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By Grace, Not by Works #1

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green
The Truth Network Radio
June 20, 2024 12:00 am

By Grace, Not by Works #1

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green

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June 20, 2024 12:00 am

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Welcome to the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Hello, I'm Bill Wright. Thanks for joining us as we continue teaching God's people God's Word. Don begins a new message today, so without further delay, let's join him right now in the Truth Pulpit. Well we come this morning to Ephesians chapter 2, and I invite you to turn there with me for the text that we will have today.

It is a very familiar text, at least it should be. Everyone should know Ephesians 2, 8, and 9, and have it deeply embedded in their heart. Ephesians 2, 8, and 9, we read, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Now it is always a challenge to study a familiar passage, one that's familiar to yourself and one that is familiar to your audience, because we all have an assumption that we already know everything that it means, and it's easy to think we're just going through familiar material. But what I want to encourage you today is to approach this time earnestly and not with a sense of going through the motions, but with a sense to see what the Lord has deeply said in his word. This passage that we're looking at today comes after Paul has made a monumental prayer about the nature of God's power and God's grace. Look at Ephesians chapter 1 in verse 16. Paul has blessed God for the grace that he has shown to the church in salvation. And now in verse 16, he says, he transitions to a time of thanksgiving as he thanks God for the church at Ephesus and others who would receive that circular letter in the first century.

He says, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. And he goes on to say that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe according to the working of his great might. So understand that as you come to Ephesians chapter 2, Paul is saying these things after he has engaged in a great spirit of prayer, a spirit of prayer informed by gratitude and a spirit of intercession, you might say, for those who are reading and asking God to work in their hearts by the greatness of his power to help them understand the fullness of what true salvation has brought to them. And so God's power is on display. God's grace is on display before you ever get to chapter 2.

And then you see Paul speaking of this power in verses 5 and 6 of chapter 2, for example. He says, even when we were dead in our trespasses, 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. God has done something magnificent in the hearts of the redeemed. He has brought them out of death and slavery to sin and Satan, imparted new life to them, the same life that and by the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, that brought Christ out of the tomb and to new life, it is that power that has worked in the hearts of the redeemed. As we've been saying many times, and this bears constant repetition, biblical salvation is not a matter of conforming ourselves to standards of human morality. It's not a matter of self-effort and self-improvement, because we cannot improve ourselves, we cannot redeem ourselves and make ourselves fit for God. We are fallen, we are lost, and we are condemned, and from a state of spiritual deadness there is nothing that we can do to climb Jacob's ladder and enter into heaven.

We don't have any power like that at all. We're miserably and hopelessly lost. And so the testimony of scripture is that salvation is not a matter of what we do to earn God's acceptance, it's what God has done to bring us to new life, to bring us to Christ, and to bring us into his family so that all of the glory goes to God. Now, with that said, beloved, true salvation requires a mighty act of God, a mighty act of the unilateral strength and power of God, a mighty act of the unilateral kindness of God, because we have and had no ability to save ourselves. Let me remind you of the first three verses, because they help set the context for our text to come, verses eight and nine.

Verses eight and nine are coming at the end of what Paul said in verses one through three, when he says, and you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience, among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind. The unsaved are spiritually dead, captive to Satan and under the wrath of God. And perhaps it bears emphasizing this morning, I'm going to emphasize it whether it bears the emphasis or not, it is important for us to remember and to recognize that being born into a Christian family does not exempt you from this spiritual state. We're all born into this state of corruption and spiritual death. We all need to be born again. You young people that have been born into homes with Christian parents, you need to be born again as well. You must put your faith in Christ.

You cannot go to heaven on the wings of your parents' faith. And so every one of us need to recognize the state into which we are born. Every one of us need to be born again if we are to see the kingdom of God. And so that's the context that Paul is speaking about. And yet he goes on and he says there in verse 4, he says, but God being rich in mercy because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. Here it is.

Note the phrase here. By grace you have been saved. By grace you were saved. By the power of God, by the favor of God you were saved.

