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December 24, 2020 7:00 am
For centuries theologians have tried to formulate a concise yet comprehensive definition for the word grace.
While many helpful ones have been offered our deepest understanding of this term often comes from stories that vividly depict acts of redemption today on the Bible study our Dr. James Boyce will share one such story as he teaches on what it means to be saved by grace alone. Welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet program with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act quickly in Christian circles, we often hear the phrase saved by grace through faith, we know that grace is more than just kindness and that faith is more than just simple optimism.
But do we really know the full meaning of the short, but powerpack phrase let's listening together that Dr. Boyce teaches again from the book of Ephesians. Our text today is one of the best known passages in all, the word of God, and rightly so, because it contains the greatest message that any man or woman can ever hear. I suppose that in the experience of most Christians. It does also the text most memorized with the exception of John 316, and possibly the 23rd Psalm. John 316 says for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that lever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life. Ephesians 289 say the same thing theologically, for it is by grace you have been saved through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. This text has three parts.
There's a first part that tells how God saves us, it is by grace is a second part that tells us how this grace of God comes to us personally. It is through faith.
And then there's 1/3 part which, by contrast, tells us how God does not save us. And that explains why it is not by works, so that no one can boast. Number of years ago now one of my predecessors, it 10th Presbyterian Church is pastor Donald Gray Barnhouse published a little booklet entitled how God saves men in which she analyze this text and illustrated what is meant by grace.
He began by pointing out the difficulty of definitions. When you think about definitions in a critical way. It's hard to define even a common object like a chair and if that's true of common object is even more difficult when you talk about theological concepts but he said you can often get the idea across by illustration and for that reason, he gave the following illustration of God's grace back in the last century and the worst slum district of London.
There was a social worker whose name was Harry Moorhouse. One day Moorhouse was walking through the city and dusk, and he saw a little girl come out of a basement store carrying a pitcher of milk. Apparently she had been sent there by her parents and she was on her way home with the picture she wasn't paying attention to him as she walked along she suddenly stumbled as she stumbled her grip on the picture relaxed and the picture fell to the street and broken all of the milk ran into the gutter and the little girl began to cry as if her heart would break. Mr. Moorhouse all this in the went over to learning picture up first of all to see if she was hurt. She wasn't. He said now don't cry little girl. Don't try and she said my mommy will whip me my mommy when they know know he said don't cry little girl. I promise you. Your mother will not whip you and then he said, maybe it's not so badly broken. After all, and he reached down and collected the pieces he began to put them back together when he started to do that little girl stopped right. She had come from a poor family and she probably had seen bits of crockery put back together pieces before and she thought well maybe the stranger can help so she had some hope, and she watched as he began to put it together well. Pretty soon it fell apart again when it fell apart once again the tears came. He said no, no little girl don't cry, let's try again.
The work again with the pieces and finally had them altogether except for the handle and he gave the handle to her to see if she could put it back on and she put the handle next to the picture and of course her motion jarred the pieces and they fell apart at this time there was no stopping her tears.
Moorhouse suddenly picked her up and he walked with her down the street to shop that sold property when entity bought a pitcher to replace the one that was broken. Then he went back up the street to the basement store where he had seen a little girl come out and he went in had the picture filled up again. Then, still holding the little girl. He said now tell me, little girl. Where is your home. She described what was wasn't very far away and so he walked with her in one hand and the picture about the other up to the front door of her house and then he gently set her down and then he took the picture and put it in her hands and then he opened the door for and she began to go in and as she went in the after one final question, he said.
Now tell me, little girl. We are mommy whip you and he was rewarded with a bright smile and she said to him, oh no, sir, because it's a lot better picture than we had before, but that's a great illustration of grace and bribes. We talk about grace as Paul does here in the second chapter of Ephesians. It's something like this, more than any theological definition that carry the import of grace home to our hearts. All you can define grace.
