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SALVATION: GOD’S WAY
Intro: Since the dawn of time, man has been seeking redemption from his guilt and his sins. Since the dawn of time, there have been two ways of seeking this redemption: works and faith. In Genesis 4, the first two humans that were born into this world, Cain and Abel, came before the presence of God to offer sacrifices for their sins. Cain offered the works of his hands, and he and his offering were rejected, Gen. 4:3, 5. Abel offered the blood of an innocent substitute and he and his offering were accepted, Gen. 4:4. Cain approached God on the basis of his works; Abel approached God on the basis of faith. Both of those men approached God because they were drawn to do so by some need in their own hearts.
Humanity is born into this world with a void. There is an empty place within the heart of man that he is ever seeking to fill. People attempt to fill this void with all kinds of activities. Some seek to fill it with sex, drugs, alcohol, and other works of the flesh. Some seek to fill this void with religion. Their works and self-imposed goodness makes them feel better about themselves and scratches the deep itch within their souls.
The history of humanity is littered with sin and religion. Both of these are the efforts of people who are trying to fill the emptiness within their hearts with something they can produce. The problem with living a life of sin is that it always ends in death, Hell and eternal separation from God. The problem with human religion and good works is that it always ends in death, Hell and eternal separation from God.
The drunk, the drug addict, the harlot, the child molester, the rapist, the murderer, the thief, and every other kind of sinner you want to mention is going to Hell. But, so are the people who are trapped in the false religions of the world. Regardless of how sincere they may be in their belief system, those who have nothing more than religion are headed to Hell. Whether they are Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Animist, Humanist, Atheist, Agnostic, Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Seventh-Day Adventist, Baptist, or any other religion, non-religion or group, if all they have is belief in their system, they are lost and headed for judgment.
That is why the passage before us is so important today. In clear, concise language, the Apostle Paul lays out God’s way of salvation. This few verses are among the most important in the whole Bible. They teach exactly how people can be saved. They teach us about the Way, and the Wonder of salvation. These verses show all people, in all generations, in all places, and in all religions, what they must know in order that they might be saved from their sins and from the fires of Hell.
I want to take these verses and show you the truths that are exposed here. When these verses are taken at face value, they clearly reveal the way of salvation and how it is obtained. Let’s examine these truths together today as I preach on the thought: Salvation: God’s Way.
I. v. 8b-9 THE WAY OF SALVATION
(Ill. These verses are a summary of all that Paul has said about salvation up to this point. These verses represent the Lord’s ultimate statement regarding the way of salvation. These verses tell us how to be saved, and they tell what will not save the soul. In these words, Paul talks about both the positive and the negative side of the way of salvation. Before we consider the positive side of salvation, let’s consider the negative side.)
A. v. 9 The Negative Side Of Salvation – “Not of works lest any man should boast.” The word “works” refers to “that which one undertakes to do, an enterprise, an undertaking; any product whatever, any thing accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind; an act, deed, thing done.” This word speaks of any human effort that is performed in the hope that it will secure salvation for the one performing the action. In other words, it refers to religious works and deeds. Paul is telling us that no one will ever be saved by any works they perform, regardless of how holy those works may appear, or how many works they perform.
This flies in the face of thousands of years of human thinking, effort and religious activity. Man has always felt like he had to have a part in his salvation. Thus, man has developed thousands of competing religions that rely on good works, self-sacrifice or self-righteousness to save the practitioner of that religion. That is why the ancient Canaanites offered their children to Moloch. That is why the ancient Phoenicians sacrificed their sexual purity to the god Baal and the goddess Ashtoreth. That is why the Hindus worship cows, monkeys and snakes. That is why a mother in the jungles of Africa will give a baby to a crocodile. That is why ancient native Americans worshipped nature.
The common denominator in these and all other manmade religions is works. Every religion devised by man requires him to put forth some sort of effort to practice his religion and achieve his salvation. It might be something he has to give up to please his god. It might be some work of the flesh like baptism, good deeds, or self-punishment that he performs to win the favor of his god. The fact is, man thinks he has to earn his salvation.
