Series: Reformation - Part Two
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
October 15, 2017
This month we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. On October 31, 1517 - an Austinian monk - Martin Luther - walked the short distance from the University of Wittenberg, Germany - where he was a professor of moral theology - he walked the short distance through town to the Castle church where he posted his 95 Theses on the door of the church - which was kind of a community bulletin board - the social media posting of the time.
Luther’s 95 Theses were essentially questions. What Luther did was to take the spiritual issues that were circulating around Europe and to organized them into 95 questions that he wanted the church to formally discuss - to give answers to.
The central idea in Luther’s Theses was that God intended believers to seek repentance and that only by grace through faith alone - not works of penance - saying prayers or some form of self-denial - or paying indulgences or by participating in some religious sacrament like communion or baptism or because of what some church official says about us or because of some inner goodness that makes us worthy to be saved - but that salvation coming from God was only by grace through faith alone. Period.
Reformation was a call to purify the church. To call the
church back to the foundations of our faith. That
foundation has been summarized by five... “solas” coming
out of the Reformation - bullet point summaries of what
the reformers were calling the church back to - of what
We’ve been looking at those “solas” as way of strengthening and encouraging and challenging us in our faith as we week to follow Jesus today.
“Sola” meaning… “solo” - only. Meaning this alone is foundational to our faith.
We began 2 Sundays ago with… “Sola Scriptura” which means… “only Scripture”. Which was the reformers way of saying that only the Bible - because it is God’s word - only the Bible contains everything anyone needs to know for salvation and the Bible alone is the highest authority over how we do life with God.
Last Sunday we looked at... “Sola Gratia” which means… “only grace” or “by grace alone”. Which was the reformers way of saying that we’re saved only by the unprovoked and undeserved acceptance of God. Our righteous standing before God is given to us only by God’s grace because of the work of Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.
All of which is online if you’d like to go back and read or listen to it.
This morning we are looking at “Sola Fide” which means… “only faith” or “by faith alone”. Which was the reformers way of saying that we’re saved only by grace through faith.
Let’s be clear. Faith is not a work. Faith is not something we do that God recognizes and then God gives us salvation. Faith is our welcoming what God - by His grace - has already and completely done for us by Christ’s work on the cross.
Would you read with me: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
There are two words here that are crucial for us to understand.
The first word is… GRACE.
To grab what Paul means by grace here in verse 8 we need to back up to verse 1.
Let’s begin reading together - Ephesians 2:1: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
What Paul is describing here is who we were.
Paul writes, “You were dead.”
Dead meaning… dead.
The theological term that describes that is... “Total Depravity”. Which describes us before God. Spiritually dead. Harsh. But true.
Total depravity means each of us is totally corrupt in every part of our nature. There’s nothing within us that’s worthy of God’s approval. And in how we live life - every one of us displays our depravity as thoroughly and completely as we can. That is who we are individually and as a race since Adam fell.
Back in the Garden - Adam - who represented all of us - yet to be born - humans - Adam made the choice to disobey God.
God said, “Don’t eat fruit from that tree.” Adam - rather than having faith in God - rather than trusting in God’s understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong - rather depending on God for what gives life and what brings death - Adam chooses to act independent of God - disobeys God - severs Himself spiritually from God and dies - spiritually.
And everyone of us - descended from Adam - is born into that hopeless separation from God and spiritual death - forever. And if someone would say, “Well, that’s not fair.” Everyone of us has - by our own sin - confirmed the choice Adam made.
Let’s be clear. Total Depravity doesn’t mean than any one of us is any more or less sinful than anyone else. Depravity isn’t about how much or how little we’ve messed up in life and all the horrible things we’ve done or not done. Depravity isn’t about making us feel guilty or giving us an excuse to give up on ourselves or think less of other people.
Total Depravity describes our standing - as descendants of Adam - our standing before God without Christ.
Depraved is depraved. Dead is dead. Spiritually dead to God. Hopeless and destined to the eternal wrath of God.
