Eph 2:9                                 A Letter from Africa                                    9/30/2012     

·        Not of Works! (2Pet 1:21, Rev 19:13, Eph 2:5,8-9, Rom 3:11, Jam 4:6)

 

 

 

 

 

#1.       The Gift of God, Not of Works (Eph 2:8-9, Acts 9:1-18)

 

 

 

 

 

·        He Is a Chosen Vessel of Mine (Acts 9:15, Prov 21:4, Rom 8:8, Eph 1:3-8, John 1:13)

 

 

 

 

 

#2.       Deliverance, but Not of Works! (John 3:1-8, Titus 3:4-6, Rom 5:5)

 

 

 

 

 

·        Sin and Grace (Rom 7:1-4, Rom 4:8,15)

 

 

 

 

 

#3.       Righteousness, but Not by the Works of Man! (Ecc 7:20, Rom 3:21-22)

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the Second Epistle of Peter, 2Pet 1:21 (2X). The title of this sermon is, A Letter from Africa (2X). For the past month I have been in contact with a pastor in Kenya, East Africa, 180 miles west of Nairobi. He is a pastor of a fairly large congregation called “New Life Fellowship”, by which I mean it is “large” when compared with ours. He has under his care 112 children, of which are 74 orphans. The adults in his congregation speak 7 languages, and English is not one of those seven, and many of them are illiterate. As you can imagine, proper communication is there a huge problem. How is it that we are in contact with one another? The question came up in their church council, “What is the righteousness of God?” They could not come to a satisfactory answer to this question. Then they hopped onto a vehicle going to Rongo and found a cyber café where they asked a waitress to help them to find the word “righteousness” on the Internet. In the course of the discussion my name came up, and the waitress recommended that the pastor contact me. We have been corresponding via e-mail. I also came to the conclusion that their understanding of the Gospel is rather primitive. They have only two Bibles, of which one is English. And so, in answer to their needs I intended to preach the Gospel in a condensed form today, and I will also try to include a few words about “the righteousness of God” and I will send this sermon in a CD to that pastor. That seems simple enough. But now you have to understand a few details which make this project not so simple. They have no running water, no gas, no electricity, and no CD player. They have to go somewhere to pay rent on someone else’s computer. Even if they would have a computer, they could not afford to pay for broadband service on the Internet. And thus interaction via Skype is also out of the question. As you know I have just been back from a trip to Borneo. And so, I am a little prepared for primitive situations in the jungle. But this congregation in Kenya is much more primitive than Borneo. At the end of this sermon I will take up a collection for them. Let the Lord provide.

·        Not of Works! (2Pet 1:21, Rev 19:13, Eph 2:5,8-9, Rom 3:11, Jam 4:6)

If I want to present the Gospel, I do not begin where most preachers begin. I will start with 2Pet 1:21, for people must believe that the Bible is not a book like any other book in the world. The Bible is the Word of God. If we open the Bible it is as if the roof opens and God thunders these words to us.

2Pet 1:21, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” This Book did not come into being by the will of man; it is not a collection of ideas that came out of the minds of men, but it came out of the mind of God. Please turn in your Bibles to the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Rev 19:13 (2X). And thus we need to have a proper respect for the words and the concepts that we find in here. It is for a very good reason that this Book is called “The Word of God”, for the Lord Jesus Christ is called “The Word of God.”

Rev 19:13, “And he was clothed with a vesture (having been) dipped in blood: and his name is called “The Word of God.” You see that? The Lord Jesus Christ is called “The Word of God.”

In other words, the Bible is called the Word of God because it is a reflection, or is an image, of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now that we have this solidly fixed in our mind we can begin laying down the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What is the Gospel? The word “Gospel” means “the good news”. What is the good news? “The good news” is that the Lord Jesus Christ came to earth to pay the penalty for the sins of many. This occurred on Friday, April 3 in the year AD 33, which was the day that the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross. This was the day that Christ atoned for our sins. This was the only day in the history of mankind that sins were forgiven. There is no other day when sins were forgiven. Please turn to the Epistle to the Ephesians, Eph 2:8 (2X). We were not witnesses when Christ died for our sins; that is why the Bible says in Eph 2:5, “By grace ye are saved”. It was done in our absence. These words, “By grace ye are saved” from Eph 2:5 are repeated in Eph 2:8, where God gives several other reasons why we are saved by grace. The main reason I want to emphasize today is this: Not of Works! (2X). Let us read now Eph 2:8-9,