That is why Adam and Eve sought to cover their nakedness with fig leaves, Gen. 3:7. Their works were not acceptable to the Lord, and when He showed up and confronted them in their sins, He provided a covering for their sins in the form or an innocent sacrifice, Gen. 3:21. Their works could not save them. Their sin was covered by grace alone.
(Ill. A leading manufacturing company developed a new cake mix that required only water to be added. Tests were run, surveys were made, and the cake mix was found to be of superior quality to the other mixes available. It tasted good, it was easy to use, and it made a moist, tender cake. The company spent large sums of money on an advertising campaign and then released the cake mix to the general market. But few people bought the new cake mix.
The company then spent more money on a survey to find out why the cake mix didn’t sell. Based on the results of this survey, the company recalled the mix, reworked the formula, and released the revised cake mix. The new cake mix required that one add not only water, but also an egg. It sold like hot cakes and is now a leading product in the field. You see, the first cake mix was just too simple to be believable. People would not accept it. The same is true of salvation by grace.)
Paul tells us that works are excluded from the process of salvation “lest any man should boast.” The word “boast” means, “to glory in an thing.” Paul is telling us that if a man were to earn his own salvation he would be able to take the credit for it. He would boast of his achievement. He would set himself up as his own god and worship himself.
If anyone were to make it to Heaven on the basis of his own works, that person would spend eternity bragging about how he made it there. God’s plan of salvation is something far different. God works salvation in us by grace. He does it in such a way that He alone gets all the glory for every soul that is saved.
Ladies and Gentlemen, you can never get to Heaven by your works. Regardless of what you do, you can never do enough. Regardless of how good you try to be, you can never be good enough.
(Ill. A liberal preacher once said that salvation is like a frog falling into a large milk can. The frog cannot get out at first, so he keeps on kicking. After kicking for a while that frog turned that milk into butter and he hopped right out.
The implication being, if we try hard enough, we can be guarantee our salvation by being sincere, by working harder and by really trying to please God through our own goodness. The fact is, no matter how hard we work we will never be able to save ourselves.)
(Ill. Imagine that a plane carrying a championship swimmer, a man who is an average swimmer, and another who cannot swim at all. The place crashes in the ocean 1000 miles from shore. The championship swimmer tells the others, “Stay with me and I will get you out of this.” So, they hit the water and start to swim. The man who could not swim sinks and drowns after just a few short moments. The average swimmer lasts about half an hour. The championship swimmer swims for 24 hours, covering about 50 miles. But, in the end, he also fails and drowns. That is an illustration of our religious efforts. No matter how hard we try, we can never do enough or be enough to save ourselves from our sins. Apart from the grace of God and the blood of Jesus, we are hopelessly doomed.)
No matter how much you change your life, you can never erase your sin and guilt before God. Works are not the answer; grace is! (Ill. Rom. 3:25-28; 1 Cor. 1:26-21)
B. The Positive Side Of Salvation – “Through faith” – If salvation does not result from being religious, being a good person, or doing good things, where does salvation come from? Paul says it comes to us “through faith.” What is “faith?” The word “faith” refers to “a conviction of the truth of something; belief.” Saving faith is simply coming to the place where one believes, with absolute conviction that everything the Bible says about Jesus is true. That’s it!
Salvation is not the result of doing anything; it is the result of a lost sinner simply taking God at His Word. That is the clear teaching of some of the greatest, clearest verses in the Bible.
· Romans 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
· John 3:16, “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.”
· Acts 16:31, “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
The Bible is crystal clear on this matter. The way of salvation is simply taking God at His Word and believing the Gospel. What is the Gospel?
· 1 Corinthians 15:4-5, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:”
· Romans 4:25, “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”
Some people will object that they can’t believe in Jesus. They think can’t have faith in something they did not see and don’t know to absolutely true. The truth is, every day of our lives is a series of acts of faith.
· We eat our food having faith that it is not contaminated.
· We swallow water believing by faith that it is safe to drink.
· We take the medicine the doctor prescribes by faith not knowing all the side effects, or whether it will cure or kill us.
· We put our money in the bank trusting by faith their promises to keep it safe and give it back when we ask for it.
· We get in our car, put the key in the switch and turn it by faith, taking for granted that it will crank.
