Grace and Peace - Part 3
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
June 04, 2017
I was told in seminary that whenever you see a “therefore” in the Bible, you look to see what it’s there for. You do that by examining at what comes before it in the text. What did the author write that prompted a “therefore”?
Paul uses a lot of therefore’s. Chapter 5 of his letter to the Romans begins with a therefore, but we don’t have time to follow it backwards. Instead, we’ll follow it forwards to a therefore that leads us into a lesson on grace.
I am going to read the first eleven verses of chapter 5 in a more modern translation to help get us into context…
Romans 5:1–11 (CEV) — 1 By faith we have been made acceptable to God. And now, because of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live at peace with God. 2 Christ has also introduced us to God’s undeserved kindness on which we take our stand. So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God. 3 But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. 4 And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope 5 that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love. 6 Christ died for us at a time when we were helpless and sinful. 7 No one is really willing to die for an honest person, though someone might be willing to die for a truly good person. 8 But God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful. 9 But there is more! Now that God has accepted us because Christ sacrificed his life’s blood, we will also be kept safe from God’s anger. 10 Even when we were God’s enemies, he made peace with us, because his Son died for us. Yet something even greater than friendship is ours. Now that we are at peace with God, we will be saved by his Son’s life. 11 And in addition to everything else, we are happy because God sent our Lord Jesus Christ to make peace with us.
Okay, now let’s continue in a heartier translation (the one I use most of the time) and slow things down a bit. And what do we see next but a “therefore”?
Romans 5:12–21 (ESV) — 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
I need to interrupt here and let you know Paul abruptly stops in mid-thought and takes a side path (something he does often)…
13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
Let’s follow his side path for a minute. Adam decided he knew better than God, so he broke the one rule God gave. That single act of disobedience brought sin into the world and sin brought with it death, both physical and spiritual. Sin infected all of humanity on to the present day (depravity).
That’s tough to accept. I get grilled every now and then on that. Is it fair for God to hold all us accountable for what Adam did? It’s like punishing the whole class for something one kid did.
From our perspective it doesn’t make sense. We shouldn’t expect it to. We’ve talked about this a lot on our Wednesday night study through CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity. God by definition requires a dropping off point when it comes to our understanding.
I am not going to tell you to just accept it by faith because the Bible says it and that settles it. I hate that kind of thinking by the way. I call it Redneck theology (God is my copilot/ God won’t put any more on you than you can bear).
I cannot explain why we are held accountable for something we didn’t directly do.That takes me into waters too deep to fathom. But here’s what I do know: I was born with this built-in tendency to do bad things. I came into this world thinking that I know better than God what’s best for me. It’s as if I inherited a predisposition to sin.
Let’s get back to the text so we can move forward to the main thrust of today’s message on the grace in grace and peace.
Note that Paul says Adam was a type of one who was to come. That’s important. That word in the Greek is typos (too-pos), and it means, at it’s root, a pattern. In the Bible, a type is an “event or person that in some ways symbolizes or anticipates [or patterns] a later” event or person. Types in the OT prefigure something or someone in the NT.
Paul is preparing us for a lesson on grace, a lesson which centers on the NT person Adam is a pattern or type for (we’ll see who that is is just a minute). But first, let’s follow Paul as he gets back on the main path with our key verse for today (I highlighted for you in Today’s Texts)…
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
“But the free gift is not like the trespass.”
We know what the trespass is, but what is this free gift? Where did that come from? Many of Paul’s letters are written in what’s called today stream of consciousness writing. He’s so intent on getting out what’s in him that he just unfurls one truth after another. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up.
My wife is bad about that. We will be having a conversation about one thing, and she’ll say something that has nothing to do with what we were talking about.
Paul seems to pull those two words out of the air - free gift. They are translated from one Greek word, charisma. And guess what the root word for charisma is? Charis. Grace.
Let’s keep going…
16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Boom. There it is. Paul just completed his point on types. The trespass that caused us all this trouble came through Adam, A son of God who was a type of one who was to come. The free gift of grace came through THE Son of God, Jesus. The first Adam failed. The second Adam gloriously succeeded. In fact, the second Adam’s faithfulness far outshines the first Adam’s faithlessness. In other words, what God did to fix this broken world through his Son was infinitely greater than what Adam did to break it!
18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
That’s the work of Jesus in living the life we should have lived and dying the death we should have died.
19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
So, Paul gives us a ginormous take-away on grace.
Grace is a free gift that can’t be earned, only given, and it’s offered by God exclusively through Jesus.
That’s more important than we realize. It stabs at the heart of this damnable thing called religion.
Religion can’t handle God’s favor given as a free gift. Religion wants to earn it. Because then it can say, “Look what I’ve done.” And it can also say, “Look what you’ve done.”
Christianity is all about saying, “Look at what I've done!” and then surrendering and saying, "Look at what He's done."
Are you familiar with the parable of the prodigal son? Look at it with me…
Luke 15:11–32 (ESV) — 11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. 17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
That story illustrates how the free gift of grace works, folks. But there’s more to it, a part often overlooked.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ ”
Earning God’s favor like the elder son (religion) and receiving God’s grace gift like the younger son (Christianity) are two ways of approaching God. One is based on performance, the other based on relationship.
Whenever I share the gospel with someone I ask them what’s the one thing they wish they had but couldn’t afford. Then I ask them what they’d do if I got it for them. Then I ask them what would happen if they didn’t take it. The thing about gifts is they must be received to complete the transaction.
So let’s put together what we know about grace…
Grace is God’s unmerited favor toward us.
God’s grace, God’s favor toward us is unmerited, undeserved because of our depravity.
Jesus is the living embodiment of God’s grace.
Grace is a free gift that can’t be earned, only given, and it’s offered by God exclusively through Jesus.
Conclusion: Have you ever heard the phrase “The gift that keeps on giving?” Countless advertising campaigns have used that slogan to promote some product for years. It was first used for the phonograph in 1925.
I want you to know that God’s grace is the only true gift that keeps on giving. God’s favor continues operating in your life when you don’t even know it. It abounds in your life. It shows up in big ways and small.
If you begin looking at the world and your life in light of God’s love, you discover you are a fish living in the ocean of God’s grace. Spurgeon preached…
I could wish that every time the clock struck it said, “By grace are ye saved.” I could wish that there were a trumpet voice ringing out at day-break both on sea and land, over the whole round globe the words, “By grace are ye saved.” As Martin Luther said of a certain other truth so say I of this, “You so constantly forget it that I feel inclined to take the Bible and beat it about your head, that you may feel it and keep it in remembrance.” Men do not naturally love the doctrine of grace, and therefore they cast it out of their minds as much as possible. The larger portion of mankind do not believe that salvation is of grace: another part of them profess to believe it, but do not understand its meaning; and many who do understand it have never yielded to it or embraced it. Happy are they who belong to the remnant according to the election of grace, for they know right well the joyful sound, and they walk in the light of the glory of the grace of God which is in Christ Jesus.
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