GROWING IN GRACE 1 – THE GENESIS OF GRACE (outline with manuscript after the dotted line)
Text: Genesis 1:1-3
1. This morning we begin a study of one of the most significant concepts in the entire Bible. The
concept of Grace
2. How radical is the concept of grace?
During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world
debated what belief, if any, was unique to the Christian faith. They began by eliminating
the possibilities. Incarnation? No, other religions had different versions of gods
appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return
from death experiences. The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered
into the room. “What’s the rumpus about?” he asked. His colleagues replied, "We're
discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions." Lewis responded,
“Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”
After further discussion the conferees agreed. The notion of God’s love coming to us
free of charge, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold
path to enlightenment, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish conditions for covenant,
and the Muslim code of law – each present a way to earn our approval. It's true; only
Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.(1)
3. So what does this important word mean?
The linguistic starting-point is the sense of “making glad by gifts,” of showing free
unmerited grace. The element of freedom in giving is constitutive(2)
4. And yet we have to be careful how we handle this beautiful word. David Miller has observed,
“We cannot overemphasize the grace of God. But we can misemphasize, misrepresent,
misdefine, [and] misunderstand the grace of God. We can use the marvelous grace of
God as a pretext for corrupting worship and relaxing the high moral standards of the
5. God warned us,
2 Corinthians 6:1
Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive
the grace of God in vain.
6. I see two predominant abuses of Grace.
7. First is the person who teaches A Phariseeistic legalism that causes people to live a life that robs
them of the joy of their salvation by following an impossible list of man-made doctrines and
constantly shifting theories
1) Their service to God becomes “The constant rolling of a stone that was always to be lifted
2) They are driven by the feeling that they are never good enough, never give enough, never do
enough, never pray enough, never study enough, never serve enough.
3) So it’s little wonder that,
Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of
the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 394.
Dave Miller, The Empowering Grace of God.pdf. Ohio Valley University Faulkner Lectureship 2014.
Rauch's Psychology, p. 343
Growing in Grace 1 – the Genesis of Grace
This morning we’re going to talk about one of the most important concepts in the Bible. We’re going to begin a series that’s going to span a number of weeks and we’re going to cover this topic in-depth. That important concept is the concept of ‘grace’. It’s one of the most radical concepts ever conceived in the religious world. During a British conference on comparative religion, several years ago, experts from around the world were debating what belief, if any, was truly unique to Christianity. They began by eliminating the possibilities.
The looked at:
Incarnation - They thought, there are cases in man-made religions of doctrines of people of different versions of Gods appearing in human form. So that’s not so unique.
Resurrection - They could think of stories and the myths, of ages past, where people came back from the dead; so that wasn’t it. As they went through the process C. S. Lewis a famous atheist turned apologist wandered into the room and in his typical British way said, “What’s the rumpus about?” They explained to him they were trying to figure out what, if anything was unique in the teaching of Christianity. Without even thinking he responded, “That’s easy – grace.” As they discussed the issue the conferees agreed. The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhists have their eight fold path of enlightenment, the Hindus their doctrine of karma, the Jewish conditions of covenant, and the Muslim code of law/pillars of Islam. Each present a way to earn approval; but only Christianity has an example of a God whose love is unconditional and a love based on who He is instead of who we are.
So what does this important word grace mean? One of the most complete sources for the meaning of New Testament words is called Kittel’s theological dictionary; it’s like a ten volume dictionary. For example, its definition of the word Baptizo or Baptism runs about sixty five pages as it explains what it meant in ancient Greek and what the parallels to the word meant in the Hebrew Old Testament, it then explains what the word meant in the New Testament. Its explanation and definition of the word for grace (charis) runs about forty five pages and right in the middle of it is this precious passage that I just had to share with you.
The linguistic starting-point [that is to the meaning of the word grace] is the sense of “making glad by gifts,” of showing free unmerited grace. The element of freedom in giving is constitutive.
Now I want you to look at that for a minute because there’s something in that definition that I almost never hear emphasized. This is the power of grace. Grace to me is one of the great motivators; one of the reasons that we should be excited about our faith. We should be motivated to serve, not because we have to but because we want to. Look at that first phrase,
The linguistic starting-point is the sense of making glad
How many times have you heard grace is unmerited favor? That’s not the whole story. There are a lot of people who have received unmerited favor that aren’t even happy about it. Several years ago I was reading Dear Abby or one of those columns, in the column, a woman was upset because she had bought a gift for her husband for his birthday and he didn’t like it and wanted to take it back. She didn’t think he should take it back, that started a back and forth and a number of people wrote in and said, I don’t care whether my husband wants it or not I buy it for him because I want him to have it. Well there’s a gift that didn’t make anybody glad except the person that bought it. God’s motivation in giving us his gift, first and foremost, is to make us glad - here with a life abundant and overflowing [John 10:10] and there with life eternal in Heaven that can never end.
