Category Archives: Bible Study

By All Means, Let Grace be Grace!

Hopefully you read the post from earlier this week and were challenged by the truths to turn back to God, repent of your sins, and begin living for Him.  Maybe even God has been working on you and you’ve felt Him chasing after you.  Hebrews 12:5-6 NKJV says, “…My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”  It’s out of love that He pursues you and wants you back.  Don’t be discouraged, or continue to evade God, surrender to Him.  With that said, how then do we follow up on a message like backsliding, where we placed emphasis on producing fruit in our lives as evident of a true conversion and salvation in Christ?  We back that message up the same way that the Bible does by teaching that these works and “fruits” are meaningless if they are done from the flesh and not the Spirit.  No amount of works or fruit is going to get you anywhere, much less heaven, unless the Holy Spirit is working in your life to produce this fruit.  There is no such thing as “works salvation” or justification by faith + works.  There is grace and by all means, let grace be grace!

The Apostle Paul, writing about the divine sovereignty of God to bring those whom He’s called to salvation, says this in Romans 11:6 ESV regarding grace, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”  If we attempt to earn or work our way to salvation then it takes away the grace of God, resulting in grace no longer being grace.  Grace is a gift and by its definition is unmerited favor.  That means nothing you’ve done or could ever hope to do will earn you grace.  In this same manner, nothing can be done to pay back grace.  We can’t say, well God gave me grace, I’m a Christian, now I’m going to pay Him back by doing more and more.  Romans 3:23-24 ESV says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  It is a gift, through Christ Jesus, given through our faith.

What if our justification, or salvation came from works, meaning the more we did or felt we earned or deserved the more saved we are?  How would that look?  First it would be an absolute mess because who would determine the number of works that would need to be done in order to reach salvation?  What kind?  How would sin get addressed?  The more we would do the greater our sense of pride would well up inside and say, “Look at me!  I’m so great, I did all of this!  I helped all of these people, gave this amount of money, worked for this charity, I earned my salvation, I deserve to go to heaven.”  Well Paul specifically addresses this in Romans 3:27-28, “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.  For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”  There is no boasting with grace because it wasn’t yours to give and it’s not yours to get, apart from the redemptive work of Jesus.  God pours out grace on us when we believe, through faith, that He sent His son to die on the cross for our sins.  One final exhortation from the Apostle, “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.” Galatians 2:16 ESV

Apart from grace in our lives, we are not saved.  Without it we can do nothing.  We are at the sole mercy of God, but that’s what makes grace so amazing and marvelous.  We don’t deserve it, but if we trust Christ as Savior, He gives it to us anyway, and that’s when the Holy Spirit begins working in our lives to produce the fruits of the Spirit we read about in Galatians 5:22-23 ESV, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

Trust Christ as Savior, let the Spirit do the work in you and through you and by all means, let Grace be Grace!

Marvelous Grace

Verse 1

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,

Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!

Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,

There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Chorus

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Verse 2

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,

Threaten the soul with infinite loss;

Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,

Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Chorus

Verse 3

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.

What can avail to wash it away?

Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,

Brighter than snow you may be today.

Chorus

Verse 4

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,

Freely bestowed on all who believe!

You that are longing to see His face,

Will you this moment His grace receive?

Chorus

LESSON IV – John the Baptist Prepares the Way with Boldness of the Gospel

If there is one thing that defines John the Baptist’s ministry it’s his boldness.  Like the Apostle Paul who came after him and the prophet Elijah who came before him, John wasn’t ashamed or afraid of the Gospel.  All of the attributes that we’ve discussed so far, his external self-denying character, his internal Holy Spirit filled character, his scriptural wisdom, and his recognition of Christ’s supreme authority combine together to form a ministerial blueprint that could not be more evident.  John prepared the way for Jesus by preaching a bold, dynamic, penetrating Gospel urging all those who would listen to repent, while confronting their sins head-on, and detailing the future judgment of Christ as the consequences for sins.

Repent

If we briefly look at the benediction given by Zechariah at the birth of his son, we see him beginning to prophesy about the coming efforts of John.  Picking up in verse 76, 76 ” And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, 77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, 78 Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; 79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:76-79 In his role of preparing the Way, John’s primary objective was to preach the “knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins.”  How can the people possibly be forgiven of their sins?  John the Apostle provides the answer in his first epistle, “9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9 This is exactly what John the Baptist is preaching in Matthew 3:2, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Repentance is essential to salvation and John’s entire message revolves around this, in fact his baptismal ministry symbolizes a public repentance of sins.  We read of this very action in Luke 3:3, “And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”

In Luke 3:7-9 we get an example of John boldly preaching repentance as he confronts the Pharisees and Sadducees in calling to them, “7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.'” Here not only is he telling them that they’ve been warned once before of the coming judgment against those who have not repented, but he hammers home his repentance message yet again, while telling them that they cannot simply rely on their heritage for eternal security.  This likely came as a shock to not only the religious leaders but to the crowds of Jews who heard him speak with the authority of the Holy Spirit.

Confront Sin

In keeping with his message of repentance, John challenges those who are unable to recognize sin in their lives by pointing out those behaviors which now need to be abandoned.  In Luke 3:12-14 we see his encounter with the tax collectors as he instructs them too, “12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ 13 And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than what is appointed for you.’14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, ‘And what shall we do?’ So he said to them, ‘Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.'”  But John doesn’t stop there, in Luke 3:18-20 we read, “18 And with many other exhortations he preached to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, 20 also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison.”  John rebuked Herod, the king because of an improper, incestuous relationship with his brother’s wife, likewise pointing out all the other disgusting, immoral, reprobate sins that he had committed.  However, this rebuke would cost John his freedom and ultimately his life.

Judgment: The Consequences of Sin

            John’s final point of his messages had an eschatological theme as he pointed toward the impending judgment on all those who refused to repent and turn to the Messiah.  In Matthew 3:12 during one of John’s sermons, we read of his discourse on the coming judgment of Jesus, “12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Clearly John understood the grave eternal consequences that faced those who refused to repent and he presented that message so that all who heard might understand how serious this matter is.

Summary

            John’s ministerial message was quite different than a lot of the “post-modern” soft gospel styles that we hear so much of today.  John preached effectively on the repentance of sins and the importance of living a life in accordance with that repentance, starting with a public display of baptism.  As he was confronted by those who were either unwilling to repent or unknowing of what sins they had committed, John boldly corrected, admonished, and rebuked, even when it involved king Herod.

Application

            John the Baptist’s ministry was bold and penetrating, but he spoke the truth and did so fearlessly.  To effectively reach non-believers a ministry requires a bold approach, capable of emphasizing the importance of repentance and the confrontation of sin directly.  This may or may not be something that comes natural, so not only does this take physical work, it also takes spiritual work by God to develop boldness and eliminate the fears that inhibit it.