Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 January 20, 2004

Title: Faith Alone

Call to Worship: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes....For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16 –17).


Text: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

 


Introduction:

October 31, is an important date in history. 

On that date, in1816, Scottish Missionary Robert Moffat, sailed off to South Africa, where he was sent by the London Missionary Society. 

He boldly began evangelizing dangerous, savage, and cannibalistic tribes. 

One of the first men he won to Christ was a man named Afrikaner, who was the most notorious outlaw in the south of Africa.

Robert and Mary Moffat had a remarkable missionary career, and it was their ministry that inspired David Livingstone, who may be the most famous missionary.

George Muller, a German who spent his youth committing crimes, was converted to Christ on October 31 in 1852. 

He went on to become one of the most effective humanitarians and evangelists of the nineteenth century.

He is especially noted for his ministry to orphans. 

October 31, 1896, marks the birthday of Ethel Waters who overcame incredible odds to become one of the most popular African-American jazz singers in the United States.

She is best remembered, however, for her conversion to Christ and her signature song at Billy Graham’s Crusades. 

When she sang “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” many were blessed and others had their hearts made ready for the preaching of Mr. Graham.

On October 31, 1517, a 31-year-old German monk named Martin Luther nailed to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg a list of 95 theological points he wished to debate, touching off the Protestant Reformation.

Martin Luther was not only a great reformer, Bible translator, political leader, preacher and theologian--he was also a musician. 

He was born in a small village that was known for its music, and he grew up listening to his mother sing.

He himself joined a boys’ choir that sang at weddings and funerals.

He became proficient with the ute, which is an instrument that we call a recorder, and very often his volcanic emotions erupted in song.

When the Protestant Reformation began, Luther determined to restore worship to the German church.

He worked with skilled musicians to create new music for Christians that would be sung in a language they understood, instead of Latin.

He helped revive congregational singing and wrote a number of hymns. 

Luther once wrote: “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.

It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts, and spirits....A person who...does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God...does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.” 

Well, that’s a little strong, but I believe that music adds to any worship experience.

Luther’s most famous hymn is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

It is based on Psalm 46, and it reflects Luther’s awareness of our intense struggle with Satan.

When he faced difficulty and danger, Luther would often resort to this song, saying to his associate, “Come, Philipp, let us sing the 46 th Psalm.”

We can see that a lot happened on October 31, but I believe that for us, the most important event happened when Martin Luther took a stand against the excesses and corruption that was in the church of his day. 

His first act began the movement that is called the Reformation. 

He listed 95 objections to the theology and morality of the clergy and nailed the document to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. 

The great message that he stated publicly was Grace alone, Faith alone, Scripture alone, and Christ alone.

That’s not only the great theme of the Reformation; it is the theme of this passage in Ephesians, Chapter 2.

1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:1–9)

-PRAY-

This chapter begins with the little conjunction “and”; so it is actually continuing the thought of the first chapter. 

Paul has been talking about that tremendous power that raised Jesus from the dead. 

This is the same power that made us, and it is the same power that can give all of us eternal life. 

Paul wrote to us about the richness of salvation, and he explains it this way:

In the first three verses the subject is the Human Condition.

The first thing we notice in verses 1–3 is the hopelessness of our human condition.

In these three verses, Paul describes our condition without Christ in six different ways.

He says that we are dead in our transgressions and sins (v.1).

The word in the Greek for transgressions comes from two smaller words: a preposition meaning beside, and a stem word meaning to fall.

The word transgression literally means to fall beside the road.

Have you ever tried to climb up a steep path, lost your footing, and slid back down? 

Have you ever taken a false step?

That’s the idea here, when Paul speaks of transgressions.

The word sin means to miss the target.

No matter how hard we aim at perfection, we keep missing the mark. 

Now, I want to read verse 1 again: “And you hath he quickened (or made alive), who were dead in trespasses and sins.”

Verse 2 says that we are living just like the rest of the world. 

That is, we are living according to secularism, according to the way of the world, or according to the principles of this world. 

The word “world” as it is used here, doesn’t mean the physical universe. 

It means the society, civilization, life pattern, or life style of the world today. 

The devil takes this dead material (that’s us, since we are dead in trespasses and sins) and he energizes us. 

That’s the reason cults are as busy as termites. 

False religions put us to shame with their enthusiasm. 

But it is Satan who is energizing them.

