THE PROOF OF GOD’S GRACE (2 of 2)
God’s Invitation to Grace ❧ Part 4
Pastor, Dr. John Denney
Romans 1:5-7 ❧ July 10, 2022
The story is told of a very wealthy man who had many valuable art treasures. His only son was quite ordinary but was dearly loved. When the son died unexpectedly as a young man, the father was so deeply grieved that he died a few months later. The father’s will stipulated that, at his death, all his art works were to be publicly auctioned and that a painting of his son was to auctioned first. On the day of the auction the specified painting was displayed, and the bidding was opened. Because neither the boy nor the artist were well known, a long time passed without a bid being offered. Finally, a longtime servant of the father and friend of the boy timidly bid seventy-five cents, all the money he had. When there were no other bids, the painting was given to the servant. At that point the sale was stopped, and an official read the remainder of the will, which specified that whoever cared enough for his son to buy the painting of him would receive all the rest of the estate.
I don’t know if this story is true, but it is a fitting illustration of God’s gracious offer to a world filled with hurting and suffering people. Anyone who receives His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, will inherit the Heavenly Father’s eternal estate (Matt. 5:5). An estate which the Bible says is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away (1 Peter 1:4). Filled with life without end and endless treasures in Christ making those who were once poor now rich beyond measure (John 3:16; Ephesians 3:8; 2 Cor. 8:9). God’s lavish offer is the deepest desire of every human heart. But it is only available to those who truly love the Son and are willing to place their full trust in Him as their Savior and Lord.
Not long ago we began working our way through the book of Romans. Some might wonder of all the books of the Bible, why Romans? Here’s my answer. Imagine if you discovered a complete cure for cancer that worked one hundred percent of the time. It did not matter what type of cancer nor how advanced it was. Whoever took this cure would be completely and permanently healed. Now, would you put this cure on the shelf of your medicine cabinet next to the antacids and forget about it? No! You’d spend your time getting the cure to as many people as you could.
When Paul penned the book of Romans, he knew he was giving his readers the greatest medicine the world could ever receive or would ever need. He was giving them the Gospel of Jesus Christ; God’s permanent cure for the terminal disease of sin that is one hundred percent effective in one hundred percent of those who receive it. The greatest need of the 7.96 billion people in the world today is the Gospel Jesus Christ. There is no other (John 14:6). Paul not only passionately believed and understood this, but he wanted the believers in Rome to share his same driving conviction. It is my prayer as we examine this Mt. Everest’s of books concerning this Gospel that we too share Paul’s passionate conviction. As well as we may think we understand God’s lavish offer of salvation we should never assume others know it as well. The truth be known we’d be shocked at how misunderstood the God’s Gospel really is.
This morning we’re going to look at just three verses in chapter one, verses five through seven. They form the conclusion of Paul’s lengthy introduction (1:1-7) in his letter to a people he’d never met some six-hundred miles away. Read Romans 1:5-7 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:5-7, NAS). As a master teacher, Paul understood the three-part importance of giving a lesson: 1) telling people what you’re going to tell them, 2) tell them, then 3) tell them what you told them. In verses one through seven Paul is wrapping up the first part – telling them what he’s going to tell them.
There are four clarifying truths Paul wants us to know about our salvation in these fifty-nine words that make up verses five through seven: 1) Our salvation is based on God’s grace in Christ, 2) Our salvation is marked by obedience to Christ, 3) Our salvation is offered to all the world through Christ, and 4) Our salvation is received by those who are called by Christ.
- Our salvation is based on God’s grace in Christ. Paul writes, through (Jesus Christ) whom we have received grace and apostleship(Romans 1:5a). It is through Christ we have received grace and apostleship. [Though we’re not apostles in the sense Paul was, every believer has been called by God to serve Him (Eph. 2:10)]. In other words, Jesus alone is the source of God’s grace and God’s calling. You won’t find it anywhere else. Just as Christianity is unique to all the world, so is Jesus grace and calling. One commentator writes, The Lord never provides conversion without commission. He’s right. God never saves us just to set around waiting to go to Heaven. God doesn’t save you to rust out, but to be worn out. I want to focus our attention on grace for a moment.
Grace is one of those words we hear a lot about but actually understand very little. When we want to describe someone who dances with flowing beauty and refined elegance, we say they dance with grace. Or when someone makes aging look painless and uncomplicated, we say they are aging with grace. But that’s not what Paul has in mind here.
