- Sermon Notes
From Grace to Grace
September 3, 2023
Last week in chapter 1, Paul started out by saying he is not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. The gospel is God’s answer to the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.
God’s heart is that we would have a life filled with good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, permeating every area of our lives which results in a beautiful life.
We saw that those who reject God are given over to their own fleshly desires so they can see the effect of it and destruction in their own lives.
The result of rejecting God is every imaginable sinful and unrighteous thing in people’s lives. What’s a sinner to do? How is it possible that an unrighteous sinner can have a relationship with a holy God? Sin only grows more dangerous over time, it’s like petting a lion; and how do you stop petting a lion? The answer; God can make a sinner righteous in one verse. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
In other words, Paul said, the righteous will live by faith, and only by faith. It’s by the grace of God, and only the grace of God. It’s when a sinner owns the fact that he’s a sinner and takes God at His word that we have the hope of heaven.
There is a great illustration for this. “A man dies and comes to the pearly gates where Peter is waiting for him and tells him that there’s a point system for getting into heaven. “You need 1000 points to get in. Tell me all the good things you’ve ever done and we’ll give you points for each thing.” “I was married to the same wonderful woman for 40 years, I was always faithful never even had lustful thoughts.” “Great, that’s three points,” Peter said…
That’s the problem; some people believe they can pull themselves out of the mud one step at a time, they’re like Martin Luther trying to climb the holy stairs in Rome, one step at a time, knees becoming bloody, trying to pay penance and win the approval of God.
They are able to get to a higher place in the mud by their own efforts, but the problem is that as soon as they get a few steps higher in the mud, their self-righteous pride kicks in; and the problem with self-righteous pride is that it’s just as offensive to God.
So trying to live under the law which leads to living self-righteous is just as bad. Instead of asking, “What’s a sinner to do?” We have to ask, “What’s a self-righteous sinner to do?”
Paul is essentially saying:
- Living in the world – Guilty
- Living without the law – Guilty
- Living under the Law – Guilty
- Living self-righteously trying to uphold the Law – Double-Guilty
You will remember that Jesus had some very strong words for the Pharisees on this matter.
All of us need God’s grace. As soon as we recognize how much we need God’s grace, we then need to recognize how much we need to give God’s grace to others as well. What is grace? It’s God treating us far better than we deserve and because we have received so much grace, we should give grace to others. Our grace should flow from the grace received to the grace shown to others.
I. Don’t Look Down on Others
- For some reason, sin looks a lot uglier on someone else than it does on us. But when we point out how ugly it looks on someone else, we’re often pointing the finger at ourselves because we do the same things.
- Last week I said that we’re basically born selfish and self-centered and that translates into a tendency to always favor ourselves.
Illus – We only have to go to a local softball game to see it. Is the runner safe or out? That completely depends on what team you’re on. We favor ourselves.
- We are not good judges of others because we favor ourselves and therefore think more highly of ourselves than we should.
A. Be gracious when others fail
- If we could understand how much grace we need from God, it would humble us and cause us to be gracious towards others.
Illus. – In Matthew 18 we read about the unforgiving servant, who could not repay the king 10 000 talents he owed. A talent was worth 15 years of labor pay. When he asked for mercy, the king was merciful and wrote it off. The servant then came upon another servant who owed him equal to one day’s work, and started choking him, demanding the money from him. When he could not repay, he threw him in prison…
- Jesus was using this parable to show how those who have been forgiven, should not then stand in judgment of others, but be gracious to others.
- Looking down on others when they fail comes from self-righteousness and thinking of ourselves more highly than we should.
- If we could see our sins in the light of God’s grace, we could see others’ sins in the light of God’s grace as well.
Illus – It is good to sometimes do some introspection. How many times have you before done something ‘harmless’ where you overstepped the line, but weren’t caught, or were fortunate to not have reaped what you sowed? How many people who, in their younger lives, did foolish things, but were fortunate not to have to pay the price for that misstep?
- Jesus actually had some fairly sharp words for those who became self-righteous and looked down on others.
Luke 6:41-42, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye?”
B. Grace comes back to you
- Is there a place for judging in the Christian faith? Yes, absolutely. The problem is that this is so misunderstood. Some take this to mean that they should become the “righteousness police.” But this only brings division and troubles in the church.
- Jesus spoke to this very point…
Luke 6:36-38, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure – pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
- God is merciful and He wants us to be merciful as well. One of the most powerful examples of God’s mercy is the woman caught in adultery…
John 8:10-11, Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go and from now on sin no more.”
John 3:17, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
- Jesus is also saying that mercy comes back to you and grace comes back to you, in good measure – pressed down, shaken together, and running over.
Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
- But Jesus said that not only does mercy come back to you, judging also comes back to you.
Illus – If someone becomes the righteousness police and always points out the faults in others, don’t you immediately want to look for faults in them?
- The question is: From what heart do you address these issues? Again, when Jesus met the woman at the well, He did not shy away from truth, but His heart was to lead to repentance, forgiveness, and healing.
