Binding on the Book of Salvation – Romans 3:23-26

 
Salvation can be likened to a book. It’s not fiction, but absolute truth, and yet in some ways more it is astounding and unbelievable than any human fiction. It has a Divine Author – Christ Jesus is the Author and Finisher of this book. It has a great many chapters, and I gave you the titles to twenty of them last Sunday afternoon. It has a Divine plot, which begins in eternity past, but which grows and develops into eternity future. It has a beginning, but doesn’t really have an ending. You might say that it was written in such a way that the door has been left open for an Heavenly sequel. This book is hard bound; in fact it’s cover is made of silver, inlaid with gold and the most precious stones. And there is a clasp closing it, which guarantees that not a single chapter or page will ever be lost. At the front there is a dedication page which bears the name of the Lord Jesus, but there is also a place for the names of everyone to whom it is given. Of course, this is not a loose-leaf volume, but every chapter and page is bound together. I don’t know if you have ever noticed, but the best hard-backed books have pages bound several times. Most pages are stitched together in groups of something like 20 or 30 pages, and then those bundles of pages are bound together again and secured within the finished volume. It’s as though every aspect of our salvation – such as justification and redemption – are complete units in themselves, but then they are tied together later along with propitiation, sanctification the rest. This morning, I’d like you to think about the spine of this great book. The thing which ties every aspect of salvation together is the GRACE of the Divine Author.

It is impossible for us to fully address this subject of grace this morning. “Moby Dick,” “War and Peace” or “Tale of Two Cities” cannot be read in one sitting. Like the Bible itself, the “Book of Grace” is huge and somewhat complicated. The word “grace” is found 300 times in the New Testament in 222 separate verses. And although it is always related to our salvation, it doesn’t always refer directly to our 20 chapters. There are dozens of verses similar to: “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.” “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” But even if we leave off the hundred or more of these, we still have a hundred others. And that is before we come to the word and subject in the Old Testament.

I have to agree with Lewis Sperry Chaffer in his article in that volume which I showed to you last Sunday: He says, “Grace – a much misunderstood feature of God’s ways with lost men – is itself a revelation, and all human hearts not having this truth of Scripture revealed will be unable to comprehend it or to adjust themselves to it’s provisions.” The reason that there is human religion in this world, in contrast to the true worship of Jehovah, is due to the fact that grace is an unknown and misunderstood subject. If grace was fully known, human religion wouldn’t exist. If I might be permitted to borrow a related theme from the Book of Revelation – “And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”

This, of necessity will be a rather simple message.

The Author of this “Book of Grace” is Jehovah God.
As usual, I like the basic and simple definition that Strong gives to us in his concordance. Grace is “good will, loving-kindness, and favour.” It is “the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.” Grace is the loving good-favor of God. What Strong does not specifically mention is that grace is the unmerited, undeserved, good-favor of God. That may not be clearly seen in the dictionary, but it is obvious in the Bible. Among other places, we see it in the next chapter and again in Romans 11, which I will get to in a moment.

Technically, although they are linked, grace is neither the mercy of God nor the love of God. In Ephesians 2:4-5 each of these three things appear separately. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;).” In some ways love is at the root God’s grace – grace is the positive expression of God’s sovereign love. Mercy differs from grace in that the first is positive and second is more positive. In mercy the Lord deals with the law and cancels its claims upon us. In grace He deals with us and blesses us, even though we deserve nothing but judgment and wrath. But the point is – both mercy and grace have their source, catalyst, power and direction in the Lord alone.

Sometimes the scriptures refer to the grace of GOD, and at other times it speaks of the grace of CHRIST. But of course, we know that there is essentially no difference between those two. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Second Person of the God-head – the Trinity. And even though His work in salvation is different from that of the Holy Spirit, or the Father, He is as much God as either of the others. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by HIS GRACE through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” In chapter 5 Paul says, “We also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the GRACE OF GOD, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.” And to Titus Paul wrote: “For THE GRACE OF GOD that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Are you familiar with “the GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich”? “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of HIS GRACE, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”

I suppose that everyone who ever gave a thought about grace would say that God is its author. The problem is that almost everyone puts some sort of caveat upon that statement. They want to pretend that they are the Lord’s ghost writers, or co-authors, or at least His editors. But the reality is that the moment any human hand, heart or mind touches God’s salvation, then it ceases to be a matter of grace. And if salvation isn’t of Divine grace, then it is doomed to fail.

