Today I listened to a sermon in church by a guest preacher. The sermon was about the “Gospel of grace.” This is what I understood of the sermon, which I gathered from my notes. The parts in square brackets are my additions. Words in quotation marks – other than scripture references – are the preacher’s own words.
I am a sinner. I deserve punishment. Christ ransoms me through the shedding of his blood. He replaces my sin with his righteousness: [God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)].
The preacher continues: No work on our part is involved. It’s all of God; all Grace. God gives freely. Two examples: at the feeding of the five thousand, no one asked for food – and in such abundance; at the miraculous catch of fish, the disciples in the boat didn’t ask Jesus for so much fish:
[When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink (Luke 5:4-7)]
This shows that we don’t have to do anything – no works, because Jesus does it for us without us even asking. We receive grace from the Lord. Grace means we receive without asking. The Preacher says:
“Law demands, grace gives.”
“Grace is receiving from the Lord.
“ We have the Gospel of grace.”
“All is grace.”
After the sermon, the preacher prayed: “It’s not about works, but about us seeking You. That’s where it starts.”
My question is: “Why no mention of faith?
If the preacher had mentioned “faith,” let me try and infer how he would have dealt with it.
Recall his “All is grace.”
I know that the preacher is a synergist (“work together”), that is, he believes the sinner cooperates with God in his salvation because I did discuss this issue with him on a previous occasion. But, say, I, or you, hadn’t met him, how could we tell that the preacher’s “all is of grace” is not really “all” at all. Why not? The answer lies in his final prayer:
“It’s not about works, but about us seeking You. That’s where it starts.”
- “All is grace” (during the sermon) and 2. “It’s not about works, but about us seeking You. That’s where it starts” (the end of the sermon).
What surprised me was that the preacher never mentioned the GIFT of faith. We understand what he means by “gift” because of his examples of the bread and fish in the feeding of the five thousand, and the miraculous catch of fish. No demanding, no asking, not even a respectful hint. That’s what “gift” means in it pure form; for God’s gifts are naturally, and supernaturally, pure.
Where does “it all start” for the preacher? It “all starts” by “seeking.” But, the preacher reminds us, seeking” is “not at all about works.” In other words when we seek, we do nothing, we expend no energy, we do no work(s). This, of course, is patently illogical. So, the preacher’s “all” is “all” excluding that little matter of “seeking,” In other words, if you “seek” faith, God will give it to you. Doesn’t the Bible say “seek and you will find?” Yes, it does. The thing is: Christ gives you the desire to seek. But how can this be if you’re dead, and you are; very dead? it happens like this: Christ raises you to (new) life. In the raising from death, Christ gives you the gift of faith:
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:1-9).
“This” is in the neuter form in the Greek,where “this” in the passage refers to grace AND faith; both are a gift.
We (sinners saved by grace) were dead, dead as a dodo, not so?; rotting in our coffins six feet under. Jesus comes, digs down to the coffin, creaks open the lid, and breathes life into the corpse. He raised us to new Life. We are born again. Faith has come to us. Without seeking but supernaturally, of course. For how can the dead naturally seek anything?
I liken Ephesians 2:1-9 to what Rabbi Yosef Kalatsky says about the broken earthenware vessel (the Rabbi, of course, will not approve of my comparison at all):
“The Torah tells us that an earthenware vessel (after becoming contaminated) cannot be purified in a mikvah. In order for it to become uncontaminated, it must be broken or shattered so it loses its function as a vessel. If it is reassembled, it is considered a new creation that does not have relevance to the original vessel and therefore it is pure. The same holds true for a person. If he is broken and remorseful because of his sins and does teshuvah, he is forgiven because when he is broken he is the equivalent of the non-existent person. Therefore, after the process of teshuvah, the individual is a new person. Thus, because the sinner no longer exists, even the Attribute of Justice cannot prosecute the penitent.”
“We say in the tefillah of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that we are likened to a broken shard – “earthenware vessel.” We identify with the purification process of the earthenware vessel because – “A broken heart Elokeem (G-d) will not disgrace.”
We are reminded of “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians, 4:7). So, even after we have been reconstructed anew (which what happens when we have been raised (spiritually, in the context of Ephesians 2), believers in Christ never cease to carry this “treasure” in clay jars.
Now, if we sing “Amazing grace, for saving such a wretch like me,” we will perhaps understand better what Christ, and Christ alone, has done for us.