Romans 5: 12 – 19
Paul writes in his letter to the Roman Church: How much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
God’s Grace! A word we Christians often use. It can be seen as a theological buzz word. A word that we use without thinking extensively of its meaning.
The Apostle Paul exalts and dwells upon the riches of Grace. He magnified it in his own experience. He speaks of Grace in the calling of the Gentiles to Christianity and closes most of his epistles or letters with a pronouncement of “grace” to his readers. Many of our meetings or worship services are adjourned with his most famous summation: The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all ever more.
Grace! What is grace? Someone one said:
Grace stands for “God’s righteousness at Christ’s expense.”
Grace is the free, undeserved acts of mercy.
It is the amazing revelation that God’s salvation comes to sinful man freely, generously and undeserved.
It is God’s gift of salvation.
It is the whole motive and manner in the program of redemption.
Grace, not for what is rendered, for it is nothing that we can do to earn salvation, but rather the grace of God is given as a free gift; whose source is the God who became a servant, to bring us salvation. For Paul writes that we are saved by grace.
In 1983 a Hispanic worker crossed over the border illegally from Mexico into the United States. He went to work at a local ranch for $3.35 an hour. The local rancher began to cheat the migrant worker and after several months of being paid only one-half of what he was promised, he got fed up and sought help from the local authorities. When the department of Labour Relations in Los Angeles discovered his grievance, it extended protection to him. The department did not judge whether his immigrant status was right or wrong; the department felt that undocumented workers enjoy the same protection as legal citizens in wage and hourly laws.
How similar, it is in the Kingdom of God, when we speak of Grace. We are born rebels, against spiritual discipline, we have no claim on God’s mercy; any more than an illegal worker should be able to claim protection from the laws of the country that he entered illegally. Yet at first appeal, mercy is given. God moves to help at the first request for forgiveness. God grants it. It’s all due to GRACE. Jesus sought us, and we are found. He took the initiative. We do not deserve to be part of the Kingdom, but God is willing to give us legal status. We simply are asked to respond.
Karl Barth once said:
“There is no grace without the Lordship and claim of grace. It is not enough to just accept Jesus Christ as Saviour. We must also acknowledge him as Lord and follow him as our example and pattern for our lives. Such discipleship does not earn salvation, but is a reminder that we must walk in the light as well as believe in the light, lest the darkness overtake us. Through grace we are summoned not only to accept the cross of Christ for our salvation; but we are also summoned to carry the cross that he places upon us, that we may see the vocation to which God calls each one of us. If we reject or ignore this divine command, our vocation will be aborted and our salvation will thereby be emptied of any kind of meaning.”
We are not only an object of grace but a participant in grace, this entails an experience of salvation and heartfelt repentance for sin. For we are justified not by grace plus experience, or grace plus obedience, or grace plus good works, but we are saved by grace alone.
Kierkegaard, the twentieth century theologian/ philosopher, wrote:
Christianity’s demand is this: your life, exerted to the limit should express works. [However] One thing more is demanded, that you humble yourself and confess; But for all that, I am saved by grace. As we read in Ephesians: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your doing, it is the gift of God, not because of works, lest any man should boast.
There is a story of a father who lived on the east coast and his son who took up residence on the other side of the country. The father did not see his son very often because of distance, but he cherished the letters and correspondence that he received from time to time from this distant son. Each Christmas the Father took time out of his busy schedule to look for the perfect gift that he could send to his son. He would begin the search months in advance and He looked and looked until he found just the right gift. Then he took great care and pride in finding just the right wrapping paper and he wrapped this present with love and special attention for this was to be that special gift to a son whom he loves dearly.
The day came when he sent the parcel off to the West coast. He once more took great care that the parcel would not break and had the proper postage on it and it would arrive on time.
He felt so proud as he sent the gift to his son whom he knew would think it was as special as he did. The father never heard from the son as to whether he even received the gift. He waited and waited with nothing being said. No response at all!
The Father decided that it had been years since they were together and it was time to go and visit his son on the west coast. He booked his flight; and as planned his son picked the father up at the airport and they had a great visit on the way to the son’s home. Upon arrival at the home the son said that he had a special meeting taking place at the office and he would return as soon as possible but for the father to make himself at home. The father began to look around the house to see if he could see the special present that he so graciously sent. He looked in the living room. Thinking that a gift of this nature would be placed in a place of honour in the home, but it was nowhere to be seen. Maybe in the kitchen, or dining room, again nothing. Maybe in the bedroom; and again nothing. The father gave up looking for the gift. He began to place his clothes in the clothes closet in the guest room; and as he opened the door, there stood the present at the back of the closet, still exactly like it had been sent. The package had never been opened. The son never saw the special gift. He never knew what awaited him. The son had never bothered to look inside the package to see what special gift was there to be discovered.
How much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
Our heavenly Father has sent us a special gift, the gift of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we leave Jesus at the back of our closet; never opening the package to see what the gift has in store for us. The gift of salvation is a free gift of God, given through his son Jesus Christ. However, we have to respond and open the gift and accept what our heavenly Father has sent to us. He sought us and we are found. He took the initiative. We simply need to respond. With the coming of Jesus, a completely new factor emerged into our world. The life of grace, the righteousness of God and peace with God. This is the gift we need to respond to. This is the gift we need to open and accept!
For how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by grace of this one man Jesus Christ, overflow to the many. Grace overflows to you and overflows to me but we need to respond.
I close with the words of Paul to the Ephesians: “Grace be with all who have an undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Rev. Merv Lanctot
Faith grows in the soil of hope