And having seen that phrase stated there in verse 5, Paul repeats it again in the text that we come to in verse 8, for by grace you have been saved through faith. It is by grace that God made you alive in Christ. It is by grace that God raised us up with Christ. It is by grace that God has seated us in the heavenly places in Christ. It is by grace that God brought the gospel to us. It is by grace that God keeps us throughout the whole of our life and the sanctifying process. It will be by grace that he receives us into heaven. Grace, grace, grace, God's grace, all being on display here. Now the point that Paul is emphasizing is, as we continue on and as we approach verses 8 and 9, is for us to understand that all of those things, every one of them, every aspect of our salvation was beyond our capacity to achieve on our own.

We did not have power to bring this about in our own life or by our own strength. And it reminded me this week of a passage in Deuteronomy that would be easy to overlook in this context. I want you to turn back in the Old Testament to Deuteronomy chapter 9 and to just see a bit of a parallel in what the Lord said to the children of Israel after he had brought them out of Egypt, that he had brought them through the wilderness wanderings and they were about to enter into the Promised Land. God makes it clear and establishes to them who it is that did what in order to bring about this nation that was about to enter into the Promised Land. And there are parallels to us. Now I speak as to Christians here and what I'm about to say.

These are things that we need to refresh our own hearts on here this morning, things that we need to remind ourselves of and to clear away any sense of pride or entitlement because that's so easy for that to creep in, pride and entitlement. We need to divest ourselves of all of that and this passage in Deuteronomy chapter 9 will give us a right perspective to enter into the rest of our consideration of Ephesians 2. In Deuteronomy 9 verse 4, God says through Moses to the children of Israel, do not say in your heart after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you.

Thrust them out referring to the nations that they were going to dispossess in the land. Don't say in your heart it is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you. God says it's not because you were so righteous that I am bringing you into the land.

I'm judging these nations and being gracious to you along the way. He goes on and he says in verse 5, not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you. And that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Verse 6, know therefore that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness for you are a stubborn people.

And they had shown that for 40 years in the wilderness. Notice how frequently, how repetitively the Lord says don't think that this is about your righteousness. He says it there in verse 4, he says don't say it is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess the land. Verse 5, not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess the land.

Verse 6, the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness for you are a stubborn people. You see, the pride of man is so endemic and so wrapped around every aspect of his being that we are prone to think that way. We're prone to think that, you know, something in us caused God to distinguish us from others that he left unsaved.

We're prone to think good things about ourselves. And we just have to turn away from that kind of wrong thinking. And we're going to see that not by your righteousness, we're going to see that emphasized in the text that's in front of us here today. God says, listen beloved, just to give a most basic statement about the nature of salvation. God saves men and women, boys and girls, according to his purpose, according to his timetable, because it pleases him and not for the sake of anything that he sees within us. Because all that is within us is death and Satan and judgment, using parallels to the first three verses of Ephesians chapter 2.

And so there's nothing in us that would attract a holy God to be good to us. We must understand that. You know, this is all part of our broad series of building a Christian mind. And to have a Christian mind is to be divested of that sense of pride and entitlement. And that is really fundamental to living the Christian life, is to realize that all that we receive is something that is given to us by grace.

That there's not anything about us that entitles us to blessing, that entitles us to long life. If God gives those things to us, it's by his kindness, not according to anything that we have done. And so God saves for his own purpose. He saves to display the riches of his grace now and through eternity so that we would know his blessing and ascribe glory to his holy name. And that we would be a people set apart to honor him, to bless his name, to glorify Christ, to serve him in response to his grace, not as those who have been paid something that we deserved. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, Romans 6.23. So as we come to verses 8 and 9, we're going to see a great contrast between the grace of God and our works.

And the point of this is going to be clear. The goal of this is so that you would boast in Christ and not about yourself. That you would give glory to Christ and not think highly of yourself. And we can kind of do this in two sections here today. The first section, saved by grace, and the second section, parallel, not saved by works. Saved by grace, not saved by works.

That's where we're going here this morning. Let's look at, with all of that introduction, let's look at verses 8 and 9 once again. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. When you take time to go through this passage, as we're going to do, it's going to be striking how repetitive Paul is. He is saying the same thing over and over in about five or six different ways in that short phrase. He's making the same point. It's by grace, not by your works, that you are saved.

