Scripture
Ephesians 2:4-10
Date
March 11, 2018
Speaker
Pastor Witt

 

 

Greeting:  This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

 

Text: But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5) made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgression – it is by grace you have been saved.  6) And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7) in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  8) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this 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 workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

Introduction: “Can a person be sure of going to heaven when he/she dies?”   Some have called this “Life’s Critical Issue.”  In the daily voices, we hear, it may seem that our present happiness, our economic prosperity and our physical health are the great concerns of life.  But that is not so.  It is our future after death, the destiny of our soul, and the assurance of eternal life that are the matters of inestimable importance.   These great issues are the subject of the sermon for today.   They are important for us personally because we have our own appointment with death and we need answers and comfort to face it.  They are also important for others we meet because they also will come to the end of their earthly journey, some of them quite suddenly like the former Major League pitcher, Roy Halladay, who died several months ago in a plane crash at the age of 40.   They, too, are in need of information and consolation as they face  the time of their death.

 

Can you and I be certain of eternal life?   The answer God gives us in His Word is “Yes.”  In 1 John 5:13, He tells us: “These things I write so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  And in John 20:31, He says: “These are written that you may know that Jesus is the Christ and that by believing you may have life in His name.”   A person can be sure.  God wants us to be sure.   How can we be sure?  In Ephesians 2, God tells very clearly.  He announces that HIS GRACE MAKES US SURE.

 

1. GRACE FINDS US DEAD IN SIN

In verses 4-10 of Ephesians 2, God makes 4 key points to help us gain certainty of going to heaven.   The first point is a report of some bad news.  Grace finds us dead in sins.  The actual words are: “We were dead in transgressions.”   The discussion begins on a seemingly hopeless note.   God announces that we, all of us in our natural spiritual condition, are sinners. This condition starts from birth.  In commenting on this natural sin, Saint Augustine said: “There is no creature more selfish that the baby in the crib.  If the infant doesn’t injure you, it is because he lacks the strength, not because he lacks the will.” We only proceed from there.  We have not lived perfect lives that He expected of us.  We have transgressed.  The picture of transgression is that of people leaving the proper path and crossing over into forbidden territory or the dog breaking free from the dog run path and digging up the garden and the flower beds.

 

What is more, God says that we are “dead in transgressions.”   The phrase speaks to the severity of and the sentence on our sins.   In Romans, Paul writes; “The wages of sin is death.”  In the biblical sense, death is separation from God and His blessings.  Our sins build walls of separation that cut us off from God Himself and would leave us cut off forever.   In addition, the phrase “dead in transgression” also speaks of our condition.  We are dead, and so we are lifeless, helpless, and powerless.   Sin turns us into a spiritually petrified forest.  There are trees, but there is no life, no growth, no flowering, no fruit – only cold, hard, dead forms.   Here is where God’s grace finds us all: dead in our transgressions and sins, but the hopeful note is that God’s grace finds us.

 

  1. GRACE PAYS OUR DEBT IN CHRIST

We thank God that while His grace finds us dead in transgressions it does not leave us there.  God’s grace has loving concern for us and moves into helpful action. In the second point of the discussion, we are told that Grace pays the debt of our sin.   God’s grace accomplishes this payment through Jesus Christ.   Five times in these seven verses, God speaks of Christ’s work for us.  Occasionally we hear about people who conduct personal bail-out programs to rescue family members or friends who are failing financially because of their own mismanagement. It is often done in compassion, but it may seem a reckless move to an outsider.  