The linguistic starting-point is the sense of making glad
You’ve heard the story about the boy that was walking down a road paralleled by a rail split fence. He came to a mule; its head was hanging over the fence just chomping at the grass. He stared at the mule’s baleful face. After several minutes of the mule’s long face, the boy declared, “must be a Christian mule” and went on his way. Where do we get this idea that there’s something holy about a long face, moving slowly and acting like your rich aunt just died and left it all to the cat. We need to understand that Christianity is supposed to be religion that is characterized by joy. Not because we’re good enough [because we can’t be] but because God is good enough and loving enough that he has motivated us through our faith in Him to do everything we can to serve him out of a sense of joy for the salvation and life he gives. Remember what David said,
Psalm 51:12-13 (ESV) 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
These things have I written for you to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God that you might know that you have eternal life. If you know it then act like it, look like it; let your face know it. To many Christians look like they’ve been weaned on a dill pickle teethed on a persimmon. If you have the joy of the Lord fills your heart, let your face know it. I worshipped for years in a congregation full of wonderful Christians .But somewhere along the line the were miss-taught. They had the idea that if you were serving at the Lord’s Table or leading prayer you had to move very…very slowly and you weren’t allowed to smile. When you walked into the building there were hundreds of people, I’m looking around, I’m so depressed thinking what’s wrong. Then I realized we are hundreds of us here worshipping the, “God of all comfort” and there is no a smile in the room. How can that be if the joy of the Lord is your strength?
The linguistic starting-point is the sense of making glad by gifts
You can’t earn it, you can’t deserve it, and you can’t be good enough. We serve God through faithful obedience; not in order to obligate Him to save us. That is what grace is all about.
The element of freedom in giving is constitutive
In other words, God didn’t have to do this. It is a gift He was under no obligation to give to anybody. That’s from the Kittel’s Theological Dictionary. I see two great abuses of grace. It’s like the greater the gift from God the more Satan tries to distort it and to warp it. The two great abuses of the subject of grace I see are:
This idea that we have to add law upon law command upon command. Phariseeistic legalism calls its people to live a life that robs them of the joy of their salvation; by following an impossible list of often man-made doctrines and constantly shifting theories. This service to God becomes the constant rolling of a stone that always has to be lifted anew. They are driven by the constant feeling of they’re never good enough, that they never give enough, they never do enough, they never pray enough, they never study enough, they never serve enough. They’re driven by a feeling that they just have to hope somehow, hope beyond hope, they might make it. Its little wonder people like this often become so confused and discouraged.
The odd thing is when you read the New Testament the thing Jesus stood against consistently was graceless religion. Have you ever thought of who Jesus had the strongest rebukes for? The only group he attacked relentlessly was the graceless religious leaders. We should not be surprised when we get to the end of the Gospels and discover that the people who crucified Him were those who claimed to know God but knew little about grace.
The second and I think the most pervasive abuse of grace today is the teaching by those who have run from the lion of Phariseeistic legalism until they were clutched by the bear of cheap grace. Grace may be a free gift, but it’s the most expensive free gift in the history of the universe. These people have reached the point with their cheap grace they are using grace as an excuse for sin instead of a reason to get up again. Someone had said that the walk of grace is described as falling down, getting up, falling down, getting up, falling down, getting up all the way to Heaven. The reason you keep getting back up is because you believe God’s promise that His grace is greater than your sin.
We have these people that instead are using grace as an excuse to sin instead of a reason to get up and start over again. They live these lukewarm, lackadaisical, Loadicean lives characterized by an attitude that God is a sentimental old grandfather sitting on his rocking chair on the front porch in Heaven with such an sloppy agape love that he’ll save me and except me on my terms. Both of these abuses rob us of the power of grace.
Did you know there’s power in grace? A true understanding of the grace of God is one of the ultimate motivators to live a life faithful and pleasing to God and full of the joy of our salvation. For example, we have to be careful.
2 Corinthians 6:1
1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
All over the world grace is being used as an excuse to sin and grace is being received in vain. Look at the power that’s available for us with the proper understanding of grace.
2 Timothy 2:1
1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus
9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.
1 Peter 1:13
13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
You see the proper understanding of grace is one of the ultimate motivators. To keep doing the best we can, then not questioning ‘oh no, what if it wasn’t my best?’ So many Christians have this attitude they’re going through life saved-lost-saved-lost. And they just hope that they’ll die in a saved moment before the next lost moment comes. Where in the world do you read that in 1 John 1? We don’t. We read of someone consistently walking in Jesus and in his light because the blood is consistently cleansing him of his sin. So we see the better understanding of the empowering grace is one of the things that keeps us going. For a better understanding in this first lesson, this introductory lesson, we want to talk about the genesis of grace.
