Summary: A Reformation Sunday sermon on the "by grace alone" theme, based on the fine sermon by Jonathan McLeod, "Amazing Grace" (August 2006).
By Grace Alone -- Ephesians 2:4-2:10
Grace It is UNDESERVED KINDNESS. Someone has said, “Grace is everything for nothing to those who don’t deserve anything.”
An atheist once said, “If there really is a God, may He prove Himself by striking me dead right now.” Nothing happened. The atheist proudly announced, “You see, there is no God.” His friend responded, “You’ve only proved that He is a gracious God.”
“Grace is the power of God made available to meet all our needs.” - Joyce Meyer
MAIN IDEA: Only by God’s grace can we be saved.
You may know the story about the Sunday School teacher who wanted to teach her class about grace. And so one day she asked them, “If I sold my house and my car and gave all my money to the church, would I get into Heaven?”
“NO”! the children all answered.
Again she asked, “If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would I get into Heaven?”
And again, the answer was “NO!”
“Well,” she continued, “then how can I get to Heaven?”
In the back of the room, a five-year-old boy shouted out, “You gotta be dead!”
Christian faith is not about what we can do for God, but what God has done for us. What Luther saw in the spring of 1513 turned the world of religion on its head. In Luther’s time, the church was basically teaching that God was passive, but humanity was to be active. That is, God was on His throne reigning. And human beings were to be scurrying around seeking to win God’s favor.
Luther’s eyes were opened to another reality--that it is God who is active. Salvation is all about what God has done in Jesus Christ. Because Christ gave himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, our debt to God is forever paid.
Why do I need to be saved? Because I am a sinner and the wages of sin is death; eternal separation from the life of God.
During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death.
The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. “What’s the [commotion] about?” he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions. Lewis responded, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”
The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of Karma, the Jewish Mosaic covenant, and the Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional [Perfect Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion, pp. 116-117; citation: Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing about Grace?].
I. I can NEVER DO ENOUGH to deserve salvation.
In 2001, Reader’s Digest asked Muhammad Ali what his faith meant to him. Ali replied, “[It] means [a] ticket to heaven. One day we’re all going to die, and God’s going to judge us, [our] good and bad deeds. [If the] bad outweighs the good, you go to hell; if the good outweighs the bad, you go to heaven.” That’s what many people believe. But that’s not what the Bible says.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith—and this not from yourselves—it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
READ James 2:10; and Rom. 3:19.
I need to be saved by grace. I need undeserved salvation.
II. Christ DID ENOUGH to provide salvation for me.
There are only two principles by which God deals with people—grace and law.
Think of the nature of God: 1) God is all-powerful, the Creator. 2) God is everywhere. 3) God is personal. 4) God is holy; the Righteous Judge. And 5) God is love. These all fit together in the Biblical portrait of God. But you cannot have love without holiness; nor holiness without love. In human judges, or in almighty God!
According to the principle of grace, God deals favorably with people in a way they do not deserve. Law requires Him to deal with people in a way they deserve. Since sinners deserve hell, they cannot be delivered from this penalty by law.
The spiritual blindness of man is evident in that all their religions teach that people are saved by their works, the very principle which bars them from acceptance with God. No one can ever be saved from his sins apart from God’s grace.