Eph 2:8 God’s Grace 8/31/2014
Š I am back (Eph 2:8-9)
#1. Grace (Eph 2:8, 1:3-4)
Š What It Is Not (Mark 12:29-30, Rom 5:5-6, John 3:36)
#2. Manna (Eph 1:19-20, Rom 4:17, Eph 2:1-3)
Š The Natural Man (Psalm 2:1-9, Luke 19:21, Rev 20:9, Jer 17:9-10)
#3. Idolatry (1John 4:19)
Š Holiness Games (Heb 12:14, Ecc 7:20, Eph 2:10)
Š I am back (Eph 2:8-9) Hello, I am back.
Much to the chagrin of all the feel-good preachers, I am back as Job did from his battle with his three friends who accused him of all kinds of wrongdoings. As most of you already know, I had a couple of falls, about two and a half months ago, on a Sunday evening. One was in the kitchen when I closed my eyes for a second and fell asleep. I literally fell while being asleep. The second was an hour later in the bathroom, where I fell against the wall, also while being asleep. And so, both falls were the result of sleep deprivation, and sleep deprivation is what the Lord sent to me during the past 40 years. As most of you know, falling at my age of 83 years is a serious matter. But falling and suffering from intense restless-leg syndrome at the same time is double jeopardy. And when the restless leg syndrome urges me to walk, and I cannot walk, I am in great pain. However, here is one good aspect of these falls: I did not break any bones to speak of. In the hospital a high resolution MRI showed that I had chipped off a small part of my spine, and that caused an intense pain. But now I am my old obnoxious self again, and I am ready for a big fight with pen and paper against those who hate the sovereignty of God. Having the Bible in front of me and having God on my side means that I am in a battle where God and I are in a majority, and we are bound to win.
I hope you know that the Christian is always in a battle against the world and against the Devil. The Bible declares that we shall be doing battles for the Lord until the day our body dies. This world is not our home. We are strangers and pilgrims in this world which is ruled over by the Devil and his fellow demons. But the Christian has God the Holy Spirit on his side, and as you know, each one of the three Persons of the Triune Godhead is fully God. The Lord Jesus Christ is God the Son. He also is fully God. We are confident that the Lord Jesus Christ is on our side, which again means that almighty God is on our side. Moreover, since the Bible declares that we are literally in Christ, and He is in us, and God the Holy Spirit is in us, we are hereby assured that God will never abandon us, for we are in Him. He will never abandon himself. When we commit sin He will chasten us, but if we are God’s elect He will never abandon us. Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Ephesians.
So far, I have not said anything controversial. And have you noticed that I am again moving in the direction of “election and reprobation”? I cannot help it. God has extensively written about these topics everywhere in the Bible, and God delights to hear these things preached again and again. We read here in Eph 2:8-9 a very, very brief summary of the Gospel that we hold.
Eph 2:8-9, “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” (Eph 2:8-9).
What does this mean? This passage speaks of two different ways unto salvation: One way is by grace, which is a gift of God, and the other way is not by a gift from God but by the works of man. Are both ways leading to the same goal? Obviously not! Obviously someone has to do the work, for this passage speaks of a process of change. At one time a person was not saved, and at a later time the person was saved. Who was doing the work? Well, if man was not doing the work, then God must have done the work and presented it to man as a gift. And if that is so then God would be insulted if we try to help Him out, for God is infinitely capable to do the job by Himself. Besides, if man would add a little bit of his works to what God has done, then salvation is no longer of grace, but of works.
And so, everything revolves around the meaning of God’s grace. What does God mean when He gives a gift to man and it is a gift by grace? What is grace?
#1. Grace (Eph 2:8, 1:3-4)
In plain English, grace means “unmerited favor.” And it is a “favor” toward what purpose? It is a favor toward salvation. What salvation does God have in mind? It is a rescue from the penalty of Hell that is threatening all mankind, for all mankind is wicked, and under the penalty of Hell for all their sins. Let me clarify this: Salvation is not “fire insurance”, for fire insurance does not include a love for the Lord Jesus. But salvation does includes a fervent love for the Lord Jesus. “Fire insurance” is a cold, calculated and legalistic transaction whereby we try to give God only what we think He needs, and nothing more. When God says that we are saved by faith, and we say: ”O.K God, I believe because that relieves me of having to suffer an eternity in Hell,” that act of man is equivalent to “Fire Insurance.” That act of man is equivalent to selfish ceremonial hoopla. In other words, we present that kind of faith to God, because we believe that this is the faith that God demands. But that is nonsense. That is not salvation.
