Summary: Grace is THE distinctive of Christianity, but it is used in different ways in the New Testament: SAVING grace; SUSTAINING grace; and SANCTIFYING grace. All three are important to understand.
Ephesians - Live Like You Really Are
January 22, 2012
TEXT: Ephesians 1:2 – “Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. ”
Paul frequently opened his letters with his desire that his readers experience these twin blessings—grace and peace. Today I want to talk to you about grace, and next week we will discuss peace.
Illus. – At a comparative religions conference at Oxford University, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity.
Someone suggested that what set Christianity apart from other religions was the incarnation, but it was pointed out that this if found in some other religions too.
Another suggestion was the resurrection; but it was again pointed out that some other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.
Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis, the famous 20th century Oxford Christian apologist, walked into the room a little early for his presentation. After hearing a little of the debate, he asked, “What’s all this rumpus about?”
“We’re debating what’s unique about Christianity.”
“Oh, that’s easy,” answered Lewis. “It’s grace.” Lewis continued by pointing out that only Christianity claims God’s love comes free of charge, no strings attached.
No other religion makes that claim:
• Buddhists follow an eight-fold path to enlightenment. – It’s not free at all.
• Hindus believe in karma, that your actions determine your next life.
• Jews believe that one must keep God’s Law to be acceptable to God
• In Islam, one must do certain actions to appease Allah, who is not a god of love.
• Only Christianity posits a God who loves mankind unconditionally, so much so that He devised a plan to provide salvation as a totally free gift that merely has to be accepted by faith: plus nothing and minus nothing.
Grace is THE distinctive of Christianity, so we need to understand it.
The word grace is a very important and precious word in the Christian’s vocabulary.
Think of the many songs that have been written about grace—
• Old standards include Amazing Grace; Wonderful Grace of Jesus; Grace Greater than Our Sin; and Only a Sinner Saved by Grace.
• Contemporary songs also exalt God’s grace through songs such as Amazing Grace—My Chains Are Gone; Your Grace Is Enough and Grace Alone.
The great Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest says: “It is hardly too much to say that the mind of God has in no word uttered itself and all that was in His heart more distinctly than in this word grace.” (Treasures of the New Testament, Kenneth Wuest, p. 15)
What is grace? Well, it depends upon the context in which the word it used. The Bible actually uses the word grace in three distinct ways in the New Testament. Let’s examine them:
I. FIRST, THE BIBLE SPEAKS OF SAVING GRACE – Go with me to Ephesians 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.”
Everything about this passage of scripture drips of grace.
The Greek word for grace is charis.
In classical Greek charis meant “a favor freely done, without claim or expectation or return.” The ancient Greeks used charis as a favor that was always bestowed on a FRIEND, never an enemy.
Right there charis leaps an infinite distance from the Greeks, for God gave His Son for His ENEMIES, and Jesus died for his ENEMIES—a thing unheard of before.
So biblically speaking, saving grace may be defined as “the action whereby God freely gives to unworthy, willing recipients that which he does not deserve.”
Grace is nicely expressed in a well-known acrostic of the word:
Why do we need God’s grace, and how did God’s provision of it come about?
Verses 1-3 describe the reason we need to be saved to begin with. – Paul explains how we were dead in trespasses and sins against God and we walked according to the course of this world and Satan and fulfilled the desires of our flesh and mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, that is, we were destined for God’s judgment of our sin.
But verse 7 tells us that God showed “the exceeding riches of His GRACE in His kindness to us through Jesus Christ.” You know the story: Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth, lived a sinless life; died on the cross for our sins in our place; rose from the dead; and ascended into heaven to be at the right hand of God the Father. While on the cross, God poured out His judgment on Jesus for our sin so that it was punished in Jesus instead of us having to pay the penalty ourselves.