The Bible clearly declares that saving grace stands opposed to both God’s law and human works.
When the Apostle John made his introduction of Christ to the world, he made some important declarations. For example, calling Him “the Word,” he said that He was with God in the beginning and that He created the world. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” He said that Jesus is the light that shineth in darkness – and later that He is the light of the world. He said that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John said that “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” And a few verses later he made an extremely important statement: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”

Remember that Paul has been telling us that the Law of Moses can not make an unrighteous sinner righteous. “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in God’s sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Despite what the Jews thought, this was not some new theology that Paul had picked up along the way. This was the message of Christ and the message of the Apostles before Paul. But Paul caught the lateral pass from John and ran with it. Romans 4:1 – “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” In chapter 11 Paul was talking about the nation of Israel. “But what saith the answer of God unto Elijah? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”

To put it another way, grace is the key to salvation.
I may be stretching my opening illustration just a bit, but when we pick up a book, we hold it by it’s spine. Its in that binding where we have our first contact with the subject of that book. There is a sense in which grace is the place where the sinner and the Lord can meet in peace.

When Paul returned from his first missionary expedition into the heart of Asia Minor, he was invited to Jerusalem to be questioned about this theology. There were some Jewish Christians who wanted the Gentiles to take up the rites and ceremonies of the Jews. Some even went to so far as to say that until those Gentiles became obedient to Moses’ Law there was no way that they could be children of God. Paul was already dealing with those subjects and resubmits his answers here in Romans. He told Peter, James, the rest of the Apostles as well as the heretics among them, “but we believe that through the GRACE of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved.” And in Romans 5 he tells us, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, GRACE did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might GRACE reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”

As I have said, grace is the thing which ties together each of the various chapters of salvation. That is what we see here in our opening scripture. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely BY HIS GRACE through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

There you are – a sinner – you were born that way, and you have proved your sinfulness through sinning. You have come infinitely short of the glory of God, and you deserve eternity in the Lake of Fire. But what else do I see? You have been justified – declared righteous. All your mis-alignment, ragged edges, mis-spellings, and general cockeyedness, have been made straight. Despite your personal wickedness and unrighteousness, you have been “declared righteous.” And what is at the root of that divine beneficence? “You have been (declared righteous) freely BY HIS GRACE.” Freely, freely, freely – without any demands made upon your bankrupt soul whatsoever.

I mentioned last week that the word “propitiation” is rare in God’s word, so we can’t find any verse which directly ties it to grace, but we can move on. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being JUSTIFIED freely BY HIS GRACE through the REDEMPTION that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the REMISSION of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

A few weeks ago, I introduced some of you to the word “fiat.” A fiat is an arbitrary order or decree. God commanded, “Let there be light, and there was light” – that was an act of Divine fiat. But there was no fiat involved in our salvation – no arbitrary act of God to simply make it so. In order for you to be delivered from your sins certain steps had to be taken. For example, you had to be redeemed – a payment had to be made to satisfy or propitiate the law. Without that the Lord could not be just and still justify you. Your redemption and the remission of your sins, were things that the Lord deliberately accomplished – through grace – it was totally unmerited on your part – it was the good-will and loving kindness of God.

Ephesians 1 contains a lot of language hated by both the religious crowd and by wicked unbelievers. But it also is filled with the fragrance of God’s grace. It declares that redemption, remission and its resultant forgiveness of sin are all of grace. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath CHOSEN us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of HIS WILL, To the praise of THE GLORY OF HIS GRACE, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, ACCORDING TO THE RICHES OF HIS GRACE.” As the saints of God, we were chosen before the foundation of the world is a part of grace – chapter one of our book. And we have been predestinated to become children purely out of God’s will. We are accepted in the beloved to the glory of God’s grace – alone. And we have redemption and forgiveness of sins, according to the unmerited favour of God – grace.

Ephesians 2 then continues the same theme of salvation by grace. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. FOR BY GRACE are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” The Lord has “saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to HIS OWN PURPOSE AND GRACE, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” – II Timothy 1:9.

There is so much more which could be said of God’s saving grace. And we will be saying more, because Paul is not through with this subject yet. But let it suffice to say at this point – there is only one way to be delivered from your sins – God’s grace. Won’t you prove to the world that you are child of God? Repent of your sins and trust that grace – through your trust in the Lord Jesus’ death on the cross.