Grace has become a common word in Christianity today -- almost too common. We say it so much that we are beginning to trivialize it and forget what it means. So join Stephen in Romans chapter 5 as the Apostle Paul reminds us why grace is so amazing.
In his book entitled, The Finishing Touch, Chuck Swindoll asked the reader if they’ve ever thought about the implications of being satisfied with something less than excellence – whether it is in business or education or science or medicine. He wrote, “thanks to Natalie Gabal, I awoke to a whole new awareness of what would happen if 99.9% were considered good enough. If that were true, her research concluded, then this year alone, 2 million documents would be lost by the IRS; 291 pacemaker operations would be performed incorrectly; 20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions would be written out, and 12 babies would be given to the wrong parents every single day.
The truth is, we don’t experience 100% perfection out of life. Babies have been handed to the wrong parents; pacemakers sometimes fail to work; the IRS actually does lose some documents.
Swindoll went on to make a comparison between what we expect out of life, but never get, with what God has done for believers when He declared us righteous. He justifies us – declaring us righteous, 100%. Now remember, justification does not mean you are righteous, because every day you sin. Justification does mean that God declares you righteous and He wipes every sin off your record – every sin you committed before salvation and after salvation.”
“Anything less than 100% justification and we cannot be declared righteous . . . we’d be almost righteous. Isaiah 1:18 would need to read, “Come now and let us reason together’, says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be [not white as snow, but] light pink.’” And when Jesus breathed His last, He would have said, “It is almost finished.” And we would have to keep working at it, adding to something that Christ evidently didn’t finish at the cross.”
Charles R. Swindoll, The Finishing Touch (Word Publishing), 1994, p. 38
Justified means we are forgiven, 100%. Our hearts and souls are like fresh fallen snow, the stain of our sin is forever washed away.
And according to the word of God, that’s just the beginning of what does for those He justifies!
In Romans chapter 5 and verse one we discovered that peace was a perfect gift from God, given to those who believe in the peace treaty Who hung, 2,000 years ago, on a cross.
In the very next verse, the Apostle Paul delivers the news that we have been given another perfect gift from God...the gift of grace.
Notice what he says, beginning with in verse 1, of Romans chapter 5. Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2. through whom also we have obtained our introduction (some translate it, we have access) by faith into this grace in which we stand.
You need to understand that this right of access to God was revolutionary to the early New Testament believers.
The Jews and the Gentiles weren’t accustomed to access in their worship – they were accustomed to distance. They were familiar with a series of barricades, not bridges as they came to worship God.
The temple was designed in Jerusalem with several walled courtyards and access was denied to more and more people as you moved from the outer courtyard toward the interior.
The first wall divided the Courtyard of the Gentiles from the interior. The Gentiles could only come to the first perimeter of the temple. There were signs that they if the went beyond that wall, they would be executed. The Roman government even upheld this death penalty. There are two signs that have been excavated and are even today displayed in museums – signs that once hung on that outer temple wall warning the Gentiles that they could pass no further.
Only Jews could pass beyond.
But then, a second wall confronted the Jews. This wall divided the Courtyard of the Women from the Courtyard of the Men. Here all Jewish women had to stop.
And beyond that was another wall with golden doors, and only priests could enter and then beyond that a curtain that separated the Holy of Holies and God’s presence from the priests. Only the High Priest could enter briefly and only once a year.
But Jesus Christ, the last Lamb, paid the complete offering for sin, which separated man from the presence of God.
And after He cried on that cross, “It is finished,” that curtain suddenly ripped in half by invisible hands – from the top down to the bottom – signifying that the hand of God had removed the ultimate barricade and mankind – men and women, boys and girls, can now intimately, personally worship Him.
What incredible truth! Peter delivered the breathtaking news that every believer is now a priest (1 Peter 2:9);
no longer is there the need for a representative . . .
no longer is there a need for a human mediator . . .
no longer is there a need for a confessor.
All believers are now priests themselves. Every believer can worship God immediately, continuously, personally, intimately, transparently.
This was precious truth to the Roman believers. So radically different and new.
This is what the reformers called the individual priesthood of the believer.
No more walls to keep us away from the inner sanctum. No more barriers . . . only one Bridge . . . one mediator, Jesus Christ Himself.
The Orthodox church prays to God through their patron saints; the Catholic church prays to God through Mary.
I have friends in these kinds of churches – and they all tell me the same story – that if you wanted your earthly father to give you something you would most likely go to your mother or a close friend and have them ask for you and then you’re more likely to get it.
My answer is always the same. Suppose I was your friend or maybe even a relative or yours, and your children were hungry and thirsty and they came to me and said, “Please go and ask our father to give us something to eat.” How would you feel if your children didn’t come directly to you to ask? What kind of father would that make you? What kind of relationship would that reveal?
Our Heavenly Father is no less offended – that we would ever go to someone else and ask them to ask Him to grant us what He already knows we need and waits to hear our requests.
There are now thousands of protestants today who naively hoping their needs will be heard in heaven through televangelists and pastors who claim to have God’s true anointing and if you’ll send your prayer requests to them, along with a little money, they’ll lay their anointed hands on your requests and God will really pay attention to you now!