That's the principle that he's trying to inculcate into us. And so look at the opening word there in verse 8. It's the word for. For by grace you have been saved. And that word for is connecting what was said earlier in the chapter with what he's about to say in these next two verses. For, in light of the fact that we were dead in sin, dominated by the devil, doomed to suffer the wrath of God, in light of the fact that we were like that and then God, according to the riches of his kindness, made us alive together in Christ, raised us up with Christ and seated us in the heavenly places so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace and kindness toward us in Christ. In light of all of that, he says for.

Remember all of that. Remember those prior seven verses in what I'm about to say is the sense of the grammar here. For it is by grace that you have been saved. That theme is the whole point, that it is by grace, grace, the undeserved favor of God shown upon people who deserve judgment instead.

We all deserve judgment, dead in sin, dominated by the devil, doomed to suffer the wrath of God. That was our righteous do. That was what we had earned with our lives.

That's what we were by nature. And instead of that, instead of giving us that dark verdict of condemnation, God has graciously brought a banquet of grace to the prisoner, opened the prison and door, said feast and go free and serve me as you do. That is by grace.

He has shown kindness to us when we deserve judgment instead. Now, this word grace, verse 8 there, for by grace you've been saved through faith. If you read it in the original language, there's an article in front of the grace. You could read it for by the grace you have been saved.

And that article that is not brought out in our English translation, it's an article that you could say it's an article of prior reference. The point of that little technical explanation is that the grace that he is speaking about in verse 8 is the grace that he's been talking about earlier in the passage. He's connecting the grace of verse 8 with what came before.

And this is why that's so important. You can't just jump into verse 8 and explain salvation to someone. You can't just jump into verse 8 ignoring everything that went before and know what Paul is saying here and what scripture means. The grace is tied to how dead we were in sin. The grace is tied to the magnificent power of God in making us alive together in Christ. It's that grace that he's now continuing to speak of. This grace has been already explained in the passage, and he's building on it, not introducing some kind of new theme that you can just ignore the context and understand what he means.

And so, let me point this out to you again. In verse 5, he says, by grace you have been saved. God, because God is rich in mercy, great love, dead in your trespasses, he made us alive. All of that by grace, by undeserved favor from God. And then in verse 7, that's what he did in the past, and now grace is going to be the theme of what happens in the unfolding ages of eternity. Look at verse 7, when he says, so that in the coming ages, he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Grace in verse 5, grace in verse 7, now in verse 8, it's for by that grace that you've been saved through faith.

That's the grammatical flow of things here. And so, we're speaking today of an eternal theme. We're speaking today of the theme that will be the subject of our praise throughout all of eternity. As we gaze into the glorious resurrected face of Christ, as we enjoy the presence of heaven without sin, without a devil, without wicked people to diminish it, as we have been made perfect, sharing in the glory of Christ, not his deity, not his essence, but somehow sharing in his glory, being home, being forgiven, being in the presence of the Shekinah glory of God, seeing the clear crystal gold streets of heaven, being with saints throughout all of the ages, singing praises holy, holy, holy to the Lord God Almighty, glorifying Christ and thanking him for his redemption as you read in verse 5. And believe me, beloved, or better yet, believe the word of God. The fullness of that is going to be incomprehensibly, infinitely magnificent and great beyond our ability to take it in, and certainly infinitely beyond our ability to discuss it in any meaningfully sufficient way as we stand here today. We're going to be in such a position of glory, such a position of blessing.

Again, language just fails me. But all of the fullness of the greatness of that, and somehow as we take it in and we'll have eternity to just absorb more and more of it, somehow as we're absorbing more and more of it, we are never going to lose sight of the fact that we're enjoying that position, that place, that fellowship with God because of his grace, because God has been gracious and good and favorable to us when we didn't deserve it. That's what it says. Look at it there in verse 7. God, as we're in this splendid eternal state, God, as he reigns over that and blesses us in it, part of what he's going to be doing is showing to us how immeasurably rich his grace has been upon us, how immeasurably rich his kindness has been on us, and all of that focused on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We're going to go through eternity celebrating the grace of God, praising him for the grace of God, and somehow that theme will be as fresh 10 million years into eternity as it is the first time we step into eternity. It's infinite. It's immeasurable. Look at it there. It's immeasurable riches of his grace. We're not going to be able to quantify it.

