Sermon Titled “The Grace Effect” (Ephesians 2:8-10) – Sunday 1st December, 2013
- Ephesians 2:8-10 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Words Matter. Order Matters. When Paul spoke through his letters to the church, he was very careful and deliberate in his choice of words and how he ordered them. He intended to leave no room for confusion, and so when he said above that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and…..not by works,” he wanted to make sure that the road to salvation was clearly understood by all.
1. By grace you have been saved! If you were to do a Google search for acronym examples of the word “Grace,” one example you might come across is this:
- God’s Redemption At Christ’s Expense.
In other words, God’s grace is freely given; it does not have to be earned or merited because Christ has already paid the price for us.
2. We must be careful not to fall in with those who have interpreted Paul’s words to mean that one must simply believe and then they are saved. The second part of verse 8 says, through faith! It is God’s grace that saves, but it is our faith which activates the free gift of salvation.
In the book of Romans, in chapter 4 verses 1 to 8, Paul illustrated this concept of faith through the Old Testament examples of Abraham and David. Both of these men understood and testified that it is because of faith (and not by works) that we are justified. God does the saving, and people do the believing – it’s our choice, says Pastor Reimer.
A further example of grace and faith can be gleaned from the the story of the bronze serpent in Numbers 21:5-9:
- Numbers 21:5-9 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” 6 Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.
In Numbers 21:5-9, the author told of the sin committed by the Israelites and how their complaints about the lack of food and water essentially demonstrated a lack of obedience and faith. Angered by their petty grievances, God struck many of them down by surrounding them with venomous snakes, and then later, after listening to Moses’ petitions to forgive them, God provided a way for them to be saved.
A few centuries later, when the gospel of John was written, the story of the Israelites and the bronze serpent was referred to as a parallel of Christ being lifted up on the cross for all eyes to look to and be saved.
- John 3:14-15 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
3. It is by God’s grace, through our faith, and not by works (verse 9), that we are saved. When Zacchaeus the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10) heard that Jesus was entering his home town of Jericho, he rushed ahead to catch a glimpse of him. Since he was too short to see above the crowd, he climbed up a sycamore tree and waited. As Jesus approached and saw Zacchaeus up in the tree, he called him down and went with him to his house to eat with him and share the word of God.
Zacchaeus believed, and thereafter he gave half of his possessions to the poor and promised to pay back four times the amount to anyone he had cheated. This was a man who up until his meeting with Jesus, had spent his working life taking from others and yet here he was, now frantically giving back. Why? What caused him to change course? Did he give back because he felt obligated to, or did he give back because his heart had changed?
I believe that Zacchaeus gave back because he had a change of heart. When God’s grace works together with our faith, we receive salvation and a seal of adoption which binds us with Christ as His sons and daughters and as His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works (verse 10). Author and pastor Mark Batterson, has this to say about doing good for Christ:
- “When you give your heart to Christ, Christ gives His heart to you and you begin to want the things that Christ wants. Your heart begins to break for all of the things that break Christ’s heart.”
Doing “good works” for Christ is not something that Christians do to buy their way into heaven; it is something we do because it’s what Christ would do, and what Christ would want us to do, and what we now want to do because Christ is in our hearts.
As Pastor Reimer so duly encouraged, we should:
- Look – to grace
- Live – in faith
- And Do – works, in love!