We are continuing our new series titled “We Believe” as we have been talking about the 8 core beliefs of our church as outlined in our statement of faith. Two weeks ago, week I began the series and talked about the scripture or Bible and how it is inerrant, inspired, and trustworthy. We concluded that God’s Word is a peek at who God is as He is revealed in scripture and it is the final authority to the Christian faith and life. Last week I talked about the Trinity. I was not able to comprehensively describe the Trinity, but we did look at multiple passages to prove that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are in fact one. They have the same essence, but different distinctions (roles).
This week I am going to talk about our third core belief which is, “We believe the only way a person can have a true, forgiven relationship with God is through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.” To simplify this statement, we will be talking specifically about the core doctrine of salvation.
Luther: By grace alone. By faith alone.
In the sixteenth century the reformation broke out with an intensity that could not be stopped, and eventually Protestantism was born and shattered the papal leadership of western Christianity. In 1520 a papal bull was drafted and circulated throughout Germany searching for a remote figure to excommunicate. The document states, “Arise O Lord and judge they cause. A wild boar has invaded Thy vineyard.” This referenced wild boar was named Martin Luther. Luther is one of the most important individuals in protestant church history. It is through his study, prayer, and teaching that he has proven that the salvation of the believer is an act of grace by God through faith in God. You may have heard the phrases, “Sola Fide” and “Sola Gratia”… By faith alone and by grace alone. These were the foundations that Luther stood upon as opposed the teaching of indulgences as was promoted and endorsed by the Catholic. These two phrases are two of five sola responses for the reformation and these two are extremely important doctrines in Protestantism today. Why? Because they teach contrary to the heresy of indulgences (paying the church to be absolved of past sins to get to heaven) and showing that salvation can only be attained by grace alone through faith alone. Luther saw that man is saved by his faith in the merit of Christ’s sacrifice and not man’s merits. The cross alone is the only way to remove humanities sin and set them free from the grasps of the devil. This was in sharp contrast to the Catholic Churches doctrine of salvation by faith and good works. The implications from teaching sola fide and sole gratia were massive. Because, if salvation comes through faith in Christ alone, then the intercession of priests is unnecessary. Faith formed and nurtured by Scripture, and preached by people, makes that monks, the mass, and prayers to the saints pointless. Thus, the power and influence of the Catholic church crumbles under the doctrines of sola fide and sole gratia.
I give this as background for the message today. In talking about salvation some people still don’t have fully grasp this doctrine and the important roles faith and grace play in it. Many people have migrated from the Catholic church to Protestantism and still fall into the bondage of works related redemption. My goal and purpose for this message is to show the biblical truths of salvation by grace through faith by looking at Ephesians 2:1 – 10.
THE LIVING DEAD
Ephesians 2: 1 – 10: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins 2 in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient. 3 We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, 5 made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! 6 He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.”
Vs1: We are all born into sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are all sinners and the wage or the penalty we must pay is death, according to Romans 6:23. Since the wage of sin is death, and we are all born into sin, then the natural conclusion is that we are doomed from the get-go. The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:1, “and you were dead in your trespasses and sin.” Before you or I ever came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ we walked in spiritual deadness. We were enslaved to sin, oblivious to our wicked ways, and we were literally dead people walking… Zombies of sorts. We had a shell of existence, but we were not alive.
Vs 2 - 3: We were subject to the ways of the world and we walked according to them. We were in bondage to sin; the world system and we followed the ways of the Prince of the Powers of the air…Satan. Think about that for a moment… (Reflect back on your life before you became a follower of Jesus). When I think back on my life, I see how I lived only for myself and walked according to my selfish ways. I had no cares about the ways of God nor his people. I had no moral boundaries; I had no sense of right or wrong; I only did what I felt was right in my own eyes and did only what brought me pleasure. I was dead in my sins.
Here, we are reminded in Ephesians 2 that we ALL at one point in our lives lived according to the ways of sin, death, and destruction. Maybe some of you are still living according to the flesh (which is not living at all) today. If so, I aim to address this a little bit later.
Vs 4 - 7: If our story ended here it would be a sad and hopeless story indeed. There would be no “and he/she lived happily ever after”. This would be a purposeless story to tell. If there is no hope, then there is no purpose. However, in verses 4 & 5 we encounter one of many big “Buts” that are found in the Bible. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead trespasses. You are saved by grace.” These are key verses; here is where everything changes for those of us who believe.
God is merciful; and mercy is one of his attributes. We are told in 2:4 that God is rich in mercy (he has an abundance of mercy: not getting what you deserve) and because of his love (through Jesus Christ) for us He has made us alive. The dead have now become the living. God brought us to life with Christ or ‘he caused us to live again together with Christ’ We are made alive because of and through Jesus.
Vs 6: However, we aren’t just given life (which is more than we deserve) “He also raised us up with him AND seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus.” As if being raised to life wasn’t enough, God has lifted us up and seated us with Christ. We are not just alive we are FULLY ALIVE! When we are fully alive in Christ our lives are affected positively in all ways. It changes our relationship with God, it affects who we are (our purpose), how we live (in obedience), our marriages, how we love our families, and how we treat our friends and enemies (earthly relationships). We go from death to life.
