Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Why Christ “alone”?

Sermon delivered by Dr Mark Baddeley, lecturer at Queensland Theological College, as part of the 500 Reformation Celebrations at Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Scripture Readings

  1. Psalm 29
  2. Ephesians 1:1-114

Introduction

Reformers coined the idea of life “solas”.

  1. The Bible alone
  2. By grace alone
  3. By Faith alone
  4. Through Christ alone,
  5. The glory of God alone.

How can you have five “alones”?

The importance of a package deal

You need to have all in order to have any.

See this in today’s passage, but see also that this isn’t just ideas in a lecture. This is music for a song, marching orders for soldiers, is the very skeleton and flesh of our relationship with GodPaul expresses it in prayer, in a hymn of praise to God.

1.  The Grace of God is the well vv2; 5-8

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, (Ephesians 1:2,5–8, NIV)

As Paul looks at the believers in Ephesus at their faith in Christ and their love for God’s people and offers up a long statement of blessing to God.

Not just the Ephesians but all of us

Sees their existence as believers as the work of God, as the expression of the power of God. God’s hand stands behind them coming to faith and going on in faith.

Not just God’s power, but God’s generosity, God’s kindness, God’s love. God’s grace.

There is something free and altruistic in God’s work of saving people.

God is infinite, God has no limits. God is not bounded like we are. God is inexhaustible. And similarly God’s grace is a bottomless well. The riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.

So God is not stingy in the things he does for us when saving us. Paul doesn’t just list one or two things but a long list of stuff that God does for us: chosen, predestined, adopted as sons, forgiveness, redemption, giving us the knowledge of his will and more. Before that in v3 tells us that has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing. Even if you give me a stick I can’t point it at all the things.

All of this is taken back to the grace of God as its source. Not God’s grace plus some kind of contribution from believers. Just the grace of God alone.

2. Christ is the one in and through whom salvation comes

All of these things are given to us freely and generously. More things than we can count. Yet over and over and over again Paul says that they are given to us through a very narrow path. A small focus to God’s actions. All fhis narrows down to just one person.

Over and over again Paul says that these things are given in Christ and through Christ.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. (Ephesians 1:3–10, NIV)

Often we think of salvation as like a trading card game. A trading card game is a business model in search of a game. You buy packs of cards and there might occasionally be a good card in the set. But if you want an advantage in the game have to buy lots of packs to get a wide range of cards. Nothing that links the cards together except your, or your parent’s wallet. Pokemon – gotta catch them all.

Salvation is like this. All these things we might potentially receive, and we have to catch them all, gather them all together.

Not like that at all. God only gives us one thing, not lots of things. He gives us his own Son. He gives us the Lord Jesus. Married, head and body, vine and branches. Real connection, deeper and more profound than anything that joins us to each other.

In Christ are found all of these things that we need for our salvation. Our being chosen, our predestination, our forgiveness, our redemption, our adoption, our knowledge of God’s will and the like. They aren’t a whole bunch of stuff. They are simply the effects of having Jesus. Jesus doesn’t give us a salvation the same way that a milkman gives us milk. He gives us salvation the same way a friend gives us friendship or family member gives us family. He gives us himself, and in having Christ, we have so many more blessings than you could imagine.

God’s plan is that everything will be summed up in Christ. That he alone will be Lord of all, the head over heaven and earth, over everything that is or was or will be. Begins by ensuring that everything he has to give us is given in Christ Jesus.

There is just the one present wrapped up under the Christmas tree. But that one present contains a whole world of blessing. God doesn’t do some things through Christ, but then other things through us, or through great Christians, or through important Christian leaders, or angels or Mary. It is all given to us in Christ. Christ alone is the one in whom we are given everything God has to give us.

3.  Faith is the way that we receive God’s work in Christ vv12-14

And so if it salvation is simply a work of grace, and God gives it to us in Christ, what then is our part to play? How do we receive this work in our lives?

Faith. You believe it. You accept it. You recognize it as reality. You entrust yourself to it. You put all your eggs in this basket.

You hear the message that God has done everything to rescue you from judgement, to make you able to stand in his presence, to give you the title deeds to eternity, to make you part of his family, t forgive you, to rescue you from death itself and give you life that will never end. You hear that message from God and you believe it. You might do it with great excitement and joy, with tears in your eyes. You might do it very thoughtfully and consideredly. But you build your life around that message. Your hope and expectation for the future is now based on what God has promised to do for you in Christ.

