Sermon for January 29, 2017
Sermon by Jim Kane
Grace is one of the more common words of our language.
To many, if not most people it speaks of a brief reprieve.
“There is a ‘grace period’ before interest is accrued to your balance.”
“The library offers a five-day grace period before fines are given.”
“Due to the weather the past two days and the cancellation of classes, I am giving you a two-day grace period to finish your final paper for this class.”
To others it is a prayer..
“Who would like to say grace before the meal?”
“Thank you for saying grace today.’
For others it is a statement about a person’s character
“His saving grace was his strong intellect and patience.”
“Her saving grace was that she refused to be a victim.”
It is a common, yet uncommon word.
For the Christian, a believer in and disciple of Jesus, grace means much more.
Many Christians think of Ephesians 2:8-9 when they think of grace
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
How many of us here this morning think that grace is more a New Testament word and belief rather than an Old Testament word?
Well, per biblegateway.com the word grace as translated in the New International Version of the Bible appears only 10 times in the Old Testament but 114 times in the New Testament. In the King James Version, again says biblegateway.com the word translated as grace appears 37 times in the Old Testament and 122 times in the New Testament. And as for another common translation used today, the New Living Translation, the word translated as grace appears 10 times in the Old Testament and 85 times in the New Testament.
But there is the mention of grace in the Old Testament and there is a link between the word translated as grace in Ephesians 2:8-9 and the one used in Isaiah 26:10
But when grace is shown to the wicked,
they do not learn righteousness;
even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil
and do not regard the majesty of the Lord.
The word used in Isaiah which is translated as grace is Chanan and it means “to be gracious, show favour, pity…”
And the word in the Ephesians passage translated as grace is Charis and it also means “good will, loving-kindness, favour…”
It also means what is due to grace “the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace, the token or proof of grace, benefit, a gift of grace, benefit, bounty.”
So what then is grace and when have you experienced grace?
I have shared before about passing geometry with a D- even though I deserved an F!
But that is an interesting thing about grace – receiving favor even when we don’t deserve it!
In my research this past week I also looked at which book or books of the Bible mentioned the word grace the most. With the New International Version of the Bible the book of Romans has 18 mentions/uses of the word grace in it. That is between 15 and 16 percent of the entire New Testament and nearly 15 percent of the entire Bible.
And there was a reason that Paul stressed grace to his audience in this New Testament book and that was that salvation, forgiveness of our sins, “a new and living way” as noted in Hebrews 10:20 back to God through Jesus Christ, was about grace. God’s grace. His favor. His unmerited kindness and regard.
Their history was a history which reminded them that they had failed to obey God through the Law of Moses and that their failures resulted in devastated losses and even an exile. As Paul wrote in Romans 5:20-21
The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Or as the New Living Translation puts it:
God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The favor of God, His graciousness, is something that we cannot live without. It is also central to our faith. A man named Robert Girdlestone, wrote many, many decades ago
“We have to be on our guard against the supposition that grace is an abstract quality; it is an active personal principle, showing itself in our dealings with those by whom we are surrounded. … In the great proportion of passages in which the word grace is found in the New Testament, it signifies the unmerited operation of God in the heart of man… through the agency of the Holy Spirit.”
I have been shown so much grace in my life… you have too
I was shown grace by my teacher so many years ago… though she had the power to say F as my final grade.
We have sung about grace today and as you heard that story about Amazing Grace, extended to a man who sold and traded human beings (and it still goes on today and we call it human trafficking). And we have heard from some young adults who are going to tell and show God’s grace to people who speak a different language, live in a different country, have different customs and cultures because this message of grace that they and we, have been blessed to have, is for all of us.
We cannot, cannot, cannot live without grace…We cannot live the way that God created us to live, imperfectly to be sure, without grace. We cannot be saved, be born again, be forgiven of our sins without grace.
We are church which believes in God’s great grace! Amen!
A passage out of the Old Testament is the best description of grace I know: Psalm 103:8-18:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
That folks, is grace…
Thanks be to God!