Eph 2:8-9  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.” This is the whole Gospel in a nutshell. The true Gospel is “Not of works!” which means “not by the works of man.” Every other plan of salvation in the world is a gospel of works, and is a false gospel. The only Gospel that proclaims truly the Good News is the Gospel of salvation by grace alone through Jesus Christ crucified alone; and some preachers add three more words, “by faith alone”. And so, what is the meaning of the word “Grace”? Grace means “Unmerited Favor”. It is God’s unmerited favor upon some of the human race to lead them irresistibly to salvation. Can you merit unmerited favor? No, you cannot! The word “merit” means it is earned or deserved. The words “unmerited favor” mean it is a gift from God that you cannot earn or deserve by doing any good works. It is a free gift, unconditionally bestowed upon all those whom God decides to save. It is God’s decision, not ours. Some preachers proclaim the gospel: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” as if we can obey the command to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. No, that is a works gospel. It cannot save anyone. These words are in the Bible, but there are some qualifications to be added. Mankind cannot believe this, for God says in Rom 3:11, “There is NONE that understandeth, there is NONE that seeketh after God.” In other words, if God waited until some of mankind would believe on the Lord Jesus Christ He would be waiting until the end of time. Only by the prompting of His Holy Spirit would there be some who would believe. Why are people so puffed up in believing that they have made such a smart decision to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? That is nothing but dirty rotten pride. Any sin of pride is an abomination in the sight of God, for “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (Jam 4:6). And here is another principle we need to keep in mind: God rules this world by the prompting of His Holy Spirit. The only way anyone would come to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ is by the prompting of God the Holy Spirit.

#1.       The Gift of God, Not of Works (Eph 2:8-9, Acts 9:1-18)

Let us now return to Eph 2:8-9. We read in Eph 2:8-9, “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.”

What is not of ourselves? What is the gift of God? Is it grace, or is it faith? It is not grace; for that is a redundancy, for grace is already a gift from God. It is the faith that is not of ourselves. Our faith is a gift from God. How does that harmonize? When someone says that he or she has made a decision to believe on Jesus, that is a decision which came out of their own mind; it did not come from God. This is not the faith that came by grace, but it is a false confidence in our own faith. This is a faith that came from a false gospel. But the faith of Eph 2:8 is the evidence of having been saved by grace. Let me illustrate this with a Biblical example. Please turn in your Bibles to the Acts of the Apostles, Acts 9:1 (2X). The apostle Paul before his salvation was called Saul of Tarsus. Saul was one of the greatest enemies of Christ. Saul persecuted the Christians to the point that he put them in jail and condemned some of them to death. Saul went to Damascus in Syria with orders from the chief priests to capture and imprison those who have been confirmed as Christians. We read in Acts 9:1-18,

Acts 9:1-18, “1  And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2  And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. 3  And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4  And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5  And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 6  And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. 7  And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. 8  And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. 9  And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. 10  And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. 11  And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, 12  And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. 13  Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 14  And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. 15  But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16  For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. 17  And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. 18  And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.”

What do we see here in this story? Saul of Tarsus had no faith of himself. Saul had no love for Christ. But after the Lord smote him down on the road to Damascus the Lord saved him by grace. Saul did not want to be saved, but God decided to save him and to give him faith. This is exactly what Eph 2:8 means by the words, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” Why did God save him? God says in Acts 9:15, “For he is a chosen vessel of mine.” What did Saul do to deserve such a favorable treatment by God? Nothing! Saul deserved to be cast into hell for his evil works against the church of God. But God gave him the gift of salvation as a totally free gift. Was this occurrence of the salvation of Saul an exception in the history of mankind? Absolutely not! Everyone who has been saved was saved in exactly the same way. First we see a sinner leading a wicked life, then we see a calamity sent from God, and then we see the prompting of God the Holy Spirit is causing this sinner to repent and seek salvation by Christ. It was all a gift of the grace of God. We did not do anything to deserve that salvation.

·        He Is a Chosen Vessel of Mine (Acts 9:15, Prov 21:4, Rom 8:8, Eph 1:3-8, John 1:13)

Please turn again to the Epistle to the Ephesians, Eph 1:3 (2X). But what did Christ mean when He said in Acts 9:15, “For he is a chosen vessel of mine?” It means that God chose certain people to become saved, and He did not choose others. Those others will never be saved. God, in His wisdom decided that before the foundation of the world. Who are we to argue against the wisdom of God? God decided to be gracious to those whom He calls His elect, and God decided to pass by others and leave them in their own wickedness until the Last Day. And let us have a proper understanding of the wickedness of unsaved mankind. Here is the life of a natural man. God says in Prov 21:4,

Prov 21:4, “An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.”