Did God have to do this? Is He required to give us life? No! He gives us life only because of grace and because of his love for us. He gave us life through Jesus. This is a display of His abundance of mercy.
Think even more about this; when you were dead in your sinfulness and living without Christ that this did not change the fact that God in his abundant mercy still gave His life for us. God’s love is never ending, Jesus didn’t die on the cross based upon who you are, or what your response to Him would be, He gave his life so humanity could have the opportunity to be made fully alive in Christ Jesus.
Vs. 8 - 10: “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.”
Paul reminds us why God does all of this. It is true He is rich in mercy, however the reason why we even have the opportunity to receive life is simply a matter of grace or God’s unmerited favor shown to undeserving humanity. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve, it is a gift. We are saved by grace. We don’t deserve to be saved; we deserve hell. We deserve death. We do not deserve anything good. By God’s unmerited favor shown to those who believe do not receive what they deserve, hell and death and instead receive that which is good, eternal life. God provided a way. It is THE gift from God.
Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.”
We receive life by grace through faith. We do well when we realize that our salvation is not based upon what we do (works). If you think you are getting on God’s “nice list” by attending church, giving an offering and enduring through a painfully boring sermon then you are gravely mistaken. You might want to pack up and leave now, because what you will hear next will surely offend. We have received life based upon what Christ did for us (His grace) not based on ANYTHING you do or did.
When we are called by God it was because He first loved us, not vice versa. Our response to Him is based upon our conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit that leads us to the realization that we are indeed sinful, decrepit, and in need of a savior. God calls us to receive His gift of grace, Jesus Christ, but unfortunately not all do respond to Him in the way He so desires.
Salvation is a gift from God by grace (unmerited favor) through faith (an uncompromised belief that Jesus is Lord of all and completely trusting in Him in all ways). If salvation was based upon our works, there would be room to boast, thus taking away the glory of God and His gift of grace, and in turn it would make us prideful and arrogant. If we could be saved by our works, then the cross of Christ would have been for no reason.
Now we are told in verse 10 that works are important. In fact, we are told that we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. Good works are important, as a believer (I have established this over the years); for the Bible tells us that our good works are the fruit or evidence of our relationship with Christ. God has called us to good works, and we must do good works. But we need a constant reminder that our works will not save us or make us righteous before God. Salvation is only through faith in Christ by grace that we can be in right with Him.
So, as I conclude this message, I have one question to ask, “Are you fully alive in Christ or are you still dead in your trespasses?” God’s grace, love and mercy for you is so great that He has offered you life instead of death. Through Jesus Christ you can now have a new life. He has a life offered where you can be fully alive, thriving and in need of nothing because the Spirit of God dwells in you. The old ways; the sinful, dark ungodly ways are gone, and you no longer have to live in the murky dark waters of the world. You can now live in the fresh waters of Jesus Christ; victorious over sin, darkness and evil and thriving in the Kingdom of God and sharing the Good News that Jesus has come and His Kingdom has come.
Life will try and beat you down but take comfort and security in the knowing that nothing that comes your way can defeat you or hold you down in this life or in the life to come, because Jesus has defeated death and sin.
 Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (262). New York: United Bible Societies.
We are continuing in our new series titled “We Believe” as we are looking at the 8 core beliefs of our church as outlined in our statement of faith. Last week I talked about the scripture or Bible and it is inerrant, inspired, and trustworthy. We concluded that God’s Word is a peek at who God is as He is revealed in scripture and it is the final authority to the Christian faith and life.
This week I will talk about our second core belief which is, “We believe there is one God, and He has chosen to reveal Himself as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.” We know this core belief to be the doctrine of the Trinity. Now, I am going to be completely transparent in telling you that first, this doctrine is an extremely complex doctrine. Second, I am going to attempt to explain something that is very difficult and nearly impossible to explain simple way. My overall goal is to help you understand the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity that will help enhance your worship of God and help you live God honoring lives. I am not going to spend our time giving you cute and memorable ways to define, describe or understand the doctrine because one cannot do this in an effectively. I understand that people have tried using several analogies from nature, science or human experience to attempt to explain the doctrine and this may be helpful on an elementary level. For believers who seek to know God intimately these analogies are inadequate. I am guilty of using them in the past, so I am not scolding. However, to say that the Trinity is like a three-leaf clover, fails because each leaf is only part of the clover, and any one leaf cannot be said to be the whole clover. We will soon see that in the trinity each of the persons are not just a separate part of God, each person is fully God. The same applies with the analogies of water, steam, ice, and an egg.
So, are there any analogies we can use to teach the Trinity? This is an interesting question because the Bible uses numerous analogies to teach about God, Jesus, and the Spirit (God is like a rock, Jesus is the good shepherd, the Spirit is like a wind) and yet there are no analogies to properly teach this doctrine of the trinity other than Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and this is not helpful to many.
