Ephesians 2: 1, 4 and 8
What one word would you choose to describe what makes the Christian faith different from every other faith? Grace! Dr Packer once said, “If you had one word to unlock the meaning and significance of the New Testament it would be the word grace”. It shouldn’t surprise us the hymn Amazing Grace has been the most popular hymn over the last 300 years. In order to weather the storms of life and persevere we need to constantly remind ourselves of grace. We should preach grace regularly to ourselves.
The story of the Bible is one of grace. It isn’t full of maxims or moral stories or a self-help book, but of grace found in Christ. Every conversion story is one of grace. Remember how the Apostle Paul described himself, “I am what I am by the grace of God”. Here in Ephesians he uses the word grace several times.
To understand grace properly we must understand what we once were. In Ephesians 2 Paul reminds us, “We were dead in trespasses and sins”. It was the reality of being dead in my trespasses and sins that began to do a work in me during my second year of Bible college. I came in as a staunch Arminian, but how does a dead man become a Christian? In this state we have no desire, no longing for Christ, no ability to turn to Christ – none whatsoever. We were unresponsive to every Gospel call. We were dead! What can a dead man do? He can’t even raise a finger or blink an eye. God had to take the initiative and He did.
The death and resurrection motif is one of the most powerful graphics illustrating what God had to do to make us His own. It is a picture of conversion, showing that God had to initiate, to take decisive action, raising us from the dead. What miracle in the Bible illustrates the conversion of every man? The raising of Lazarus, a man who had been dead 4 days. Even Martha thought there was no possibility of life. She accuses Jesus with, “If you had been here there might have been something you could do to heal him”. How did Jesus respond? He raises Lazarus from the dead by creative fiat. God spoke. Just like in the days of creation when God spoke the world into existence. Jesus said, “Lazarus, come forth.” Someone once said, “If Jesus hadn’t said ‘Lazarus’ every person would have emerged from the grave”.
If anyone else stood in front of a coffin saying, “Come out” we would think him insane but remember who Jesus is. He is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11). Lazarus came out still wrapped in his graveclothes. He was dead but now alive. This is a picture of all of us. What aspect of grace did God exercise to bring us out of deadness and into new life? The grace of regeneration. We respond with the grace of repentance and faith.
Don’t think grace is like: God starts things off and then we do the rest. It is grace the whole way. Regenerative grace begins our new life, then repenting grace, believing grace, justifying grace, adopting grace, persevering grace and, lastly, glorifying grace. It is grace from beginning to end. We should never stop thinking, thanking, praying and singing Amazing Grace. We come now in prayer to a throne of grace.