God calls the unsaved man “wicked.” Unsaved man has a proud heart. His entire life is filled with sin. Even when the unsaved man plows his field, God calls it “sin”. And God says in Rom 8:8, “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” The unsaved man is called “wicked” and there is nothing that an unsaved man can do to please God. The wicked cannot please God by obeying the command, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” for this is something he is incapable of doing.

Let us now look at those whom God does not call wicked. In God’s sight there are only two groups of people: the saved and the unsaved; the righteous and the wicked; the chosen ones and the rejected ones; the elect and the reprobate; the sons of God and the children of Satan.       Eph 1:3-8,

Eph 1:3-8, “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: 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. 7  In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8  Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;”

And so, this is the reason God could say of Saul of Tarsus, “He is a chosen vessel of mine.” Saul of Tarsus was a chosen vessel of Christ. Saul of Tarsus was an elect of God. And God chose to save him not based on anything he has done, but entirely by grace; entirely as a gift from God according to the good pleasure of His will. And is this not the principle that we find all throughout the Bible? For example, please turn to the Gospel according to John, John 1:13 (2X). You see salvation is based not on the will of man. God does not save us because we have sincerely pleaded with Him to save us, but God saves us according to the good pleasure of His will. We read in John 1:13, “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” What is this verse saying? Those who are saved have been Born Again, but they have not been Born Again because they were of the right bloodline, like out of the bloodline of Jacob, for after the cross there is no more difference between Jews and Gentiles. Neither were they Born Again because of the will of the flesh, and neither were they Born Again because of the will of their father or of the will of their preacher, but they were Born Again because of the will of God. Again and again God drives home the message, “Not of Works; Not by man’s works; Not by our qualifications; Not by our good disposition; Not by our works but only by God’s works. God is doing all the work, and we should not be so proud to assume some of that work to our credit, for that is a grave insult to God.

#2.       Deliverance, but Not of Works! (John 3:1-8, Titus 3:4-6, Rom 5:5)

What does it mean to be Born Again? Please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel According to John, John 3:1 (2X). The words “Born Again” are actually derived from the words “Born from Above.” The Greek text does not say “Born Again”, but it says “Born from Above”. Can you make yourself “Born from Above”? Of course not! Only God can make us “Born from Above.” And so, here again we see that God has to do all the work, and we do nothing. We read in John 3:1-8 (2X),

John 3:1-8, “1  There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2  The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 3  Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4  Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5  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. 6  That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8  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.” That last verse should have been translated differently. It should read this:

John 3:8, “The Spirit breathes where He wills, and thou hearest His voice, but does not know from whence He cometh, and whither He goeth: so is everyone having been born of the Spirit.”

From this passage in John 3 it is clear that it is very important to have been Born Again, for no one shall see the Kingdom of God unless he has been Born Again. It is an essential step in the process of salvation. There is no salvation if you leave it out. And so, what does it mean? Please turn to the Epistle to Titus, Titus 3:4 (2X). It means the washing of the sins from our soul. Perhaps you know that being Born Again is the same concept as the washing of our sins from our soul, which is also called the washing of regeneration. We read in Titus 3:4-6 (2X),

Titus 3:4-6, “4  But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5  Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6  Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;” Again, Not of works! Not by our works! This washing by God the Holy Spirit is called the washing of regeneration. And in the process of this washing we are being delivered from our sins. It produces within us a change of character. It produces within us a change of heart. Before we were Born Again we had a hard heart. After we were Born Again we have received a softened heart. God the Holy Spirit has done this to us. You remember that I said in the beginning of this sermon: God rules the world by the prompting of His Holy Spirit. We have been delivered from a hard heart with which we were born into this world. God says in Rom 5:5, “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” This is the love that God has given to us through the cross of Christ, and this is the love we have for God, and the love we have for our fellow man. This love is not perfect, for we still live in a sinful body, but now we are able to forgive our fellow man his trespasses against us. And so, what have we seen so far?

#1, Every one whom the Father has elected from before the foundation of the world has been promised salvation. #2, On the cross of Calvary in AD 33 the Lord Jesus Christ saved every one of His elect by His atonement for their sins. #3, Every one of His elect were regenerated in their soul by God the Holy Spirit in this lifetime. #4, Every one of His elect are promised to retain their favorite status with God until the Last Day, at which time we will be raptured and we will jointly enter into the New Heaven and the New earth. Not one can be added, and not one shall be forgotten.  

