Last week we looked at the importance of standing on Scripture alone as the foundation for all that we do in the church
It is important that we search the Scriptures and handle them rightly to understand what God has given to us
We should be like the Bereans in Acts 17
And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.
This week we’re going to look at the second pillar of the Reformation - the next building block on the idea of what we are doing here
Grace alone - we are going to see that all of Scripture points us to the idea of grace alone....
Let’s dig in
There was a theology of grace taught - while it may seem to be the same as our grace today it is different
“Not because of our merits,” he explained; salvation is “given out of the pure mercy of the promising God.”
This doesn’t sound all that bad
Isn’t this exactly what we teach?
Unlike “faith alone”, “grace alone” as a simple phrase is unlikely to provoke much controversy among anyone who claims the name Christian
But this is not the extent of their teaching on grace
Hence the teachers correctly say that to a man who does what is in him God gives grace without fail. . . . [God] bestows everything gratis and only on the basis of the promise of his mercy, although he wants us to be prepared for this as much as lies in us.
This is the difference between imputed and infused
Pre-reformational grace said you do everything you can - and when you’re at the end of your efforts God will make up the difference with His grace
Like a spiritual shot of 5 hour energy
There is no assurance available for the believer - when have I done enough to merit grace? How do I know?
Have I done enough today to merit grace?
Have I kept the law well enough?
Can I say what Paul says in Philippians 3?
Or Luther said of himself?
It’s true. I was a good monk and kept my order so strictly that I could say that if ever a monk could get to heaven through monastic discipline, I should have entered in. All my companions in the monastery who knew me would bear me out in this. For if it had gone on much longer, I would have martyred myself to death, what with vigils, prayers, readings, and other works. . . . And yet my conscience would not give me certainty, but I always doubted and said, “You didn’t do that right. You weren’t contrite enough. You left that out of your confession.” The more I tried to remedy an uncertain, weak and troubled conscience with human traditions, the more daily I found it more uncertain, weaker and more troubled.
That’s the idea of infused grace - and it is one that is still taught
What Luther began to understand and to teach from Scripture was imputed grace
It meant that, instead of looking to God for assistance and then ultimately relying on himself, Luther was turning to rely entirely on Christ,
This was perhaps the Reformations single most important experiential insight into the Christian faith
Jonah - the entire book is about grace
Jonah 1 - Jonah flees from God’s command
And he prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore, in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.
Jonah 2 - Jonah prays for grace
Jonah 3 - Repentance is preached to the Ninevites
Jonah 4 - Jonah pouts
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 lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.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 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.
Grace is not God giving wholesome advice or a helping hand. It is God raising someone from the dead, first Christ and then those who are in Christ
We cannot truly understand the beauty of grace until we grasp the raw violence of sin
Sin is violent, lethal rebellion against God; and biblical grace is God’s violent, raw, and bloody response
When we sin we proclaim that God is dead to us - we refuse to follow His laws
This is the great offense of the story of the prodigal son - that we have decided that God is dead and that we want our own ways
But that story also demonstrates the beauty of grace
The father running to the son to forestall what should have happened
When we sin we proclaim our own death sentence - Romans 6:23
We see the violent response of God in the covering of sin right from the very beginning
God did not look at Adam and Eve’s attempts at covering their sins with leaves and say “oh so good but you need a stitch here or a tuck there....now that looks better”
He killed an animal, skinned it and draped the bloody carcass over them - think about that visual
It is an image of the blood of Christ being laid over us
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Christ purchased this grace at a cost to which we cannot attach a price but at which we can only marvel in terrified awe....
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,
Now that it has appeared, been perverted and rescued in the 16th century - what are we doing with grace?
“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession...Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
This is taught by people like Joseph Prince - preaching repentance in the area of consciousness of sins is nothing more than dishonoring the work of Jesus
It’s all good - I’m saved I can do what ever I want
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ.I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able,for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it.For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward.If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise.For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness” ;and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.” So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you,whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you,and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?
This is also seen to a degree in some who say they have freedom in Christ to drink, smoke etc. because they are under grace
It’s only for me and not for these other people - so I’ll keep it to myself
The grace exhibited in Jonah
The grace demonstrated in the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer.“The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer.‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’“But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”