Is your right to worship something to be bought?!
Listen very carefully . . . one of the key, revealing characteristics of false religion and false teachers is that they violate the doctrinal truth of the individual priesthood of the believer.
In other words, their religion teaches that for you, the ordinary believer, there are still walls that stand between you and God. And they have a special connection – and you just need to come and confess through them or make your requests through them and God will finally listen.
1 Timothy 2:5 says that Jesus Christ is only mediator between God and man.
Hebrews 12:24 says that Jesus Christ is the mediator of the new covenant.
Paul says here in Romans 5:2 that Jesus Christ, has provided direct, personal access . . . my translation reads, [He has given us] our introduction into this grace.
This word, “introduction,” is a very special word that, in the original language, referred to being personally introduced to royalty.
Erwin Lutzer, the pastor of Moody Church, wrote about this verse in one of his books I have in my library. He talked about speaking in a conference in Washington and in the audience was a member of the Presidents secret service detail. He came up and asked if Dr. Lutzer and his family wanted to tour the White House and the Oval office, since President Bush was out of town. They agreed. The next morning they met at one of the gates at the White House. Lutzer wrote, “When we stopped at the first guard station, one of my daughters offered her purse to the officer for inspection, but he waved her on. “You are with him,” he said, nodding to the agent, “go on in.” Then, as we entered the White House, we met another assembly of guards. They looked at the agent, glanced at us, and said, “You are with him, go on in.”
The analogy is obvious.
We shudder when we realize the awesome holiness of our eternal God who is high and holy. We know we are sinful creatures and surely some angelic sentinel will obstruct our communion with God the Father. Surely the Father Himself will send us away – but He looks at the one who has brought us near and the message is clear – “You’re with Him . . . the worthy Lamb, my son, the Savior – come on in.”
And just think of that future day, when we die and are ushered toward that magnificent city – whose gates are pearls and walls are jasper and streets are shimmering gold – and the glory of God is the brilliant light of heaven – could we ever dare get past the angels who, Revelation 20 says are assigned to each of the 12 gates and who, in their entirety number in the tens of millions – could we ever hope to enter in – those angelic sentinels turn their blazing eyes toward us as we swoop down toward those everlasting gates and they will see Him, the One who introduced us to grace; the one who gave us access to heaven and now access into heaven – they will look at us and see Him and say, “Oh, you are with Him . . . come on in.”
Quoted/adapted from Erwin Lutzer, Ten Lies About God (Word Publishing), 2000, p. 38.
Amen? I know you’re out there.
I think the Apostle Paul, who was dictating this letter to Tertius, his friend and scribe, is pacing back and forth, clapping his hands at the thought of it, think of it Tertius, “. . . we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult – or shout with joy – in hope of the glory of God.”
I’ll bet Tertius said, “I gotta stop a minute, and get up and walk around on that one – oh man! I’ll bet they had a praise service right then and there.
Paul has revealed that believers have been introduced to the grace of God, but I want to point out, secondly, that we are to be, not only introduced to the grace of God, but, 2) Impacted by the Grace of God.
Notice he says in verse 2 that we, “have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand.”
The Bible often talks about the believer “standing,” each verse gives us a little different nuance through the different derivatives of the Greek word, isthmi (histemi).
Paul writes in Romans 11:20 – that “we stand by our faith.”
Romans 14:4 – “for the Lord is able to make him stand.”
I Corinthians 15:1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand.
2 Cor. 1: 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm.
Eph. 6:11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
Col 4: 12 Epaphras . . . sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.
1 Peter 5:12 I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!
It’s interesting that both believers and unbelievers are said to be standing before God at some point or another.
To the believer Jude’s little letter writes in verse 24. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy
But to the unbeliever, the Bible warns in Rev. 20:12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
In other words, one day the believers will stand before God with great joy; the unbelievers will stand before God with great judgment.
To every one of you today, what’ll it be? Will you stand with joy? Or in judgment!
Today it is not too late to ask Christ for your pardon and be saved from hell and the judgment of God and join those of us who believe in His Son and have found in Him the promise of everlasting joy.
Now when Paul used the word for “stand” in Romans 5:2 – he was not talking about some sort of new strength or commitment – he was talking about the believer’s new status.
He’s literally talking about our state – we were once living in the status or state of law – now we are living in the status or the state of grace!
Can you imagine being asked, “Say, what state do you live in? And answering, “I live in the state of grace.”
Let me apply this verse by giving you two challenges that emerge from this great statement:
- Grace is your new status – your new state, so enjoy it!
So what’s it like to live in the state of grace. It’s a lot like living in the state of North Carolina.
We have our state borders, our charter, our seal, our statutes. We even have our own accent and unique style of barbecue.
If you live in the state of North Carolina, you pay taxes to this state – and not any other state. You respect the laws of this state and the ordinances that are unique.
You watch the weather channel and want them to hurry up and talk about this state. . .your state.
You live here and work here and go to school here. You’re a resident of this state.
