The file below is my first sermon… anywhere, not just here. It was first delivered on April 23, 2006 at North Scituate Baptist Church. For records, central storage, and interested passers-by, I’ve decided to post it here. I hope it may be of some use to those also seeking to live in the light of the cross of Jesus Christ. I am not a trained professional and therefore I believe an edited transcript is in order. I will also include my outline/notes in hopes that someone can use one or all of them.
Please feel free to comment on its contents. I may update the transcript with more notes or separate entries depending on the comments.
In the service of God, Father, Jesus the Christ and the Holy Spirit,
Joshua Cottrell: Grace – Full Work (19.5MB) – (also 14.6MB, small if any quality loss)
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The transcript follows. I used the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible. I have edited it in some ways. Most of the words are there. I did leave out a few of my repetitive “and”s. Word that I would/should not have said are in parenthesis. Words that I should have said but did not are in brackets, sometimes with a description. Corrections or commentary may also appear in brackets.
I’d first like to start off by just thanking the diaconate [the deacons of our church] and the pastors for allowing me to preach this morning. It’s quite a trill to be able to present God’s word before you today.
Earlier we heard Joshua read from Nehemiah 8:1-3. And I did not give him an introduction for it. So briefly I’d like to go over that it was the people returning to Israel. When they returned one of the things that they did was to come and with eager anticipation they came to the Lord and wanted to hear His word. They came with an attentive ear. I pray that this morning you came with that same eager anticipation and that same attentive ear to hear the word of the Lord.
If you’d please open your Bibles with me to Ephesians 2, verses 8 through 10. They read:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not (as) a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Please bow with me in prayer.
Dear Holy Father, we come here this morning for Your glory. We come to learn more about you. Please prepare our hearts and our minds to hear your word Lord and to change our hearts. Make us better able to understand You through Your word that we may be able to know you better and also obey You more completely. Be in my words that I may speak only Your truth. In the name of Your Son, Jesus the Christ, we pray. Amen.
The letter to the Ephesians was written by Paul. When he was in prison in Rome he wrote to the Ephesians to address several issues that they were having. We find out that false teachers were teaching fables and endless genealogies. They were teaching that Christians should not marry and that some foods should be abstained from. This brought disputes among the people rather than the edification that should have come from the discussion of these topics. This served to decentralize the church, to move them off their first love. In Revelation chapter 2, verse 4, Jesus is speaking to the church at Ephesus. He says to them, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first”. They had abandoned their first love, Jesus Christ. Therefore Paul writes to them to refocus them on Christ, to show them that they are heirs to all of God’s gifts through the gospel of Jesus Christ even unto the unsearchable riches – access to God, not only access but access with boldness and with confidence to God.
I hope to show this morning how we can count on the A, B and C of God’s grace in Ephesians 2 to 8 [should have said: 2:8-10]. This is the Always Abundant Grace, the Boastless Grace and the Compelling Grace of God that we find in these verses. These are just some thoughts, some ways, to hang your hat or to hang your thoughts on – the A, B and C of Grace.
Paul begins by telling the Ephesians about what they have in Jesus Christ. And then to review the grace that they have. He begins in chapter 2, verse 1, saying, “And you were dead in [the] trespasses and sins”
Just as each one of us, either now, or if we are believers we were before, dead in our sins. This is a natural way we are given from Adam’s sin. That we are born in sin and trespasses, dead (and)[in] that sin and trespass. And in verse 3, he says that we are by nature, by that nature – being dead – we are given to God’s wrath. This is no more than saying that God is just and therefore being just when we do wrong He therefore gives us our just punishment if we do not take the way out which is Jesus Christ.
This wrath is described in several parts in the Bible. As I turn (around) to several passages, you might find it (more easy)[easier] to jot them down rather than try to turn with me to them. The first is in Matthew 25. Jesus is speaking here. He is finishing the parable of the talents. He says to the last person, the one who did not do anything with the gifts that God had given him, He says: “[And] cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. Our first description is the pain and agony, the weeping and gnashing of teeth that people go through when they have not taken that way of Jesus Christ and repentance. Again, He describes in verse 41 of that chapter that those who have not done the will of God He will say to them, “Depart from Me, you [ac]cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”. This is an eternal fire (that)[to which] Jesus banishes those who do not believe so that they may be justly dealt with for eternity. The last one is in Revelation chapter 20, verse 10. We are told about the end time and how “[and] the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and (there) they will be tormented day and night forever and ever”. This is just as Jesus said before of the place that had been prepared for the devil and his angels. Now the devil [, the unbeliever] and the false prophet are thrown there to burn and be tormented. Not only for day and night but God further emphasizes the tragedy and the justice, the wrath of God, by telling us that not only day and night is their torment but forever is their torment. And not only forever but forever and ever is the torment in the wrath of God. Being there ten thousand years would be quite a long time and very horrible to us to even think of. But yet after being there that whole ten thousand years it would be only a moment compared to the eternity, the forever and ever.
