Welcome to the In Touch Podcast with Charles Stanley for Wednesday, April 20th. Today's podcast examines God's requirements for entrance into His kingdom, a biblical reminder of why heaven is opened by grace alone. How did you become a Christian to begin with?
I wonder what you would tell them. Our text in this message is one of the most crucial texts in all the Bible. It's familiar to a lot of people but it is one of the most crucial because our whole understanding of our Christian experience and how we became a child of God is found in this particular passage. Now this is the second in our series entitled Grace, God's Second Chance.
That is God in His goodness and love and mercy to others gives us not only a second chance but many chances. And I want you to turn, if you will, to Ephesians chapter 2 and I want us to read these first 10 verses because herein Paul settles once and for all a very vital issue that in spite of how many times many Christians have heard it, somehow it's very difficult for them to accept the fact that salvation is by grace and grace alone and that's the title of this message, Grace alone. And Paul is writing this to persuade those divisions to whom he is writing this that it is not by works but only by grace. Listen to what he says beginning in verse 1 of chapter 2. And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lust of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind and were by children or by nature children of wrath even as the rest.
So you see Paul includes himself there. Then he says in verse 4, but God being rich in mercy because of his great love with which he loved us even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. In order that in the ages to come he might show forth or show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves.
It is the gift of God not as a result of works that no one should boast. For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Well Paul was writing this to clarify what happened when you and I trusted Jesus Christ as our savior. And what he has in mind primarily here is for us to understand that it's grace alone. So I want us to look at this passage in the light of this and first of all I want to say that the condition of man requires that salvation be by grace alone. Now look at these first three verses here because here he describes the condition of man and you may say well you know I didn't live that way.
That's not the way I was but let's look at it for a moment. He says in you speaking of all of us, that is all of us including himself, we were dead in our trespasses and sins. That means that sin had brought about death in us and so we could not relate to God. Then he says in which you formerly walked.
So it wasn't just something that happened once. He says this was our lifestyle. We were living dead men and women in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world.
Why? Because if you're spiritually dead you're naturally going to follow the course of this world and you're going to do the things that are common and natural. The things that the world sets out for us. He says according to the prince of the power of the air, that is Satan who is in control and any person who is unsaved is under the control of Satan. I didn't say you were demon possessed but I said you're under the control of Satan if you're not saved by the grace of God. And walking according to the course of this world is the natural normal thing for a person who is unsaved to do. He says of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. People who are unsaved there is a spirit about them and that spirit is rebellion and disobedience toward God. And then he says among them we to all formerly lived.
That is Paul says this is the way lost people live. He says according lived in the lust of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind and whereby nature children of wrath even as the rest. And if you'll notice here what he's described is a helpless condition, a hopeless condition and ultimately destruction. He says children of wrath. So the whole world the Bible says is guilty before God. And what happens is when we hear the gospel either we reject the gospel or we receive the gospel of Christ and a transformation takes place. So when you look at the condition of man the only conclusion you can come to is that with that kind of condition it can only be grace. Because what can a dead man do to save himself?
Can't do anything. You say well now haven't you said that before? Absolutely. Because even though many believers deep down inside would say yes I do believe it's by grace only. They set out and live their lives trying to add something to their salvation experience or do something to please God to be sure that they are fully saved. Your salvation can't be determined by behavior. There's not a single verse in the scripture that says my salvation is based upon my behavior but the grace of God. It is grace alone. So let me define grace again.
You recall we said that grace is God's kindness and graciousness to humanity. Listen without regard to man's worth or his merit and it is in spite of. It is in spite of himself. That is in spite of whatever may have been going on in his or her life.
Doesn't make any difference. They can never merit. They can never deserve salvation. It's God's graciousness and kindness to humanity without regard to merit or worth of the individual who receives that grace. In spite of what they are and in spite of their condition and in spite of the fact that they don't deserve it.
No one deserves it. Now what is salvation? Because oftentimes people say well yes I think I'm saved but what is salvation? Salvation is the work of God whereby he delivers us from eternal death and endows us with eternal life. So the whole idea that Paul has in mind here is this is to explain how it is that God delivers us from eternal death and endows us as a gift with eternal life.
