Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. (NKJV)
We could probably sum up our text in these verses from Ephesians. It is the heart of what Paul is trying to impress upon his audience. I pray that the Holy Spirit will impress the truth of these passages on your heart today. That you will understand once and for all that your salvation is not related to anything you do, it is all God’s doing.
Then understanding that, you will learn to rejoice in it, to worship God because of it, and to pray for His mercy in the lives of those who do not yet “get it.”
Paul has been sharing the heavy heart he has for the Jews. His brethren, fellow countrymen who just don’t get it. They keep insisting on eternal life through works of the Law, or external ceremony, or by virtue of their bloodline.
He recounted all the blessings they had from God as His chosen people, and how even with all these advantages, it wasn’t enough, they still insisted on salvation their way and not God’s way. They would determine how to be saved.
You know, we shouldn’t gloat over the Jews, for we too are prone to putting God’s salvation into a box. We too venture outside the Word of God as we seek to define what constitutes salvation.
We brag about the day we “accepted Christ” or “made a decision for Christ” as if it was something we could do in our own strength.
In reality, the best we can do is plea to God....”help my unbelief!”
We also have a tendency to fall into the trap of self righteousness as after God gives us faith, He moves us along the path of sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit. But we think, “Oh look what I’m doing now! Look how I am living!” I’m behaving much better than I ever did before! Isn’t God lucky to have me on His team!” But, as we shall see later on in this chapter, even our Christian growth is a result of His grace and mercy!
It’s all God! It’s all Jesus! It’s all the Holy Spirit! It is for His glory and His alone As He said in Isa. 48:11, “I will not give My glory to another.” and that includes you and I as it relates to our salvation.
Let’s begin then at Romans 9:9
Ro 9:9 For this is the word of promise: "At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son."
We start with the “supernatural birth of Isaac, who came into this world only because of God’s promise.” Sarah’s reproductive capacities were dead and yet God supernaturally allowed her to conceive and bear Isaac. It was all a miracle of God.
So it is with those ‘Born of the Spirit.” Our salvation is a supernatural act of God, we can claim no responsibility!
10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac
11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls),
12 it was said to her, "The older shall serve the younger."
13 As it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."
God demonstrated salvation by faith with the birth of Isaac, and in the birth of Esau and Jacob, He demonstrated His prerogative of carnal election, of favoring one people group over another. Both were conceived in sin, neither had had an opportunity to demonstrate whether they were good children or bad.
They were neither deserving or undeserving, but God chose the younger to be the master of the elder. he chose Jacob to be lord over Esau. As it is written in Malachi 1:2,3 “Yet Jacob I have loved; But Esau I have hated.”
Now, understand that these words “love” and “hate” are not used like we use them today. To hate is the opposite of prefer. In Genesis 29:31 we see the words, “Leah (the wife of Jacob) was hated.” All that was meant by that statement was that Jacob loved Rachael, preferred Racheal over Leah.
Even in the NT, Jesus said in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” He didn’t mean we should hate these people or ourselves, that would fly in the face of the rest of Scripture! He meant that He was to have preference over them and preference over even ourselves, in our lives.
I’m not sure we can understand how shocking this choice or election of Jacob was. To pass the family blessing on to someone other than the eldest son was simply unheard of at this time and in this culture.
Why did God do this? Why did He make this announcement to Rebecca while the children were still in her womb? “that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls),”
The purpose of God is to receive glory. Creation, all things made by His hand, are made to give Him glory. But glory can only be given to Him through Christ.
Eph 1:11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. (NKJV)
Now some may say that this God sounds like some sort of an egomaniac! It appears all He wants is glory for Himself! But they are looking at this the wrong way. It is not that God wants glory, it is already His! He doesn’t need your glory or my glory.
In His grace and mercy, He gives His creation, you, and I, the opportunity to give Him glory. through faith in Jesus Christ! When we consider that we are the works of His hands, that our very life and breath are a gift from Him. That our salvation is all His doing, that His favor or disfavor on our temporal lifestyle is all His doing. What else can we do but give Him the glory!
Have you ever wrestled with the question, “Why me lord?” Why was I born in this wonderful free country instead of a poor third world country? Why was I born in a nice middle class home instead of a ghetto? Why have I been given faith in Christ? Why have I been so favored? You have been so favored because God chose you to be favored.
Don’t try to figure it all out. Don’t gloat over what you have and don’t be jealous over what others have, for (hear this now!) we all have the same thing! We all have what has been given to us by the Father! Be thankful for what you have, remember the source and give God glory! You have nothing to gloat about, you have nothing to be jealous about. It’s all from God.
“for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Romans 14:23
And all He wants you to do is take what He has given you and use it to bless others. Bless the widows, bless the fatherless, bless the less fortunate, that God may be glorified even more!
Paul spoke of this in 2 Cor, 9:10-15.
2Co 9:10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, (who supplies?) and bread for food, supply and multiply (who multiplies?) the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, (who increases?) 11 while you are enriched in everything (who enriches) for all liberality, (why does He supply, multiply, increase, and enrich? That we might be liberal givers!) which causes thanksgiving through us to God. (What does our giving cause?) 12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, (Again more thanksgiving and glory to God!) 13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God (what do the recipients do as a result of the Corinthians generosity?) for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, (their liberal giving was evidence of their confession of Christ!) 14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. (Spilling over Noticeable grace in the Corinthians) 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (That’s where the thanks and glory belong....to God alone!
So God chose Jacob, the younger to rule the older to demonstrate that all the glory goes to Him because He selects, He chooses, He determines! He is the determinator and one day He’ll be back, to judge us according to what we have done with His great gift of faith.