Some inquisitive person may ask, “Why do you say that we are dead in our trespasses and sins.” 

This is how I would answer:

First of all, I didn’t say it, God did! 

And he also said, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). 

Adam’s sin made us the sons of fallen men, and we have the same nature that Adam had. 

It’s a fallen nature with no capacity or inclination to please God. 

We are sinners in three ways: 

• We are sinners because of Adams sin. 
• We are sinners because we inherited Adam’s sinful nature.
• We are sinners because we sin. 

Those who don’t have Christ are spiritually dead. 

Only the Spirit of God can speak so that dead men and women hear.

Thank God, the Spirit of God did speak and continues to speak so dead men are able to hear. 

A famous judge traveled around this country, years ago, giving a lecture entitled: “Millions Now Living Will Never Die.” 

A great preacher followed him on his speaking tour with this message, “Millions Now Living Are Already Dead.” 

He was more accurate than the judge had been. 

Millions, actually billions, are dead in trespasses and sins. 

An old Irishman was asked to define a cemetery. 

He said, “A cemetery is a place where the dead live.” 

That describes our world. 

Paul describes, in these verses, a person that doesn’t have a spiritual life; someone who lives according to the life style of the world. 

That person is constantly walking on the wrong path, and their conduct conforms to the world’s low standard of morality.

They do what comes naturally.

That’s how the man or woman without Christ really is. 

The only hope for anyone in this condition is to experience the grace of God that comes through faith in Christ.

Folks, we follow the ways of the world, so we’re headed in the wrong direction.

We read in Matthew 7:13, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.”

Jesus said there are two pathways. 

One is wide and bright and crooked, and it leads to destruction.

The other is straight and narrow, but it leads to life.

The picture that is given to us here is not that of a choice between a broad white way with lots of fun, and a narrow, dark, uninviting alley. 

Actually, Matthew is giving the picture of a funnel. 

If you enter the funnel at the broad end, it keeps narrowing down until you come to death, destruction and hell. 

But you can enter the funnel at the narrow part. 

That’s where Christ is--He is the way, the truth, and the life. 

He says, “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” 

And the longer you walk with Him, the wider it gets. 

That pictures the life of a child of God; it gets better every day.

Verse 2, also says that we follow the ways of the ruler of the kingdom of the air (v.2).

This is a clear reference to Satan. 

Very few people will admit to following Satan, or would even want to; but the truth is, he is the one who corrupts the minds and spirit of millions of men and women. 

He is hard to recognize; the Bible tells us that he often appears as an angel of light. 

People follow him, because he is a liar and a deceiver.

We read in verse 2 that we follow the spirit who works in those who are disobedient.

This is another reference to Satan, who is prominently mentioned in this verse in Ephesians.

Verse 2 says, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”

Satan plants himself effectively into the society of lost men and women.

And the proof is that the conduct of lost men and lost women mark them as children of disobedience.

Verse 3, said that we gratify the craving of our sinful nature (v.3).

We satisfy the lusts of our flesh, and we are dominated by the desires of our fallen nature.  

Lost sinners are in bondage to the world, the flesh, and the devil and cannot free themselves.

But in Christ, you have true freedom

Finally, we are by nature children of wrath (v.3).

Every human being, apart from a saving relationship with Christ, is subject to divine wrath.
 
The only hope for men in this condition is to experience the grace of God in Christ.

Next, Paul speaks of Divine Motivation (v.4).

He said, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us.”

According to this verse, God has two great motivations for wanting to save us from judgment.

The first is, His great love. 

John wrote, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

We are all familiar with this verse; John 3:16. 

It is the gospel in a nutshell:
 
(1) There is the source of love—God.
(2) There is the extent of love—the world.
(3) There is the sacrifice of love—He gave his only begotten Son.
(4) There is the result of love—whosoever believeth in him should not perish.
 
God’s second motivation for wanting to save us is His rich mercy.

Mercy is a feeling of compassion that makes one person want to save or rescue someone else.

And God’s great love and His rich mercy combined to send Him to this earth for the express purpose of being nailed hand-and-foot to a rugged wooden cross, the blood flowing from His forehead where the thorns had been, the blood flowing from His back where the scourge fell, the blood flowing from His hands and feet where the nails were, the blood flowing from His wounded side, pierced by the soldier’s lance.

And the Bible says that there is something about the blood of Jesus Christ that satisfies the wrath of God. 

In Romans we read, “Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9). 