Theologians say the grace is God's unmerited favor theologians say that it's God's kindness and love toward us in Jesus Christ. All of that is true when you think of what happened there in the story of Henry Moorhouse and the little girl you have a brilliant illustration of our situation and how God out of pure grace comes to transform what before his coming was utterly hopeless when God created the first man and woman Adam and Eve, our first parents. He created them in his image as to say they possess. Personality is he diocesan morality and spirituality. They were in perfect communion with their creator, but syndicate they violated God's righteous law and when sin entered the universe through their first disobedience that image of God in man was broken beyond repair. It crashed the pavement, as it weren't broken into a thousand pieces in the situation is such that today. No amount of maneuvering of the pieces could ever put human nature back together again, so far as its ability to please God is concerned that's not to say that there isn't any good in human nature from a human point of view even broken pottery has some value. I've been to archaeological sites where archaeologists go down from layers of the earth soil find vanished civilizations and as they do they date the civilizations by the broken shards of pottery pottery is valuable to archaeologist in that limited sense even broken pottery. I've seen broken bits of pottery uses ashtrays so there's some value in that. I've seen pictures painted on broken pieces of pottery and so it's been somewhat redeemed as art, but broken pottery is no good for carrying milk and you say that's the point. We can go about patching up human nature in the way that takes an alcoholic and gets them back on those feet again and he can perhaps become again that useful member of his society or we can take somebody who has fallen into some great moral transgression, and we can work with them appealing to their better interests, bringing to bear all sorts of external help so that person can be turned around again. We rejoice in that but that human character is of no value so far as pleasing God is concerned because God standard is perfection can allow them to have an anything that is less perfect than himself. God let someone in the heaven that was 20%, 30 heaven would be 20% dirty, God's own righteousness requires perfection of all that would enter his holy presence. But here is where the grace of God comes in where not able to put human nature back together again, and even God doesn't try to put it back together again.
But God sends the Lord Jesus Christ to do a great work of redemption and to offer is something which is not only beyond our ability, but apart from God's revelation in Scripture is even beyond our imagining God sends the Lord Jesus Christ to offer a new nature in place of that which was lost. Jesus said to Nicodemus, you must be born again and it's possible to be born again, you can start over. Paul said in writing to the Corinthians that we are now new creatures in Christ, we are not what we were before.
One of the problems of human beings is that they spend so much of their life trying to put the property back together again we hear the offer to God salvation, but we don't want to yield that because to yield to God's offer of salvation would meeting Dolly Ching that we Pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps were addicted to that. So when the offer of salvation is made, we turn our back on it, we say we don't want grace we want to do it ourselves. And so we work away at it, we gather up all those little pieces of pottery and were glad when we find a big wooden and we try to put it together with other winsome we say, there we are.
There were getting somewhere to see what God requires is that at some point in our struggle, we stop and realize that so far as attaining heaven is concerned so far is entering back into communion with God is concerned, all those efforts are hopeless. What we have to do is receive from him that which we could not do for ourselves. So we become new creatures in Christ.
We receive a new nature and that new nature which is God's gift is the very nature of Christ within the lives of those were his people, and I can say so to paraphrase the final words of the little girl. It's a lot better nature than we had before it's solely by grace Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher of the 19th century, wrote a little book entitled all of grace and entity says this because God is gracious.
Therefore, sinful man, are forgiven, converted, purified and saved, it's not because of anything in them or whatever can be in them that they are saved because of the boundless love goodness pity and compassion and mercy and grace of God, and that's what Paul is teaching in Ephesians. Now this point I think it might be possible for someone to say well you been speaking of the grace of God in salvation. And that's certainly a wonderful thing and I understand that I understand it, so far as pleasing God is concerned, nothing I can ever do will put the pieces so my character back together. I am a sinner and I will always be a sinner and that is an insurmountable problem for my point of view. All that I understand I understand, moreover, that salvation comes through God's work in Jesus Christ. And that's a gracious thing. But the question I have is this here is this great salvation provided by God in Jesus Christ. But as I look at it all seems so remote it seems so abstract perhaps having something for somebody else. But for me it's all off there and what I want to know is how this great and gracious salvation becomes mine personally.
That's what Paul answers in the second part of the text. He said how God saves us, it is by grace. Now he shows how that grace becomes ours.
The answer he gives is that it is through faith we talk about faith. We have to do away with the want of common misunderstandings in the world because the world has many of them. One common misunderstanding.
Perhaps the most common is the idea that faith is somehow matter of subjective feelings how you feel about something something entirely divorced from what we know to be the facts. I was talking with a young man many years ago who said he was a Christian and I began at that point we began to talk about faith.
I discovered as I talked that there was virtually nothing about Christianity that he really believed he didn't believe that Jesus was the son of God leads not in the unique sense soul may be the son of God, and since the all of us are sons of God are daughters of God.