· Even the act of sitting down on a chair, or a pew, is an act of faith.
Salvation comes when a lost sinner simply takes God at His Word and believes what the Bible says about Jesus Christ.
· God says He was born of a virgin.
· God says He is the sinless Son of God.
· God says He died on a cross to pay for the sins of the sinner.
· God says He rose again from the dead.
· God says He ascended back to Heaven.
· God says He is coming again to get His people.
· God says that anyone who believes in Jesus will be eternally saved.
· That, and not works, is what saves the soul!
Faith believes that those who believe what the Bible says about Jesus will be saved.
Faith also involves trust.
R. Kent Hughes says it this way, “A story which comes from the last century makes this clear. During the 1900s Jean Francois Gravalet, better known by his stage name, Blondin, was a world-famous acrobat. Born in France in 1824, Blondin became well-known while still a child. As he grew older, his skill and showmanship brought him fame throughout Europe and America. Once in London he played the violin on a tightrope 170 feet off the ground and then did a somersault wearing stilts. His most spectacular feats were the crossings of Niagara Falls on a tightrope 1,100 feet long and 160 feet above the water. On one occasion he took a stove onto the tightrope and cooked an omelette above the roaring falls. “Bon appétit!” On another occasion he pushed a wheelbarrow across while blindfolded. On still another he stood on his head on the precarious wire. That is why today in London there are Niagara and Blondin Avenues.
Once, in an unusual demonstration of skill, Blondin carried a man across Niagara Falls on his back. After putting his rider down he turned to the large crowd and asked a man close by, “Do you believe I could do that with you?” “Of course,” the man answered, “I’ve just seen you do it.” “Hop on,” said Blondin, “I’ll carry you across.” “Not on your life!” the man called back. There is no real faith without trust.
To be truthful, I would not have hopped onto Blondin’s back either. In fact, I would not do it if the rope was more than ten feet off the ground, for three reasons: There is the me factor. What if I “lost it”? Down we would go. There is the chance factor. What if the rope broke? There is the Blondin factor. What if the only time he made a mistake in his whole life was with me? I believe with all my heart he could do it, but I just would not trust him with my life!
But it is a universe of difference between the tightrope walker and Jesus! He cannot drop me. I cannot even drop myself. And there is no such thing as chance. Do we believe Jesus is who he says he is? Do we believe he died for our sins? Do we believe he was resurrected and lives today? Have we trusted him to save us?”[i]
The only way out of the darkness of sin into the Lord’s salvation is by trusting Jesus alone to save your soul. What are you trusting today? Are you saved?
Ill Our works will never get us into Heaven. The only way into Heaven is by faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. Paul says it this way in Phil. 3:9, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” When faith brings us to Jesus, we are given His righteousness, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” 2 Cor. 5:21.
I. The Way Of Salvation
II. v. 8a THE WONDER OF SALVATION
A. The Wonder Of His Grace - Paul tells us that this salvation we have been give comes to us “by grace.” The word “grace” refers to, “the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.” Grace is “the unmerited favor of God for the undeserving.”
The grace of God means that God reaches out to those who deserve nothing from Him but His judgment and condemnation. The grace of God means that God turns His favor toward those who deserve His wrath. It means that God reaches down to those who cannot reach up to Him. It means that God goes to those who will not come to Him. Lost sinners are dead, radically depraved, totally deceived and utterly doomed in their sins, but God, In His grace, reaches out to save them by His amazing, abundant grace.
The Bible is filled with examples of this kind of grace. A couple will suffice to illustrate the amazing grace of God.
· Mephibosheth – 2 Samuel 9:1-13 – This man was from a lost, doomed family. Mephibosheth was crippled, poor and worthless. David owed him nothing. David would have been within his rights to execute. Yet, David reached out to Mephibosheth. He sent his servants for him, took him out of his old home, and brought him into the place. David adopted Mephibosheth as his own son and set him at the king’s table. He was still a cripple, but he belonged at David’s table. Grace changed his life.