How does he do that? He says it is by grace and grace alone. And I believe that one of the primary reasons for the struggle that goes on is while we say we believe it and we sing about it. Deep down inside we are still working to add to to be sure of that we indeed are remaining saved. So Paul says the reason he's writing this passage is to clarify once and for all that it is salvation by grace and grace alone.
It's interesting if you'll notice here. Having described these first three verses of the condition of mankind then he says in verse four he begins with a but. That is he's getting ready to change the whole perspective. He says but God being rich in mercy because of his great love of which he loved us even when we were like we used to live up there in verses one through three. He says even when we were like that he says we were made alive. God did something on the inside of us that made us spiritually alive.
We were dead spiritually alive he says. And not only that he says by grace you've been saved before he gets to his ultimate point in verse eight nine and ten. He just sort of slips this the end by grace you say because his whole purpose here is to remind us it isn't anything that you and I have done.
There is not anything that you can do. And my friend no matter how good you are and how benevolent you may be to other people. There is not a single solitary thing that you can do in order to be saved but one thing and that's something that you you simply receive. By faith you receive the gift. So he says it is by it is by grace alone and look. He says that but God being rich in mercy. So you and I know that all of God's saving grace is the result of God's rich mercy toward us. And so we say that grace is God's kindness and graciousness toward humanity without regard to merit or without regard to our worth. That is he did not look down in the future and say well he's going to be obedient and she's going to be obedient therefore I'm going to choose them to be saved. No has nothing to do with that.
He says no merit on our part. No goodness on our part but pure grace and grace alone. So first of all the condition of man requires that it's grace alone. What can a dead man, wicked, vile, sinful, bent away from God do to save himself?
Not a thing. The condition is that the heart is sinful because a person is born with a sinful nature. Now no matter what the age may be but at some point there's accountability. At that point of accountability that person is responsible to God. And then whether that person becomes a teenager lives that long or an adult or wherever they're saved. The scripture says the condition of the heart is such it must be redeemed.
It must be changed by the grace of God and that is the only thing that can change it. The second thing he says in this passage I want us to notice is this. That the unacceptability and the unacceptability of the works of man absolutely require that it be by grace and grace alone. Now look what he says in this passage. He says in verse 8, for by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not as a result of works that no one should boast. Now he makes it very clear that it can't be works, not of works lest anyone should boast. Now why does he say that? Well first of all let's look at the nature of our works. Why couldn't God look down and say well now there's a good man or good woman and I think I will just save that person. Well first of all because all of this is on the outside, this is the way a person looks. But what's on the inside? Well he described it partly there and then when it comes to evaluating our works, if you'll notice here in this second chapter again, verse 3, he says, among them we all formerly lived in the lust of the flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath.
You say well I don't think I was quite that bad. Well turn back to Galatians if you will and the fifth chapter and look at this passage because here he describes exactly the way we operate. And this is the reason it has to be grace alone because it cannot be works. You'll notice in this fifth chapter we usually emphasize verses 22 and 23, but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy and peace and so forth. But look what he says in verse 18 he says, but if you're led by the Spirit you're not under the law.
Now verse 19, look at that. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident which are immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outburst of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, Indians, drunkenness, carousing and things like these of which I have forewarned you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Now he says these are the works of the flesh.
And I think all of us could look at those and see that there are times when yes, even after we're saved we find maybe at least one or more of those things that creep into our life. He says now that's the works of the flesh. He said you want to know what man's like apart from God? Well read Ephesians chapter 2 verses 1 through 3 and read Galatians chapter 5 verse 19, 20, 21.
He says that's what we're like apart from God. So how in the world could it be that a person whose nature is such could ever come up with enough good righteous works in order to make themselves acceptable before God? You see what we do and what the lost person does he looks at all the good things that appear to be good but the question is what is their motivation? What is their motivation?
What is their method? And oftentimes many, many people who carry out benevolent gifts who do very good things and they are commended by them their ultimate motivation is selfish because you see the works of the flesh that self-centeredness expressing itself in order to make itself feel good that has nothing to do with God. Now Paul notice what he said in this passage he says not as a result of works that anyone should boast.