The word genesis means, “an origin, creation or a beginning.” As a matter of fact in Genesis 1 the very first word in the Book of Genesis in Hebrew is the Hebrew word for genesis. It’s all about the beginning, the beginning of everything that matters. When we go back to the beginning fourteen hundred years before Christ came to earth. God moved Moses by direct, verbal, inerrant inspiration to tell the creation story for the first time in writing. He did it because as he began to write this the children of Israel had just been delivered from four hundred years of exposure to Egyptian mythology and polytheistic world view.
The first three chapters of Genesis are Israel’s introduction or, we might say, re-introduction for some of them to God. In the religions of the world the gods took up residence in a universe that already existed then started to run the show and make life miserable for people. That’s what they were used to seeing in the religions in the world. When we open our Bibles to Genesis we discover that all of that began too late. If you really want to understand the depth and the breadth of grace you really have to start at the beginning of the subject. The genesis of grace begins to be revealed in Genesis 1:1. Take a moment to open your Bible there in Genesis 1:1. It begins with the words we all know so well.
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of the God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good.
Let’s stop there and let’s go back to the beginning he says. In the beginning and that is a translation of the Hebrew word genesis or beginning or creation or springing forth. If you really want to understand the grace of God; the unmerited favor of God. Designed to bring the joy of our salvation, now, here, with a full life and then in eternity with eternal life, you really have to begin in the beginning as a matter of fact that’s not soon enough. To really see the genesis of grace you have to begin before Genesis. The Bible says, when we look at the Bible in
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
Have you ever stopped to think why God created the universe? He’s a spiritual God. What does John 4 say about God?
24 God is spirit, and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
Jesus said we know that a spirit has not flesh and blood. 2 Corinthians 4:18 tells us that anything that’s physical is temporary and God’s eternal so God’s spiritual. What does a spiritual God do with a physical universe? Something beautify to look at? More beautiful than Heaven? What purpose does a spiritual God have for a physical universe? The only purpose God has for a universe is as a place for you and me to live. He has no purpose for it, if it weren’t for his plan for you and me. See the original plan of grace was this - that he chose us before the foundation of the world. He made up his mind before the beginning. It says, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Before God created the heavens and the earth he decided that you were going to come into existence. He was going to create a place for you to live and that place was going to be an incredible place. It was going be the first manifestation of His grace, in what way? Look at verse 1 again
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Some of you have headed off to college or to school right now and some of you are going to have your faith challenged by people that say in their biology classes, and philosophy classes they don’t believe in God and they’re atheist.
I have news for you, I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist; I just don’t. Do you realize what you have to believe to be an atheist? You want to talk about a blind faith, a faith that’s based on no fact whatever, that’s atheism. One of the questions that consume science and philosophy alike is – why is there anything. There was a time when it made sense to scientists that the universe could have just sprung into existence without God, or that it might have just always exited, until they realized (because of the second law of thermodynamics, entropy) there was a time when no matter existed. Atheistic scientists know you can’t get something from nothing but they do believe there’s one exception - the universe came from nothing. You want to talk about an irrational, sentimental belief system. How did we get anything from nothing? They believe that from an ignorant, unknowing, un-thinking, unfeeling nothingness came an organized universe. How’s that for blind faith? Believing in something for which there is no scientific evidence is not even science.
On the other hand, the Bible says, In the beginning God, God is a spirit that’s something, but it’s not matter. Hebrews chapter 11 says by faith we know that God created the things that are seen from things unseen. God is the unseen eternal spirit from which all things could come. Only Christianity has an explanation from how you could get something from nothing. What you got was something from non-matter (spirit). You did not get something from nothing. I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist I just can’t believe, without any proof whatever, something came out of nothing. I just can’t believe it. But here we have this word.
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
There’s no known science that I’m aware of that would contradict that statement.
2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of the God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good.
What does he mean when he said it was good? This is another manifestation of God’s incredible grace. How is light good? Is it morally good? What is there morally good about dirt? There’s nothing morally good I know of, about light or about dirt or any of those things. If not good for what - good for whom? The universe He didn’t see it was good for Him because He’s in Heaven. Good for whom? Good for you and good for me. The first manifestation of God’s eternal grace is that He created such a good world for you and for me. We see in,
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And [why did he create this world] let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
He gave them dominion. He created them and handed them the keys and said “it’s yours take good care of it.”
29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
God created it and after every creation He said “it is good.” What does he mean? It’s good for man. It’s not good for Him, It’s not morally good, it’s good for man. It’s the earliest manifestation to man of God’s grace. He could have created any kind of world for us and yet He created a literal paradise on earth called Eden, and put mankind, the first man and woman, into that paradise. Sisters, you might not be shocked at this, but the first time we see something that’s not good, it turned out to be a man. The first time God sees something is not good scripture says, “he saw that it was not good that the man should be alone” and he created a help mate for him. They were to occupy and enjoy this incredible grace.