I think it is important to remind you that this choosing of Jacob over Esau.... and Isaac over Ishmael had nothing to do with their eternal salvation. Ishmael was circumcised as was Esau, they both possessed the grace of God through the covenant. What they and their descendants did with the faith that God gave them in circumcision ultimately determined their eternal fate.
Nonetheless all four of these children, received faith as a gift from God through circumcision. Just as you and I receive faith as a gift from God in baptism. It’s not of our own doing. Again, look at Ephesians 2:8,9 “saved by grace through faith and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. Something He chooses to do, lest anyone boast or attempt to share God’s glory in election.
John, in describing those who are saved writes in John 1:13, “who were born, not of blood, (not because of their bloodline) nor of the will of the flesh, (not by a decision they made) nor of the will of man, (not by man made ordinances) but of God.”
And James says: “Of His own will He brought us forth by the Word of truth.” His means of grace.
Salvation is God’s doing! You and I don’t come to faith....faith comes to us and it comes by the grace of God. He has placed His various means of grace at our disposal and if we would by faith believe His Word, we would use those means that He has given us.
We can’t talk about salvation by grace through faith without talking about infant baptism. Peter, boldly proclaims in 1 Peter 3:21 that “baptism now saves us.” Titus 3:5 speaks of “the washing of regeneration” a reference to water baptism. Jesus speaking to Nicodemus said in John 3:5, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
There is no purer form of grace in the kingdom than infant baptism. What can the child choose? What can he decide? He is simply brought to the baptismal fount and God washes away his sins according to His promise, and deposits the Holy Spirit, (the new man) in him, and gives the child faith.
Achhh. How can a child have faith? He can’t reason. Oh, but that’s the point, if we rely on reason, it’s not faith! Don’t ever connect faith to reason, (except for perhaps using the reasoning of Scripture to confirm what you believe) If you want to “reason” your way to salvation, you are relying on your mind rather than the grace of God for salvation.
And who says a child cannot have faith? Where is that written in the Bible. If anything the opposite is true as Jesus told us that we must have faith AS A CHILD if we want to enter heaven! The faith of a child is pure, it hasn’t had the opportunity to be reasoned away.
David said in Ps.22:9 “You (God) made me trust (gave me faith) when I was on my mother’s breasts!” No, in baptism, we have faith as the gift of God coming to the child!
Let me show you something from the Gospel of Mark. Remember when the four men brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus for healing. It was so crowded they had to lower him through the roof.
v5 reads, “when Jesus saw the paralytics faith? Is that what He said? No! It reads when Jesus saw THEIR faith He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you!” By faith we bring our spiritually paralyzed children to the waters of baptism, and Jesus says to our infant children, “Son (or daughter) your sins are forgiven you.
Sheer grace. What could the paralytic do to effect his salvation? He could only receive. What can our infant children do to effect their salvation? They can only receive.
God chose you in your baptism. The water and the Word brought forth a new life in you, just as sure as circumcision brought forth new life in the Old Testament, but what happened to the Old Testament Jews? They neglected the grace of continuing in God’s Word and their hearts were hardened and they lost their salvation.
God gave them faith, and all the things they needed to nurture that faith, but they neglected it, and if we neglect our God-given faith we will lose it too.
What prompted you to bring your children to baptism? Was it not a God-given faith, that He planted in you in what His Word says about it’s saving power? Maybe you brought your children to be baptized because “it was the thing to do.” It doesn’t matter, since baptism is what God does and not what you do.
The point is, God prompted you in one way or the other to get that child baptized, you can’t even take any glory for that! It’s sad, but there are a growing number of children in this land, whose parents never took the time to get them baptized. Why?
Because they have neglected faith and obedience for so long, that the things of God are out of their sight and out of their mind. And as our country moves further and further away from God, we will see more of this as God exercises His prerogative to harden hearts and visit the sins of (disbelief of the fathers) to the third and fourth generation..
Listen to what the Lord said in Exodus 34:6,7
Ex 34:6 And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,
7 "keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation."
God did not choose to send these unbelievers to hell. Somewhere in their generational line, they knew of God’s grace, but they rejected it, and it was through their own hardness of heart that they did not avail themselves of the means of grace for themselves or their children.
We need to bring the good news of salvation by grace through faith to these people to break the chain! That’s why Jesus gave us the great commission!
Then there are those who bring their infants to be baptized and then leave them to fare for themselves, forgetting that the new nature of this child needs to be fed with the preaching and teaching and application of the Word of God.
Without that feeding on God’s means of grace, (His Word) faith will shrivel and die.
People are going to a gloryless hell every single day. God doesn’t need their glory, they have chosen to live their lives with no thought of giving Him glory. He weeps over every one of them, just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem.
Our mission is to bring the means of grace to as many as possible, hoping that they will receive it. God came to Pharaoh time after time with his word and His power. He gave Pharaoh ample opportunity to repent, but after a while, His patience ran out and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened unto death.
Don’t let this happen to you! Don’t neglect the gift that was given to you at your baptism. Stop resisting God’s grace! Embrace it! Receive it as the wonderful gift it is. Don’t gloat in it, just receive it and live in thankful praise to His great mercy and give Him all the glory.
It is only those who are in Christ, who know that all things come from God. Those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ know that we don’t give Him glory because He is an egomaniac, we give Him glory because all we have comes from Him!
And if you’ve walked away from your baptismal grace, and perhaps wondering why you feel so empty, so unfulfilled, it’s because you are living a gloryless life. You have been busy seeking your own glory, and unless you repent and turn back to Jesus you will take that empty glory to your grave...verily, verily, you will have your reward.
Give up your vain glory and begin to give glory where it belongs today....surrender your life to Jesus and give glory to God the Creator of all things and the author and finisher of your faith