Summary: Grace is God giving us what we do not desereve. But do we really understand the magnitude and wonder of God’s grace?
I would want to concentrate this evening on verses 42-45 of this passage. From those verses I would say: God wants us to live in His grace: He wants us to receive, experience and enjoy His grace and He wants us also to express His grace in our lives. Can I repeat that?
God wants us to live in His grace: He wants us to receive, experience and enjoy Hid grace and He wants us to express His grace in our lives. Here we have the very heart of the Christian Gospel: a Gospel which is summed in Mark 10:45
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many
The word ‘ransom’ means that the Lord Jesus Christ came to set us free. he came to set us free from sin; free from its guilt and its power and eventually, in glory, from its very presence is our lives. Romans 3:23 reminds us that all have sinned. All of us. Our human condition is sin and sin results in separation from God and in his condemnation on sin. Yet Jesus came into this world not to condemn but to give us that which we can never deserve. He did this by giving up His very life and his very life-blood that we might walk free from condemnation. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus- so Romans 8:1.
There’s a shocking boldness in this. There was a shocking boldness in Jesus’ association with the tax-collectors (Matthew was in his band of 12; he visited Zaccheus, and his grace turned Zaccheus’ life around). He associated with the prostitutes and set them free from the bondage they lived in. His grace scandalised the religious leaders of the day and it’s scandalised many in the Christian church. It scandalises and offends our human pride and dignity. We feel that there is something we can do; something we can do to earn God’s favour and the idea that there is nothing can scandalise and does scandalise and offend. The Roman Catholic doctrine is that we earn salvation- through faith in Jesus Christ, yes, but it’s faith plus works, plus good deeds. This concept bound the church in the Middle Ages. It bound Martin Luther. He became a monk to please God. He lived that life of self-denial to please God but as time went by he became ever more tormented by his conscience and by his concept of a distant, law-giving, vindictive God. He nearly went insane. Eventually he made a pilgrimage to Rome to win favour. Flagellation. That surely would please God. Then he saw a crucifix and the words of Scripture The just will live by faith. In a blinding flash Luther saw God’s grace He saw that that figure on that Cross had given himself that he, Martin Luther, might be free!
American authors Dorothy and Gabriel Fackre wrote this:
Luther was overwhelmed by this Good News: God accepts the unacceptable! God loves the unlovely! Those pointing fingers of Christ that he saw as he looked up were really outstretched hands at the end of open arms, reaching to lift us up. Christ so welcomes us with infinite tenderness. The hard Work done on Calvary is all there, right now for us. All we have to do is accept it with trust. And so we are declared righteous (just) before God.
God’s grace is just that. It is a gift- it is ‘gratuitous’, ‘gratis’, free! God desires only that we accept it, experience it and enjoy it. To revel in it. Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son. The father threw a party and the elder son, of course, was offended at the revelry going on because this good-for-nothing brother had come home. It’s folly in the eyes of the world, which lives by the opposite of grace. Take, not give. Just deserts for the miscreant. To get what you deserve, and if you fall foul of life- well, you deserved it. “Serve you right”
That is not the arithmetic of God’s grace. The arithmetic of grace is well counted in that acronym for GRACE: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
The Son of Man came....to give His life as a ransom for many.
We can’t earn God’s favour. How often we try and tear ourselves apart in the process. As we shall think in a moment God desires that our lives express His grace and that grace transforms, but it is not earned. I had two JW ladies at the door recently and I tried to explain to them about Jesus and about grace. Salvation they could accept as a concept, but something you had to earn. It was only after they left that I wished I had though of the penitent thief who died on one of the crosses alongside of Jesus. Today you will be with me in paradise. And what could that thief ever have done to earn salvation, to earn grace. ‘Earn grace’ is a contradiction in terms