Grace and Peace - Part 2
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
May 28, 2017
Grace and Peace
(My Preaching Bucket List)
We continue today, learning of grace, the first part of the supremely important greeting found in so much of the NT. Paul, Peter, and John all wished the recipients of their letters “grace and peace.”
But these two words are so much more than just a way to say hello. In this series we will break them down then put them back together, and as we do we’ll understand why they are the two things we need most in this world.
We’ve begun looking at the first part of the phrase, grace. We are familiar with the word in general, but to discover what it really means for the Christian is an all but impossible task. It’s this way for pretty much anything we look at concerning God and his ways and the Christian life (yes, I know, I keep saying that). But I’m not the first one to think it. One hundred years ago, Spurgeon was preaching on our main text for today’s message. He confessed that when it comes to understanding the fulness of Jesus’ glory…
…we can do no more than children do when they take up a little sea-water in a shell; their tiny scoop cannot embrace the ocean. I stand on the narrow edge of a vast expanse, and leave the boundless depths to your contemplation.
That’s certainly true of grace. I, nor any preacher or teacher, could ever explain it completely. The boundless depths of grace must be left for you to ponder. However, the best we can do at defining it is…
God’s unmerited favor toward man.
Many miss the deeper meaning of grace because they focus on the on the favor but neglect the unmerited part. That was last week’s message.
God’s grace, God’s favor toward us is unmerited or undeserved because of our depravity.
We don’t like hearing that, but it’s true. History bears it out. Our everyday experience bears it out. The Bible expresses it from beginning to end. The prophet Jeremiah ached in his soul that…
Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV) — 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
This is what makes God’s grace so amazing. He shows us unimaginable favor even though we are horribly sick with sin. Once we surrender to that truth, we can move forward. And that’s what we’re doing today, moving forward and looking at one of the main texts on grace in the NT. We begin in the beginning of John’s gospel. Our key verses are at the end of his introduction, but we’ll start with verse 1 to get things into context…
John 1:1–5, 10–14a (ESV) — 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father…
N.T. Wright, in the beginning of his commentary on John, tells the story of being invited to a friend’s house for the first time. He was told to look for a gate just beyond the end of a village. He had trouble finding it at first because he saw no houses beyond the village. But then he did find a gate that fronted a long drive that led to the most beautiful home and grounds he had ever seen. His friend never told him he lived in such a place as that. He writes…
Approaching John’s gospel is a bit like arriving at a grand, imposing house. Many Bible readers know that this gospel is not quite like the others. They may have heard, or begun to discover, that it’s got hidden depths of meaning. According to one well-known saying, this book is like a pool that’s safe for a child to paddle in but deep enough for an elephant to swim in. But, though it’s imposing in its structure and ideas, it’s not meant to scare you off. It makes you welcome…
Like many a grand house, the book has a driveway, bringing you off the main road, telling you something about the place you’re getting to before you get there. These opening verses are, in fact, such a complete introduction to the book that by the time you get to the story you know a good deal about what’s coming, and what it means.
Right at the beginning of John’s gospel he gets down to business. He is without any doubt talking about Jesus. Jesus is the Word. Jesus was there in the beginning, before anything was made, meaning he is ETERNAL. John takes it infinitely further by saying Jesus was (and is) God.
And now get to where we want to be. John brings grace into the picture he’s painting of Jesus.
John 1:14–18 (ESV) — 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
CS Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, talks of coming out of atheism into a belief in God.
…atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.
Man would have been perfectly happy to stay in the dark; he didn’t know any different. But Jesus, God come to us in the flesh, FULL of grace and truth, arrived uninvited on earth shining the light of the glory of God’s favor towards us, even though we didn’t ask him to, even though we didn’t want him to.
How did that favor, that grace play out?
Look back to what John said…
12 … to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Even though we were a depraved bunch and didn’t deserve it (unmerited), Jesus made a way for us to become God’s children, to be in relationship with him. And that relationship is actually being sons and daughters in God’s divine family.
Why would he do that? Because… GRACE.
Oh, it gets better, or worse, depending on how you look at it, when you consider what had to happen for us to become part of his family.
Romans 5:6–10 (ESV) — 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
Jesus, God come to us in the flesh, took our place on the cross, bearing the punishment we should have received for our depravity. He did it so we could be reconciled to God.
But why would he do that? Because… GRACE.
Let’s look at verse 16…
16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
We tend to think of the law given through Moses as the enemy of grace, that the Christian life is a law versus grace smackdown. There are at least two reasons for that.(1). The battle between the Pharisees and Jesus - Matthew 23:23 (ESV) — 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
(2). The writings of Paul - Galatians 2:16 (ESV) — 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
We read John 1:17 with that mindset and think John is contrasting a negative with a positive. That bad old law came through Moses, but good old grace came through Jesus.
But look more carefully at verse 16: we have received “grace upon grace” or it could be translated “grace on top of grace.” And then there is a little three letter word: “for” meaning because. We have received grace on top of grace because…
The law was given through Moses = 1st GRACE
Grace and truth came through Jesus = 2nd GRACE
Wait a minute. Is that right? The law is God’s grace?Let’s go back to Paul. He does make a big case against trying to please God by keeping the law, but he was careful to explain that the law itself was good.
Romans 7:7, 12 (ESV) — 7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” … 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
The law isn’t at odds with grace, it’s actually a part of God’s plan for showing us grace. God’s giving the law to Moses at Sinai was the first installment of his plan for showing us our depravity and his mercy. He had to show us our sin before he could save us from it.
Yes, Jesus butted heads with the legalistic Pharisees, but he had no problem with God’s law. In fact…
Matthew 5:17 (ESV) — 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Jesus FULFILLED the law. Do you understand what that means? He actually kept it both to the letter and in principle. Perfectly. Without any failings. He’s the only human being ever to do that. He’s the only person EVER to live up to God’s standard of perfection…
Matthew 5:48 (ESV) — 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The rest of us can’t meet that standard because of our (you guessed it) depravity. We can’t be in good standing before God because of our sin but…
2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) — 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
We become the righteousness of God in that Jesus obeyed every detail of the law for us so that we could meet God’s standard of perfection, so that we could be made right with him. It’s his righteousness that God sees when he looks at us, if we are in him and he is in us.
Galatians 2:20 (ESV) — 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ***not in your handout***
Why would he do that? Because… GRACE.
Conclusion: John gives us a good lesson on grace.
Jesus is the embodiment of God’s grace. Grace is not just a concept, it’s a person. JESUS.
Jesus ultimately demonstrated God’s grace in dying the death we should have died and living the life we should have lived.
John tells us if we want to know about God and his grace, go to Jesus. Jesus explains it all in his life and death and resurrection.
I’m like David, who, when reflecting on God’s care for him wrote…
Psalm 139:6 (ESV) — 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
How do you have this grace applied to your life? How do you receive God’s unmerited favor towards you?
12 … to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
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