William J. Stewart
The apostle Paul reminds the Ephesian brethren, as well as us today of the paramount element concerning our salvation. He writes of the Almighty, that He “…even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). . . . For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…” We need to remind ourselves of this fact each and every morning as we wake. We must contemplate this eternal truth before we go to bed at night. In all instances, and at all times, necessity is laid upon us to understand this reality.
We might go to the Scriptures and skillfully extract passages, developing a ‘plan of salvation.’ Yes, the Scriptures do contain phrases such as “…saved through faith…”, “…believe to the saving of the soul…”, “confession is made unto salvation…”, etc. But let us never forget the ultimate source of our salvation, grace. Regardless of what things we might find in the Scriptures that we are saved by; whether it be faith, the word of God, confession, repentance, baptism, or any other thing; we are first and foremost saved by grace. Take the grace of God out of the picture, then all else is vain, for we would still be dead in our sins.
The term grace defies suitable definition in words. The magnitude of God’s grace is beyond that which we can understand. To help us comprehend grace, the Scriptures use illustrations and examples instead of definitions. Starting with Adam and Eve. After they had sinned, and were sent out of the garden, the Bible says, “…for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” God didn’t have to provide for them, but the Lord is gracious. In Noah’s day, God’s wrath was poured out on all the earth because of man’s sinfulness, yet through His grace, eight souls were saved from destruction. As the nation Israel left Egypt, and then wandered forty years in the wilderness, amidst their murmurings and complainings, God by His matchless grace saw it fit to provide them with safety from the pursuing Egyptian army, and later, fresh water to drink, and manna from above for food. Again, look at the city of Nineveh. Such wickedness was present that God was going to destroy them. Yet, being the merciful God He is, and not wanting to destroy His creation, but rather be love and served by them, He sent a messenger to them. Jonah, and the message which he preached to Nineveh was the working of God’s grace. Throughout Scripture, we are given such instances, where unworthy man received mercy from the gracious Father above. The greatest example — the cross of Calvary.
Paul writes, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins…” We at a time were dead. Remember what God told Adam about eating of the tree, “…for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” The day that Adam and Eve took of that tree, they began to die. Their bodies began to grow old and fragile, and eventually wore out. More serious though, they died spiritually, for they had sinned. Paul affirms, “For the wages of sin is death…” The wages, or due reward for our sin is death. And this, “…through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…” Again, not just physical death, but spiritual death. That’s where the grace and mercy of God comes in.
All may be released from the bonds of sin. All can be raised from the dead, and be made to walk in newness of life. Death no longer needs to have dominion over us, for “… you He made alive, who were dead…” Jesus died upon the cross of Calvary to free us from our sins. Listen to the words of the apostle Paul, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
“…Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more…” God’s grace and mercy conquers even the worst of sins. All men, regardless of what deeds they have done are free to partake. Even the vilest of men, you might question? Even the vilest! We might look at the worst of serial rapists or murderers and say, ‘No way!’ Why? — because we categorize sin. There are the little sins: white lies, laziness, travelling 20 km/h over the speed limit. Then, there are the larger sins: theft, drunkenness, cursing and swearing. Then, the largest sins, or what in our minds (speaking carnally) are unforgivable sins: adultery, rape, murder.
Again, the apostle writes to the brethren at Corinth, saying, “…Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” Now, Paul did not say that a serial murderer can receive forgiveness, and thus enter the kingdom of God. Yet, he didn’t have to. He was the epistle which stated that. He need not pen such, though he did, yet not in so many words. The apostle wrote of himself, “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.” Paul was a serial murderer! Who knows how many deaths he consented to. But one thing we do know, Paul was granted an opportunity to share in the abundance of the grace of God.
Grace is the center of all things. Life itself. The fact that we have life in us today is because of the gracious Creator, who has given us breath. The Scriptures, His eternal word, was given by His grace. The coming of His Son, who suffered and died in our stead on the mount of Calvary. Grace is written all over it. Ultimately, to define grace, “…you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” Remember, “…by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is a gift of God…” Receive of His unmatched gift, and live.
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”