To say that “salvation is of the Lord” means that God must be doing all the work. That is why Eph 2:8 says, “By grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” It must be a gift of God, rather than a gift from our own intellect. It all boils down to the definition of “grace”. If grace is unmerited favor, then can you merit unmerited favor? Of course you cannot! Unmerited favor means that you cannot earn or deserve this grace. It must be given to you by God as a free gift. God is not obligated to give this grace to everyone of mankind, for not all mankind is saved. And thus we are chosen by grace, by the grace of God. That is stated exactly in Eph 1:3-4,
Eph 1:3 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:
Do we understand what God is saying here? He says that He has chosen us before the foundation of the world, which means that He chose us before He created the first speck of dust. And for what purpose has He chosen us? He has chosen us in order that we would stand holy and without blame before Him. In other words, He chose us unto salvation, for everyone who is saved stands before God holy and without blame. No one else of mankind can stand before God holy and without blame. They all shall stand before God guilty for their sins which they so willingly have committed. How do I know this? I know this because God stated in the Bible that “like begets like”. The sinful nature of Adam and Eve which they inherited after eating from the fruit of the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” was inherited by all their posterity, and that is why all the children of Adam and Eve were born with an evil nature. That wicked nature caused all mankind to sin from the day we were born, and as we grow older we dig ourselves a deeper and deeper hole in Hell.
And so, what do we see here in Eph 1:3-4? We see that God chose a certain number of people to be saved, meaning to inherit eternal life with Christ in heaven, and the rest of mankind He chose to pass by. Those chosen to be with Christ in heaven are called the Elect, and their sins will be taken care of by Christ, and those He passed by are called the Reprobate and they have to pay for their own sins in the life hereafter. This plan of God concerning election and reprobation has been known by people in the church-world for a long time; for many hundreds of years. St. Augustine, a bishop of Hippo in North Africa, who lived in the 5th century AD already wrote about it. But people do not like the truth because their inclination is basically evil. And so, this doctrine of election and reprobation was finally revived by Martin Luther, who was an Augustinian monk, in the 15th century A.D. It took 1000 years of preaching the truth for people to finally believe that this was indeed the truth.
All this flows out of the plain definition of Grace, as unmerited favor, and to define it more precisely as not just anybody’s grace, but God’s Grace. And since it is God’s Grace its main focus is salvation. How shall we distinguish truth from error? One way is to proclaim it here, in the Reformed Bible Church of Southern California. What can we say about what we preach here? How can we describe the difference between the True Gospel and the false gospel? What is grace and what is it not?
Š What It Is Not (Mark 12:29-30, Rom 5:5-6, John 3:36)
In our days the truth concerning salvation has been distorted and corrupted in more than one way. Note this well. Salvation is not the same as reformation. The improvement of man and of the world has nothing in common with the modern notion of the building of character. Many people have adopted the false belief that man is not basically corrupt. They like to think that man is basically good, but he is in need of reform. They like to write all kinds of articles to the building of man’s character, as well as the improvement of his environment. And in this noble effort we must take Jesus as our example. If a man only learns to follow in the steps of Jesus he will be saved. Can you see that in such a plan of salvation there is no room for grace? Salvation becomes the work of proud man, and not the work of God. It is ugly human philosophy. This is absolutely not the salvation that the Bible has in view. All the plans of salvation based on the will of man and the work of man, distort the doctrine of sovereign grace. They imagine that salvation is like a present that is all prepared, and that it is freely and graciously offered, but which one may either refuse or accept. So the sinner is offered salvation which consists primarily in an escape from Hell. No love for Christ is required; and that is an utter travesty. Our love for Christ is an essential part of the salvation that He gives us. We can see that clearly in several passages in the Bible. The Lord Jesus said to the lawyer who wanted to trap Him in Mark 12:29-30,
Mark 12:29 And Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”
Can we do this in our own strength? Absolutely not! We were born dead in trespasses and sins, and as haters of God. And so, if this is the first and greatest commandment that God requires, then who has been doing this great work in our soul? God answers this question in Rom 5:5-6,
Rom 5:5, “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. 6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
When Christ died for us He also gave us the gift of a regenerated soul and He gave us the love that He requires to be in us. And when He made us “Born from above”. He actually imputed this love of God into our soul. Preachers today plead with their congregations to give their life to Christ. Is that bad? Yes, that is very bad. Almighty God in heaven does not plead with mankind. This reasoning with mankind has led to the practice of the well-known, extremely sensational “altar call.” Is there such a thing in the Bible? No! Modern day preachers say that if we do not cooperate with the Holy Spirit, God cannot save us. But that is a false gospel. The preaching of the true Gospel never presents a powerless God, or a Christ who is powerless to save. Saul of Tarsus certainly did not want the Christ of the Bible, but God knocked him down and blinded him so that he was forced to believe the true Gospel. This leads us to another characteristic of the grace of God. God’s grace is irresistible. God does not wait for man to believe. God forcefully makes him believe. To be sure, salvation is a deliverance from Hell and damnation, because God obligated Himself to love His elect, and thus He will remove the penalty of Hell from those whom He loves. God says in John 3:36,
John 3:36, He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
What then is salvation? What is it? What is the Gospel of salvation the way we preach it, and how does it differ from the gospel that others preach? It is like the Hebrew said: “Manna”, or “what is it”?