When it came to boasting he said I had a lot to boast about. But when Paul met the Lord Jesus Christ he realized that all of that he says was all of that was rubbish. It was absolutely meaningless when it came to salvation. Now it's difficult for a person to understand that sometimes. Especially a person who is lost because remember this that the lost person the Bible says in 1 Corinthians chapter 2. Look in that passage for a moment. 1 Corinthians chapter 2 reminds us of the condition of a person who is unsaved and where they are at this point in their life. And this is not a criticism it is just the spiritual scriptural fact. 1 Corinthians chapter 2 verse 14 describing the lost person listen to what he says. But a natural man or a woman does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.
Now why doesn't he? For they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them because they're spiritually praised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things yet he himself is appraised by no man. For who has known the mind of the Lord that he should instruct him but we have the mind of Christ. Now notice what he says in this 14th verse. He says the natural man does not understand or accept the things of God because they're foolishness to him. Now think about how reasonable this is.
Is it not reasonable to think if a person lives a good life that is never shoot anybody, never steal anything, try to be a good neighbor and work hard make a good living for their family and all the other good attributes you and I can think of. Well why wouldn't that person be saved? I mean a lost person says wait a minute you tell you mean to tell me as good as I am don't use profanity. You mean to tell me as good as I am that God is going to let me be lost?
Right. Because the truth is you're not good. What do you mean I'm not good? You see that's why he says the natural man receiveth not the things of God because they're foolishness to him.
That's not logical. You mean to tell me if I do all these things that God isn't going to give me some credit? Some credit. You see what is it that people boast about?
The only thing we boast about is our works. And you hear people say well I did this and I did that and I did the other and a person could work up a pretty good case for being morally acceptable. You mean you don't have to do anything to be saved? That's not logical. It's not reasonable. But it's the truth because he paid the price because you and I couldn't pay it. It's not that we wouldn't be willing.
We couldn't pay it. It is grace and grace alone. Now I want you to notice two or three other scriptures because there are many of them in the Bible. I want you to turn first of all to 2 Timothy chapter 1. Let's begin in verse 8. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God who has saved us and called us with what kind of a calling? A holy calling. Not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.
Now watch that. He says this grace which was granted to us in Christ Jesus how long ago? From all eternity.
Now think about this. How could my works get me saved if God made a choice in eternity past? He certainly didn't look down thousands of years and say well he's going to be good. She's going to be good.
He's not going to be too bad. No. He didn't see anything. You see grace is without merit and without worth. Nothing within us that he look upon and then make a choice. You see that's pride. And that would bring glory to man.
And the last point of this message really sums it all up. There is no way God is going to allow you and me to glory in anything but himself. Now I want you to go back to Romans chapter 4 for a moment. Romans chapter 4.
Listen to what he says. Now comparing here our works versus grace. Listen to what he says in Romans chapter 4 and verse 4. Now to the one who works his wage is not reckoned or considered as a favor but what is due.
But to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly or saves the ungodly his faith is reckoned as righteousness. That is God forgives us of our sin and saves us. Now I don't have to come to him and say well I deserved it. I can't do that. Now I have a right to get on my knees and say thank you, thank you, thank you dear God.
For saving me because it is by your grace and goodness and love and mercy and favor. You did it and the only thing I did is just receive what you gave me by faith. He says it can't be works. You can't mix the two. Now I want to say again that's very difficult.
The most difficult kind of person to deal with is a good man or a good woman. Well you know why do I need God? And I have had people say to me well you know I don't need that. Now you're talking about blind brother, they are blind. When you say you don't need God you are blind.
Because listen the Bible says it is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment. You're going to meet him and to reject him and to deny him and to refuse him and to ignore him all of your life and die and face him and think you don't need him. There isn't anything in this world you and I need like we need God through his son Jesus Christ. Thank you for listening to today's podcast Grace Alone. If you'd like to know more about Charles Stanley or In Touch Ministries stop by InTouch.org. This podcast is a presentation of In Touch Ministries Atlanta, Georgia.
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