 

On another level, God has carried out a spiritual bail-out program to rescue people who have failed.   His grace conceived it and carried it out through Jesus Christ.   Through Jesus perfect obedience to God’s holy standards and His punishment-bearing death on Calvary’s cross, Christ paid our debt to God.  He cancelled out our sins and credited His holiness to us.  Because of Jesus, our spiritual account before God is not longer in deficit. It is running record surpluses.  Just before His death on the cross, Jesus cried out the word: “Tetelestai” – this is the Greek word, we translate as “It is finished.”  It can also be translated: “The Debt is paid.”  In 1 John God explains the means of the death of His Son for us: “The blood of Jesus cleanses us from every sin.­”   “Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world.”   Because of Christ’s work, we can feel like American statesman Henry Clay.   He had run up a $10,000 debt, a large amount in the 1800’s.  He had a dreaded appointment with the bank coming up and no money to pay his debt.   Unknown to him, some friends had learned of his financial situation and had secretly paid the debt.  So when Henry Clay, depressed and despondent, went to the bank appointment, he was surprised and overjoyed to learn that his large debt had been paid.  He was no longer in debt.  Because of Jesus, this is our situation with God.  God’s rich grace has paid our debt in Christ.

 

  1. GRACE GIVES US LIFE THROUGH FAITH

Grace has more good news to tell us about the matter of going to heaven.  Grace not only pays our debt to God.  It also gives us life with God through faith.   Once a person learns that Jesus Christ paid their debt to God, the big question arises: “How does a person enjoy the blessings that Jesus has gained for us?”   The simple Bible answer is “Through faith.”  When the jailer of Philippi asked: “What must I do to be saved?”  Saint Paul told him: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”  Those words are both God’s answer and invitation.  We received the benefits of Jesus’ rescuing work by trusting in Christ as our Savior.  Forgiveness and heaven are free for the believing.

 

Just as medicine can save people when it is taken, so God’s grace saves people when it is taken. The way we take God’s grace is through faith.   God points out the important truth that faith in Jesus is not our own doing.  He writes: “) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9) not by works, so that no one can boast.”  He tells us that faith in Christ is His creation in us and His gift to us.  It is not our own creation.   In 1 Corinthians 12, He clearly says: “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except through the Holy Spirit.”  Faith in Jesus is a gift God gives us.  He creates faith in us through our use of the Gospel.  Think of a gift you have been given.  You did not create that item.  You did not pay for it.  You did not give it to yourself.  Yet, it is yours and you treasure it.   So, too, faith in Jesus is God’s gift to us.  It is our faith, but we did not create it or pay for it or give it to ourselves.   It is God’s wonderful grace that gives us life through faith.

 

  1. GRACE SETS US FREE TO SERVE

The fourth and final point God makes to help us be certain of salvation is this: Grace sets us free to serve.   He says: 8) For it is by grace you have been saved,  – 9) not by works, so that no one can boast.  10) For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Here God discusses the role of good works in our relationship with God.  Since we are saved solely by God’s grace, we cannot be saved by our good works.   Christ has given us a complete, sufficient and perfect payment for our sins and debt to God.  If we try to use our work to replace what Jesus did or to try to add to what He accomplished, we will only destroy our chance at eternal life.  For example, one of the most precious documents that exist is the Constitution of the United States.  If I had the original Constitution and decided to add a few sentences of my own or to use it as a canvass for a water-color painting, I would not enhance the value of the Constitution. I would only destroy it.  In a similar way, the person who thinks that he/she can improve on Christ’s work by adding to it or covering over it with one’s own works will only destroy the basis for going to heaven.

 

Our good works are not a payment for sin.  They are a necessary fruit of faith.  They are the way to express the true faith and love in our hearts.  They are the way to thank God for His saving love for us.   The prisoner of war or kidnap victim who has been liberated wants to show their thanks to the ones who set them free.  So we also want to thank God for freeing us.  So we do not serve God so that we can be saved.  Jesus has already saved us.  We serve God because we are saved.  Our good works are a delight, a willing, joyful response to Jesus’ work for us.

 

Conclusion:  Can you and I be sure of eternal life?  Can we be certain of going to heaven when we die?   Absolutely!  We know this because God’s grace makes us sure.  It found us dead in sin, but it has paid our debt in Christ.  It has given us life through faith.   And it has set us free to serve.  The God who promised eternal life cannot lie.  He who believes has everlasting life.  Grace makes us sure.  Amen.