Sunday Sermon: ‘Salvation by Grace Through Faith in Jesus Christ’ (Salvation Series)

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Before we delve into our primary passage for today, I want to take us back for a moment to our study last week. Perhaps some of you remember that it was the story of Zacchaeus.

Luke 19:1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. 4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house. 6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. 8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. 9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

The people couldn’t understand why Jesus would speak to someone as sinful as Zacchaeus. The text says that he was a tax collector which means that he was probably dishonest and hung around the wrong kind of people. The people called Zacchaeus ‘a sinner’ and no doubt he was.

So why did Jesus reach out to a man like this? Even more, why did Jesus request to be a guest in his home for the evening? Jesus answered that question in verse 10 – “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Jesus came to seek and to save men like Zacchaeus. What does it mean to be saved? Literally it means to be rescued from perishing or destruction. Jesus knew that unless He intervened in the life of Zacchaeus, one day Zacchaeus was going to stand before God, accountable for all the sins he had ever committed. Afterwards he was going to be condemned to spend eternity in a place called Hell. (see Revelation 20:11-15) Jesus came to rescue Zacchaeus from eternal destruction. It is with these thoughts that I now turn our attention to Ephesians, chapter 2.

Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

This morning I want to share with you four things about Zacchaeus as revealed to us in this passage from Ephesians.

I.  Zacchaeus Was Dead 

The first thing I would call to you attention was that Zacchaeus was dead in his sins.

Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins…

Notice that Paul says that before someone comes to Christ, they are dead in their sins. What does it mean to be dead in our sins? God told Adam and Eve that in the day they ate of the forbidden fruit, they would die. As we know, they ate of the fruit, yet they didn’t die for hundreds of years later. Was God mistaken or is there more than one way to die? Though Adam and Eve didn’t die physically until many years later, they died spiritually the moment they sinned against God. What does it mean to die spiritually and how do we know that Adam and Eve died that way that day?

Before Adam and Eve sin, they communed with God on a daily basis. Apparently they met day in the garden. But once they ate of the fruit, rather than running to God, they ran from God. “Where art thou Adam?” God called out. Where was Adam? The Bible says that he was hiding from God. (see Genesis 3:8-11) Why were Adam and Eve hiding from God? They were hiding from God because they were as scripture says, ‘alienated from the life of God.’ (see Ephesians 4:18) They were as Paul says in Ephesians 2, dead in their trespasses and sins.

The Bible says – “your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2) Sin separates us from God. The Bible says – “The wages of sin (the result of sin) is death…” (see Romans 6:23) Sin always brings death.That was true from Adam and Eve. That was true for Zacchaeus. That is true for each of us as well. Before we come to Christ, we are dead in our trespasses and sins. 

II. Zacchaeus Was Disobedient

Ephesians 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

People who are spiritually dead do not try to live for God. They live against God. Paul calls us the ‘children of disobedience’ which means that we are rebellion against God.

The people called Zacchaeus a sinner and they were right; he was. And so are we. The Bible says,

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…

Though some of us may be more sinful in some ways than others, the Bible says that “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (see Romans 3:10) No one will be able to stand before God one day and declare their worthiness to enter into heaven. No one will be able to say to God, “Look at me. Look at how righteous I am.” The Bible says that “every mouth will be silenced and the whole world stand accountable to God.” (see Romans 3:19)

III. Zacchaeus Was Doomed

What would have eventually happened to Zacchaeus if Jesus had not reach out to him? Paul said-

Ephesians 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.                                                          

Paul says that we ‘were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.’ Paul tells us in the book of Romans – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…” (Romans 1:18)

This doesn’t paint a very pretty picture of God. It almost makes God seem mean and cruel and someone to hate rather than to love. But before you turn completely against God, consider these verses of scripture.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

IV. Zacchaeus Was Delivered

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

I am so glad that verse 4 begins with ‘But God…’ Though we deserve to be punished for our sins, God made a way for us to be delivered. There are four great words in these verses that will help us understand what Paul is trying to teach us.

A. God is Rich in Mercy

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy…

What is mercy? Many define God’s mercy as His willingness to withhold the judgment we deserve. Though God has every right to hold us accountable for all of our sins and to judge us, God reaches out to us with mercy.

David understood the greatness of God’s mercy. Scripture says that David committed a terrible sin with another man’s wife and afterwards he had her husband killed in order to try to cover up his sin. But then David experienced great guilt for his sin and though he knew that he deserved to be judged, he pleaded with God for mercy. “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.” (Psalm 51:1) Did God show David mercy and forgive him of his sins? David also wrote – “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them…” (Psalm 32:1-2)

Will God show us mercy when we don’t deserve it? We read from the book of Psalms – “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” (Psalm 103:8)

B. God is Great in Love

The reason God is rich in mercy is because He is great in love. John tells us that ‘God is love’ (see 1 John 4:8, 16) and love flows from the heart of God like water from a well. (see 1 John 4:7)

Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans – “God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (see Romans 5:8) Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:8) God demonstrated the greatness of His love two thousand years ago when He sent His Son to this world to be our Savior. We read from the gospel of John – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (see John 3:16-17)

 C. God is Gracious to the Undeserving

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

The word ‘grace’ is a very important word and it is used over 150 times in the Bible. What is grace?

1. What Grace is Not

Grace is not the freedom to live anyway we please. Grace is not the liberty to sin. Consider what Jude writes concerning those who try to use grace as a license to sin –

Jude 1:4 … ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

Jude says that when a professing believer deliberately lives in sin, they are perverting the purpose of God’s grace and are denying Jesus Christ as their Lord.

2. What Grace Is

What is grace? Perhaps the simplest definition of God’s grace is God’s willingness to help those who don’t deserve His help. Grace is God’s love and mercy in action. Some have said that God’s mercy is God withholding from us what we deserve, and grace is God giving to us what we don’t deserve. What do we not deserve? We don’t deserve God’s forgiveness.

What is the reason God is willing to be gracious to sinful men? I believe that Paul gives the best definition of the purpose of grace in the book of Titus.

Titus 2: 11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

a. God’s Grace is For the Purpose of Bringing Salvation to Those Who Are Dead

b. God’s Grace is For the Purpose of Bringing Transformation to Those Who Are Disobedient

c. God’s Grace is For the Purpose of Bringing Hope to Those Who Are Otherwise Doomed

Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

There’s at least one more reason that we could add to this list.

d. God’s Grace is For the Purpose of Bringing Glory to Himself

Ephesians 1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

CONCLUSION

We don’t deserve God’s love, mercy and grace. We deserved to be judged and punished for our sins. Yet God does love us and He desires for us to be saved.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

What is faith? Faith is one of those great words in the Bible that keeps going deeper and deeper in its meaning. On the surface faith means to believe that something is true. But then when we peel back a layer we see that faith not only means that we believe that it is true, but we are fully persuaded. But then as we peel back yet another layer we see that faith means that we are so persuaded that it is true that we place our trust in it. But there is yet another layer. The very root meaning of the word faith means that we obey what we are persuaded to be the truth. True faith affects how we live and act.

Do you believe what the Bible says that you are a sinner who deserves to be punished? Do you believe that Jesus, God’s Son, came and died on the cross in your place and that in His body, He received the wrath that you and I deserve? Have you placed your faith and trust in Him as your Savior? Have you committed your life to now follow Him as your Lord? If not, I invite you to do so today.

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