Paul goes on. Paul writes that we walked in our trespasses and sins. Trespasses are like stepping over the line. Living where we shouldn’t be living. Sin is… sin. What we do, or think, or say that’s disobedient to God - His character - His will.
Paul writes that we walked that way - as depraved people we lived that way - following the course of this world.
The world is how the Bible talks about people. Humanity with all of our great ideas and thoughts and philosophies and religions and discoveries and science and reasoning - our amassed extensive knowledge - our culture and laws.
If we were able to turn humanity loose on a planet and let them create whatever kind of world we’d like to create - whatever philosophies and politics and economics and culture - whatever - the best that we’d be able to come up with is pretty much what we see going on around us. A fallen world messed up by spiritually dead depraved people - a spiritual zombie land. Physically living spiritually dead people.
Paul writes that the world of humanity walks - lives - following the prince of the power of the air. Behind the valley of the shadow of death - this near hell experience that we live in - behind all that is Satan and his minions - influencing what we see happening around us - nudging us down this path of self-destruction where evil is called good and good is called evil. Where so many people live wounded - broken - hopeless - searching - empty - without purpose and meaning in their lives.
Where we’re slowly destroying ourselves endlessly searching for an answer. Our - independent of God - self-driven efforts to better ourselves. Believing that the answer is within us. Our ability to raise ourselves out of our inhumanity.
Which is Satan’s great deception going back to the Garden. We can live independent of trusting God like we know more than God.
Several thousand years of human history later, how’s that going?
Remember this guy? Ed Norton. If you don’t remember Ed, Google him. History lesson in American pop culture. Ed worked in the sewer - and loved it.
That’s the lostness - the depravity - of this world. Humanity living in a sewer deceived into thinking this is all good. Not great. But good. We just need to fix up a few things.
Then Paul writes - verse 3 - that we all once lived in the passions of our flesh.
Question: Do you eat to live or live to eat? One is preservation. One is passion. Most of us error on the side of passion. We’re passionate about gratifying our desires - doing what pleases us.
We all lived in the passions of our flesh - indulging the desires of our bodies and minds. None of us escape that. We’re heart level passionate about our self-gratifying sin.
And as a consequence - Paul writes - as a consequence we all were by nature children of wrath. God’s wrath. God’s justly deserved eternal - forever separation from God - forever punishment. The forever endpoint of passionately following the course of this world. In our depravity we’re on that path dead already.
Let’s be clear. A corpse has no power - no ability. A corpse decays. It stinks being a corpse. A corpse just lays there with no hope of being anything more than dead.
That’s us. It’s not pretty. It’s a blow to our self-serving pride. But it’s reality.
Paul writes, “You were dead.”
Let’s go on. Verse 4: But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Everything before “but God” is what was. Everything after “but God” is what is. What is now true because of what God has done for us. Verses 4 to 7 are God’s response to our being dead.
But God, being rich in mercy - Mercy meaning God not giving us what we deserve. In our depravity we deserve eternal wrath and punishment.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us...
“loved” - the verb in the Greek has the idea of timelessness.
God Who is love - Who is the source and definition of what love is. God has loved us from before creation was creation. And He does love us. And He will love us. Why? He just does. It’s a God thing.
But God - in His over-the-top abundant mercy - because He is love - has and does and will love us - even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace - by God’s unprovoked and undeserved favor - by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Notice three things that God - rich in mercy - greatly loving us - by grace - that God has done for us.
First: God made us alive together with Christ.
Meaning that God - at the core of who we are - that core that was spiritually dead - when we welcome what God has done for us - trusting in Jesus as our Savior - God the Holy Spirit enters into us and takes what was spiritually dead and makes us alive spiritually.
Meaning that our whole relationship with God changes. Like Jesus - the Son of God - we’re family. We belong to God. We’re His children.
Meaning that God is with us as close as the core of who we are. As we go through life learning to trust God - we find that God is with right there with us able and willing to enable and empower and guide and gift and bless us with everything that we need to live life.