So we set and he didn't believe in substitutionary atonement that Jesus died for us on the cross and course he didn't believe in the resurrection, and he saw no reason to believe in any special influencer power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people, and as I went down these great doctrines. There was nothing he believed in and yet he said he believed he was a Christian as a what a was talking about was simply a case of subjective feelings that was utterly divorced from anything the Bible means when the Bible talks about faith. The second misunderstanding about what faith is and this is a misunderstanding that would define faith as credulity is simply believing something because you want to believe it. Some people have faith in miraculous cures for disease in the sense they believe they can be cured because they want to be cured but while that might be faith in a certain sense of the world.
Sense that too is not what the Bible means there's a definition of faith that makes faith essentially optimism it's a kind of faith that the salesman might have in himself as he goes out to sell if he doesn't believe he can sell things for that he has a good product to sell all he will do very well at it and it is true that faith in this sense really is very important. If the senator believes that he can become president of the United States. He is a lot better chance of becoming President of the United States through hard work that he doesn't believe he can we see that we point to it.
We say will that's a very important thing this matter of self confidence and optimism.
It helps us to do a lot more than we would be able to do otherwise. Norman Vincent Peel was the one who has made the most of this in terms of any approach to the Christian faith. Quite a few years ago. Now he wrote a little book called the power of positive thinking, which had a great impact on many people's point in that particular book was that if you think positively about something you can have it. And so you want to think positively about yourself and about your job and about God all sorts of things.
He said what you need to do in Christianity is taken great promises in the Bible and memorize them and allow them to sink down into your subconscious so you actually live on the basis of those promises day by day. Take a verse like this and you have faith as small as a grain of mustard seed will be able to say to this mountain move from here and go over there and will be done. Nothing is impossible manner as faith. Peel concluded at the end of that book according to your faith in yourself according to your faith in your job according to your faith in God this far will you get and no further. While in terms of your job that may be a very useful kind of thing. But the difficulty you see is that in that particular formulation. Peel puts faith in the job faith in oneself and faith in God, all in the same category of what becomes important is the faith rather than face object object really doesn't matter at all. John W. Stoddard analyzes appeals outlook and one of his writing says that to Dr. Peel.
Faith is really another word for self confidence is not what the Bible means the Bible speaks of faith in the Bible when the word faith is used it has three essential elements. The first of these is knowledge because you believe you don't believe in just nothing at all just don't believe in the abstract be something therefore you have to have a certain knowledge of what it is that you're to believe what were speaking about Christianity were speaking about the gospel what you believe is the gospel that we are lost in sin, the very kinds of things that Paul is talking about here in Ephesians 2 dead in trespasses and sins, practicing wickedness under the wrath of God but where to believe as well.
The God seeing us in that desperate state has done what needs to be done. He sent Jesus Christ to die for us on the cross to take our place to bear our sin and on the basis of what Jesus Christ is done offers us new life. That's the gospel. So when you talk about faith in the biblical sense you start at that point you start with knowledge, wrote about this, we shall possess a right definition of faith that we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God's benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ both revealed our minds and sealed on our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Second, faith in the biblical sense involves what I would call the heart response that is these truths that we now know what are called upon to believe or not, simply things that have to do with other people and not ourselves or had to do with minor aspects of life, but there are things that affect us personally in the deepest of all senses so the second stage in true biblical faith is to be moved by the act and personal way. Calvin understood that Calvin had a great mind that did a great work of explaining the Christian faith in reasonable terms, but Calvin also was a theologian of the heart Calvin roach faith in this respect it now remains the port into the heart. What the mind has absorbed the word of God is not received by faith if it flits about in the top of the brain.
But when it takes root in the depths of the heart that it may be an invincible defense of the standard drive off all the stratagems of temptation and third faith involves commitment Charles Haddon Spurgeon and that little book I mentioned earlier, all of grace defines faith as having three elements knowledge belief and trust what he meant by those is roughly the same thing I'm talking of in his word for commitment is trust. This is merely a case of knowing the gospel or even secondarily being moved by the gospel, but it also involves a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ was revealed in the gospel expressed by trust in him. It's resting upon Christ promises it's receiving the offer of salvation, which he gives it's committing ourselves to him both as Savior and Lord.
A great illustration of how this operates is what happens when the man and woman come together in her marriage strictly speaking, each one of these aspects should be present in the relationship. If it's really to be a good marriage. There is first of all, the batterer knowledge. Usually this is what the courtship is all about. Here you have a case of a madwoman coming to know one another, and beginning to discover as they interact all sorts of levels whether the person they're considering marrying is really going to make a good husband or make a good wife. That's the courtship and that's the knowledge the second element is the heart response. We can understand that because that's what our culture talks about most of the time in romance it's falling in love.
