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Scripture: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast,” Ephesians 2:8-9
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As we come to our last study of what is stated in Ephesians chapter 2, I want us to note the emphasis that Paul places upon grace and faith and on the positive and negative aspects of how a sinner is saved and to underscore the importance of these doctrines.
These verses serve as a summary of what has been set down in the previous seven verses.
They tell us again how we are saved and why we were saved.
The word “for” links what is about to be said to what has been said already.
HOW IMPORTANT IT IS THAT WE UNDERSTAND HOW WE BECAME CHRISTIANS
A preacher once said that many mistakes flowed from a misunderstanding of this vital matter. If we get the foundations wrong, then we will get the whole structure wrong.
Salvation is all of grace. It is entirely of God. This is the sixth reference to grace in this epistle son far. All told there are twelve mentions of grace in the epistle. This is the middle reference. It is one thing to know the meaning of these words with your head. It is another thing to know the meaning with your heart.
Salvation came to the most undeserving and worthless of beings. Twice in this chapter our deadness is mentioned, verses 1, 5. There is a world of difference between carrying a conscious person and an unconscious person. One can assist you the other cannot!
Dead sinners can render no assistance in their own salvation.
IT IS IMPORTANT FOR US TO LEARN THAT WE HAD NO PART IN OUR SALVATION
That is underscored for us. “ . . . that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast,” verses 8-9. Even the faith we exercised in order to cling to Christ was not of ourselves. It was a gift from God.
It is given. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” Romans 10:17.
It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,” Galatians 5:22.
It is as we hear the Word of God that the Spirit of the Lord grants grace to the sinner to believe what he hears!
Our redemption is spoken of as a work of creation. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,” verse 10. If salvation is a work of ‘Creation’ then it is a work of God alone. A new work had to be wrought in order that we might be delivered from sin. It was not a case of renovation but of creation.
The Christian is one in whom God is working! “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ, . . . . For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” Philippians 1:6 & 2:13.
The Christian has no grounds for boasting. Man tends to boast of his works and become proud whenever he thinks he has had a part in his own salvation. It was something the Saviour tackled head-on! “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others,” Luke 18:9. He goes on to tell the parable of the publican or tax-collector and a Pharisee. One was filled with self-praise while the other was filled with a sense of his unworthiness. Christ berates the proud Pharisee and commends the humble publican. “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted,” Luke 18:10-14.
WHILE WORKS HAVE NO PART IN OUR SALVATION THEY DO HAVE A PART IN OUR RELIGION
We are created unto good works. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,” verse 10.
Just what good works? That is determined by God. The path of holiness is mapped out by Him. Put simply, it is a doing of His will, it is a being like Him. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy,” 1 Peter 1:15-16.
Back in the days of Jeremiah, the Lord indicated just what was the holiness He expected of His people. “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; after those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people,” Jeremiah 31:33.
We are told that when a person becomes a Christians there is a very great change. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new,” 2 Corinthians 5:17. For such a change to take place there has to be a complete renewal of the whole moral being of a man. He must be born again.
The Shorter catechism explains what holiness or sanctification is.
‘What is sanctification?’
‘Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.’
It is said of the Christian: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” Romans 8:1.
The good works the Christian engages in is not just for a day or two but they are persisted in. Walk. We must progress in good works. Christianity is a progressive walk, an advancing in holiness. 2 Peter 1:3-11. Here again we have God’s description of the work He does in the sinner at conversion. “And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them,” Ezekiel 36:27. We are called upon by Peter to “ . . grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” 2 Peter 3:18.
Power to perform good works must be supplied by the Lord. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me,” Galatians 2:20.
“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” Philippians 2:13.
Hear these words of Christ. “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified,)” John 7:37-39.
The working of God’s grace and power in the believer makes him or her a source of good and grace and holiness which, as a river, refreshes and benefits the community in which they live. Overflowing power is to be found in Christ whereby we live for Christ and become a source of blessing and life to others.
Thus I have sought to show you from Ephesians chapter 2 just what we are by nature, the wonderful change that God, through the gospel makes in those who receive and believe in Christ and that the whole process is of God and not of us.
To Him alone be all the glory.
Next week and the week after, given the date, I wish to turn our attention to what the Bible says about the birth of our Saviour.
The Lord bless you.
Scripture: “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not,” John 1:10-11.
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What Does The Bible Teach About Christ’s Reception By This World 2000 Years Ago And Has Anything Changed?
There is no evidence of any celebrating of the birth of Christ within the scriptural records of the New Testament church. There certainly is no biblical evidence to support a mid-winter date for His birth.
The origins of what are today termed “Christmas celebrations” are totally pagan. The exchanging of gifts, the feasting and drinking, the decorating of trees and homes — all may be traced to per-christian paganism.
This so-called celebrating of Christ’s birth amongst many is quite contrary to how they live the other 364 days of the year!
The indication of the character of these merrymakings and revelry involves the drinking of copious quantities of alcoholic drinks! The consequences of this is all too sadly known! Because of this, numerous appeals from various agencies calling for restraints are every bit as much of ‘Christmas” as the decorated trees and lights!!
It has to be said that we witness the giving of full rein to the indulging in the basest appetites of the flesh and that in the name of honouring the Holy One and the Just.
Let us see how Christ was received by this world when He came to seek and to save that which was lost and endeavour to find out why it was so?
Let us begin by stating that:
THE LORD JESUS IS GOD.
That is the first thing we must learn for it is central to the situation we witness today. This fact has everything to do with His treatment by the world.
The prophets declared His deity. “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,” Isaiah 7:14. The name “Immanuel” means “God with us”! Again, the same prophet said, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace,” 9:6.
The deity of Christ was plainly declared at His birth. Consider the angel’s words to Mary. “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God,” Luke 1:30-35.
Even from before His birth, it was known that Jesus Christ was God.
Thereafter, it was repeatedly proclaimed. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God,” John 1:1. Here is a most comprehensive declaration of the deity of Christ.
His divinity was plainly demonstrated. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made . . . All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made,” John 1:3, 10.
Christ is the Creator and is therefore God!
He is the Great Creator. “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist,” Colossians 1:16-17. “Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds,” Hebrews 1:2.
Along with these statements that Christ is God, the Creator of all things, we have the innumerable miracles of healing diseases of every kind and degree and also the raising of the dead!
Of course, His own rising from the grave testifies of His deity. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father,” John 10:17-18.
This truth was publicly repeated by the apostles. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth,” John 1:14. This was the Apostle John’s testimony.
Christ was God, even as Paul declared it. “Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen,” Romans 9:13. And again in Hebrews: “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom,” Hebrews 1:8. He also stated: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory,” 1 Timothy 3:16.
Above all, Christ declared His divinity. “And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death,” Matthew 26:62-66.
Across the world the message was carried: JESUS CHRIST IS GOD!
WHILE SINFUL, UNBELIEVING MEN REJECTED THIS FACT, THE VERY DEVILS KNEW IT WAS SO!
One of the very first encounters the Saviour had with devils left us this record. They cried out: “Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him,” Mark 1:24-27.
This happened at the very beginning of the Saviour’s ministry so Who He was was evident from the start!
THIS TRUTH WAS VERY MUCH REJECTED BY MEN.
Consider this reaction to the Saviour’s statement of His deity. “I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God,” John 10:30-33.
This reaction was seen much earlier in His ministry. “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God,” John 5:18.