Meaning that because of what God has done for us in Jesus - we get to experience life with the living God. Not living as an enemy of God or living in fear of the God of wrath or seeing God as a great and terrible judge - condemning us to eternal death. But we get to experience life knowing God as our loving Heavenly Father.
Second: God has raised us up with Him.
“Raised” is about resurrection. God raised Jesus from death. When we come to Jesus as our Savior we’re joined to His resurrection. The end point of our lives is not God’s wrath and eternal death but eternal life. As surely as Jesus is the resurrected Son of God we know that we will go on being God’s children forever.
And being raised with Jesus means that our resurrected life begins now. God’s rebooting - God’s giving us a whole new beginning to our lives - is about life today.
God raises us out of the sewer. Meaning that God - by His grace - God gives us a totally different understanding of what we see going on around us. God opens up to us the understanding that sin - with all its delusions and enticements - that following after the world - that’s a trap. It’s living death now and the end point is forever death.
So we don’t have to keep going there. We don’t have to live entangled in all that. We can live forgiven and free in the restored life God gives to us. We can live with a totally different perspective of life - focused on God and what God has raised us up to - newness of life now and forever.
Third: God has seated us with Him.
Seated meaning that after Jesus’ work on the cross was finished - after His death in our place - and His resurrection assuring us of life - Jesus ascended to Heaven and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Meaning everything that needed to be done - to accomplish our salvation - everything that needed to be done was done.
Paul - back in Ephesians 1:20 - Paul writes that God - by His power raised Jesus - from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places - the position of power and authority in creation and beyond - far above - no thing - no one even comes close - far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. That’s everything and everyone - now and forever. (Ephesians 1:20b,21)
In Philippians 2:9-11 Paul writes that one day - every rational being will physically bow - every tongue will audibly confess - with one voice - in agreement - openly - in acknowledgement - no one is greater than Jesus. No one deserves greater respect - honor - worship. Jesus has first place in everything. The dominion of Jesus is greater. He is Lord over all of creation. Lord of lords and King of kings. Jesus is the Savior. Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is the Sovereign Lord God - Yahweh Himself.
That’s the reality that Paul is referring to here in verse 6. Jesus. Work accomplished. Seated. The Son is glorified.
So when Paul writes about our being seated with Jesus in the heavenly places Paul isn’t writing about the heavenly places being some place way out there. Pie-in-the-sky by-and-by and someday maybe we’ll get there if we’re good enough and the good Lord let’s us in. Or, if we pay some indulgences or do some religious ritual - some work that the Church says we need to do. Our working harder at being a Christian.
As surely as Jesus’ work on our behalf was completed and was all that was need to be done - in Christ - right here and right now we’re already part of God’s kingdom. Already - right here - right now - each of us - in Christ - has in that kingdom a place of authority - of power - of privilege.
We belong to God. We’re His children. As surely as Jesus is the resurrected Son of God we know that we will go on being God’s children forever enjoying the unimaginable riches of our heavenly home.
Paul - using that image - Paul writes that God has made us alive together with Jesus - raised us up with Jesus - seated us with Jesus in the heavenly places - in His kingdom. That’s a mind bender. Isn’t it?
Then notice God’s purpose in all that.
In verse 7 Paul writes that God has made us alive - raised us - seated us - with Jesus so that - God’s purpose - so that in the coming ages God can show the immeasurable riches of His... grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
“Immeasurable” means… immeasurable. It translates the Greek word “uperbole” which is the word we get our English word… “hyperbole”. Exaggerated beyond reason. Nothing makes a fish bigger to a fisherman than its almost being caught.
The word “show” has the idea of giving a demonstration - displaying - visibly giving proof - evidence - of something. In the Greek, the verb has the idea of continuously doing that.
“Kindness” is about Who God is. God is kindness. God is goodness. God is gracious.
Meaning that God’s purpose in all His making us spiritually alive and raising us up out of the sewer of sin and seating us with Him - God’s purpose in being merciful and saving us by His grace is to go on demonstrating to us - and all of creation - Who He is by today and forever endlessly and immeasurably lavishing His kindness and goodness and graciousness on us.