#2. Manna (Eph 1:19-20, Rom 4:17, Eph 2:1-3)
What then is salvation? First of all, it is characterized by one word: Grace, unmerited favor! It is a free gift of God. If it is not free, it is not grace. Consider the words of Eph 1:19-20,
Eph 1:19, It is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
Do we understand what this passage is saying? Rom 4:17 says “Salvation is a wonderwork of the Almighty God, who quickeneth (makes alive) the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.” It is a work of God in which God becomes revealed unto us in “the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,” In other words, it is a work which is no less divine and even more glorious than the work of creating the world and all that is in it in the first week of creation. Dead material was made alive. Think of it; we were born dead in trespasses and sins. And when we are saved we are alive. What did God have to do? God had to make of the sinner, me, who was dead in sin, and who was filled with enmity against God, was cursing the Almighty and raising his rebellious fist upward to the Lord of heaven and earth, and was walking in darkness and was hating the Light, the Light of the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This was the raw material God had to work with, from which He was going to build His new dwelling place. What did God have to do? He had to make of such a sinner a righteous and holy child of God, who was humbly asking what God wills that he shall do, and he would be filled with the love of God, and would be in gratitude forever singing His praises, and God had to place that sinner, who is thus redeemed and delivered from the clutches of Satan, in living fellowship with the glorious company of all the redeemed and glorified sinners, so that they together constitute a church, a beautiful house of God, a holy temple in the Lord, to the praise of the glory of His grace in the Beloved (in Christ). All this belongs to the mighty work of God that is called salvation. All this flows out of the definition of grace. Can you see the awesome glory of what God has done?
Secondly, salvation by grace means that it is an exclusively divine work, absolutely free and sovereign, in which man has absolutely no part at all, and which does not depend upon the choice of man’s will. All the glory of this work must go to God. Like the work of creation is of God alone, which He accomplished without the cooperation of the creature, so the work of salvation is exclusively God’s work, in which man has no part whatever. Like Adam lived and moved, and was an active creature not before he was created, but after he was created, so in like manner the sinner lives and becomes positively active, so that he wills to be saved and embrace Christ, not in cooperation with God who saves him, but as a result of the wonder of grace performed upon him. Consider from what depths of darkness and death this salvation delivers man and unto what heights of life and glory it exalts him. A tip of the promised life and glory is reflected in John 17:21. The Lord Jesus prays here to the Father about the glory that we shall enjoy in the New Heaven and the New Earth. He says in,
John 17:21, (In order) “that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”
In other words, He asks that all the saints may be one in the Father and in the Son as securely as the Father and the Son are one. Do we realize what God is saying here? Can man in this marvelous work of God have any cooperating part with God? Absolutely Not! This is way beyond the capabilities of man. This is way beyond the imagination of man of what eternal life looks like. This is way beyond the honor and the glory of what we could hope for.
Often salvation has been defined as that wonderwork of God whereby God delivers the sinner from the greatest evil, and makes him a partaker of the highest good. But what is the greatest evil? Listen to the words of Eph 2:1-3,
Eph 2:1 ¶ 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.
