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Summary: Grace is scandalous. It’s hard to accept, hard to believe, and hard to receive. Grace shocks us in what it offers. It is truly not of this world. It frightens us with what it does for sinners.

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(MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary was used in preparing this message.)

The Scandal of Grace

In this series, we’ve been learning about the topic of grace. As we look at how Jesus dealt with people and at some of His parables, we’re discovering that these “Grace Encounters” radically changed people’s lives 2,000 years ago ­ and can change ours as well.

Two weeks ago we discovered from Jesus’ interaction with children that grace is granted to us in spite of what we do, or even who we are. And, just as Jesus was gracious toward children, so too, we’re to let them come, we’re to learn from them, and we’re to love them.

Last week we established that we receive grace when we are born again. This saving grace is not something we can earn or work for ­ it’s a free gift given by a gracious God.

What’s So Amazing About Grace?

Its been said that Christianity is supremely a religion of grace. And that is certainly true. But, even so, grace is not well understood and often not really believed. We use the word a great deal but rarely think about what it means.

In his book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” Phillip Yancey points out that part of our problem is in the nature of grace itself. Grace is scandalous. It’s hard to accept, hard to believe, and hard to receive. Grace shocks us in what it offers. It is truly not of this world. It frightens us with what it does for sinners.

Grace teaches us that God does for others what we would never do for them. We would save the not-so-bad. God starts with prostitutes and then works downward from there. Grace is a gift that costs everything to the giver and nothing to the receiver. It is given to those who don’t deserve it, barely recognize it, and hardly appreciate it. That’s why God alone gets the glory in your salvation. Jesus did all the work when he died on the cross.

In the end grace means that no one is too bad to be saved. God specializes in saving really bad people. Do you have some things in your background that you would be ashamed to talk about in public? Fear not. God knows all about it, and His grace is greater than your sin.

Grace also means that some people may be too good to be saved. That is, they may have such a high opinion of themselves that they think they don’t need God’s grace. God’s grace cannot help you until you are desperate enough to receive it.

Parable of the Vineyard Workers

This morning I want us to look at a parable that I have never heard a sermon on before ­ and one I’ve never preached on. It’s not one of the more popular stories because it strikes at the heart of our sense of fairness and justice.

We’re going to do something a little different during the first part of this message. The parable is going to appear on the screen behind me in different segments. We’re going to read the passage out loud together. I’ll then make some comments and offer some observations that will help us interpret this story. When we’re finished, I’ll conclude with some application points.

Incidentally, what we’re going to do this morning is a good method for studying the Bible on your own. Start with reading the passage. Then make some observations. Next, try to interpret the passage by asking, “What does this mean?” Finally, move to application, “What does this mean to me?”


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Talk about it...

Anthony Zibolski

commented on Sep 6, 2007

Brian: I really enjoyed your presentation of this passage. I will use some materials as I glean my own sermon from the text. Thanks for a great job

Floyd Stone

commented on Aug 13, 2011

Brian: A very powerful presentation of a parable that is often overlooked when thinking of "power preaching". It doesn''t get any better that this. Thank you and God Bless.

Mark Jones

commented on Sep 18, 2011

Great sermon, thank you for sharing it.

James Banks

commented on Sep 24, 2011

---1. Grace has been a major identity/division buzzword since at least the time of the Reformation, yet everyone stands by it and stands to benefit from the contemplation of it. For the most part, this sermon is a non-sectarian treatment of grace, which is encouraging. It attacks pride without attacking other believers'' pride (in the process puffing up the "home team"), mainly it attacks the listener''s pride. ----2. In responding to such a mature and serenely joyful sermon, I feel inadequate to mention my qualms about the formula given for the reception of grace... I feel as though the practice of having oneself pushed underwater by somebody else may be neglected, a truly humorous and gracious experience, a moment of receiving grace; or perhaps that we might think of God as an AGM (Automatic Grace-dispensing Machine) instead of someone to love and honor; but I do not know the context of the preaching at Brian''s church, so perhaps that is all understood well by his listeners -- perhaps it is understood that grace is received continually, not simply at one originating moment, as of conversion. Which leads to ----3. The reception of grace does not finish salvation... not exactly. As it says in Ephesians, salvation is the gift of God, the whole process is something we couldn''t have made up. But salvation itself, paradoxically, includes us working out our salvation (with some sort of "fear and trembling"!) ... why? Brian says there''s nothing you can do to make God love you more, nor to make him love you less... But there are things you can do/must do/ought to do/would enjoy doing to love God more. Obedience in the difficult matters kills pride and opens one to God. Obedience includes the command to delight oneself in the LORD. So on and so forth. While loving God more does not make him love you more, it is the path to heaven, as heaven is the eternal enjoyment of God by those who love him. Again, perhaps this is all understood from other teachings.

James Banks

commented on Sep 24, 2011

---1. Grace has been a major identity/division buzzword since at least the time of the Reformation, yet everyone stands by it and stands to benefit from the contemplation of it. For the most part, this sermon is a non-sectarian treatment of grace, which is encouraging. It attacks pride without attacking other believers'' pride (in the process puffing up the "home team"), mainly it attacks the listener''s pride. ----2. In responding to such a mature and serenely joyful sermon, I feel inadequate to mention my qualms about the formula given for the reception of grace... I feel as though the practice of having oneself pushed underwater by somebody else may be neglected, a truly humorous and gracious experience, a moment of receiving grace; or perhaps that we might think of God as an AGM (Automatic Grace-dispensing Machine) instead of someone to love and honor; but I do not know the context of the preaching at Brian''s church, so perhaps that is all understood well by his listeners -- perhaps it is understood that grace is received continually, not simply at one originating moment, as of conversion. Which leads to ----3. The reception of grace does not finish salvation... not exactly. As it says in Ephesians, salvation is the gift of God, the whole process is something we couldn''t have made up. But salvation itself, paradoxically, includes us working out our salvation (with some sort of "fear and trembling"!) ... why? Brian says there''s nothing you can do to make God love you more, nor to make him love you less... But there are things you can do/must do/ought to do/would enjoy doing to love God more. Obedience in the difficult matters kills pride and opens one to God. Obedience includes the command to delight oneself in the LORD. So on and so forth. While loving God more does not make him love you more, it is the path to heaven, as heaven is the eternal enjoyment of God by those who love him. Again, perhaps this is all understood from other teachings.

Bob Mccoy

commented on Jan 19, 2012

Thanks Brian! I knew there was "more" to this parable and this sermon was a huge blessing and I am going to share it with others!

Randy Hamel

commented on Sep 13, 2013

very well done and obviously prayed over. Your exposition seemed to comment on salvation by grace only thereby putting us all on the same playing field. What about grace for daily living? Does that come in somewhere? Seems we all need God's grace for daily living also. Take care!

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