Illus. – As a pastor, I have had people confess things that they struggle with and are ashamed of many times. I can see from their countenance that they are in fear, not knowing how I would react. Will I chase them away? Tell them how filthy they are? The thing is, they already feel horrible.
How do I handle such things? I do not tell them that it is okay. We agree on the truth. It is wrong. This is supposed to receive a guilty judgment. But what is God’s heart? He who confesses His sins will be forgiven. God’s heart is love and restoration, and ours should be too. Paul tells us to support and encourage those who are struggling and whose faith is still weak.
II. His Kindness leads us to Repentance
- Verse 4 is one of my favorite verses, but it is commonly misunderstood. The person who is self-righteous and looks down on others isn’t thinking about the kindness of God, they want the judgment of God to fall on the person they’re looking down on.
- But in reality, they do the same things and they need the kindness and patience of God themselves. That’s what it means that they think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience.
- Verse 4 also speaks of the fact that people convince themselves that sin in others’ lives is disgraceful, but in their own lives it is not so bad. They think that God is blessing them despite their sin, so He must not see it as a problem. We must not confuse God’s patience and forbearance as permission to keep on sinning. God is gracious and wants you to repent. He is longsuffering. Don’t store up wrath for yourself.
- We are now standing under the dispensation of grace, and because God is longsuffering, the world has come to the conclusion that there is no God, otherwise, He would have judged us already.
Illus – Grace is like a dam wall holding back the wrath of God. One day, the dam will burst, and the wrath of God spoken of in Revelation will be poured out on the earth.
A. God prefers repentance over judgment
- God is patient and kind because He is leading people toward repentance. We read it earlier, “God did not send His Son to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
2 Peter 3:9, The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.
- God sent His Son because He loves the world. That’s the gospel. He came to seek and to save that which was lost.
- This is so important to understand because many people are convinced that God is angry with them, and they are trying to do some good things so that God will love them.
Illus – I have heard people say before that they are now coming to church and want to serve God and do things in the church to pay back for all the bad things they have done in their lives. Although this sounds noble, it is wrong thinking. It is once again trying to get forgiveness of your sins by works.
- It is the erroneous thinking still carried over from the middle-ages Catholic view of indulgences for sin Martin Luther addressed.
- You don’t need to do good things so God will love you. He already loves you.
- When you stand before God, He’s not going to ask you if you recycled or saved the whales or helped old ladies crossing the street, He’ll ask you if you received His love and the free gift of salvation through His Son, Jesus.
B. We are judged by His deeds
- Paul points out that God will render to every man according to his deeds (verse 6).
- Then he says that both Jews and Gentiles will be judged either according to the Law or according to their conscience, but there will come a day when God will judge all things (verse 16).
- If we look at this section, it looks like it is hopeless for everyone. Who can be saved?
- Remember that Paul is playing the ‘prosecuting attorney’, proving that on our own merit and by our own works no one can be justified.
- The good news of grace is that, because of the kindness of God, on that judgment day, we will not stand condemned. All our sins will be washed away, covered by the blood of Christ and the righteousness of God given to us as a gift.
Romans 8:1-2, 4 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death… So that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
- There is no condemnation for those who are…in… Christ Jesus. We believe in God’s Son and are saved.
John 3:18, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
- This is the one sin that cannot be forgiven, not believing in Jesus and putting your faith in Him. Because He is the only way to forgiveness and life.
C. And it matters how we live
- When we do good works, we are not paying God back. We are living from changed hearts, making a difference by living out His grace to others.
- Verse 29 is an important key to understanding Paul’s letter to the Romans. He is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
- Similarly, He is a Christian who is one inwardly, of the heart, and his praise is from God.
- The Spirit instructs our hearts and teaches us how to live. If we are a Christian inwardly, of the heart, we want to honor God in how we live.
- If you are connected to God in your heart, His Spirit will instruct you in how to live your life.
Matthew 6:20, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
- When we do those good things led by the Spirit of God, it stores up good treasures for us in heaven.
2 Corinthians 5:10, For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
1 Corinthians 3:13-15, Each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss;
Illus. – I remember when we used to have prize giving at school. It was when they still had prize giving and those who put in the work, got the prize, the certificate, or the trophy. The idea is that those who did not receive the prize would do some introspection and apply themselves more, inspiring them for the new year, and rewarding those who did put in the effort.
- On that day there will be a prize-giving day in heaven. It will not affect your salvation, but it will be a day of great celebration where your works will be rewarded. The rewards will be forever and will be something that will not fade, decay, or rust.
- The works that have eternal value are those that we did by the leading of the Holy Spirit, impacting the lives of others for Christ. It looks different for each and every person. A farmer has a different calling than a missionary, but both can work to the glory of God.
- Our good works are driven by how we view others. When we view others with love and compassion, living from a servant-heart, wanting to live out God’s grace towards them, it changes how we live.
2 Timothy 4:7-8, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Romans 2:1-29 NASB
2 Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. 3 But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each person according to his deeds: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.
12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; 13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.
17 But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God, 18 and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, 21 you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written.
25 For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.