COG 139: Grace, Part 2 | Salvation
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Welcome back to Part 2 our our Grace series. My name is Aaron Michael Brewster, and I have the supreme privilege of being the president of Evermind Ministries. Evermind is a family of ministries that includes The Year Long Celebration of God, Faithtree Biblical Counseling & Discipleship, Truth.Love.Family., and AMBrewster Ministries.
That last one is the in-person and live virtual preaching and teaching. I love speaking at conferences, at camps, in churches, and in schools. If you’d be interested in learning more about how I could connect with your people virtually or in-person, please visit AMBrewster.com. I would be honored to serve you in that way.
And be sure to check out today’s free episode notes, transcript, and grace resources as you continue meditating on the glory of our God of grace.
Today we’re going to look specifically at the grace of God in salvation.
Unlike God’s mercy which is poured out on all creation in a multitude of ways, God’s grace is most powerfully experienced through salvation.
Now I never want to downplay God’s Common Grace. But it’s often been said that though this earthly life is as close to hell as believers will get, this earthly life is as close to heaven as unbelievers will get.
Yes, God’s Common Grace that gives all men life, nourishment, comfort, restraint from sin, and the countless experiences of life on this earth is vast and glorious. No one deserves it, and it’s the sole product God’s love, but we must remember that the unbeliever’s best is the believer’s worst.
God’s grace in salvation is infinitely more glorious than His Common Grace.
So, in a conversation about salvation, we need to start with . . .
1. The Centrality of Christ’s Work in Salvation
And for this point we turn to John 1:14-17. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John *testified about Him and cried out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’’16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”
Full of grace upon grace, realized in Jesus Christ — what a glorious truth!
Were it not for the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, the best grace any of us could experience would be the Common Grace of life on this earth. But if God had never planned to send His Son, I don’t believe anyone other than Adam and Eve would have experienced that Common Grace.
Adam and Eve would have experienced the grace of the Garden, but they would have sinned, and God would have obliterated them, and none of us would have ever been born. But God had a plan from eternity past. Knowing that mankind would fail Him, but being the loving, merciful, gracious Father that He is, He knew He would send Jesus to do for us what we could never do for ourselves.
It was that choice that introduced mankind to the most glorious and majestic grace they could ever hope to experience — the grace of God in salvation.
But, as we we’ve often observed, modern Christians are painfully shortsighted when it comes to their understanding of salvation.
Even those who are doctrinally accurate frequently fail to appreciate the scope of their salvation. So, in order to mature in our worship of God, our remaining points will consider the grace of God in every facet of salvation.
So, let’s move to . . .
2. God’s Grace in Desperation.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this point, but it really is a desperately importance outflowing of God’s grace.
Desperation is the work of God whereby a lost sinner recognizes his need for a relationship with God.
Have you ever heard it said that a person won’t seek help until they realize they have a problem? Well, I would edit that a little bit. As a biblical counselor, I have noticed that people won’t ask for help until they realize they have a problem and are convinced they can’t do anything about it themselves.
Well, we know from the Scriptures that all people are sinners on their way to Hell. And we know that God’s people are to be salt and light as they share the Gospel with the world. But we also know that lost sinners don’t always embrace the Gospel, even after being exposed to it over and over.
They’ve been told they have a problem, but they don’t really believe it, or they think they can do something about it — like being good enough to earn God’s favor, and the like.
So, I believe one of God’s first displays of grace within a conversation about salvation is what we here at The Year Long Celebration call man’s Desperation.
Describing the work of the Holy Spirit in John 15:8-11, Jesus said, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”
The conviction of the Holy Spirit whereby we recognize that we are spiritually destitute and are — additionally — grieved by that reality, comes as a gracious work of the Holy Spirit whereby He is convicting us of sin, righteousness, and judgement.
All men are blind, and it’s God’s people who walk up to the blind person and warn them that they’re walking toward destruction. But it’s the Holy Spirit who convicts the reality of the situation on their hearts, causing them to truly believe the desperate nature of their situation.
Praise God that He graciously sends the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement!
And when that lost sinner truly recognizes their need and the fact that there’s nothing they can do about it, they will humbly turn to Christ to be saved. And we call that . . .
3. God’s Grace in Justification
Justification is the momentary positional transaction where the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the sinner and the wrath of the Father is appeased. Now, there are so many important doctrinal truths there, but I want to focus on the easiest of them all. Justification is a one-time, momentary transaction.
For those of us who are born again, our justification is in the past.
So, let’s consider the grace of God in our justification.
Titus 2:11 tells us, “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.”
And Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
When I explain this verse to people, I like to use the Water Tower Illustration. Imagine a water tower filled with water. How does that water get to your house? Well, it travels through pipes into your home.