Now, what does this mean when we consider our sins we commit in this lifetime? Is God a righteous Judge, and does He not remember every sin we commit, even sins as small as an idle word?

·        Sin and Grace (Rom 7:1-4, Rom 4:8,15)

Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Romans, Rom 7:1 (2X). What is sin? Sin is a transgression of the law. But where no law is there is no transgression. Again God considers two groups of people, the elect and the non-elect. I will first speak about the elect. We read in Rom 7:1-4,

Rom 7:1-4, “1  Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? 2  For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. 3  So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. 4  Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” What does this passage tell us? Verse 1 tells us that every one being born into this world is born under the law, as if he is married to the law. However, when we sin we have been unfaithful to the law, and the law demands that we must suffer the penalty for our sin. The law declares, “the wages of sin is death,” and the death that God has in view is the second death, the lake of fire. We are bound to our husband the law, so long as he lives. But if the law dies our bondage to the law is dissolved. Now, verse 4 tells us that the law did not die, but we died. And so our bondage to the law is dissolved. The law still exists, but the law only applies to those who are the non-elect. All the elect have died with Christ, for we were in Christ from before the foundation of the world, and when Christ died we also died with Him. And since we died with Christ we are delivered from the curse of the law. Please turn to Rom 4:8. Now we understand why God says in Rom 4:8, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” Who are these people to whom the Lord will not impute sin? They are all the elect, for all their sins have been paid at the cross. There is not any future sin in existence which can accuse them of unfaithfulness to the law. Even though man is a sinner as long as he lives, no sin will be charged to his account. “Blessed is the man to whom he Lord will not impute sin.” Therefore, after having been Born Again we are no longer called sinners, but saints. God reinforces this idea in Rom 4:15, where He says, “The law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.” And so, for all the elect Christ has paid for all their sins. There is not one sin that was forgotten, for Christ has made sure that every sin has been paid. But this refers to all the elect. What about all the non-elect? Their sins have not been paid yet. On the Last Day they will have to pay for their sins, even those sins that are as small as an idle word. Each one of their sins carries a penalty of an eternity in hell, and thus it is guaranteed that they will never get out of hell. The law still applies to them. There is no grace for them, since they did not want Christ to rule over them in the first place. And so, this is the situation with the law and grace. All the elect have their sins paid for at the time of the cross. This is the grace, the unmerited favor of God toward all the elect by sending the Lord Jesus Christ to die for their sins in AD 33. On the other hand, all the non-elect still have to pay for their own sins, even sins as small as an idle word, for in their lifetime they did not want Christ as their Lord and Master. That is why they are called the wicked.

But who are the righteous? Please turn one page to your left to Rom 3:21 (2X).

#3.       Righteousness, but Not by the Works of Man! (Ecc 7:20, Rom 3:21-22)

What is righteousness? Righteousness means to be right with God. It means to be completely in agreement with God in everything that God says and does. No man in the world is righteous like that. Only Christ is righteous like God is, for Christ has God the Son dwelling in Him. In this life no man can be absolutely righteous. When Christ has paid for all our sins, and all our sins have been cast away because we have been Born Again, we are still not absolutely righteous, for we still sin every day. God says in Ecc 7:20, “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” For such a man God declares him righteous, but God’s declaration is a legal declaration. Legally, in God’s sight, this man shows no sin of any kind, because he has died with Christ, he has died to the law, and the Lord does not impute to him any guilt of sin. But that does not mean that he does not sin, for Ecc 7:20 clearly states that he still sins. And thus we have to indicate a difference between someone who is absolutely righteous and someone who is declared righteous. While on earth the best thing that can be said of us is that God declares us righteous. But the saints in glory who are in the presence of Christ are absolutely righteous like Christ is, for the promise is that we will be like Him. Then we will have the righteousness of God. God declares in Rom 3:21-22 these words,

Rom 3:21-22, “21  But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22  Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe:” The righteousness of God without the law has been revealed at the cross of Christ. There God showed that He can be righteous and merciful at the same time. And the law and the prophets bear witness to that fact. In addition, on the Last Day the righteousness of God will be conferred upon all who have come to put their trust in the faith of Jesus Christ. What is the faith of Jesus Christ? It is the faith of Christ that the Father would not leave His soul in hell, but that Christ would pay the penalty in full and be resurrected out of hell. And all them that believe are those who trust that Christ made the full payment for their sins on the cross. All the elect will believe this, and they all will receive the righteousness of God as a free gift.

AMEN.                  Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.