Genelle Guzman McMillan wanted a change from her home in Trinidad, so she moved to New York in 1998. In order to stay in New York, McMillan knew she needed to get a good, steady job. She couldn’t believe it when she was hired at one of the World Trade Towers and was excited as she began her first day there on January 19, 2001. She made many friends through work—including live-in boyfriend, Roger—and spent each weekend partying.
On the morning of 9/11 she went to her job on the 64th floor. She and her coworkers hear a loud crash and the building move. They stayed on the 64th floor until it became known what had happened. Genelle and a coworker started down one of the stairwells and made it to the 13th floor. That is when the whole building collapsed. Amazingly, steel and concrete had pinned her where she was and she was injured, but she was alive. She lay there unable to move, rethinking her life. 27 hours after the building collapsed she was able to push her hand through a few inches of rubble above her head and felt someone’s warm hand close around hers. Then she heard a male voice say to her: “I’ve got you, Genelle. My name is Paul,” he told her. “You’re going to be okay. They’re going to get you out soon.” She heard other voices, sirens and a light. “They’re here,” Paul said. “I’m going to go and let them do their jobs and get you out.” Genelle was the last survivor pulled from the World Trade Center. There were three things she promised God she would do as soon as she got out of the hospital: get baptized, marry her boyfriend Roger and find Paul, the one who first held her hand. On November 7, after 6 weeks in the hospital, 4 surgeries and hours of physical therapy and rehabilitation, she kept two promises she made while trapped under the rubble. She and Roger got married at City Hall and Genelle was baptized that evening into Jesus Christ. But Paul? She never found him. Who was he? No one knew, no one had ever heard of him. She called her preacher and asked him. They discussed another Paul, the one in the Bible who was totally in the dark, like Genelle, and fought against God until he saw the light. She never found Paul but may we find the Paul from the Bible this morning
Grace is a favorite word of the apostle Paul. He uses it 100 times in his letters. At the beginning and the end of each of his letters he mentions grace. Vs. 7
On Sunday night I mentioned that we are beginning a series on grace.
More specifically we will be discussing it over the book of Romans ch. 1-8. A couple of years ago I was asked to speak on grace by a deacon. I took up the idea from Ephesians. It is true that Ephesians mentions the word grace more proportionately than Romans, but Romans explains and discusses it in much more detail.
Grace is a gift that brings joy. This can describe many things. For this study, more specifically we are talking about the gift that is given when wrath is owed. Salvation.
Paul, or Saul, was one who could relate to that concept. If anyone deserved God’s wrath, it was Saul. He went from house to house and place to place persecuting and killing Christians. On his way to Damascus, the Lord appeared to him. Tell the story from Acts 9.
Acts 9:15: But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.
I Corinthians 15:9: For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
Paul was called the Apostle to the Gentiles. Ironic that he was a devout Jew. Vs. 5- we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles
To whom is this letter written? To the Romans. The city of Rome could arguably be the most influential in the whole world at that time. The missionary strategy was to go to the largest and most influential cities at that time.
Why was this letter written? Up to this point Paul had been unable to go there and preach the gospel. A church was there and he was unsure if he would ever be able to go, so he preached there through this letter.
Preaching grace fills some with fears and gives people some misunderstandings.
Thesis: Let’s talk about 4 fears and misunderstandings that can come through grace and then talk about 4 appropriate responses to grace.
4 fears and misunderstandings of grace
1. This will cause a drop in sacrificial giving, hit us in the offering plate.
Now for those giving from a legalistic motive (trying to earn God’s favor), it will affect their giving. For those who are trying to pay back what God did for them, grace will lower their motivation to give. We can never give enough to repay what God did for us.
Manipulation can achieve a short result. But grace is the path to a long term, sustainable result in the hearts of people.
In the short run it might cause a drop in the offerings, but in the long run, grace, when properly understood, will unleash greater sacrificial giving, because the heart of grace is God’s own incredible sacrificial giving.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul is encouraging the Corinthian Christians to give to an offering to the poor in Judea. They started to give but for whatever reason they had become slack in giving. Paul gives several reasons why they should give, and in the midst of this he says in 2 Corinthians 9:15: Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
2. This will cause a drop in attendance.
If we have people coming to church because it is their duty to God to try to earn his favor, it’s only a matter of time before they stop coming anyway.
We often refer to Hebrews 10:25 to encourage church attendance: Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing. However, we forget that just a few verses before in vs. 22 it says: let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.
3. In our age of relativism, some fear grace may lead to a deemphasis on truth.
A. It is interesting to note that Paul in his discussion of salvation and grace, has a long section toward the beginning in Romans 1:18 through Romans 3:20 where Paul explains the condition of all mankind. Romans 3:10: There is no one righteous, not even one.
B. Paul begins with our condition as sinners condemned by the law and that leads us to God’s grace through Jesus Christ. The truth leads us to grace. John 8:32- The truth will set you free.
Jesus Christ was full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Must have both parts.
4. Grace can be mistaken as a license to sin.
Jude 4: godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality
Paul talks about this starting Romans 6:1-2: What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
KJV Romans 5:20: where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. These people are actually reversing God’s Word to make it say, “Where grace abounded, sin superabounded!”
Grace gives the motivation and power to say “No” to sin.
4 appropriate responses to grace
Through grace we understand the awfulness of our sin and the awesomeness of God’s love.
Have grown so accustomed to hearing about the cross that it has lost its horror and wonder.
We should be overflowing with thankfulness (Colossians 2:7).
We are saved by grace for the purpose of doing good works (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Too many people grudgingly work for their salvation, but Christian joyfully work because they are saved. Too many people wonder how little they can do to please God, rather than how much they can do to thank God.
3. Be gracious to others
We cannot give saving grace, but we can be gracious toward all people all of the time.
We need graciousness at church. Richard Beam- I saw a country church with a cemetery just outside the front door and a tombstone on which was engraved the word “Grace.” It is that way in too many churches. Grace is buried just outside the door.
We need graciousness at home. Oddly, many get along better with strangers than their family
We need grace at work in which we engage in witnessing for our Lord. Many times a gracious or winsome attitude is just as important as a winning argument.
Colossians 4:6: Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
When we first came to Christ, many of us came out of fear and dread of judgment.
Once we are in Christ, guilt, condemnation, and self despising are no longer intended to be our chief motivators for righteous living. It will take time to change but sooner or later, love is to become the motivating force of our Christian living.
Guilt and fear are short term motivators, intended to shake us our of our sins and get us moving toward Christ. But they are very poor long term motivators. They may be all right for the 100 yard dash, but the Christian life is more like the 26 mile marathon which we are to run with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1).
1 John 4:18: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.