Thank you for listening to the Seeking The Lost radio program this morning. I'm Ron Hutchison and I'll be your speaker for today. It's a great privilege to study the Bible with you each week on this program, and I pray that it will be of benefit to each one who is listening.
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I'd like for us today to discuss a subject that is often spoken of in the Bible. It's the subject of God's grace. The word "grace" appears about 130 times in the Bible. It is a very popular doctrine and one that deserves close study.
When the Bible speaks of God's grace, it is speaking of His favor. In fact, when you read such passages as Genesis 6:8 in the King James Version it uses the word "grace." "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Yet, the American Standard Version (and other translations) uses the word "favor." Both renderings are correct. Grace is favor and favor is grace. Someone once defined grace as "God's unmerited and undeserved favor extended to mankind." In light of what the Bible teaches about grace, I believe this to be an accurate definition.
When one reads the writings of the apostle Paul, he will see an emphasis on the grace or favor of God many times. This is true of the other writers and preachers of the New Testament as well. They would often speak of the "grace of God." For example, Acts 11:22 and 23 says, "Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord." Acts 13:43 says, "Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God." Acts 14:26 is another example, "And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled." Acts 15:40 says, "And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God." Then Acts 20:24 says this: "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." All of these passages serve to illustrate how often the early Christians talked about and emphasized the grace of God. There was no doubt in their minds about the fact of God's grace (2 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Peter 4:10; 5:12).
Grace is related to all the members of the Godhead. Acts 15:11 speaks of the "grace of the Lord Jesus Christ." Hebrews 10:29 calls the Holy Spirit "the Spirit of grace." We can see the importance of grace with its connection to the Godhead. Surely God would not be identified with that which would be below His nature. This raises the level of grace to tremendous heights. This being the case, we need to be careful and prudent concerning the Bible's teaching about the "grace of God." We are well aware of cases where grace has been misrepresented. But this certainly is not a new thing. Jude spoke of "ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." (Jude 4). This would mean that such men were making the grace of God into something it was not -- they were perverting the doctrine of Grace.
We must approach a study of the grace of God in a very reverent and careful manner, because it is something that is characteristic of God. We do not want to misrepresent the character of God and say that His grace will do something it doesn't do. Neither do we want to deny that His grace will accomplish that which it is designed to accomplish. Therefore, we will seek to carefully set forth the Bible's teaching concerning the grace of God in this study.
THE GRACE OF GOD BRINGS SALVATION
First, I would like to suggest that the Bible teaches that the grace of God brings salvation. This is affirmed by the apostle Paul: "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men" (Titus 2:11). How does the grace of God bring salvation? The grace of God was surely manifested in Jesus Christ who came to seek and save the lost. You will remember that Simeon, after seeing Jesus brought to the temple by Mary and Joseph said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation" (Luke 2:29-30). Simeon saw in the coming of Jesus the salvation which man longed for and so desperately needed. No person can deny the fact that salvation and grace are connected. This is affirmed many times in the Bible. For example Paul wrote, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9). From this statement we would all have to understand that salvation and God's grace are inseparable.
But we need to understand that the salvation that was brought by the grace of God is not unconditional salvation. It is not by "grace alone." (See also, God's Chain of Salvation). We must understand that the One whose grace provided salvation also set forth conditions for man to meet. These conditions are what constitute faith. This is what Paul had in mind when he wrote, "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all," (Romans 4:16). Any conditions established by the Lord would be designed to express one's faith or trust in God, who set the conditions. That would remove it from the possibility that we could boast about it. One cannot boast of the thing he is commanded by God to do. Paul wrote, "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16). Paul could not boast of his preaching because he was commanded to preach. He was simply doing what God said. When Paul spoke of the fact that salvation was "not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9), he was not speaking of all kinds of works. The works that one does in order to be saved by God's grace are "not of yourselves" as Paul uses the terms in Ephesians 2:8 and 9. In other words, when we meet God's conditions of salvation we are doing works. But it is not works of merit because the works are not anything that we have originated. We are simply obeying God's word. We are doing the works of God. It's interesting that one of the things that almost every person believes is necessary to salvation is belief. Yet, there was one occasion that Jesus referred to faith or belief as a work. Look at what He said in John 6:28 and 29: "Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." Why did Jesus call believing on Him a work? Because it is something man must do. But when one believes on Christ that does not mean he is earning his salvation. This is what Paul calls "the obedience of faith" in Romans 1:5.