It is comforting for the believer to know that “God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 5:9).

That’s according to 1 Thessalonians.

One of the future benefits of the fact that we have been justified is that we shall be preserved from the day of God’s fierce wrath.

In verses 5-9, Paul speaks about Eternal Salvation.

God does three things for us.

In verse 5, we are told that He makes us alive in Christ.

At one time, we were all spiritually dead and needing new life in Christ, but He made us alive spiritually by imparting the life of Christ in us.

This is what is meant by the new birth.

Jesus received life at His resurrection; physical life in His case, and it was spiritual life in our case.

What God did for Christ, He will do for anyone will who put their trust in Him.

Notice that it was God that did it.

When we were born from above, it was instant and it was once for all people and for all time.

In your case, God may have used a powerful preacher, a praying parent, or a tearful teacher; but He did it.

He did it when we trusted Christ, not because we prayed so sincerely, or repented so bitterly.

Salvation is by grace plus nothing.

In verse 6, it says that He seats us with Christ in the heavenly realms.

God set us down alongside of Christ in the heavenly realms.

God has already accomplished this, because He dealt with us in Christ and sees us in Christ.

And in verse 7 He promises to one day show us plainly the full riches of his incomparable grace.

Someday I am going to be on exhibit. 

Angels will go by and say, “See that fellow, Tom Lowe.  He was lost and wasn’t worth saving, but he is here in heaven today.  It is only through the grace and kindness of God that He was saved and brought here.” 

I am not going to get any credit at all, but I’m going to be there, and that’s good enough for me. 

I’m going to join that angelic host in singing praises to God because He saved me. 

He saved me by His grace. 

It is the “amazing grace,” as the hymn writer John Newton put it, “that saved a wretch like me.”

Conclusion:

This passage ends by giving us the main principles for God’s plan of salvation —it is by grace through faith according to verses 8 and 9.

Listen again to these beautiful words.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

In other words, we can’t do anything good enough to earn heaven.

We are forgiven of our sins, reconciled with God, and given eternal life, in spite of ourselves, and because of His love and grace which we receive by trusting Him, by faith alone.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who preached and pastored in London 100 years ago, is called the “Prince of Preachers.”

There are many stories about him, but one of the best has to do with an experience he had when he was just learning to preach.

Almost from the beginning he possessed unusual power and eloquence in the pulpit.

As a “young preacher,” he had been invited to speak one evening in a local church, but he was late in arriving.

His grandfather, who was also a preacher, finally began the service by reading Ephesians 2.

He began preaching on the theme, “For by grace are ye saved through faith....”

He had gotten quite a ways into his sermon when there was a little commotion at the back door and in walked his grandson, arriving very late.

“Here comes my grandson,” exclaimed the old man.

“He can preach the gospel better than I can, but you cannot preach a better gospel, can you, Charles?”

Charles, walking up the aisle, said, “You can preach better than I can. Please go on.”

The grandfather refused, but he told him his text and explained that he had already shown the people the source of salvation—which is grace--and was now speaking about the means of salvation—which is faith.

The younger preacher stepped into the pulpit and took over just where his grandfather had left off. 

After a few minutes, the grandfather interrupted, because he wanted to preach a little more of the sermon.

Then he sat down, and Charles resumed preaching, with the grandfather sitting behind him, saying, “Good! Good! Tell them that again, Charles. Tell them that again.”

After that evening, Charles Spurgeon said that whenever he preached from Ephesians 2, he could hear his old grandfather saying, “Tell them that again, Charles. Tell them that again.”

Spurgeon did tell thousands of people the story of Jesus. 

It’s the greatest story ever told. 

The old hymn says:

I love to tell the story, for those who know it best,
Seem hungering and thirsting, to hear it like the rest.

Charles Spurgeon was a great preacher of the Gospel. 

If he were here today, I believe he would end like this. 

Perhaps today you need to be rescued; you need to be saved.

Perhaps today you are dead in your sins, following the ways of the world, following the ruler of the kingdom of the air, following the spirit that now works in those who are disobedient, gratifying the cravings of your sinful nature, an object of wrath.

But God in His great love and rich mercy loves you.

He wants to raise you from the dead, seat you with Himself in the heavenly realms, and show you the incomparable riches of His grace in Christ Jesus.

And by grace you can be saved through faith, not of yourself--it is the gift of God.

Will you come to Him today?

Amen.

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