It's just going to be too much. That magnificent grace is what Paul is speaking of here. That kind of kindness. And so, beloved, if we want to think rightly about God, want to think rightly about our salvation, we have to think about it from the perspective of that kind of grace in contrast with how much we didn't deserve it. Be as if a fabulously wealthy man said, you know what I want to do? I'm just going to write your name on it to make you a joint owner of all of my accounts. But I don't deserve that. That's your wealth, not mine precisely. I'm getting fabulous benefits for something that I have done nothing to deserve. I haven't even been kind to you, Mr. Rich Man.

And he says, yeah, but that's what I want to do. Here, let me finish signing this off. Now you share in all of it with me. That's a very poor way of thinking about how much goodness God has poured upon us. And so this is humbling.

This is exhilarating and humbling at the same time. That's what Paul is talking about in verse 8 when he says it's for by grace that you have been saved through faith. It's by grace that you have been delivered from your prior condition and brought into this place of eternal blessing. The goodness, kindness, mercy, love of God alone explains why you're in this position now. God saved you in the past and the effects of that salvation continue to this day as you stand here today.

And it's going to continue on into all of eternity. Now, what does it mean to be saved? What does it mean to be saved?

Well, the idea is one of deliverance. You have been delivered from a place of danger. If you think about it in terms of a lifeguard going out and saving a drowning person, he delivered them from impending death.

They were in a position where they were in danger and the lifeguard comes and saves them, brings them back to shore, and now they are safe. They were delivered from a danger which had threatened them. Well, in a spiritual sense, you're delivered from spiritual death, slavery to sin, slavery to Satan and the condemnation of God. And think about it not just in that negative sense of what you've been delivered from, but what you've been delivered to. We talked about this on Tuesday evening from a different passage in Ephesians chapter 1. You've been delivered from that place of imminent eternal peril and brought into a place where you're spiritually safe, where all of your sins are forgiven, where Satan no longer owns you, where the gaping jaws of hell can never reach to swallow you again. You're spiritually safe, standing in grace, having received credit for the perfect righteousness of Christ, having received the benefit of his shed blood, and a holy God looks on you as belonging to Christ and therefore accepts you completely despite everything about your prior life, everything about your prior sins. This is what it means to be saved, to be delivered from all of that guilt and condemnation and the spiritual bondage that we were in, now to be in a place of blessing and in the language that we've been looking at, redeemed, purchased by Christ, and adopted into the family of God.

Now, look, you know, and I've been saying this so much over the past several weeks, and I probably need to just stop saying it, but I'm conscious of this more and more. I do not have the vocabulary or the disposition to do justice to the greatness of the themes that we're seeing here today. This is tremendous. This is blessing beyond measure. These are riches of such a fabulous quality that they will never diminish or fade away throughout all of eternity. To once be on a track to join the rich man in Hades of Abraham, send to Lazarus, let him just give me a drop of water on my tongue. That's all I want, one drop of water on my tongue because I'm in agony in this flame. And to know that that was our destination, that was where we were headed, and that we were pursuing that kind of death, and to realize that God, under no obligation to do so, intervened, saved us from that, and brought us into a place of blessing, safety, family, love, kindness, forgiveness, eternal life.

Go on and on with it all. That's what it means to be saved. That's Don Green here on The Truth Pulpit, and here's Don again with some closing thoughts.

Well thank you, Bill. My friend, I want to let you know of a special ministry that we have at thetruthpulpit.com that's very near to my heart. We have a ministry to those who are in prison.

In the nature of life, sometimes we have loved ones that go astray and find themselves behind bars and spending significant time in incarceration. Well, we have a ministry to them. We send them transcripts of messages that I've preached from The Pulpit of Truth Community Church. We do it on a weekly basis.

They get mail every week. If you have a loved one in prison that you would like to have us reach out to in that way, do me a favor. Go to our website, thetruthpulpit.com. That's thetruthpulpit.com. Click on the link that says About, and you'll see a drop-down menu that will take you to our prison ministry. You can fill out the form, and we'll be happy to respond and then join in with you in ministering to that one who is outside the normal course of society. So that's thetruthpulpit.com, the About link for our prison ministry.

That will do it for today. We'll see you next time on The Truth Pulpit. That's Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Thank you so much for listening to The Truth Pulpit. Join us next time for more as we continue teaching God's people God's Word.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-20 11:23:08 / 2024-06-20 11:33:36 / 10

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