The kind of grace Paul is talking about is as unique as it is exclusive. Its source and its power are from God and therefore cannot be found anywhere else. You cannot know God’s salvation apart from it. Salvation does not come by baptism, by communion, by keeping the Ten Commandments, by serving God or others, by being a good moral person. God’s salvation does not by believing in God or that Jesus is His Son. It cannot be earned or merited. God’s salvation comes into our lives when we turn from our sin and receive by faith God’s gracious offer of forgiveness through His Son Jesus Christ. There is no other way. There is no other grace.
Grace is God choosing to love the unlovable, to forgive the unforgivable, to accept the unacceptable. God’s grace is the power to change and be like Christ where we cannot change ourselves. It is the power to forgive where we cannot forgive others or ourselves. God’s grace is that Jesus knows me completely and yet still loves me completely. It is the oxygen to our souls to really live, to really be free, free from guilt, free from fear for the first time. The dying words of one person who understood this were, “Grace is the only thing that can make us like God. I might be dragged through heaven, earth, and hell and would still be the same sinful, polluted wretch unless God Himself should cleanse me by His grace.” Paul said it this way in Ephesians two, For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). Peter wrote, Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God (1 Peter 3:18, NLT).
Let me be candid here. If you don’t feel worthy of God’s love and forgiveness, you’re not alone. None of us do because none of us are. Paul, as well as Peter, would be the first to tell you they were undeserving of God’s grace (1 Tim. 1:15; Luke 22:61). Both men became great apostles. But both of them realized grace comes before apostleship. The secret to being greatly used by God is to first accept His grace through Christ. There was a point where both men reached out and took hold of God’s lifeline of grace. And then, they ran in that grace never losing sight of the fact that both their conversion and commission came by God’s grace.
Once when the famous evangelist D. L. Moody finished a sermon, a highly educated man came to him and said, “Excuse me, but you made eleven mistakes in your grammar tonight.” In a gracious rebuke Moody replied, “I probably did. My early education was very faulty. But I am using all the grammar that I know in the Master’s service. How about you?” Whatever you think your limitations may be, when God calls you by His grace, He wants you to stand strong in that grace. That’s what both Paul and Peter did. Both men realized they needed to personally accept and live in God’s grace despite their failures.
On the other hand, if someone thinks they should go to Heaven because they deserve it more than Hell, they neither understand the holiness of God nor the sinfulness of their own broken humanity. The fact is there would be no salvation apart from God’s grace in Christ. The only thing that will prevent God’s grace from coming into your life is your choice not to accept it. Grace unaccepted is grace rejected. The first clarifying truth is our Salvation is based on God’s grace in Christ.
- Our salvation is marked by obedience to Christ. to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake (Romans 1:5b). Four words stand out here: the obedience of faith. Paul is going to speak of an obedience of faith several times in Romans. First here, then twice in the last chapter (16:19,26). He is not saying our obedience earns our salvation. The Bible is clear we’re not saved by good works but for good works. Paul is not talking about the root of our salvation but the fruit of our salvation. Genuine faith always produces genuine obedience.
Some people think they are saved simply because they agree with a set of theologically correct doctrines. Paul’s not saying that here. Nor is he saying we are saved by submitting to a set of man-made religious ceremonies. Paul is saying we’re saved by surrendering our lives to Jesus Christ as both our Savior and Lord. One commentator writes, A theology that refuses to recognize the Lordship of Jesus Christ for every believer is a theology that contradicts the very essence of biblical Christianity(MacArthur, p. 25). James asks, What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone(James 2:14, NLT).
I read years ago about a man who operated a rowboat to carry passengers across a river. Wanting to share about his faith in Christ through his work, he had an idea. In one oar he carved the word “Faith” and in the other he carved the word “Obedience.” When a passenger would ask him why one oar had the word “Faith” carved in it and “Obedience” in the other, he’d say let me show you. Pulling in the boat the oar with the word “Obedience” and leaving the oar that had the word “Faith” in the water, he’d begin to row. Immediately the boat would begin to go around in circles. Then, pulling in the oar with the word “Faith” on it and putting in the oar with the word “Obedience” he’d begin to row. And again the boat would go around in circles. Then he’d share about his faith in Christ with them pointing out the need for both faith in Christ and obedience to Christ are essential to being truly saved. Otherwise we will spend our lives going around in circles. Obedience is choosing to desire the plans God has for our lives, not our own (Eph. 2:10). Jesus could not have been clearer than when He warned, Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’“ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness (Matthew 7:21-21). Second clarifying mark is that our salvation is marked by obedience to Christ.