Now, if the water tower is God and your home is you, let’s consider what verse 8 says about how we are saved. Grace is the life-giving water that travels from God through the pipes of faith into your life. “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” If the water pipes don’t connect the tower to the house, then there will be no water. In the same way, if there is no faith, there will be no grace in salvation.
But we need to consider some grammar here for a moment. Consider the sentence, “and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” What is the gift of God? Is the word gift referring back to grace? Is it referring to being saved? Or is it referring to faith?
The most conservative and biblically consistent scholars agree that the neuter demonstrative pronoun which doesn’t match the gender of any of the preceding nouns must refer to the entire phrase. The grace that saves us through faith — every part of the process of getting the water to the house — is a gift of God that we did not earn.
And I think it’s important to be reminded of this truth all of the time. It is so easy to view ourselves as worthy of God’s grace. When we’re “good,” we imagine that God loves us more. When things are uncomfortable in our lives, we wonder what we did wrong to deserve it.
But turn your attention to Romans 11:1-6 with me for a minute. Paul opens the passage by saying, “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 ‘Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.’ 4 But what is the divine response to him? 'I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ 5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.”
I’m going to stop here before we read the last verse in this passage. Paul is arguing that God has preserved a remnant of His people — He has not rejected them all. But why has He not rejected them all? Did some of them earn His favor? Did some of them impress Him? Were some more worthy than others?
And the answer must be, “No!” No one can earn the favor of God. It is grace and grace alone rooted in the love of God that causes Him to pour His love on anyone.
This is why, in verse 6, Paul says, “6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”
Grace cannot be grace if it’s earned. And since God is eternally and totally gracious, no part of Who He is can be earned. His entire relationship with us is rooted in grace, not works.
You can’t earn your salvation, you can’t earn His favor, you can’t earn blessing, you can’t earn forgiveness, you can’t earn anything.
This is so important because we know that we have seen God accurately when our view of Him is raised and our view of ourselves is lowered. God gives grace to the humble and rejects the proud. When we see the situation accurately, we will grieve over our inability but simultaneously rejoice in His gracious over-ability.
We deserve to be separated from God for all eternity, but He mercifully doesn’t give us what we deserve, instead, He graciously gives us the exact opposite — the opportunity to escape the punishment we deserve.
Now, when it comes to the average Christian’s understanding of salvation, this is where it too often ends. They recognize salvation as a past event, and they consider the Gospel to be all about a person’s introduction to Christ. And they’re thankful for it. But that is far too shortsighted. If salvation could be reduced to mathematical terms, a fractional percentage of your salvation is in your past and a gigantic percentage of it is yet to come. A tiny sliver of your salvation happened in the past, but the majority of it is in your present and future.
4. God’s Grace in Sanctification
Whereas Justification is a momentary transaction, Sanctification is a progressive process.
Let’s look at II Corinthians 3:12-18, “Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, 13 and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart.”
Paul is using the imagery of the veil to illustrate not truly understanding the glory of God. But when we’re saved by grace through faith, Paul says, “the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
The moment the veil is removed is the Justification part of our salvation, but then Paul goes on to describe the process of Sanctification, "18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
It’s a process of continual transformation from one degree of glory to another, and it’s entirely by God’s grace.
We read Titus 2:11 earlier which says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” But the following verses clearly show that the part of salvation being discussed here is not our Justification, but our Sanctification. Let’s read verses 11-14 together, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”
Jesus redeemed us — past tense — to purify us to be zealous for good works — present tense.
God’s grace teaches us to deny sin and live righteously as we keep our eyes fixed on the grace-giver Himself, Jesus Christ.
And it’s this Sanctifying Grace that enables us to glorify God in the Spirit. I love II Corinthians 12:7-9 because Paul is revealing a very raw experience which most of us can appreciate to one degree or another. He says, “To keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
Paul’s entire ministry was empowered by the grace of God to live out the Fruit of the Spirit, but we see here that it was also God’s grace that sustained Paul through the trial of his thorn in the flesh.
For the Christian, everything is designed by God to help us grow in our sanctification. Read James 1 and Romans 8. Even the most difficult trials of our lives were graciously given to us by God so that we might mature into the image of God.
This is why the author of Hebrews says in chapter 4, verses 14-16, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
When we humbly recognize that we cannot be conformed to the image of Christ without the over-abounding grace of Christ, we will live in ceaseless prayer, acknowledging God’s expectations and power and maturing through the trial.
Now, compare your glorious moment of Justification to all of the other glorious moments of Sanctification that have occurred between then and now. And consider how many more glorious moments of Sanctification lie ahead of you in this earthly life.
Hopefully, you can now better understand that salvation is not just a past-tense concept through which you were introduced to God. The Gospel is also a present-tense reality through which you know God better and become increasingly conformed to His image.
