************ Sermon on Grace Alone ************
By: Rev. Robert Godfrey
This sermon was preached on October 26, 2008
We move on to the next sola of the Reformation, grace alone; the doctrine that showed, once again, that it is not by our works, but rather only by the grace of God that we may have salvation. Will you turn with me to the book of John, John 1:14-18......
Well our focus for this morning is verse 17, for the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Now this would seem a pretty clear statement of what grace is, that it stands against the law of Moses. That it was given to us through Jesus Christ, that is why He came in John chapter 1. Whereas we'll hear later from Ephesians, for it by grace you have been saved. And this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast. This seems a very simple statement. We should just be able to move on to the next sola, but this was a huge issue for the Reformation. Why? Because the Roman Catholic church had made the same mistake the Pharisees made, the same mistake the Judiazers in Galatians that we've been looking at made. It was the mistake that it is not merely the grace of God that makes us righteous, but it is also our works. Our works have some value in God's sight. They cooperate with grace and by that we are saved. And it was to this that the reformers like Luther and Calvin like the authors of the Catechism or Sinas and Livianus said ‘no, no, it is by grace.' It cannot be by grace and works. Why? Because of who we are and who God is.
First, we must think about who we are. We are sinners. In the time of Reformation the church had seemed to forget just how bad of sinners we were. The sins of Adam seemed forgotten, being born in sin was a thing of the past. And our continued evil, our sin, our continual sin every day was not enough to condemn us to hell it seemed. It could be conquered, it could be conquered by sacraments and confessions, petitions, rosaries, prayers to saints. And, in fact, that is why Luther began to look at the Roman Catholic Church and say this cannot be right. Because he had an understanding of sin that the church had forgotten. He would be in confession so long that by the end of his confession he would be confessing sins from the beginning of his confession. And at some point he said this can't be right. I cannot atone for these sins. Because he, and the reformers realized we are helpless under the law of Moses. God demands perfection, there is no pretty good with God's law. There is only perfect or imperfect. There is none righteous. As we saw in Moses time, so it is in ours. We all have sinned, we all have fallen short of the glory of God. That is who we are. That is why we need grace alone. And it is not only who we are it is who God is that shows why we need grace alone. God is perfect. And He demands perfection. God cannot overlook our shortcomings. Even if they were minor, which they aren't. Even if they were minor, He could not overlook them because He is perfect, He is righteous, He is just. But that we would not have to deal with His righteous justice and condemnation, He also shows Himself to us as merciful. And that's why John 1 was written. That's why Jesus Christ came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit so that we might receive this grace of God.
As Hosea 2:23 foresaw, I will plant her for myself in the land, I will show my love to the one I called, not my loved one. I will say to those called not my people, you are my people and they will say, you are my God. This is grace.
If you will notice there is nothing that the people do in this prophesy. All they do are called not His people. All they do are called not his loved one. And God reverses it and says you are my people, you are my loved one. Here in John, the salvation that was foretold in Hosea becomes crystal clear. The one who is promised, the one full of grace came in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And therefore we are called His people, His loved ones. What a great comfort. And the catechism that we are about to say together puts it so beautifully that I ask that before we even say it that you would hear these words. It begins speaking about how sinful we are and then the question turns saying, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner. This is the truth of grace that the world had forgotten. And that the world so often still forgets. We still look for things to do to earn God's favor, and we're unwilling to admit how much greater the grace of God is that he treats us as though we had never sinned, as though we were never a sinner. And as that question goes on to say, all I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart. And as we'll hear in a moment, that is why the Reformation not only said grace alone but it's through faith alone, which we'll hear about shortly.
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