But Paul writes to this, writes about the death in sin and the wrath in order to encourage us because that is in the past now. This is what God’s grace has brought us. We have been saved from that. And that is where we are in verse 8. The believers have been saved. He says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith”. And here we find several things.
This is the beginning of God’s grace. When you are saved God begins that good work in you and begins that eternal grace so that He may show you grace forever. Instead of being in that torment, you are with Him in heaven and eternally blessed, given grace eternally. This is also the greatest grace. This is the greatest gift heaven can give and you have it through faith in Him by grace that God has given you. The word[s] “you have been saved”, being saved in Greek is a tense, a verb tense called the perfect tense. And what it means is a grace that has already been accomplished. You have already been saved. And after being saved, now only the repercussions of that, only the repercussions of being saved are now in place. There is no way that that grace, that salvation, can be removed from you. Nothing that you do has earned it. Nothing that you do holds on to it. Nothing that you do gets rid of it. It is all by God’s grace once you have been saved.
We know we are saved by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In the first chapter, verse 13 and 14 of Ephesians, Paul says:
In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory
We know we have the Holy Spirit in us when we are compelled to learn about God, when we are compelled to read His holy Bible, when we have to pray to Him to seek His guidance and seek His good favor for not only ourselves but our friends and relatives. We are also drawn to Christian fellowship not only here this morning, getting together to edify each other, but also throughout the week to constantly draw from fellow Christians. The Holy Spirit also convicts us of sin, telling us when we have sinned so that we may repent and turn towards God and seek Him out again. This is the Always Abundant Grace that is our “A” of God’s graces. Once we believe God tells us that we “have been saved”. There is nothing that we can do or nothing that can take away God’s grace. It is always there and abundant in His grace, abundant to save us from all our sins.
It may be difficult to visualize being saved by faith, or rather, being saved “by grace” [and] “through faith”. In order to help us visualize this imagine a brick wall that separates us from God. That brick wall represents sin. That sin separates us from God and a crack in there is our faith. That crack is the means through which God saves us. By His Grace He reaches through that crack and reaches out to us and saves us through our faith.
We are told in the rest of verse 8 and verse 9, “And this is not of your own doing it is the gift of God; not a result of works [so that no one may boast]“. Paul refers to “this” is not your own doing and “it” is a gift of God. These two words, “this” and “it”, come from a reference back to faith. Referring to faith, they tell us that even our faith is not of our own doing.
If we look briefly at Philippians chapter 1, verse 29, Paul tells us again, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake”. It has been granted to us that we believe. So God not only does the saving by grace but He also gives us the faith, that crack in the wall, the means by which we are saved.
We find this again in Romans chapter 10, verse 17, where Jesus [God, but not the person of Jesus, rather the Holy Spirit] tells us through Paul that (hearing is,) by hearing we receive our faith and hearing (is) the word of Christ. We hear the word of Christ and are granted faith. So this is the Boastless Grace because we can’t boast of any part of it. Our salvation is by grace and then further even our faith is by grace. We have earned or done nothing, no part of it. All has been granted to us by God. Therefore we are unable to boast. It is a Boastless Grace of God.
This brings us to the tenth verse. We find in the tenth verse, it reads “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works”. The grace God has show[n] us, the grace that comes from being saved and then again from seeing that our faith is not of our own, these things bring us and compel us then to work for God to show gratitude to Him for all He has done. For surely all of our sin and all of our shortcomings God has saved us from and by nothing we have done. So we are compelled in gratitude. This is the C of our grace, the Compelling Grace that God gives us that compels us to go further. He tells us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works”. We are God’s work. We are the work of God, God’s workmanship, not of our own doing but God’s grace. By His grace He fashions us even.
God raised us alive in Christ Jesus after we were dead in sin. Having done this He further fashions us to be His work. In this He creates a purpose for us, not just one purpose but many purposes. We are created in Christ Jesus for good works. These good works are prepared before hand. They are created by God’s grace not so that we may be saved by good works but so that being saved [by God] we may do good works. These were prepared beforehand just as we were chosen before the foundation of the earth [1:4]. The good works were prepared for us, specifically custom made each day for us, prepared by God that we may go out and do them each day. Not just your talents, not just your spiritual gifts, though those are important, but these are even day to day good works that we should be doing, compelled by the grace of God.
