We Rest Upon the Grace of God


October 19, 1997 ~ Grace Christian Reformed Church, Cobourg

October 26, 1997 ~ Pickering Standard Church


Romans 4:1-25 - What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about— but not before God. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

"Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him." Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring— not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed— the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead— since he was about a hundred years old— and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness— for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.


On Wednesday, September 24, I learned that one of my favourite Christian songwriters had died. His name was Rich Mullins, he was a Christian, and to me he will always be remembered for the chorus of one of the first songs of his I listened to, a part of which went as follows:


            If I stand let me stand on the promise that You will pull me through,

            and if I can't, let me fall on the grace that first brought me to you.


Rich Mullins had a wonderful understanding of the grace of God; it was something which he experienced in his life. Grace is something we receive for which we did not work. Rich Mullins knew that when he, as a man, was too weak to continue his walk with God, God Himself, in His grace, would lift him up and carry him on. Last week God's grace carried him home, just as those of us here today who call upon the name of Jesus will be carried home when we die. In our text for this morning we read of the apostle Paul's understanding of grace in the context of a very simple verse from the Old Testament:


Genesis 15:6 - Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.


This verse records Abraham's response to something that happened to him. That something was God's promise that Abraham and his wife, Sarah, would in their old age have a child of their own and that from this child would spring up an innumerable people.


Genesis 15:1-6 - After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward." But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir." Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars— if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.


Paul goes to great lengths to explain that Abraham did not work for this promise, he simply believed it and his belief, or faith, was credited to him as righteousness. The emphasis is that righteousness, or justification, was not something which Abraham earned but something which he was given. Paul goes on to contend with certain of the Jewish Christians (who believed and taught that only those who were physically circumcised would be saved) by telling the Christians of Rome that this promise was made to Abraham before he received the sign of circumcision and that, in fact, circumcision was to be a sign of the righteousness he had already received through his faith in God's promise.


Our God is a greatly forgiving God, as is written in Isaiah:


Isaiah 57:15-21 - For this is what the high and lofty One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me— the breath of man that I have created. I was enraged by his sinful greed; I punished him, and hid my face in anger, yet he kept on in his willful ways. I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him, creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel. Peace, peace, to those far and near," says the LORD. "And I will heal them." But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. "There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked."


What does this mean for us? It means that there is no one in all of earth's history who is beyond the grace of God. Just as there was nothing that even the best of us could do to make ourselves acceptable to God, for Paul writes in Romans that:


Romans 3:23 - For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God


So too, even the vilest, most evil person of whom we can conceive, or remember, can do nothing to make him/herself unacceptable to God. This does not mean that all who live will enter heaven for the bible clearly teaches that many will not, but it does mean that anyone who wishes to be saved may be saved in spite of the evil that they have done. The only reason that any of us here today have a hope of entering the kingdom of God is through grace; again as Paul writes that:


Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Eternal life is a gift! Just like the gifts which we receive at our birthdays or other special days. A gift, according to one definition, is "a favour with which one receives without any merit of his own, " or, according to an other, a "voluntary transfer or conveyance of property made without consideration or compensation." We receive this gift from God, because:


1 John 4:8 - God is love


There was nothing we could have done to receive it of our own merit. It was not something owed to us by God for work which we had done and therefore an obligation on His part towards us. Eternal life is ours because God saw our awful condition and, being filled with love for us, set a plan in motion by which, through faith in Jesus Christ, we might each be saved. Just as Abraham was declared righteous because he believed the promise of God so are we declared righteous if we believe the promise that God has made to us:


Romans 10:13 - For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.


That means that if every soul alive upon the earth this morning were at this very instant to fall on their knees and yield themselves to Jesus Christ, each one would be saved! Regardless of what sins lay in their past! This is the kind of God we serve, the kind of God in Whom we believe. A God Whose grace extends from the highest One in heaven to the lowest one on earth.


Paul, who at one point in his life murdered those who believed in Jesus, goes on to say that whatever might at one time have been counted gain in his life he considered less than rubbish when compared to the glory of knowing Christ:


Philippians 3:1-9 - Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ— the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.


What Paul was bold enough to say here is that, while according to the law he was righteous, his righteousness through the law was nothing because it was not the righteousness which is founded upon Jesus Christ. Paul himself believes that he was saved by grace alone.


My righteousness before God, like that of Paul and Abraham and every other Christian, is of grace by necessity for I, while yet a sinner living in sin would never have desired the righteousness that now I treasure. This is important to understand for many around us, with whom we work, and eat, and play, also have no desire to meet with God, they have no desire to be righteous before Him. Remember this as you speak with them of the faith that saves you. No one of us will ever be able to convert our fellow man, we are merely instruments bearing the good news and relying upon God, through the Holy Spirit, to convict those to whom we speak. Paul writes in Philippians that although he planted and Apollos watered: 


1 Corinthians 3:6 - God made it grow.


And again in Acts, where the church is just beginning to grow beyond those who experienced close fellowship with Jesus Christ, we read that:


Acts 2:47 - The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.


It is imperative for us to realize that it is God who saves not I, not you, not even Billy Graham. And it is wonderful to rely upon Him to cause His church to increase and to see those who He calls to Him by His grace. Grace is entirely undeserved but too often we look on others and attempt to conceive how they merit salvation. They don't and we don't. We all get it, free!


This week I ask you to be encouraged as you speak of God with those with whom you've spoke of Him time and time again. Remember that you are not alone in your ministry, God is with you and if you let Him He will guide you to be the most effective evangelist you can be. Constantly remember that it is grace that has saved you and it is only grace that will save those with whom you speak.