Summary: Grace, something we talk about and preach about, but where do we get this theology of Grace?
For most of us, sometime over the next two days we will celebrate the Feast of the Dead Bird, better known by many as Thanksgiving Dinner. And as a part of that tradition at some point before we actually begin to consume food someone will ask “Uncle Bob would you return thanks?” or “Aunt Martha would you say Grace?”
And for many folks that is what Grace means, giving thanks, or perhaps asking for forgiveness. Now technically what Grace means as defined by the~Oxford English Dictionary: is “The free and unmerited favour of god as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowing of blessings.” Which is definitely something to be thankful for.
This is week one of “Moments of Grace”, and for the next seven weeks we will be following the thread of Grace through the bible.
Grace is one of those concepts that even though it isn’t mentioned a lot by name in the Old Testament it is evidenced through the story.
The word grace isn’t used at all in the Gospels but the life and ministry of Christ is a picture of Grace.
The word and theology of Grace really comes to life in the New Testament. From the book of Acts through to the Revelation every author speaks of grace. And because Paul wrote most of those letters he tells us more about grace than anybody else.
Paul more than any other author and preacher in the scriptures reiterates over and over again the fact that Grace is an integral part of our salvation.
The scripture that was read earlier probably more than any other reference nails that concept, and it’s a favourite for many people and that is Ephesians 2:8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
So, let’s begin this morning with the fact that Paul Preached a Theology of Grace For most people if they ever think of Grace at all it was the same way that I viewed Grace before I met Jesus. Grace was either the name of the lady who lived down the road from us, or was what we said before we ate at my grandmother’s house. Neither of which was relevant to me. But Grace is more than a girl’s name and it’s more than the obligatory prayer whispered before a meal when you have the pastor over for supper.
For some it is completely wrapped up in the song, “Amazing Grace how great thou art, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
And many of you know the story, how the writer of the song was John Newton who in the early part of his life was an outspoken atheist, libertine, and slave trader.
He had run away to sea when he was 11, had become captain of his own vessel by the time he was 20 and became a Christ Follower at the age of 23 after riding out a storm at sea, I’ve been in storms like that when I was going to sea.
Newton later was ordained an Anglican priest and became an important voice in England against the slave trade. It was during that that time that he wrote 280 hymns, but the only one we remember is the autobiographical Amazing Grace.
Not only is Amazing Grace the most loved song in the Christian Church but Amazing Grace is indeed the defining doctrine of the Christian Church.
For too many people when they think of God and judgement they think of either Justice or Mercy. “All I want is justice” they’ll say, or “I’ll ask God for mercy”. But in Christianity our eternal destiny doesn’t rest on either justice or mercy.
I come back to it over and over again, Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is getting less than what you deserve. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.
The bible is clear, the fate of those who are not reconciled with God is eternal separation from God and from all that is good. There will be no light, no love, no God and no goodness. If we were to get what we deserve, that would be the fate for each of us.
The bible tells that no one of us can span the gulf between our sinful nature and a holy God on our own. So to get justice, to get what we deserve would be hell, and that really isn’t what you want.
“Well then” they say “I will just ask God for mercy.” And that would be to get less than you deserve. And so instead of an eternity being separated from God you would just cease to exist. There would be annihilation, here today and gone tomorrow.