We are prepared in this way to be blameless and holy before Him, as Paul also tells us in Ephesians [1:4, which has to do with believers being chosen before the foundation of the earth to be holy and blameless before God. God's sovereign will to mold us by these works in sanctification is one way He accomplishes our holiness and blamelessness before Him]. They have been prepared for us and been prepared for us beforehand so that we should walk in them. We should walk in them by seeking out these good works by constantly asking ourselves each day as we move through our day, “what is the good work that God has prepared for me to do now? What am I to do to show my gratitude for God’s grace?” Again, the Holy Spirit comes in and teaches us what we should do. We should go and seek out His word, His Bible, the revelation of God. We should seek out Christian fellowship (here this morning) to learn from each other and to be built up from each other. We should also seek out God’s righteousness. God has a mind that through Christ Jesus we can have also [Romans 12:1-2 is what I meant] by accepting Him [Jesus Christ] and doing right, being forgiven of our sins and therefore being right with God. No longer is His justice cause for wrath against us but instead His wrath was taken out on Jesus Christ [Isaiah 53:4-6] and you, therefore, are saved.
God’s grace is Abundant, Always Abundant. He has blessed us with an Always Abundant grace that we cannot achieve or turn away from. Instead it is a Boastless grace, a grace that we have done nothing for. When we turn to Him we find that He has done all the work. He has fashioned our faith for us as well as saved us from eternal torment. God’s grace is also Compelling. It’s Compelling in gratitude that we seek out His good will, His good works that He has prepared for us. It is by this A, B and C of grace, this Always Abundant grace, this Boastless grace and this Compelling grace that God has for us, that saves us and shows us that we are saved. The recognition of such Abundant grace demands Abundant gratitude. We must seek out every good work God has fashioned for us and therefore know and love God from A to Z.
Please bow with me in prayer.
Dear Holy Father, we come before You this morning and we thank you for this teaching of Your word. We thank You for Your grace Lord above all through Your Son, Jesus Christ. In gratitude Lord, we go out now to seek Your good works that You have prepared for us that we may do them, do them abundantly. In the name of Your Son, Jesus the Christ, our Savior and our Master, we pray. Amen.
End Modified Transcript.
The outline is the extent of the notes I used. I realize now it should have been a bit more specific until I have this down a little better.
explanation of Scripture reading
Explain background, context and location in the letter
Main Idea - refocus on Jesus, heirs by the gospel, unsearchable riches even to access to God with boldness and confidence (3:4-13)
A, B, C of Grace – Always Abundant Grace, Boastless Grace, Compelling Grace
“For by grace” – point of this section – grace
-start in our being dead in sin (v. 1), wrath (v. 3)
-beginning of eternal grace, greatest grace
“you have been saved”
-saved from daily continuous torment for all eternity Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10; Rom. 3:23
-evidence of salvation – prayer, Bible, Christian fellowship, conviction of sin
-”saved” is in the perfect tense – it has been completed and the results continue
-wall analogy – sin is like a wall keeping us from God, God gives faith, which cracks the wall and God’s grace saves us through the crack (faith)
-Always Abundant grace
“And that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works”
-difficulty with “that”/”it” – does it refer to faith only (because “saved” was already dealt with) or does it refer to both – Philippians 1:29, 2:12-13
-Romans 10:17 – faith comes by hearing
-not even faith is of ourselves but of God’s complete grace
“so that no one may boast”
-when we are saved it is not our own work so we cannot boast – Boastless grace, the B of our A, B, C of grace
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works”
-we are God’s work, not our own but of God’s grace He fashions believers
-God raised us alive in Jesus Christ after we were dead in sin
-purposes: created by God’s grace in Christ Jesus for good works, not to be saved BY them but saved by God so we would do them
“which God prepared beforehand”
-we were chosen before the foundation of the earth by God (1:4)
-good works were also prepared for us beforehand
-to be blameless and holy before Him (1:4)
-custom crafted for us
“so that we would walk in them”
-we must seek out these good works that God has prepared
-reading of the Bible, prayer, Christian fellowship, God’s righteousness
-God’s grace is Always Abundant, beginning in being saved from eternal torment
-God’s grace is complete, sufficient to save us, without need or desire of our help. It is also permanent, once we know the Holy Spirit is active in us we have God’s permanent seal of salvation (1:13-14)
-A, B, C of Grace
-The recognition of such abundant grace demands abundant gratitude. We must seek out every good work God has fashioned for us.