This is the sermon for Sunday, December 7th, 2008
Memorial stones part 4
Sola Gratia (Grace alone).
We just watched a short video clip pertaining to an event in Martin Luther’s life. He went to Rome for a pilgrimage. Before this, Luther was a very dedicated monk. He spent many hours in prayer, and many days fasting, trying to find merit with God through these righteous works that he was doing. The more Luther would try to merit favor with God by works, the more he felt far from God and aware of his own sinfulness. He goes on to state that this period for him was one of dark spiritual despair. He stated, “I lost touch with Christ the Savior and Comforter, and made Him the jailor and hangman of my poor soul.” No matter how many religious actions he would perform, his sins were never erased and were always before him.
So he goes to Rome, to see if he can find solace with God. What he finds is pure perversion: both in lifestyle and in religion. People buying and selling, saying, “Our Father prayers,” while climbing steps; putting money in the coffers because, the saying went, “as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs”; praying to saints, and buying trinkets of saints; praying to relics and of course offering prayers to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. And the truth is none of it had anything to do with Christ and the church He founded.
Between 1510 to 1520 Luther began teaching on the Psalms, the books of Hebrews, Romans, and Galatians. He began to see the error of the Roman Catholic Church concerning redemption, forgiveness, and God’s grace. He started to see from Scripture that we are saved by Christ work alone, by God’s grace alone, justified by faith alone, for the Glory of God alone – hence the five memorial stones of the Reformation.
Now we live in a time that there are many people that are putting their trust in a lot of things. Some trust in their baptism, whether as an infant or as an adult thinking that in someway God’s grace is bestowed this way. Others trust in the taking of communion elements – thinking God gives His grace this way. Others perform good deeds, give money, spend time in church, and religious functions thinking that that will find favor with God.
How is grace received? Well, here is what Paul says.
Ephesians 2:8-9 ISV – 8 For by such grace you have been saved through faith. This does not come from you; it is the gift of God 9 and not the result of works, lest anyone boast.
You see, salvation is a gift from God. All parts of it. Grace comes from God, the faith we put in Christ’s finished work comes from God. Salvation is all a work of God.
Let’s look at our Scripture text this morning.
Ephesians 1:7-8a ISV – 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our offenses, according to the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us…
We are going to dig into this passage this morning and see what God would say to us concerning grace.
In Christ, we have redemption through His blood.
Ephesians 2:7a ISV – In him we have redemption through his blood…
First off, this redemption we have is not through church attendance, or giving in the tithes and offerings, or baptism, or a sinner’s prayer, or joining a church, or living a good life. This redemption is in Christ.
We could do all those other things, and if we are not in Christ, then we are still lost, in our sins.
Now what do we have through Christ? Redemption.
What is redemption? In Greek this is a ransomed paid. Meaning, that we were in hostage, or enslaved to our sins, and Christ Jesus paid the ransom price for our release. What was this ransom price – His shed blood.
Let’s look at a couple of other passages.
Colossians 1:14 ISV – In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Colossians 1:20 ISV – Through him he also reconciled all things to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, thus making peace through the blood of his cross.
Because Christ has purchased our freedom – we have been forgiven our offenses against God.
Ephesians 1:7b ISV – the forgiveness of our offenses…
Not trying to get too deep, but there is a truth here that is found in the Old Covenant Day of Atonement. There were two animals used that day. One was sacrificed for the sins of the people – pointing to Christ’s sacrifice; the other was a scapegoat that the priest would symbolically place their hands on its head, thereby putting the sins of the people on the goat and they would send it away.
This is the idea conveyed in the Greek word for forgiveness. The Greek word literally means, “to send away.” This is what Christ has done for us at redemption. He has forgiven our sins, sending them far away from us never to return.
Psalm 103:12 ESV – as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
These, sins that are removed are translated in the ISV as, “offenses.” I like that translation. Ultimately, every time I sin, it is against God. My flesh is opposed to God so therefore any sin I ever sin is against Him and His character.
This is what Christ has purchased us from and His forgiveness has removed from us – these sins against Him.
What is the measure of this redemption and forgiveness that God uses?
Ephesians 1:7c ISV – according to the riches of God’s grace…
The measure and standard that God uses is not some earthly, man-made measurement. It isn’t even a measurement and standard that mankind can understand.
It is His limitless, priceless grace that is the measure and standard for our redemption of forgiveness.
This is a grace that is a gift of God because it is immeasurable to people. It is beyond our understanding and should be for the Christian the ever constant rejoicing when we think about this grace we freely receive.
How much of this grace do we receive from God through Christ?
Ephesians 1:8a ISV – that he lavished on us…
The word, “lavished,” literally means, “to shower.” Think of the word this way. When you take a shower, you don’t measure out every drop to determine exactly how many you need to be clean, and only use that much do you? No! We all use an overabundance of water when we shower. We don’t worry about how much we use, we just use it until we are done.
God has showered us with His grace. He doesn’t measure out how much He gives us; He always gives us an unlimited supply.
The same Greek word is used in Romans 5:15-17 twice. I’m going to put in bold font for you how the two words are translated in the ISV.
Romans 5:15-17 ISV – 15 But God’s free gift is not like Adam’s offense. For if many people died as the result of one man’s offense, how much more have God’s grace and the free gift given through the kindness of one man, Jesus Christ, been showered on many people! 16 Nor can the free gift be compared to what came through the man who sinned. For the sentence that followed one man’s offense brought condemnation, but the free gift brought justification, even after many offenses. 17 For if, through one man, death ruled because of that man’s offense, how much more will those who receive such overflowing grace and the gift of righteousness rule in life because of one man, Jesus Christ!
What should be our response to this sermon?
Well, understand that we our Salvation is a work of redemption through Christ’s blood that we receive because of God’s grace toward us.
We don’t earn God’s grace, we don’t deserve God’s grace, yet He chooses to bestow it upon us freely.
This morning, if you do not know Christ, cry out to Him, and ask Him to save you and be gracious too you. Don’t rely on your own abilities or goodness, but call on His name.
Let’s be a church that shares the truth that salvation is by grace alone to a world trying to earn favor with God. The lives they live are hopeless; let’s provide the hope that is found in God’s grace.