· Saul of Tarsus – Acts 9:1-6 – Saul was a religious man. He was morally righteous, but his righteousness was based in his good works. In the eyes of God, Saul was a dirty, filthy sinner. He was a man who hated the name of Jesus and persecuted the church. He deserved nothing from God but judgment and Hell. Yet, the Lord loved him and reached out to save him. Grace changed his life.
· Every person in this world who has been truly saved knows the wonder of God’s amazing, awesome grace. We know there is no good in us. We know that we deserve to go to Hell. We know that God would be perfectly just to judge us. We know that grace is amazing! We can’t explain it. We are like Augustine who said, “I know that grace is until you ask me, then I don’t know.” The soul understands what the mouth cannot put into words. God takes lost, dead, deceived, depraved, doomed sinners and He saves them by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. That is the wonder of His grace!
B. The Wonder Of His Gift – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” We have been told about the way of salvation; it is “through faith.” We have been told about the wonder of salvation; it is “by grace.” Then, we are told that neither the grace, nor the faith came from within us. The grace that sought us, and the faith that saved us, are the “gift of God.” We could not even believe in Jesus Christ until He first came to us and gave us faith to believe in Him.
· The sinner is dead, v. 1; he lacks the ability to believe.
· The sinner is deceived by his sins, v. 2; he lacks the desire to believe.
· The sinner is depraved, v. 3; he lacks the will to be saved.
· The sinner is doomed, v. 3; he has already been condemned and judged in his sins.
In that lost condition the sinner cannot just decide to come to God. God must make the first move, John 6:44, and he does. He comes to the sinner and draws them to Himself. He shows them the reality of their own condition. He allows them to see the truth of the cross and the empty tombs. He allows them to know that everything the Bible says about Jesus Christ is true. He gives them the faith to believe the Gospel. The sinner takes those precious things and he turns that faith toward God. When he does, salvation takes place.
The act of faith is ours to make, but the faith to act on came from God. John MacArthur says, “Faith is simply breathing the breath that God’s grace supplies.”[ii]
The wonder of salvation is that God, in His grace, saves sinners by giving them the faith to believe in Jesus Christ. Do you remember when the scales fell away from your eyes and you were allowed to see yourself as you were and Jesus Christ as your only hope? Do you remember the glory of believing on Him for salvation? If you do, then you know the wonder of salvation. If you don’t know anything about that, I invite you to come to Jesus Christ right now, today. You need to be saved, and Jesus is the only way for you to be saved, John 14:6! The only way you will ever come to Him is through the Amazing Grace of God.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.
Conc: My friends, salvation is a gift. God reaches out to offer us what we cannot do for ourselves. He offers us salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. This salvation delivers us from our sins. This salvation changes our lives. This salvation alters our eternities. This salvation adopts us into God’s family. This salvation is freely given and it is available to all who will come to Jesus Christ by faith.
Are you saved? Are you trusting Jesus, and Jesus alone for your soul’s salvation? Are you sure that you are not trusting in your works? A prayer does not save us; doing good does not save us, becoming a better person does not save us; going to church does not save us. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. Is that your testimony? If not, it can be! Come to Him while He calls for you!
God is offering you a pardon; do not reject His free offer of salvation through Jesus.
Ill. In the year 1829, a Philadelphia man named George Wilson robbed the U. S. mails, killing someone in the process. Wilson was arrested, brought to trial, found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged. Some friends intervened in his behalf and were finally able to obtain a pardon for him from President Andrew Jackson. But, when he was informed of this, George Wilson refused to accept the pardon!
The sheriff was unwilling to enact the sentence—for how could he hang a pardoned man? An appeal was sent to President Jackson. The perplexed President turned to the United States Supreme Court to decide the case. Chief Justice Marshall ruled that a pardon is a piece of paper, the value of which depends on its acceptance by the person implicated. It is hardly to be supposed that a person under the sentence of death would refuse to accept a pardon, but if it is refused, it is then not a pardon. George Wilson must be hanged. So George Wilson was executed, although his pardon lay on the sheriff’s desk.
God has made an offer of love, acceptance, forgiveness, and salvation to you. To receive that offer and believe in Jesus Christ is to be eternally saved. It is to go to Heaven when you leave this world. To reject that free off of salvation is to die lost and to go to Hell. What will you do with Jesus?