I am going to be honest by saying the personal application for this message may not be crystal clear or come in a nice and neatly wrapped package; in reality it may look more like a UPS package that was crushed under a heavy item in the back of the truck. However, my hope is that when I conclude this message you will have a better understanding of the Trinity and that we have seen some of the passages that will help us better understand the doctrine.
So, in talking about the trinity I am face with a great difficulty in adequately describing this doctrine. To say that this doctrine is incomprehensible, is to say nothing more than must be admitted of any other great truth, whether of revelation or of science. However, in its complexities we should not shy away from teaching it, as it is a foundational doctrine to Christianity and the Church. So let’s jump in the deep end.
The first complexity is in the word itself… It is not in the Bible, you can look for it until kingdom come and you will not find it, however, the doctrine of the trinity is evident throughout the Bible. The word trinity means “tri-unity” or three-in-oneness”. It is used to summarize the teaching of Scripture that God is three persons yet still one God. The numerous basic elements of the doctrine are stated, or assumed, over and over, from start to finish in the Bible. This simply means the doctrine of the trinity is found in the scriptures not by name, but in what it teaches and proves. There are collections of individual passages that make up and support the doctrine of the trinity, some of which we will look at in a little bit.
The second complexity is that the Bible as a whole teaches that there is one God in three persons. There is no argument that Christianity is a monotheistic religion, yet the trinity implies plurality.
We saw in my previous sermon series “The Ten Commandments” that there is only One God and there are no other gods beside Him. Deuteronomy 6:4 – 5 says, “Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one, Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
However, the Bible also teaches that our God is one God in three distinct persons… The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
So, we can conclude that God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all divine, inseparable, equal, and they share the same essence (according to J.I. Packer this is the “stuff” of deity, if we may dare to call it that). Thus, we see that the doctrine of the Trinity is present in the Bible, but it is not mentioned by name.
Now, we must be careful to not confuse the Trinity in the biblical truth that they all three share the same essence (“stuff of deity”), yet they are distinct (recognizably different in nature) in their roles played. The one God (“he”) is also, and equally, “they,” and “they” are always together (inseparable) and always cooperating, with the Father initiating, the Son complying, and the Spirit executing the will of both, which is his will also. The New Testament distinguishes between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and the Scriptures teach us not to confuse the three. They are distinct in that we do not put the Father or the Spirit on the cross, it was Jesus who hung on the cross. Also, it was the Spirit that Jesus breathed into the disciples, not God or himself. This is a great mystery because they are distinct and equal and yet we cannot truly wrap our brains around this reality.
According to the Scripture, the Father created the world, the Son created the world, and the Spirit created the world. It also teaches that the Father preserves all things; the Son upholds all things; and the Spirit is the source of all life. These facts are expressed by saying that the persons of the Trinity concur in all acts ad extra. Nevertheless, there are some acts which are predominantly referred to the Father, others to the Son, and others to the Spirit. The Father creates, elects, and calls; the Son redeems; and the Spirit sanctifies.
A Short History Lesson: The Trinity and Church History
The Trinity is a biblical truth that the Apostles held to, but never called it the Trinity. They believed the Father, Son, and Spirit were one as the Bible had taught and Jesus affirmed. It was at the council of Nicea the doctrine of the Trinity was adopted as stated in the Nicene Creed (drafted in 325 A.D and amended in 381 A.D.). Ancient church father Tertullian was the first person to use the word trinity (taken from the Latin word “Trinitas” which means the number three) substance, and person to explain that God was one in essence and not in person. The purpose of this council was to address that over the centuries various heresies began popping up in the church regarding the trinity such as…
Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” The plural words “us” and “our” show that at the creation of humanity there was more than one person present. We conclude that us and they refer to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
Matt. 28:19: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” The word “name” is singular, yet the names “the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” are plural, suggesting their three-in-oneness
John 14:26: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.”
Today I have merely scratched the surface in talking about the doctrine of the Trinity. I make no claims to have exhausted this topic at all. As I stated earlier, my goal is to help you better understand the biblical concepts behind the doctrine. The trinity is a mystery beyond our comprehension, and it is extremely difficult to teach is simply and it is impossible to FULLY understand it. However, having made that statement, I am in no way saying that since it is impossible to fully understand that we should give up and not continue to study the doctrine and dig deep into the Bible to try and gain a better understanding of it.
My hope and prayer for you today is that as we have looked at the biblical doctrine of the Trinity and if anything, you can come to the conclusion that our God is abundantly unique and diverse. There is no one like Him. There are no other gods besides Him, and yet those religions who claim to worship a God or gods cannot and do not make any claims that would remotely look like the Trinity. This is what makes Him unique. In His uniqueness he is abundantly diverse. God the Father sent His Son Jesus Christ to the world to show humanity the way to the Kingdom of God and to have eternal life through His death, resurrection and ascension. Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to His disciples and the Holy Spirit was poured out on His people at Pentecost. Thus, through the Spirit, God’s people have the ability to live their lives for His glory and honor, have victory in life, know and attain wisdom, and serve one another in love and compassion. This is a wonderfully unique and loving God and in knowing this fact about Him should cause us to worship Him all the more because He is one God and there is none like him.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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