salvation is needed because of humanity’s sin problem. We trace the sin problem to Eden where the fall of Adam became the fall of the whole human race. The image of God, in which we were created was defaced. We are alienated from God because of sin. Our mind lacks understanding, our hearts corrupted and hardened by sin and and only Christ can save us from this alienation.

Why Is Christ Fit To Offer Salvation?

1: He is a Perfect Saviour

Among many meanings, the word perfect denotes completion and fulfillment. Christ was made perfect in the sense that he fulfilled all of God’s plan for salvation. He kept and fulfilled all of God’s law that we couldn’t keep.

2. Christ is the author of Salvation.

Only through him can sinners be saved. He went to the cross for sinners. And he has a name above every name. In his name salvation is offered.

3. He paid the ransom

Christ gave his life as a ransom for our sins. He paid the debt of sin we owed.

The Call To Obedience

You don’t own your soul and without Christ you are lost eternally. And the salvation Christ offers is salvation of the soul—eternally. Seek Christ to save your soul. Those who hear him take his word preciously and obey the gospel.

The good news is this: you are helpless, bound for hell and a Saviour in Christ comes to appease for your sins and offered salvation. Come to Christ. Look to him for your salvation. Jesus shows us abundant love and mercy. While we were sinners he died for us.

—This is a summary of sermon notes I made of a sermon preached by  Pastor Ferguson Kcofie  on 26/11/2017 @ Truth Missionary Baptist Church, Dansoman-Exhibition. Truth MissionaryBaptist Church is a Reformed Baptist Church in Accra-Ghana and is the church I attend.

Also, the notes are mine and hence solely liable for any misinterpretation of doctrine or the sermon which may appear in this summary.