And so your faith isn’t just in the message, isn’t just in the gospel, it is also in Christ himself. V15. You trust him. He is the one whose blood was shed for forgiveness, the one in whom all the blessings are given. You look at him and what he’s done and say, yes, I am confident he is up to the task. He is able to be the one who bears all the gifts of God, who can take away the judgement and condemnation of God and pour out the riches of God’s grace into my life. The Lord Jesus is trustworthy. And so you trust him. You entrust yourself to him for this life and the life to come. If he comes through you are fine. If he doesn’t you have no plan b. All your hopes are with Christ.

And that is the one and only thing you do to receive the grace of God. It’s not that plus your prayer life. Not that plus your efforts to be a good person. That plus your repentance even. It is faith alone.

God doesn’t ask you to do something grand, or even something small. He says, this task is so hard, so impossible, so beyond your comprehension, that there’s nothing you can do. I have done it all because of my generosity. And it has all been done already in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Your job is now to receive that, to accept that, to rest on that. It is to trust my word and trust my Son and what he’s done for you. It is to not to try and do anything but accept that it has been done for you.

4.  All to the praise of God’s glory

And so if all of this is the work of God’s grace in Christ, and we just receive it by faith, then all of this points to God and gives us reason to praise him. Salvation showcases God’s glory, shows us just how great and good that he is, that only he can do this, and that he has done this so freely and so generously.

He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves… in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory… who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:5-6, 12, 14, NIV)

Praise is the natural thing when faced with excellence. Great kick. Amazing mum. Brilliant singer.

God does things to display his excellence, his glory. As we see his salvation, and how it is so clearly the power and riches of God’s generosity that stands behind it all. How it is all done in Christ and given to us by giving us the Lord Jesus, it is all so that we praise God’s glory, and the glory of his grace. That we acknowledge and highlight the excellence that is on display.

And it is only God’s excellence on display. No-one else gets the glory, gets the praise. You don’t think the believers are amazing for having faith. Or that preachers are great for making faith happen. Or that someone has the ability to make the Spirit work in people’s lives. It is just the glory of God on display. And so just God alone gets the praise for his excellence. He stands alone.

And this too is for our good. Hard to trust someone you don’t have confidence in. Hard to trust their word, hard to trust their work. You only trust them to the degree you judge them trustworthy. Which is the degree to which they are excellent in the thing you need them to do. God displays his glory and his excellence so that we will praise it. As we praise it, his excellence sinks down into our bones, and into the bones of those who hear it. Ceases to be something in the head, and becomes something we feel in our gut. And so it becomes easier to trust God because we have a greater sense of how trustworthy he is.

5.  God works by his word: Psalm, v13

Final thing is that God works by his word alone.

… in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:12–14, NIV)

Not God’s word and other wordswords by church leaders, or prophets, or special words to you. No, just the message of salvation, the word of God, the word of the gospel. That is the word that when you hear it, changes everything in heaven and earth. And that word alone.

God’s word has a power like no other word. Psalmit’s like a nuclear bomb going off. The same power that created the world and everything in the world, now acts with all that power on the world and everything in the world. If you want the power of God in your life, you open yourself up to the word of God. To the message of the gospel, the message of salvation. And with that, the whole of the Scriptures where God speaks his word to his people in all places and all times.

That is where the power of God is to be found. God saves people, and changes people by his word.

Final Reflection

A work of God from start to finish, something worth trusting.

What we have here is a package deal. All these things go together. Need them all to have any of them. And all of them are a reason to praise God, to praise God’s glory, to praise the glory of his grace. To say blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing.

This is a work of God from start to finish, a display of the glory of God, the excellence of God, the greatness and goodness of God.

It is all given to us in Christ Jesus. The only thing we need to do is entrust ourselves to it, and believe the message and trust Christ. Behind it stands the infinite riches of God’s grace, of his generosity and kindness and love.

This is something worth praising. This is something to acknowledge as greater and more excellent than anything else. This is something worthy of your trust, that will not let you down. You can entrust yourself—your past, your present and your future. Yourself, your friends, your spouse, your children and your grandchildren to this and it will not betray that trust.

We need to receive this by faith. But at all points it is worthy of that faith.

Sermon preached by Dr Mark Baddeley on Sunday 5 November 2017

 

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