Were it not for Sanctification I would never have created The Year Long Celebration of God. But since God expects us to grow in our conformity to Him from one degree of glory to another, this podcast seeks to help you mature in your worship of God. We want you to worship God better this year than you did last year because that’s what Sanctification is all about.
And praise God that His grace is sufficient for our every need, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to grow in our Sanctification at all.
Now, let’s consider that God is not merely gracious because He provides the expectations and empowerment we need to be sanctified, but He’s gracious in allowing this option at all.
Think of a theme park. We all buy our tickets, go into the park, have fun, but we leave the same people who went in. Entering a relationship with Christ couldn’t be more different. Not only is He the one graciously giving us the invitation and the ticket — as it were — to be born again, but He doesn’t leave us where we were. He changes us.
Too many Christians function as if God has no expectation for their continued maturity here on this earth. And God could have chosen to do it that way. He could have given a bunch of wicked sinners tickets to heaven, but until they presented those tickets at the pearly gates, they would remain the same wicked sinners they were before they got the ticket.
But praise the everlasting, gracious God that His plan is so much better than that. He graciously invited us to be holy as He is holy — not just positionally, but practically.
And as amazing as that is, Justification and Sanctification are not the only facets of our salvation. There is yet a future transaction waiting to take place.
5. God’s Grace in Glorification
Justification was the past gracious transaction that positionally applied Christ’s righteousness to us. Sanctification is the present gracious process through which we practically mature in Christ’s righteousness, and Glorification is the future gracious transaction that will practically and perfectly apply Christ’s righteous to us.
It will be the consummation of God’s salvation plan — the moment where our sin nature is destroyed and we — like Christ — will be incapable of sinning for the rest of eternity.
So, let’s finish out our study today by looking forward to the glorious day of our Glorification.
Romans 8:18-25 reads, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”
Are you waiting eagerly for your future hope in Christ?
II Corinthians 5:1-5 builds on the groaning we experience on this earth as we await our eternal glorification, “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.”
I know — for me — it’s too easy to be distracted by the Common Grace of life on this earth that I don’t really think about my eternal future the way I should. Am I groaning while here in this body? Am I so looking forward to my future Glorification that I long for it? Unfortunately, I don’t. This is an area in my life where I need to continue growing in my Sanctification.
But it’s at times like these that I do look forward to it. I love Romans 8:29-30, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” Praise God for that guaranteed future reality!
I also love Philippians 3:20-21 when it says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”
Here again we are confronted with the reality that we need to be eagerly waiting for our coming Savior and the transformation He will bring with Him.
Colossians 3:4 says it succinctly: “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”
I Corinthians 1:4-9 starts with Justification, moves through Sanctification, and looks forward to Glorification, “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
And I John 3:2 beautifully describes the goal of our Glorification, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
So, when it comes to the future grace of God in Glorification, we should have noticed some repeating themes.
A. We should be eagerly awaiting our Glorification.
It should motivate and consume our daily lives. Every decision we make should be made in light of eternity.
And that leads us to . . .
B. We should be eagerly participating in our Sanctification.
How could we be excited about our future conformity to Christ, if we’re not excitedly pursuing conformity to Christ right now?
Do you remember what John said, “Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
Glorification is the final phase of our Sanctification. The maturity we are pursuing now will be realized in eternity.
And all of this is possible — our ability to have a relationship with God that results in growth and ultimate maturity is a gracious gift of God.
I hope you are encouraged today as we have considered the grace of God in salvation. But I also hope you have been challenged.
If you have never accepted God’s gift of salvation by grace through faith, will you do so today and experience Justification?
If you have been born again, are you growing in your Sanctification? If you are still a spiritual baby in Christ or you have not been pursuing spiritual growth to the glory of God as you should, will you recommit to pursing holiness in the Spirit’s power?
And if you’ve not been looking forward to the magnificent day of future Glorification, will you make that your goal during this Season of Grace?
The Season of Grace has a holiday that provides a wonderful opportunity to do just that. Advent is a time that God’s people look backward to His first coming and forward to His second coming. And it will be at His second coming that He transforms His people.
Regardless of your personal need, I pray that you will act on it in the power of God. Respond to His grace by His grace and grow in that grace.
Please share this series with your fellow disciples, and if you need some personalized help in your Sanctification, don’t hesitated to reach out to Counselor@Faithtreebiblicalcounseling.com. We would love to help you move from the milk of the Word to the meat of the Word as you grow in your Christlikeness.
And join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing more ways God’s grace should impact our daily lives.
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The Year Long Celebration of God is a discipleship experience designed to equip followers of Christ to better know, love, and worship Him as they help others in their lives do the same. We exalt God, teach His people how to practically worship Him every day of the year, and train them to disciple others.
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AMBrewster is the creator of The Year Long Celebration of God and host of its podcast.