St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Marvel At God’s Amazing Grace

Sermon on Ephesians 2:4-10

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 transgressions — 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 is 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 handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

The hymn “Amazing Grace” is a favorite of many people. Few, though, may be aware of the life of the author of the words of the hymn, John Newton. He was raised by a godly mother, who died when John was seven years old. At the age of eleven, he joined his father’s ship and began his life as a seaman. His early years were ones of rebellion and debauchery. After working on several ships and even spending some time on the mainland of the West African coast collecting slaves for sale to visiting traders, John became the captain of his own slave ship. He engaged in the trade of African slaves to the West Indies and America. After returning to England after a particularly stormy voyage when it seemed that all would be lost, he began to return back to the roots of his faith. He became a pastor in the Anglican church. Yet, he never forgot his days of debauchery and slave trading. He could not help but marvel that God could forgive a sinner such as himself. Those thoughts inspired him to write the hymn “Amazing Grace.” So today, as we study God’s word, we also cannot help but MARVEL AT GOD’S AMAZING GRACE. 1. Marvel That His Love Is So Deep and 2. Marvel That His Salvation Is So Free.

To help us understand the depth of the love of God, we want to focus in on one phrase in verse 5. Paul tells us that God showed his love for us, “When we were dead in transgressions.” This phrase goes back to the verses that preceded our text. There Paul had described us as “Dead in your transgressions and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) He points to the fact that we sought to “[Gratify] the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.” (Ephesians 2:3) He even said that “We were by nature deserving of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:3) All of these descriptions of us are not flattering, to say the least. But are they accurate? Unfortunately, yes they are. By nature, we are dead in our trespasses and sins. We are born that way. We are spiritual corpses who cannot save themselves, no matter what we tried. We see glimpses of this sinful nature, with which we are born, every single time that we sin. Every lack of compassion for someone else is a sin. Every time we have thought the worst about others, rather than taking their words and actions in the kindest possible way, is a sin. The result, as Paul said earlier, is that are objects of God’s wrath. God cannot, nor will he, look the other way when sin is committed. We deserved to hear God say to us on the Last Day, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41) That is who we are and what we are by nature. If the law doesn’t speak to us and condemn us, we can never fully appreciate the depth of love that God has shown to us. There was nothing lovable in any of us.

It is that fact that makes the love of God so amazing. That is why Paul wrote in verses 4 & 5, “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.” How much did God love us? “He made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead.” God chose to love us, the unlovable. He loved us before we could do anything to earn his love. He loved us in spite of the fact that we did not love him nor want to have anything to do with him. In essence Paul is calling us to share in his awe and amazement when he considers all that God has done for us. ‘How could God love the unlovable? How could he lavish such love on those who hate him?’ Amazing grace, indeed!

Look at the benefits that are ours because of this amazing grace. “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 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.” (Verses 6&7) We have been made spiritually alive. God raised us from spiritual death. Note that Paul says that God “seated us . . . in the heavenly realms.” (Verse 6) This is talking about our eternity with him in heaven. Paul speaks about this in the past tense. We have been seated with God. That is how sure he is that it will happen. That is a confidence in the words and promises of our God. Paul speaks about the “incomparable riches of [God’s] grace.” (Verse 7) What you have now and will one day enjoy to the fullest is beyond compare to all of the joys of this life. Marvel at God’s amazing grace. Marvel that his love is so deep that he loved all people, including you.

Now, we all know that you don’t get something for nothing. If it is truly free, then it’s not worth much. Or, if it is indeed valuable, there have to be some hidden charges or fees. We’ve spoken of the incomparable riches of God’s grace, so we know it’s very valuable. So, what is this going to cost me? Here, again, we marvel at the amazing grace of our God, as we hear the familiar words of verses 8&9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” Here Paul tells us exactly how we are saved and what was done to receive it. First of all, let us look at the way in which it was not received. Paul said, it “is not from yourselves.” There was nothing in us that saved us, or made us less resistant to salvation. It wasn’t that we were such wonderful people. Paul also closes another avenue of salvation when he writes, “not by works, so that no one can boast.” You have not earned, nor can you earn, your salvation. In order to do so, you would have had to have been perfect from the moment of your birth. Already every one of us has failed! There are no do overs. There are no second chances. You have to be perfect. Since we are not, we cannot boast about how we saved ourselves, or our contributions to the cause. It is not by works, so no one can boast.

How, then, are we saved? It is by God’s grace, that is to say, “God’s undeserved love.” It was God’s grace that sent his Son to be the world’s Savior. In an act of extraordinary love, God sacrificed his Son on the cross to pay for all of these acts of rebellion that we have committed. While on the cross, Jesus paid for every one of our sins. Your slate before God has been wiped clean. You have been forgiven. That is the central theme of the Bible. This is what God, in his undeserved love, did for you.

We receive the benefits of what Christ did for us, “through faith.” (Verse 8) If we had not been brought to faith, we never would have received the benefits of what Christ did for us. It would be similar to someone opening an account at a bank in our name. If we didn’t believe that it was there, it would do us no good, at all. So also, it is only after we have been brought to faith that we receive the gifts and promises that God has for us.

This brings us back to the original question, ‘What is this going to cost me?’ The answer is “Nothing.” As Paul said, “It is the gift of God.” (Verse 8) You don’t earn your gifts at Christmas or your birthday. They are simply given to you by those who care about you. Gifts are not given conditionally, saying you must do this or that, first. They come with no strings attached. Nowhere is this more true than the gift of salvation that God offers and gives to us. God gives it to you as a gift. Even the faith that accepts the blessings from God is not something that we accomplish on our own. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3) The faith that we have is also a gift from God. God has done it all for us. We cannot earn it. These blessings are a gift from God. Marvel at the love of God that his salvation is so free.

Paul gives us another example of the grace of God, when he writes in verse 10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We are “God’s handiwork.” The Greek word has the idea of being a work of art. When you were brought to faith, you became a work of art that God made. Just as the poem gives honor to the poet or the painting gives glory to the artist, we, God’s works of art, give glory to him. We have “been created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” These good works are our loving response to all that God has done for us. In other words, we don’t just say “Thank you” to God. We live it every day. Moreover, these good works have been “prepared in advance for us to do.” God gives us many different opportunities to show our love for him every day. They aren’t always the fantastic or flashy. They come in forms of doing the everyday chores, whether it be doing the dishes, or cleaning of the rooms of our house. It might come in the form of doing our very best at school in our assignments. It comes in the form of doing our best at the occupations in which we find ourselves. The apostle Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” The ability to do things that are pleasing to God is truly a gift from him. It is an undeserved opportunity to worship our God, and one that we marvel at.

This morning we have had the privilege of hearing once again the message of God’s grace. This is the same message that many of us have heard for years. We were brought up knowing this. For that reason, there is the very real danger of complacency and indifference. There is the danger to think that this is so common that there is very little value to it. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you stop and think of who and what you are, by nature, if you think about what you deserved because of those sins, then you can see the depth of the love that God showed to you in sending his Son to be your Savior. If you stop and think about the fact that there is absolutely no way that you can earn this salvation, but that it was given to you free of charge, you cannot help but marvel that God’s salvation is so free. You might not have come from the same background as John Newton, but, having been brought to faith and trusting in what Jesus has done for you, you cannot help but reflect the awe that inspired him to write: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind but now I see.” Thank you, Lord, for your amazing grace. Amen.