This can be illustrated by looking at the people who heard the first gospel sermon after the resurrection of Christ on Pentecost day as recorded in Acts 2. When the people learned that they were lost, they asked, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). This would have been a perfect time for Peter to have replied: "There is nothing that you can do. You are saved by the grace of God. Any works of obedience is earning your salvation. You are saved by grace only." But that's not how Peter responded. He responded by saying, "Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins. . ." (Acts 2:38). Surely no one would affirm that what they were told to do and what they later did was of themselves. That is, that they originated it or that it was a work of merit. If it was a work of merit they would not need to ask anyone what they must do. In this case, God's grace taught them what to do through the preaching of the apostles. When this was done, they were surely indebted to God for their salvation. They simply obeyed what they were told to do. They did not earn their salvation. This was simply faith in action. Their faith was evident in their repentance. Their faith was evident in their submitting to baptism (immersion) for the remission (forgiveness) of their sins.
Do you think, if you were able to speak with the people who became Christians on the day of Pentecost, and ask them if they earned their salvation by repenting of their sins and being baptized that they would affirm that they did? Of course not. They knew they were saved by the grace of God, even though they obeyed Peter's command to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. They were not attempting to be saved by the works of the Old Testament law or by their own merit. They were humble enough to seek an answer from the apostles and then follow their instructions.
When those people who "gladly received his word were baptized" (Acts 2:41), they could say with the apostle Paul, ". . . buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead" (NKJV - Colossians 2:12).
The 3000 people who heard the first gospel sermon on Pentecost day were saved by God's grace, but their salvation was conditional. There were many other people gathered there that day who heard the apostles preach this sermon. Yet not everyone was saved by God's grace. Only those who ask what to do and then did what Peter told them were saved. So, when you speak of the "grace of God that brings salvation" you have to include those described in Acts 2.
Now the people who obeyed the gospel on Pentecost day were saved. Acts 2:41 says, "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." Then verse 47 says, "Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Since the Bible affirms that they were saved then they would have to be saved in harmony with Ephesians 2:8-9. If such were not the case, then you would have the Holy Spirit contradicting Himself. The Holy Spirit who inspired the sermon in Acts 2 also inspired the writing of Ephesians 2. I would not want to be placed in the position of trying to set one against the other. That would surely be the case if you were to say that Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches that one is saved by grace alone with nothing to do on man's part. It is not a case of either/or, but it is a question of both. God's grace brings salvation. There can be no doubt about this. But His grace does not bring salvation apart from man's obedience to the gospel.
This fact can be clearly demonstrated by the case of the Ephesians themselves. We know that the Ephesians were saved by the grace of God. This Paul clearly affirms in Ephesians 2:8-9. But such does not rule out the fact of their believing. Paul says in Ephesians 1:13, "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise." We also know these people were baptized. This is recorded in Acts 19:1-6. Notice what it says: "And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied." These people were saved by God's grace. Yet, the Bible teaches that they both believed and were baptized. They were saved by the grace of God when they obeyed the instructions of the apostles. When they met the conditions.
THE GRACE OF GOD BRINGS SEPARATION FROM THE WORLD
In the book of Titus, not only did Paul tell us that "the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men," but he also said, "teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:12 -NKJV). There can be no question that such teaching would keep us away from the evils of this age. The grace of God brings this separation by teaching us how to live so as to avoid the evils.
One would make a grave mistake if he thought that the grace of God gives him the license to sin. This seems to be what some were doing when Jude spoke of those who were "turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness," (Jude 4). The assumption would be that since grace forgives sin, then one could live a sinful life and God's grace would cover one's sins.
But grace does not give one freedom to live a sinful life. Paul dealt with this false teaching in the book of Romans. He wrote, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Romans 6:1-2). There is no such thing as an "umbrella of grace" that just automatically covers up sin. God's grace will bring forgiveness, but it will not allow one to live a sinful lifestyle. It is utter foolishness to think that God's grace will ignore the fact that one is disobedient, a rebel and unrepentant. Such makes a mockery of God's grace. There must be obedience to that which grace teaches.
