“God’s Favor at Christ Expense”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

3rd SUNDAY OF EASTER

MAY 5, 2019

Title: “God’s Favor at Christ’s Expense”

Text: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Scripture Reading:  Ephesians 1:3-12

One of the most familiar words in the Christian’s vocabulary is the word grace.  Many years ago, a theologian, tongue in cheek, wrote a book titled Grace Is Not a Blue-Eyed Blonde,” trying to shock us into realizing that we throw around many theological terms and words, not truly understanding what they mean.

The word grace and its related words appear in Holy Scriptures about two hundred times.  The first reference to grace is found in Genesis 6:8, where we read that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”  The final appearance of the word in the Bible is recorded in Revelation 22:31: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”  Indeed, one needs a firm grasp on the doctrine of grace, for it is the foundation on which the other doctrines rest.

The concept of grace.

To begin with, let us examine the word itself.  In the original language of our New Testament, the word implies a favor freely done.  The word for “gift” springs from the same root. The Greeks used this word to describe favor shown to a friend.  When Jesus came and died on the cross, grace leaped from its confinement as an expression only to friends and included enemies as well.  As Paul said, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had much to say about Christians’ relationships with their fellow humans.  He said some terribly hard things: “Love your enemies!” And in his concern that our “love” for enemies would degenerate into an artificial emotion, he said: “Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).  

We need to understand that grace goes beyond our salvation.  Grace becomes the spring from which all blessings flow from God.  In other words, he who saves us by grace also brings us into the sphere of grace and endows us with all the blessings and favors that accompany this divine expression of love.  In fact, this attitude of God was hinted at in the Old Testament: “It shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear: for I am gracious” (Exodus 22:27). Similar expressions are also found in Nehemiah 9:17 and Jonah 4:2.  Paul wrote in Romans 5 that God abounds in grace. The word translated “abound” means to “exist in superabundance.” All of God’s dealings with his people are filtered through his marvelous grace! Thus we can be eternally grateful that God deals with us through grace not justice.

The Sufficiency of grace.

God’s grace is all sufficient.  It is true simply because grace comes to us from the glorious and transcendent nature of God himself.  It is one of his infinite attributes, and it is the result of the eternal counsel and purpose of his will.  We must not forget that grace is an act, not just a favor or gift from God. God reveals what God is as well as what he does.  

Grace comes through Christ.  There is no other way that humankind could have received the grace of God.  Jesus’ life on earth was a platform from which grace was displayed. The writer of hebrews summed it up this way: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9).

Paul spoke of the riches of God’s grace.  What are some of these riches? When God freely gives sinners eternal life through grace, he credits them with a perfect righteousness.  That is, when God observes Christians, sinners saved by grace, he sees them not in their continued imperfections and sins, but clothed in the righteousness that we imputed to them through their faith in Jesus Christ! Ephesians 2:19-20 tells us a lot.  This elevates Christians to an impregnable position with God. A further provision of God’s all sufficient grace is that it makes us to be “at peace with God” (Romans 5:1-2). This means that there has been brought about a reconciliation, creating an insoluble bond between God and the redeemed.  Also, a vital benefit of God’s grace is the believer’s accessibility to God through prayer. Christians are enjoined to “come boldly” to the throne of grace to make their requests known of God (Hebrews 4:16).

The Scope of Grace.

Paul in Titus 3:4-7, told Titus that grace is God’s grace is for “all men.”  Someone has said that if you take the g from grace you have the word race.  Grace is for all within the human race, for all stand on one common ground: Namely, that of being sinners.  Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). From beginning to end, the gospel presents the universality of God’s grace.

There is one thing we must understand clearly about God’s grace.  Grace does not imply that God passes by any person’s sin or takes it lightly.  Sin is so horribly base in God’s sight that he can in no way tolerate it. God sees the sinner utterly ruined, hopeless, and helpless.  And the triumph of grace is seen at Calvary, where heaven’s love and heaven’s justice meet. There Christ bore the curse of human sin, and with God’s hatred against sin vindicated on the basis of his grace, he can now forgive the sinner!

I read that Sir Edwin Landseer was one of the most famous painters of the Victorian era. His talent developed early, and he had the first showing of his work at the Royal Academy when he was just thirteen years old. He was commissioned to do a number of official portraits of the royal family, and even gave private drawing lessons to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. But he was best known for his depictions of the natural settings and life in the Scottish highlands.

One day as he was visiting a family in an old mansion in Scotland, one of the servants spilled a pitcher of soda water, leaving a large stain on the wall. While the family was out for the day, Landseer remained behind. Using charcoal, he incorporated the stain into a beautiful drawing. When the family returned they found a picture of a waterfall surrounded by trees and animals. He used his skill to make something beautiful out of what had been an unsightly mess.

God works in much the same way in our lives. The things that we think of as weaknesses and handicaps can, through His grace, become our greatest strengths—and the very things He uses the most to bring glory to Himself. God’s grace provides the strength to meet every challenge and overcome every weakness.

It is important to understand that grace is God’s part and faith is our part.  We simply accept, by faith , the grace of God. We do not grow into grace, but we do grow in grace.  Once we are made sharers of divine grace, it becomes a progressive force in our lives. Grace is not just a seed in the heart that lies dormant, but a blade, an ear, then the full corn in the ear.  As the roots spread, the plant grows!

The scope of God’s grace forever widens.  As Christians start to grow in grace, they grow in spiritual stature toward God and grow smaller and smaller in their own eyes.  Through grace, one grows out of self-conceit, for grace subdues self. Furthermore, growing in grace means that all of the virtues of the Christian life grows proportionately.  Growing in grace means acquiring the fruits of the Spirit Paul described in Galatians 5:22-23. These fruits being love, joy, peace, gentleness, meekness and the list goes on. It means growing proportionately.  As we grow in grace, the growth of corruption is hindered. The flower of grace prevent the weeds of sin from spreading.

The hymnist Robert Robinson wrote one of the great hymns of the church, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”  In one verse he wrote:

“O to grace how great a debtor,

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let that grace now like a fetter,

Find my wandering heart to thee.”

There once was a ship in distress on the high seas because its water simply had run out.  The crew was in danger of dying from thirst though there was water all around them. When hope was almost gone, they sighted a ship in the distance.  At once they sent up distress signals. The only answer they got, as they signaled to the passing ship that they were without water, was, “Dip it up!”  What heartless mockery to tell those sailors to dip up buckets of salt water! They signaled again, but the same answer came back, “Dip it up!”

In despair, they lowered a bucket.  Imagine their amazement and joy when the water proved to be freshwater!  They thought they were yet on the high seas, but they had drifted into the mouth of the Amazon River.  

This is the way it is with the grace of God.  Countless souls are dying of spiritual thirst everyday, when all around them there is available the saving grace of God.  All they need to do is, by faith, “dip it up”! God’s grace is bountiful. God’s grace is sufficient. God’s grace is universal and covers all humankind.  May the grace of God be with you all. God bless you!!!