Summary: God’s Grace is something that is kinda simple but kinda hard to really understand. What does it mean to embrace God’s grace?
At the beginning of our current series on the book of Romans, I mentioned that one of the reasons that Paul wrote the book in the first place was to speak to some misunderstandings that had been circulating in the early church about his teachings in general.
Nowhere was Paul more misunderstood than on the topic of grace.
One of the most unique things about the Christian faith, in fact, is the Biblical idea of grace. It is also something that is frequently misunderstood.
In his book "What’s So Amazing About Grace?", Christian author Philip Yancey writes about a friend who invited him out for a cup of coffee one night. This friend, it turns out, is contemplating leaving his wife after 15 years of marriage because he’s found someone younger and prettier, someone he says makes him feel alive.
As a Christian, Yancey’s friend knows his decision will devastate his wife and permanently damage his three kids. He also knows that his relationship with God will never be the same again. Even so, the force pulling him toward this other woman was like a powerful magnet. So finally he asks Philip Yancey, "Do you think God can forgive something as awful as I’m about to do?’
Yancey’s friend was looking for assurance that he’d still be accepted by God, still under the cover of God’s grace. His dilemma was real, his confusion genuine. His ‘heart’ was pulling him in one direction, away from his family, away from the vows he had made at marriage to love, honour and cherish his wife. He knew what he wanted to do was wrong, and he wanted assurance from a Christian friend that in the end God would forgive him.
Perhaps we, too, have at times wondered about such things. Our hearts or our bodies seem to pull us in one direction, a direction which, if we can be honest with ourselves, we know is really against God’s perfect will for us.
Our faith, our convictions…all that we believe says one thing. But something else in us can seem strong too…something that tries to pull us away from living out what we believe. In a few weeks we’ll be looking at Romans 7 and going much deeper into that topic.
Now its true that one of the biggest challenges that people who love God have always faced is sin. Those who love God struggle with their sin because we know it hurts or compromises our communion with God.
If we minimize or ignore the problem of sin, we’re going to cut ourselves off from the reality of God’s love in its fullness.
We’re not going to really understand or value the most stunning truth in all of human existence: God’s love is so deep and personal and powerful that He sent His only Son into the world to rescue us from sin, from ourselves. This is huge folks. We never stop celebrating this in our songs, our sermons, the Eucharist or communion.
Just before we get into today’s passage, let’s look at one verse from last week. Romans 5:20
20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Here’s the tricky thing about grace. Paul argues in chapter 5 that the effect of the law being given was to increase our awareness of sin.
Let’s pause for a second. How would you describe sin? What is sin to you? [A good, simple definition of sin is anything that offends God]
If there wasn’t a law against coveting for example, we wouldn’t necessarily know that coveting was wrong in God’s eyes and therefore sinful. The law that tells us that coveting is wrong makes us aware that when we covet we are actually sinning.
But, says Paul, when sin increased, the result wasn’t just more punishment. No…where sin increased, grace increased all the more.
This teaching of Paul’s, which had been circulating in the ancient world and had caught the ear of the church in Rome, was being misunderstood. Some feared that this teaching on grace, or salvation by faith alone, would lead to moral irresponsibility.
Some thought that this teaching was actually about some kind of spiritual justification for sinning. Obviously people were having a hard time grasping what grace was about. Grace, in the sense of God’s grace…being given a gift that we absolutely do not deserve (in fact we deserve something awful instead)…
Grace is, except for its central presence in Christian faith, alien to human thought and alien to the realm of religion in general. Grace is huge. No wonder humans mess up when trying to grasp it.