As we have seen, the grace that brings salvation also teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. Can we ignore what grace teaches and at the same time enjoy the salvation of grace? If we can, then what is the purpose of the teaching of grace? Why would grace teach us to live a separated life and then bring us salvation when we ignore that teaching? Why would an inspired apostle ask "shall we continue in sin?" and then say "God forbid!", if we could do so and still enjoy the benefits of God's grace?
THE GRACE OF GOD BRINGS GRATITUDE
The grace of God not only brings salvation and separation, it also brings gratitude. When we truly understand and appreciate the grace of God, we will see gratitude well up in our hearts and overflow in praise and service. When a person truly comes to understand what he was, and then what he is now and what he enjoys by grace, he will be eternally grateful!
Perhaps one of the best examples of this is the apostle Paul. Paul was ever grateful for the grace that God had extended to him. We see this in his life where God's grace became the motivating factor that caused him to become such a great sacrificial servant of the Lord. Paul would see himself as any unworthy recipient of God's grace. He said of himself, "And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." (1 Corinthians 15:8-10). You can't read this without understanding Paul's appreciation for the grace of God. He was so thankful for God's goodness and mercy toward him. This would move him to see his work as a privilege and not as a burden. Listen to this great apostle as he writes to his brethren: "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;" (Ephesians 3:8). Paul considered it "grace" or God's favor that he was able to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ among the Gentiles. He said in 1 Timothy 1:12, "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry..."
God's grace ought to make us, like Paul, overflow with gratitude! This gratitude would naturally exhibit itself in our desire to serve the One who has manifested this grace. This was certainly true of Paul. Look at 1 Corinthians 15:10 again: "But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." One cannot fail to see what motivated Paul to such a degree of service. He would never be able to repay the Lord for all that He had done for him. He did not see himself as one who did all this on his own. He saw himself as one who could only do what he was doing because he was allowed to by the grace of God. This was the effect of the grace of God on Paul's life.
When people serve God out of gratitude, you will find that such service will last longer and be of higher quality. If only we could all learn to appreciate the grace of God more, then our service would be greater. This is surely the thing that Paul would ask. He did so of his brethren in Corinth when he said, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58).
THE GRACE OF GOD SUSTAINS US
The grace of God sustains us. One of the best known cases of this is Paul's "thorn in the flesh." Though we don't know what it was, we know that Paul prayed to have it taken away three times. (2 Corinthians 12:8). Whatever it was, it was something that afflicted Paul greatly. It was a great burden to him. But take a moment to see what God's answer was to Paul's request to remove it: "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness..." (2 Corinthians 12:9). God's answer is that His grace would sustain Paul in the suffering he faced. When Paul heard God's answer he must have accepted it fully, for we have no record of his ever asking Him to remove it again. God's grace sustained him. God's grace will sustain you and me through affliction as well.
When we know that the grace of God brings salvation; that it leads to a life of separation from evil and wicked things; that it generates in our hearts great gratitude and will cause us to serve Him joyfully; that it will help us to bear our burdens; surely we can see the need to receive the grace of God in humble obedience to the gospel of Christ.
God's plan of salvation is simple. It was given by His grace. Sin separates us from God. Isaiah 59:1-2 says, "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." Sin will lead to eternal separation from God. Paul wrote in Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Every accountable person has sinned. Paul teaches this in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Jesus, the Son of God, shed His blood so that our sins could be forgiven. We must believe that fact and believe that He is the Son of God. Jesus said in John 8:24, "I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." He said in Mark 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned." One must believe the gospel, and one of the great facts of the gospel is that Jesus is the Son of God. We must repent of our sins. Acts 17:30 says, "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent..." Jesus told us in Luke 13:3, "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." We must confess our faith in Jesus that He is Lord and Christ. Paul wrote in Romans 10:9-10, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." We have an example of that confession given in Acts 8:37 when the Eunuch confessed, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Then one must be baptized (immersed in water) for the remission (forgiveness) of our sins. Peter said in Acts 2:38, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." He also wrote in 1 Peter 3:21, "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ..." Then we must live a faithful Christian life. Jesus said in Revelation 2:10, "be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."
How grateful we ought to be for the grace of God. For His grace sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins. His grace has provided His plan of salvation for us so that we don't have to die in our sins. His grace continues to be bestowed upon us throughout our lives. And His grace will give us a home in heaven when Jesus comes again.
Thank you for listening to the program this morning.