And that’s just nuts. Isn’t it?
God making us alive? God raising us? God seating us? How can we explain that? God’s exaggerated pouring out His grace and kindness on us goes beyond our ability to mentally process. It’s just too much.
And yet, God purposes to go on unreasonably pouring out on us His grace and kindness on us forever and ever and ever. To show us - to prove to us - just how greatly He loves us.
That’s God’s grace. Unprovoked - undeserved - favor towards us. To God alone be the glory.
The second word that’s crucial for us to understand is… FAITH.
Look with me at Hebrews 11:1. Familiar verse. Very helpful definition of faith.
Let’s read together: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Hold on to something.
“Assurance” meaning confidence, that beneath what we believe, is something or someone that’s worth putting our faith in.
Where you’re living - how many of you have cement slabs for foundations? Question: Assuming you weren’t there when they built your house - how do you that there’s dirt under the cement?
I’ve never seen it - the dirt under the foundation. But I have assurance -I believe that the dirt is there - because the foundation rests on something.
We have faith that our house will stand because we have confidence that under the foundation is dirt. And that gives us hope.
The word for “hope” has the idea of what Israel was hoping for - which was their coming promised Messiah. Jesus Who’s come. Hope for us concerns what God - because of Messiah Jesus’ coming and His work on the cross - what God promises to us. Salvation and life with God now and forever.
We are assured - we have confidence - that what we hope for - all of what God has promised us - is a certain reality, because we believe - we have faith - in what or Whom upholds those promises.
“Conviction” in Greek describes evidence presented at a trial. The evidence - the proof - being presented that convinces a judge or jury that - even though they never saw the crime themselves - the evidence presented moves them to a certain conviction - to believe - to have faith - that the testimony being given is true.
Still holding on?
Hebrews 11:3 is evidence.
Let’s read together: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”
How many of us were there when God created the universe? Not many. No matter how old some of us are.
So how do we know that the universe exists? Look around.
Slightly different question. How do we know that God created what we see?
This is... Stephen Hawking. Very famous and deservedly a well respected British theoretical physicist and cosmetologist... Cosmologist. Just checking. Hawking has done well respected work in quantum gravity and quantum mechanics.
In 2010 Stephen Hawking came out with his book, The Grand Design - in which Hawking takes on the ultimate questions of life and the universe and everything - origins.
Hawking - who speaks for a huge part of the scientific community - makes this statement: “The universe can and will create itself from nothing.”
Hawking writes, “Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”
Are we hearing Hawking? When we put together all the mathematics and theories and philosophies about how all this came about the bottom line is that all this exists because all this exists - poof - out of nothing.
Hawking writes, “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper - the fuse - and set the universe going.” (1)
Let’s be clear. There are two explanations for all of what exists - how all this got here. One is speculation. The other is revelation.
Speculation because none of us where there and so we speculate based on what we observe. Maybe it was some kind of big bang. And we can hope - as we’re speculating - we can hope that we got it right.
Revelation because the Bible tells us that God - who was around - that God in the Bible is revealing to us what He did. Providing there really is a God.
Both explanations need to be accepted by faith. Right? We can choose to believe what we’re speculating or we can choose to believe what the Bible says is God revealing to us what He did.
Hawking, in another work, stated: “We are each free to believe what we want and it is my view that the simplest explanation is there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate.” (2)
We have a choice of what explanation - speculation or revelation - we have a choice of what explanation to have faith in.
Revelation - like speculation - invites us to look at what is and see the reality behind the reality.
Hebrews 11:3 says, “The universe was created by the word of God.” The origin of it all is God. God spoke and it was. Nothing became something.
The universe is infinitely complex in its great vastness and in its minute detail. The reality of the universe is that there’s design and there’s order. One can even argue that there’s intent and purpose.
