St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

The Grace Of God

Sermon on 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

Text: As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
3 We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange — I speak as to my children — open wide your hearts also.

The word “Grace” is precious to the Christian. That word speaks of the undeserved love that God has shown to a world of sinners. It reminds us of the fact that we don’t have to think of God as a just Judge, who would have had every right to condemn us to an eternity in hell because we have sinned against him time without number. Yet, in his undeserved love for us, God chose to have mercy on us. There are few sweeter words to the Christian’s ear than the word “Grace.” In our text for this morning, the apostle Paul speaks of THE GRACE OF GOD. He will warn us 1. Do Not Receive It In Vain. We are also encouraged to 2. Let It Change Your Life.

As Paul did his missionary work among the Corinthians, he had taught them about the grace that God had shown to them. Later in this letter, Paul would write, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9) The Corinthians had been taught about Jesus’ work for them. “He was rich,” that is to say, he was the Son of God in all of his glory in heaven. “Yet for your sake he became poor.” Jesus left that throne of glory in heaven. He humbled himself and became a man. He was just like every other human being that has ever or will ever walk on this earth, with one exception. He had no sin. He was perfect in every one of his thoughts, words, and actions. He lived this way, because humanity had fallen into sin and could not achieve the perfection that God demands for entrance into heaven. He further humbled himself by allowing himself to be put to death on a cross. While on that cross, Jesus paid for the sins of the world by being punished in their place. What was the result of this loving humility of Christ? “So that you through his poverty might become rich.” Because Jesus humbled himself and paid the debt of sin, they had become rich. They received the forgiveness of sins that Jesus purchased with his blood. They became rich because they knew that the glories of heaven were waiting for them. They knew that grace of God.

Why, then, would Paul begin this section of his letter by writing, “As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain?” (Verse 1) The reason is the fact that those false teachers had infiltrated the Corinthian congregation, teaching a different gospel. They claimed that their ministry was superior to that of Paul. Paul refers to them as “super-apostles.” (2 Corinthians 11:5) They had worked doubt in the hearts of some in the congregation, thinking that what Paul said wasn’t correct. Maybe you had to live in such a way, in addition to believing in Jesus, so that you could enter heaven. As a result, they were laying aside the clear teaching of God’s grace. Even though they had known the truth, some were throwing the message of God’s grace away. That is why Paul urges them, “not to receive God’s grace in vain.”

This is a good warning for us, as well. Many of us have known the message of God’s grace from little on. Could such a thing, receiving God’s grace in vain, happen to us? For the answer to that, I would direct you to the parable that Jesus told of the sower and the seed. Recall that a sower went out and broadcast his seed on the four types of soil: the path, the rocky soil, the thorny soil, and the good soil. In the case of the path, the seed never penetrated and was quickly eaten by the birds. These are people who heard the gospel message, but didn’t believe it. That would not apply to us, because we have been brought to faith. However, it is in the next two types of soil that we find our warning. In Matthew 13:20&21, Jesus explains the seed on the rocky soil: “The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” This person is brought to faith and is excited about it. However, when they start to feel a little pressure for being a Christian, they say it’s not worth the trouble. If I don’t stick out and live my faith, people will leave me alone. In the case of the seed among the thorns, Jesus says, “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22) Are there things in our lives that are trying to crowd God out of our lives? Am I so worried that I think that God won’t take care of me? If he won’t take care of me, is there any reason for me to believe in him? What about all of the dazzling treasures and pleasures of this life? Do they threaten to take God’s place in my life? Am I willing to sacrifice my time with God to pursue them? Do those things that God has called “sins” sound so much more appealing that living for him? We want to constantly be on the lookout for these things, because it is so easy for us to start to pursue these paths and throw away the faith that God has worked in our hearts. If we were to do this, we will have received God’s grace in vain.

Jesus mentions a fourth type of soil in his parable, one that bore a wonderful harvest. Jesus explains this type of soul: “The seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:23) This is a person who has been brought to faith. The gospel message has worked on their hearts and, as a result, their lives were full of things done for God out of thanksgiving for all that has been done for them. When we look at the life of Paul, we can see this clearly. Paul understood the beauty of the grace of God. Remember what he was before he had been brought to faith. He was a persecutor of Christians. He was doing everything in his power to try and eradicate the Christian church. Then, after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was brought to faith. He went from being a persecutor of the church to being a messenger of the works of Jesus to the world. The grace of God had changed his life.

This is not to say that it was always easy for Paul as he carried out his ministry. Read through verses 4-10 of our text to see what Paul endured. For example, look at verses 4&5, “In great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger.” He speaks of people disrespecting him, calling him a nobody. He was called an imposter. As you look at that list, one might ask, “Why would anyone willing endure all of those things? The answer is, quite simply, the grace of God. He saw what God had done for him and Paul wanted to live his life thanking God. He knew, first hand, the grace that had been shown to him and he wanted to share the message of God’s grace with others, even if it meant that he was not always going to have an easy life. The grace that God had shown to Paul changed his life.

That same message of God’s grace has been told to us, as well. We know that Jesus Christ has come to this world to rescue us from our sins. We know that eternal life is waiting for us. How can this message of God’s grace not change our lives, as well? May the joy of the message of God’s grace fill us as we tell the people in our lives about what God has done for them. Will it always be easy? No. Will the people that we tell immediately feel the joy of God’s grace in their lives? Sometimes they will, but not always. However, the good news of God’s grace is too good to keep to ourselves. May the grace of God change us into missionaries in our little corner of the world.

I would call your attention to one another area that Paul mentions where the grace of God can change us. Paul concludes this section by writing, “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you . . . As a fair exchange — I speak as to my children — open wide your hearts also.” (Verses 11&13) Paul notes that they had opened their hearts to the Corinthians. In love, they had proclaimed the gospel message to them. In addition to that, they had shown love to the Corinthians, even when they weren’t the easiest to love. We want to open our hearts to others, as well. We want to be open and transparent with others. We have much room in our hearts for others. We trust one another. We show love even when love isn’t shown to us. The grace of God changes us so that we do not withhold our affections but rather open wide our hearts to one another. We need each other, just as the Corinthians needed Paul and Paul needed the Corinthians. May the grace of God so warm our hearts that we open them wide for others.

The apostle Paul loved the word “grace.” You can tell this as he used the word 78 times in his 13 letters. Of course, knowing his story, you can understand why this word was so precious to him. He knew what he was. He knew what God had done for him. Now, he wanted all to know about the grace of God. That word “grace” is precious to us, as well. We know what we were. We know what God has done for us. May God’s grace so fill our hearts that we always hold it as the precious gift it is. May the grace of God change our lives so that they are lived in thanksgiving to him. Amen.