We hear that song
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed His grace on thee
When you look around and you see the indescribable beauty of a sunset, of the waves lapping against the rocks on a Michigan shore. When you stand in spite of the crazy things that little ball did and you see the beauty of God’s creation all around you on that golf course, when you see all the beauty of God’s creation when you, look up to behold the stars or you look down to behold the beauty of a puppy, everywhere you look you see the handy work of God. You see the first manifestation of God’s grace intended to bring joy.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing. 27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD,
How can you say my way’s hidden from the Lord, He gave you of all this. Then He’s going to go away and forget you like some deist claims? Here’s the amazing thing, that is the beginning manifestation of God’s grace but the beauty of all of this creation pales in the presence of the epitome of God’s grace, which is Jesus on the cross. Read to us so well this morning from Isaiah chapter 40. When you look around you and you see God’s amazing grace manifested in all the creation as it brings joy to your heart, allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the thought that if God loved you enough to give you this beautiful creation think about how much more marvelous the manifestation of his grace on the cross should be for you and me.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand
There’s the problem with the saved-lost-saved-lost-saved-lost I hope I die on the saved moment mentality. We stand in grace.
and we rejoice in hope
There’s no rejoicing in the saved-lost-saved-lost-saved-lost concept of works.
rejoice in hope of the glory of God 3 We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing our suffering produces endurance 4 and endurance produces character and character produces hope 5 hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous man – through perhaps for a good man one would dare even to die 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
There is nothing we can do to deserve that, nothing we can do to obligate God to send his Son. He gave him freely that we might have joy in this life and in the life to come. We have all sinned, Romans 3:23, 6:23. “The wages of that sin is death and a just God as much as he loves us must punish.” Jesus lived a perfect life he was the only one that ever had a life to give in our place on the cross.
You’ve probably heard of LaGuardia Airport. Do you know who it’s named after? LaGuardia Airport is named after Fiorello LaGuardia; he was the mayor of New York City during the Great Depression and during all of World War II. He was one of these greater than life guys he was only five foot four, New Yorkers called him the ‘little flower’ because he was five foot four and he often wore a carnation in his lapel. He was a colorful character he loved to ride to the fires on the New Your Fire Department fire engines. He would accompany the policeman raids as they smashed up the speakeasies. He would take entire orphanages to baseball games, and when the New York newspapers went on strike, he would get on the local radio stations , boys and girls there was no television back then – or Iphones, and read the Sunday funnies to the children. He was that kind of guy.
One cold night in January of 1935, he showed up unannounced at night court in the poorest district of New York. He gave the judge the night off and he took the seat behind the bench. Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him (in hand cuffs) charged with stealing a single loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had abandoned the daughter and the two grandchildren were starving. She had stolen the loaf of bread because they were starving. When LaGuardia appealed to the shopkeeper the shopkeeper refused to drop the charges. “It is a real bad neighborhood, your Honor. She’s got to be punished to teach others in the neighborhood a lesson.”
LaGuardia sighed. He said to the woman, “I have got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions ten dollars or ten days in jail.” As he gave the sentence, he was reaching into his pocket. He pulled out ten dollars. He tossed the ten dollars into his hat and said, “ I know remit that fine and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.”
The following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, fifty cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced shop owner. Some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York policemen, had contributed and those seventy stood and gave a standing ovation to mayor LaGuardia as they gave their fifty cents.
Here’s my question, did the elderly lady in this story get what she deserved? No! Was justice served? Was the penalty paid? The sentence ameliorated? Yes! You see in this story, I think, a marvelous example of grace. Remember what we said about the definition of grace.
The linguistic starting-point is the sense of making glad.
Do you think Mayor LaGuardia made this woman glad? It’s because of who he was not because of who she was. If you don’t think you’re good enough to live the Christian life, if you don’t think you’re powerful enough or faithful enough to live the Christian life – oh you’re not and neither am I. But God’s grace has so overwhelmed me with joy and appreciation for what He’s done that I do all that’s within my power to show Him my love and appreciation. You can do that to.
If you believe Jesus is God’s son it’s pretty simple what the Bible says you need to do at that point. Jesus says that you need to believe and be baptized for the remission of your sins. He told Peter to go preach that when he did people interrupted the sermon said now that we believe, what now? He said repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins and you’ll receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Are you ready this day to have more trust in God than in your own ability and step forward and say ‘I can’t but with God I can.” That God’s grace is greater than my sin and I’m willing to be humble and not try to be proud enough to do it on my own but to do it with God’s help?