It's saying not merely well that man would certainly make someone a good husband or her. That girl would certainly make someone a good wife saying that the person I'm in love with. I want that person to be my husband. I want that person to be my wife and yet you see even that is not marriage. Marriage takes place when that man and that woman will come to know each other and love each other stand before the minister in exchange their vows and say I John take the Mary to be my wedded wife. I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses to be thy loving and faithful husband and plenty ended.
Want to join in sorrow and sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live and in which that woman takes the same vows in reverse and says I Mary take the John to be my wedded husband that I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses to be thy loving and faithful wife, and plenty ended want to enjoy it in sorrow and sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live. That's the commitment and it's on the basis of my commitment. The minister says I now pronounce uses the man's name is this woman's name. Her husband and wife. According to the ordinance of God and the law of the state. That's what faith is in the biblical sense. You see, you could even illustrated by marriage. Jesus came to us first in grace. We did nothing to deserve it. And he takes about see says I Jesus, take the center to be my wedded wife and I do promise before God by heavenly father to be thy loving and faithful husband and bridegroom and plenty in and want to enjoy it in sorrow for this life and for all eternity. We look at his face and we repeat the vows after him we say I center take the Jesus to be my Savior. My spiritual husband. I do promise and covenant before God to be thy loving and faithful bride, and plenty in and want and join in sorrow and sickness and in health for this life and for all eternity. God pronounces the marriage and we came in Ms. Smith's center and we go out. This is Christian because we receive his name in our United to him forevermore. Others one last part of this verse tells us how God does not save us, and it explains why know if you're constructing the sermon.
This is not the sort of thing you would put third normally lead up to the great illustration of marriage and exchange of the buyouts that's the emotional climax yet Paul doesn't do that part is spoken of grace.
He spoke of the faith. But now he says, look, you must understand one more thing. It is not of works is not even partially embarks causes long as it's of works for you think it's a works then you're going to boast about your works in God is not going to have any boasting in heaven. This means that not even faith is a work I sometimes talk about that preceding sentence for combination of sentences in verse eight, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God and I've applied it to faith. I said, you see, this teaches not even faith comes from us. Even faith is a gift. Strictly speaking, that's not what Paul teaches. Because faith pestis is feminine in form and the word this and that portion of the sentences neuter doesn't refer back to faith.
Strictly speaking, actually, that portion of the sentence refers to everything the proceeds in this whole matter of salvation. All of it.
Paul is saying is not from yourselves. It's a gift of God. The understand of course that that general more embracing statement includes the matter of faith and its teaching you see that even faith is important is that is is nothing but a channel, it's nothing. It asks not of virtue. It's not a work so it's not possible for any of us to stand before God and say well I'm here because I had faith in so-and-so is not here because so-and-so did not have faith boasting you say and it is not that way. All we must believe we must make a commitment to Christ. But when we do that even that is by grace you think that you bring anything that is matter of salvation no matter how large the matter how small you think you bring anything to salvation. If you're trusting that you were not saved but if you say I stand there with empty hands. I have nothing to bring you would do that you will trust Christ, then Christ places in your hands at new picture and you simply receive it and you spend your days praising him for his grace we talk about this in one of our great hymns to him by Horatius Molnar, one of the greatest theological hymn writers that ever lived on. I wrote this boss what my hands have done and save my guilty soul, not what my toiling flesh is born and make my spirit whole I what I feel or do can give me peace with God.
Not all my prayers in size and tears can bear that awful load. I work alone. Oh Christ, can ease this weight of sin by blood alone. The old Lamb of God can give me peace within my love to me. Oh God, not bind overlords to the can rid me of this dark unrest and set my spirit free by grace alone.
Oh God, to be can pardon speak by power alone, O son of God to the store bondage. Break whether works a vine. No other blood will do no strength save that which is divine can bear me safely through spray our father when we come to a text like this in Scripture one which is so comprehensive in its presentation of the gospel. We confess that at best we touch upon it lightly, and yet even that touched like the tux of the woman who stretched out her hand to the hem of the garment of Jesus Christ imparts power so our father, though we understand imperfectly that we see as though in a glass darkly. Nevertheless, we do see if you give us grace to see and we experience that salvation which is in Jesus Christ alone. Father granted that might be true in this hour touched many hearts bring many people away from any trust in their own works and instead cause them to place their faith in Jesus Christ and his work alone Jesus and you are listening to the Bible study hour with the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals. The alliance exists to promote a biblical understanding and worldview.
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