Summary: Sermon explores saving grace and the influence grace has on the life of a true believer.
Titus 2:11-14 Series: Grace Works! #3
Eph. 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” Verse 9 adds “not of works, lest anyone should boast.”i That was our text two weeks ago. In that message we focused on salvation by grace alone (sola gratia). We used as our definition of grace, unmerited favor. Grace is the undeserved, unearned goodwill, love and acceptance that is freely given to us because of what Christ did on the cross in our behalf. We have not only been forgiven of our sin, but we have been adopted into the family of God and we enjoy rich benefits simply because God loves us and Jesus bought us with His own blood. If your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, you have a whole lot to be happy about this morning.
The definition I gave you is true. However, it needs to be further explained. That’s what I want to do this morning. Many Christians are in trouble because they do not understand the grace of God in their lives. Paul spent a lot of time talking about the grace of God. It is a major theme of the New Testament. All those verses are there because it is important.
The Greek word translated grace in the New Testament is charis. Strong’s definition of grace says that it is “especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.”ii Grace is more than an abstract legal transaction that is recorded somewhere in heaven.
I. Grace is the influence of the Holy Spirit that works a change in the person from the inside out.
Phil. 2:13 puts it this way. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” That is grace: divine influence upon the heart. It causes us to want to do good; and then it empowers us to do good. Rom. 6:14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you….” Why? “… for you are not under law but under grace.” The power of grace in your life is greater than the power of sin in your life. Therefore, because of the divine influence (we call grace), “…sin shall not have dominion over you.”
Let’s put Phil. 2:13 in the context of the verse that precedes it. Phil 2:12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” So which is it? Does God do the work or do I do the work. Verse 12 tells me to work: “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Yet verse 13 tells me it is God working. Paul is showing us how sanctification works. He is talking about our cooperation with the influence of the Holy Spirit. God causes us to want to please Him; He influences our will. He does not take free will away from us. But He influences us. And if we receive that influence, we are then motivated to step out in faith to do His good pleasure. Then He empowers us to do it. We cannot take credit for it because God motivated us to do it; and He enabled us to do it. Otherwise it simply would not happen. “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
New Testament grace bears the fruit of good works.iii It changes the heart. It influences the will. It empowers believers to do His good pleasure. If I have a grace that fails to do that, it’s not New Testament grace. If the grace I claim is simply an abstract concept or an assumed legal transaction in heaven that really works no change in my desires or in my behavior, something very serious is wrong! James tells us that if we have real faith, it will be demonstrated in what we do. Faith without works is dead (James 2:17). It’s just empty talk. Real faith produces good works.
Let me come back to Eph. 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” We are saved by grace. That was our central theme of our last message. Notice the words in that text “through faith.” God gives us the faith; but we have to use it. Faith is an action word. When you look at the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, you find people of action. “By faith Abel offered….” Offered is an action word. “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark….” There was a lot of work that went into preparing that ark, in obedience to God’s warning. “By faith Abraham obeyed….” Abraham is called the father of faith. His faith was demonstrated by his obedience. Real faith obeys.iv “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac….” “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come….” We could talk about the action Moses’ parents took by faith. We could talk about Moses “choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.” “By faith he forsook Egypt….”By faith they passed through the Red Sea….” Biblical faith acts in accordance with the belief. James 2:18 “…I will show you my faith by my works.” That’s the evidence that the faith is really there.