The author of Hebrews’ point is this: We weren’t there when God created all this. But we see what He created. What we see - creation - assures us that we can live convinced of those things we don’t see - that the reality behind the reality is God the creator of that reality. And so we choose to believe in God - to have faith that He is.
Point being: Faith is not a roll of the dice - chuck your brains at the door - religious happy time experience for easily brainwashed people who can’t cope with life and have no clue how to do science - who “just” believe because they know that it ain’t so but “you gotta have faith.”
When we see creation we have evidence that God not only exists but that He is worthy of our placing our faith in Him. That the God who spoke creation into existence by His word speaks promises to us - such as eternity with Him - promises that we can live convinced that He will fulfill - not based on speculation but based upon the assurance - the unchanging reality - of the unchanging Creator God who is behind it all and upholds it all.
Our faith in God - our welcoming of what God has, by His grace, done for us - His offer to save us and make us alive - raising us - seating us - is not wishful thinking - speculation - but conviction that comes to us based on the assurance found in the reality of God’s grace demonstrated through the incontrovertible true fact of history crucified to death and resurrected to life Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.
Paul concludes verse 9 by saying that what God has done - His offer of salvation - that’s not something that began with us. It’s not of our own doing. It’s the gift of God. Origin God. It’s not a result of works - what we could earn or achieve on our own. So that no one can boast about what they’ve done.
What God has chosen by His grace to do for us is soli because God by His grace has chosen to do so. The only way to respond is soli by faith.
Processing all that...
(Video: Ameriquest Insurance) We have a short video clip for us to watch.
Question: Have you ever felt that you were unfairly judged? Someone jumped to a conclusion. All the evidence wasn’t considered. They never heard my side of the story. Maybe we struggle to judge ourselves fairly.
Here’s the point: God will never judge you unfairly. God is always just in His judgment. Because...
God gets us. He knows every success and every failure. Every victory and every mess-up. He knows every good thing we done and He knows every bad thing we’ve done. God knows what we’ve done to distance ourselves from God - what is ungodly and offense to Him. And God knows what’s been done to us - good and bad. God gets the depth of our depravity and where we do life.
And - God will never judge you unfairly because…
God feels us. God is even more in touch with our feelings that we are. He knows our doubts and fears and feelings of inadequacy and shame and guilt. He knows what we carry around with us that we hope nobody ever knows about. And how that burdens us. He knows what makes us anxious and what we loose sleep over. God understands how we feel about ourselves and our life.
God will never judge us unfairly - unjustly - because there is no part of our depravity or what goes on deep within us - there is no part of that that God doesn’t know. That will surprise God. That will catch Him off guard. That will change or add to what God has known about us since before creation was creation.
“Well, I didn’t see that before. No more salvation for Steve.”
Our depravity doesn’t change the reality that God has greatly loved us since before creation was creation. Our depravity doesn’t change the reality that God - because He is rich in mercy - does not pour out His justified wrath on us. Our depravity doesn’t change the reality that God desires to have an eternal relationship with us in which He goes on pouring out His immeasurable riches on us now and forever and ever and ever.
Our depravity does not change the reality that God - by His undeserved and unprovoked grace - so favors us - that Jesus - God Himself - came and sacrificed Himself - taking our place and punishment - taking our depravity on Himself - in order that through a - we can’t add anything do it - indescribable - completed work offers to us the gift of forgiveness of our sins and the restoring of our relationship with Him - now and forever.
Sometimes when we come to a choice of faith we react with fear.
What will it mean to trust God? We know where we live life now - good or bad. What will God change? What will that take? What will it be like on the other side of my choosing to trust God?
We don’t know. If we knew it wouldn’t be faith.
But God is trustable. Just look at the evidence of the cross.
Faith is our choice to surrender of our lives to God in utter total dependence on Him - whatever God wills for us - because He alone is worthy of that trust. To raise our hands - open - outstretched - to receive the gift - the life - that He offers us in Jesus.
1. Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design, Bantam Books, 2010
2. “Curiosity: Did God Create the Universe?” Discovery Communications, LLC. August 7,2011.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.