Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
By grace alone is one of the mottos of the Lutheran Reformation. Three dimmed and almost forgotten truths in the 16th century. Scripture alone, by faith alone and by grace alone.
Scripture alone means that the Holy Scriptures are our only source of infallible doctrine. There are no other revelations by dreams or visions, for in the Bible we find everything we have to know for salvation. The Scriptures are the Word of God written and inspired by the Holy Spirit.
By faith alone means we are saved only by trusting the Word of God. The Word in its essence is Jesus Christ died for us on the cross. By His life of perfect obedience and death Jesus paid the full debt for our sins and in His resurrection we have the promise of eternal life.
By grace alone is the focus of our text for today. The meaning of this is our salvation is all the Lord's work. Of course, Christ did everything for us on the cross. Our justification is by His blood shed as a propitiatory sacrifice, once, for all time. But, there is more, because the kindling and maintenance of faith in us is also the work of almighty God the Father, through the Holy Spirit.
“And He gave life to you, who were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you walked once, according to the current of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now operates in the children of disobedience; among whom all of us also lived in another time; in the lust of our flesh, doing the will of the flesh and of thoughts, and we were by nature children of wrath, the same as others. "
When we did not have the slightest saving knowledge of God, without fear, love and trust in Him, then God gave us life together with Christ. By this act of God we have been given salvation.
Grace does not depend on any action on our part. We receive grace, the promises of God, through the Word and the sacraments. We are not saved by a decision for Christ, nor by our acceptance of Christ, for Christ has chosen us. And we receive all the assurance of eternal life in baptism. There is no need to affirm our baptism by good works. There is no intermediate stage; the change from spiritual death to spiritual life is a step, and that step is the work of God alone.
All these wonderful blessings are gifts of God's grace: Through our regeneration and conversion we have been made partakers of the salvation obtained by Christ; by being awakened from spiritual death and receiving life in Christ and with Christ, we are justified before God. In our spiritually dead hearts, God has lit the flame of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, faith is the beginning of the new spiritual life. It is not a reward for works by which a man might make himself worthy of being regenerated in God's eyes; No merit was found in us, all boasting on the part of man is absolutely cut off.
In our reading of the Old Testament (Genesis 4: 1-15) and the gospel (Luke 18: 9-14) we have examples of men who sought reward for good works before God. In Genesis we find the account of the first homicide, which begins with acts of thanksgiving. Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam, both offered their sacrifices of thanks for the harvest. But, in some way God blessed Abel's sacrifice and not Cain's. It is probable that Abel offered his sacrifice in sincere gratitude and for this the Lord blessed him. But, Cain anticipated a reward and it turned out that out of his envy and hatred, Cain killed his brother.
In Jesus' parable, the Pharisee boasted of his good works. But he did not acknowledge or repent of his own sins. Furthermore, he looked down upon the publican. On the other side, the publican in his humility and remorse received forgiveness and absolution.
Without faith ignited by the grace of God, good works are not fruits of love, but they sow anger and judgment. However, our text speaks of a life of good works in the same breath as grace.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is a gift of God; not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand for us to walk in them. "
Of course, God has a purpose for our lives. God's purpose in working regeneration in us in this way is that He may show in the ages to come the richness of His grace in goodness to us in Christ Jesus. By virtue of this new life, which is here again, in its entirety, ascribed to the creative power of God, we are prepared for good works, we are able and willing to do works that please our heavenly Father. These good works, which are the evidence of the new creature in us, by which our Christianity is tested and approved, have been prepared and exposed by God before we even thought of doing them. And so all glory on the part of the believers is excluded, in fact never allowed. A true Christian does not even boast of the good works that he is privileged to do, knowing that it is the power of Christ. and God in the one who enables him to follow the example of Christ.
Good works are the fruits of faith to show unbelievers God's mercy and love. Furthermore, what the Spirit works in us is for our well-being. The new life here is an advance payment, a guarantee, which assures us the last and most perfect manifestation of God's grace, which is beyond the present age. When the ages of this world come to an end and eternity dawns upon us, then we, who were by nature children of wrath, but now partakers of God's grace in Christ, will experience the full riches of God's grace. In Christ Jesus, our Redeemer and Mediator, we will receive the full benevolence and goodness of God for all eternity, we will see the face of our heavenly Father and we will taste and see the beauty of the Lord, forever and ever. Amen.
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