What is the evil from which grace saves us? “Children of wrath” are the children of the wrath of God. And what is the wrath of God? First of all, it is the condition of being dead in trespasses and sins. This is the deadness of being dead to God, and not capable of doing anything in the sight of God that is pleasing to God. We are slaves of sin, willing slaves to be sure, but slaves who are loving darkness and are loving the ways of Satan. And this spiritual, ethical death, is God’s own wrath upon us. It is a debt we cannot pay, nor do we care to pay it ever. There is a power of corruption from which we cannot and will not deliver ourselves. There is wrath and damnation from which we can never escape, nor do we care to or seek to escape, for we are enemies of God. In that horrible depth of misery God finds us and saves us by His grace through Christ and then He transforms us.
Do you imagine, then, that the sinner is capable, or willing to cooperate with God to his own salvation, or that any emotional and sentimental plea from a preacher who operates outside the plan of God will persuade him to desire to seek salvation in Christ? Absolutely not! Before grace takes hold of that sinner and raises him from the dead, he will always refuse to accept the salvation that is offered to him and will prefer death to life, sin to righteousness, and he will prefer the Devil to God. He has too much fun in the life he is living right now. All those future promises do not convince him one way or another. He knows what he has now, and he does not want to trade this in for an unknown future. And thus, if such a creature becomes saved, he must be saved by grace as a divine wonder.
Š The Natural Man (Psalm 2:1-9, Luke 19:21, Rev 20:9, Jer 17:9-10, Psalm 2:1)
Do you think that I am exaggerating all this? Do you think that man is not basically this wicked? Is this a lie? When we look around us do we see people who are hating God, and do we see people who are suffering under the yoke that God puts on them? Please turn in your Bibles to Psalm 2:1. This is a psalm which describes the natural man. We should learn how God looks at mankind. Some people describe God as a smiling grandfather who smiles at everything man does. But ask God. Here in the Bible God says that He is angry with the wicked every day. Every day! We read in Psalm 2:1-9,
Psalm 2:1 ¶ Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. 5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 ¶ I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. 8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. 9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
The nations of the world are called the heathen. They are mentioned twice, once in the beginning of this psalm and the second time in verse 8. And why do they rage? They want to break their bands with God and with Christ. They want to be free from all the rules that define sin, and they want to be free from the penalty of sin. That is primarily what the heathen want. They want this world without God and without Christ. That is what the debate about creation and evolution is about. The heathen want to believe in a 15 billion year evolution story because as soon as they are confronted with a creation story, then their accountability before God is the logical next step. That makes them very nervous about the future. They do not like this accountability, and therefore they rather believe in an evolution story where God remains in the background and does not get involved in something like the end of this world. And thus, all the intellectuals in the world are dragged into this debate to make sure they can do away with Christ. And so, all the intellectuals of the world have decided that God must be the way they have come up with in their own philosophies. He is kind, loving all mankind and still loves us, for all our sins are not that great. Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin are the only exceptions.
But let us check the Bible if this is really true. All the heathen are shouting, from Luke 19:14,
Luke 19:14, “We will not have this man to reign over us,” because they do not want to be judged for their sins. This is what the natural man is striving for: A world without God and without Christ and without the judgment on the last day. But will they be successful? The people who have built the Tower of Babel have tried it, Alexander the Great has tried it, Adolph Hitler has tried it, and there were many more in history who have tried it, and they all failed. At the end of time Antichrist will try it again, and he will fail, because God said so in Rev 20:9. This is the ultimate goal of the Devil: to establish a world without Christ and without God. But God will not allow it, and God will put an end to all these maneuverings of the Devil.
This is how God looks at all mankind: They are all Totally Depraved. They are all more inclined to do evil than to do good. God speaks in Jeremiah 17:9-10 about the heart of every man,
Jer 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? 10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”
Yes, this is the raw material that God has to work with to build His own dwelling place, with men who are haters of God, according to Psalm 2:1. Is it then any wonder that all mankind is inclined to idolatry? Man would like to worship God, but the only god they know is the god that they have made. They know not the God of the Bible, for the God of the Bible has not made Himself known to them. That requires Grace. But if God has not given them Grace, if God has not given them the unmerited favor of God, which is the only grace leading them to salvation, then how could they obtain grace?