- Our salvation is offered to all the world through Christ. to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake (Romans 1:5b). There is no limitation of the reach of God’s salvation. God’s gracious offer is not limited by the color of your skin, the lack of your income, the depth of your failures, the lack of your education, the limitation of your IQ, the absence of your personality, the skeletons in your closet, or the heritage of your family.
When the Bible says God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, it means just that. Of the 7.96 billion people in the world today, not one of them is beyond the invitation of God’s grace. Paul says God’s invitation of salvation to the world is for His name’s sake. One day, at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11). The late theologian John Stott wrote, The highest of all missionary motives is neither obedience to the Great Commission (important as that is), nor love for sinners who are alienated and perishing (strong as that incentive is, especially when we contemplate the wrath of God, verse 18), but rather zeal – burning passionate zeal – for the glory of Jesus Christ. Our forgiveness, our salvation, is ultimately not about us but about Him – for His name’s sake. Our salvation is offered to all the world through Christ.
- Our salvation is received by those who are called by Christ. among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints(Romans 1:6-7a). Paul points out three truths about the believers he is writing to in Rome: 1) they are called of Jesus Christ, 2) they are beloved of God, and 3) they are saints. Called, beloved, saints.
Called. Who are the called? Jesus says they are those who hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:27). I appreciate the simple straightforwardness of the late beloved southern twanged Bible teacher J. Vernon McGee who said, “If you’re following someone or something else, you haven’t heard Him, you’re not one of His sheep. The ones who hear and follow Him are the called ones. Let’s not argue about election. It’s as simple as this: He calls, and you answer” (J. Vernon McGee, p. 648). Paul is going to tell us in Romans 8:30 the called are the elect; those chosen by God. Jesus said in John, You did not choose Me but I chose you (John 15:16). The called are those who hear Jesus voice and respond to God’s effectual plan of election.
It is easy to get caught up in our own struggles over election. But we need to remember there is no conflict in the mind or heart of God over election. We can never accuse Him of wrongdoing. The Bible says God always does what is right. He will judge the world in righteousness (Psalm 19:8). He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness (Ps. 15:2). Election is rooted in God’s perfect and loving character.
Beloved of God. Who are the beloved of God? They are the called. It is true the God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. But that is not the kind of love Paul is talking about here. This is the love a Heavenly Father and His children. While God is the Creator of universe, He is not the Father of all people. He is the Father only those who’ve accepted His invitation into His family by placing their trust in Christ. The difference can be seen in the fact that God has called me to love all people, but my two children are my beloved.
Called as saints. Not called to be saints but called as saints. There is no verb to be here. You don’t become a saint; you either are a saint or you ain’t. If you’re a saint, it means you’ve trusted Christ. You’re set apart by God as His own. It’s not your character that makes you a saint, but God through your faith in His Son.
Isn’t that a relief? Who are am I? Well, I’m saint John. Isn’t that amazing? Who are you? Put your name after the word saint and there you are. You’re saint… You didn’t become a saint by your behavior to be like Christ, but by your belief in Christ. God makes you a saint by virtue of what His Son did for you. He gave you a radically new identity. Being a saint means that you are God’s beloved child. Secure in His eternal unchanging love toward you.
What are the four clarifying truths Paul wants us to know about our salvation? 1) Our salvation is based on God’s grace in Christ, 2) Our salvation is marked by obedience to Christ, 3) Our salvation is offered to all the world through Christ, and 4) Our salvation is received by those who are called by Christ.
I want to remind you that as you step out of those doors today, you’re entering a world that is suffering and dying from a terminal disease called sin. Death is the great leveler in which no one can escape outside of Christ. Those who trust Christ pass from death to life. God has reminded you of more truth in one morning than many will learn in a lifetime. He has given us the privilege of sharing His lifesaving truth to others. The world is hungrier to hear than you know. Tell them how you trusted Christ. How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” (Romans 10:14–15)
It could be you’ve never personally trusted Christ yourself. I want to invite you to do so today.
Lord Jesus Christ, I come to You in faith believing You suffered and died on the cross for my sin. I ask You to forgive me of my sin and give me ears to hear and follow Your voice. I surrender my life to You and invite You to be my Savior and Lord. In Jesus Name. Amen.