You cheer for the sports teams of this state – I’m a Carolina Hurricanes fan . . . first of all because one of its players goes to church here – that got me started – I couldn’t believe two nights ago when they played the New Jersey Devils, a team appropriately named – the referee got in the way of our defenseman, and New Jersey scored. Did you see that? It was unbelievable . . . it was unlawful . . . it was probably ungodly too!
I have three teenagers – one’s a Carolina fan, one’s a State fan, and my oldest daughter who is 15 has become a Duke fan (I take it you’re from Wake Forest); she’s even got a sweatshirt that says “DUKE” on the front . . . we’re looking into a foster home for her!
We’re wondering where we went wrong.
You live in the state of grace:
- you cheer for the advancements of grace;
- you invest money in the efforts of grace;
- you watch the news and interpret it in the light of grace;
- you love nothing more than the fact that your status is
- membership in the community and fellowship of grace!
There’s another challenge.
- Grace is your new spirit . . . so express it!
The word access or introduction has another nuance in the Greek language. . .it was used in late Greek for the place where ships came in, a harbor or a haven where they could safely stay out of the tempest.
William Barclay, The Letters to the Romans, (Westminster Press) 1975, p. 73.
Is that the description of the believer – are we safe harbors for others who need shelter?
Is the church a haven for those who’ve come in from the storm?
Do people come in here and breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that here, they will find grace.
- Is this a place where gossip is replaced with words of grace?
- Is this a place where giving people the benefit of the doubt is the rule instead of the rare exception?
- Is this the place where everyone else considers the other person to be more important than themselves?
Frankly, we’re not sure we’re really up to that kind of grace are we?
The truth is, most of us are prone to understand what the anonymous poet wrote about when he wrote those humorous lines that say it all:
To dwell above with saints we love,
That will be grace and glory.
But to live below with the saints we know,
Well . . .that’s another story.
Paul wrote in Romans 12, “Love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy in your work but serve the Lord enthusiastically. Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and prayerful. When God’s children are in need, you be the one to help them out.” (TLB)
There is no way that can happen without the supernatural impact of God’s grace on the lives of us all who are then willing to express it.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are not standing in grace because we deserve it. And we do not act with grace toward others because they deserve it. If they deserved it, it wouldn’t be grace, for grace is unmerited, undeserved favor.
Because of God’s grace, Jesus Christ became a servant to meet your deepest needs – are you a servant of others or are you waiting to be served?
You have been totally forgiven . . . do you forgive others?
You have been granted mercy . . . do you offer mercy to others?
You have been given undeserved honor . . . do you honor others?
Grace is your new status . . . enjoy it.
Grace is your new spirit . . . express it.
Like the grace of that little boy I read about who was going to be in his elementary school play. His entire 2nd grade class would be involved in some way in the play, but his mother was worried nonetheless because she knew he might not get a speaking part. He was so excited about the play. She didn’t want to see him disappointed either and so she waited for him as he arrived home from school the day they announced who was playing the part of what. He came in all smiles and said, “Mom, I have been chosen to applaud.”
What would the church be if people came, ready to applaud and cheer somebody on?!
Sunday ought to look more like a pep rally than a funeral procession.
We ought to have the choir break out some pom poms periodically – wouldn’t that be a sight?!
That would really confirm the wild rumors about Colonial.
I talked to a couple who’ve been coming for several weeks now, they hesitated to come because of some rumors they had heard. One was that if you wanted to join this church you had to disclose a full financial statement to the elders – showing what you made and how much you were going to give. After they visited for 4 or 5 weeks, a friend of theirs asked them, “Where ya going to church?” They said, “Colonial.” He said, “Oh I wouldn’t go there . . . they’re dancing in the aisles over there.” Dancing in the aisles?! We’re trying to get people to sing above a murmur; we haven’t had to hold anybody down yet.
It would be nice if somebody accused us of having too much joy.
They smile too much over there . . . you’re not supposed to laugh in church. I don’t know why they’re so happy!
I’d love that rumor to get around.
So would the Apostle who wrote, “Don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as some have; but come, ready to provoke one another (yea we know how to do that alright) The word provoke is parakalew - to put courage into another . . . to literally cheer on one another to love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:25)
Why all the joy? Because believers have escaped the judgment for one thing. And because they have received some incredible gifts.
Like this one! We have been introduced to grace and we have been impacted by this grace. We now live in the state of grace and we have the spirit of grace . . . and we rejoice in the hope we have in the glory of God.
So . . . cheer up everybody . . . and cheer somebody else on!
Well, what are you waiting for? There’s somebody sitting near you in need of a good cheer. Find out who they are, how you can pray for them and welcome them to this family of grace.
Then, after you’ve talked to them a few minutes, we’ll sing.
You know there’s going to be a rumor out there that the ladies in our choir wear cheerleading outfits and wave pom poms – that our tenors do back flips on the stage during the offertory. Let ‘em believe it.
Let’s sing about the amazing grace of God.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
What great lyrics . . . written by a man who never fully recovered from his conversion. Filled with joy . . . overwhelmed by the grace of God . . . sing that stanza one more time . . .
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.