#3. Idolatry (1John 4:19)
It is really ironic that this is the response of all of mankind. O yes, there are a few exceptions. But how did those exceptions come into being? They came into being only by the grace of God. Only by His grace are there a few exceptions of people who love God, and who love Christ. But the Bible says that we love Him, because He first loved us (1John 4:19). There is simply no other way to arrive at the love of God, for salvation is too high and lofty for the natural man to imagine. And so, the majority of mankind drifts to worship a god of their own making. They do not accept the God of the Bible for that is a religion which leads them to unacceptable consequences, namely Judgment Day at the end of time for all the sins they have committed. Have we committed sins? Are we not the lovable creatures that we always have seen when we look into the mirror? And the answer is NO! We are guilty of supporting a society that kills babies in the womb. We are guilty of supporting a society that has killed the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. We are guilty of supporting a society that promotes homosexuality, which the Bible declares to be an abomination before God. We are guilty of supporting a society that systematically poisons its citizens for the sake of controlling what we may eat and what we may use as medicines. We support a government that legally steals from its citizens, and robs their pension funds. We support a government that promotes laziness, and steals from those who are working hard. And so on, and so on. It is an endless list what we with our tax dollars do. And all that is called legal.
Would you know that most people in our country support all this crap? They do that to support the peace they have with their fellow man. But is peace with God not more important than peace with our fellow man? And so, the whole country is led by a few into idolatry, and everyone follows the leaders, and everyone is content with how their lives are developing. Let us look at just one aspect of these developments. It is called: Holiness Games. Is this a form of idolatry?
Š Holiness Games (Heb 12:14, Ecc 7:20, Eph 2:10)
All my life I thought I was such a good person, such a humble person, such a nice person to be with, a person who is so easy to get along with. God must be pleased with me, for I do not commit great sins. I am careful to be at peace with most people, and in my thoughts I do not contemplate to commit grievous sins. I have been striving to lead a holy life. I tried to follow Heb 12:14 without actually following the entire verse.
Heb 12:14, Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
And so, what God is saying here is that not only are we to seek peace on the horizontal level, with all men, but we also are to seek peace on the vertical level, with God. How do we find peace with God? We must be saved! But this is a gift from God. This is how we find peace with God, and holiness. Then I read the Bible to find what this holiness is all about until I came to Ecc 7:20.
Ecc 7:20, 20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
Here was a verse that gave me a jolt into reality. What did God say? A just man is a righteous man. This is a child of God. This is one of the elect. You cannot be more holy than that. Then God considers a righteous man who is doing good, like he is giving alms to poor people, or he is praying to God on behalf of someone to be saved, or he is praying for more holiness in this life, and so on. He is in the process of growing in grace. And yet, God says right there in the process of doing good he is sinning. There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not. All my striving for holiness was just my striving. It was a work of man, whose work was all tainted with sin. Even in my holiest hours my work was tainted with sin. Could I ever have conceived of such a condition where all my thoughts and prayers, even after I have been saved, were all tainted with sin? This was such a disappointment, but it was a jolt into reality. All mankind is totally depraved from birth. And even if we lose part of our total depravity at the time we became born again, we never lose our ability to sin, for this is how we were made. It does not mean that we also lose the ability to do good works, for God says in Eph 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Think of this now with regard to our holiness theology. People play holiness games because they want to be seen by God as holy as the saints in heaven. But God has to send the Lord Jesus Christ to this earth to pay for the sins that people commit during their holiness games. There is simply no period of time that we do not commit sins. We do it all the time. And if we have become a child of God the Lord Jesus Christ has to forgive us every time of these sins that we unknowingly commit. That is grace! And now we have come full circle to the starting point of this sermon.
In what way does our Gospel differ from the free-will gospels that are preached all around us? Only one word: Grace, and the grace that we preach is Unmerited Favor, with all the consequences of that unmerited favor. This grace brings the mercy of God, and you know that mercy is Unmerited Pardon. This unmerited pardon is God withholding the penalty that we do deserve. What do we deserve? We deserve Hell for all the sins we have committed.
Again, for those who have been chosen before the foundation of the world to be saved, their sins are not able to reverse the decision God made before the foundation of the world. Their sins have been paid in full by Christ on the cross in AD 33. Those who have not been chosen before the foundation of the world will also not be able to reverse the decision that God has made. Their good works, if there are any, will be rewarded in this life, and their bad works have to be paid by themselves on the last day of this earth’s existence. All this is based on the omniscience of God, who knows the end from the beginning.
AMEN. Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.