Tony Evans — Saved by Grace
Tell me, how would you feel about someone who had the capacity who came to you and told you, "Give me all your debt, every bill you have, and I will pay it for you"? Exactly. Then how would you feel about this same person after they told you they will pay all of your debt and then they came to you and said, "Not only will I pay all of the debt that you now have, but any future debt that you accumulate for any reason whatsoever, I will also take care of for the rest of your natural life". How would you feel about somebody who made an offer like that? You'd get pretty geeked behind that, because that would be a gift worth gratitude. They would have delivered you from payment after payment after payment after payment of debt and interest accrued.
What that person will have done to you financially, grace has offered spiritually. Grace is the inexhaustible favor or goodness of God, giving to us what we could not earn, do not deserve, and would never be able to repay. It is unmerited favor. The apostle Paul when writing to the church at Ephesus is writing to Christians. He's writing to believers in the whole book and in chapter 2. This passage is generally read to refer to non-Christians, and it does, but the primary audience are Christians, because Paul understood the necessity for Christians to understand what it means to be saved by grace even though they're already saved. There was something about grace that even believers needed to know in order to get a greater grasp on this magnificent term of the new covenant that now defines our relationship with God.
So the first thing he wants to explain in verses 1 through 3 is the need for grace. He says, "And you were dead in your trespasses and in your sins". The reason that grace is needed is because of the presence of spiritual death. You were dead in your trespasses and in your sins. The Bible speaks of sin in three categories. There is original sin, that's the sin of Adam when he rebelled against God that penalized the whole human race. That's called original sin. Then there is inherited sin. This is the sin you got from your mama and your daddy. This is the sin nature. They didn't just pass on to you and you didn't just pass on to your children your physical DNA. You passed on your spiritual DNA, and that is sin. That's why you don't have to teach your kids how to lie. You don't have to teach your kids how to be selfish. You've gotta teach 'em to tell the truth. You've gotta teach them not to be selfish. Why? Because you pass on to them a sin nature that gravitates towards sin.
And then there is personal sin. Original sin, inherited sin, personal sin. These are the things we choose to do that are wrong. These are the actions we choose to take that are in opposition to the will and the Word of God. The Bible says that all men are dead in trespasses and in sins. The word "dead" in the Bible means separation. That's the synonym. To be dead is to be separated from God spiritually. God told Adam, "The day you eat of it, that day you will surely die," but he didn't fall over and physically die that day. Adam lived over 900 years. He died spiritually because he was removed from the presence of God. So when the Bible talks about death spiritually, it's the synonym is separation.
The Bible declares that all men are spiritually dead while walking. He says in verse 2: "In which you formerly walked". So this is living out deadness in the same way a zombie lives out deadness but they're still moving about, but they're moving about without the life of God. And that's what the Bible means by dead. Paul wants you and I to understand our spiritual condition without God so that when you hear grace, it'll shine brighter, 'cause most folk don't know how dead they are, especially if they've had the ability to camouflage it. "But you are all dead," he says, "in your trespasses and in your sins". Even though you may feel alive or look alive, the Bible declares whoever you are, wherever you are, men are spiritually separated from God which the Bible calls dead, spiritual death.
Just as we have people here who have different levels of debt, everybody doesn't owe the same amount, so it is before holy God, we have different levels or visible levels of death. On the Titanic, if you on the Titanic, it would be irrelevant whether you were upper class upstairs or lower class underneath. You were on a death vessel. And the proof that all men are dead before God is that all men die. The wages of sin is death. The fact that all men die prove that all men sin, because death is the result of sin. Physical death because of spiritual death.
So he says we were all in our trespasses and in our sins. Now why is that so? Follow me now. Because of the perfect standard of God. God cannot reduce his standard just because he likes you. God's standard is one kind: perfection. He can't lower that. That's against his nature. For God to lower the standard of perfection would mean he is no longer himself. So he cannot reduce it. And since it cannot be reduced, it is the standard by which he measures everyone, which is why the Bible says: "All have sinned. There is none righteous, no, not one". Because the standard is perfection. The Bible says: "All men are dead in their trespasses and in their sin in their separation from God".
So that's the problem. That's why we need grace. Okay, so let's look at the provision of grace in verse 4: "But God being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised up with Him, seated with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus". Remember, he's writing to Christians who needed to be reminded, who needed a refresher course on grace. See, God cannot reduce his standard but what God can do is accept a sacrifice that meets his standard. So because of God's love and mercy marrying each other, freeing him up to express grace, so that God could show his righteousness, be true to his justice, while being able to simultaneously provide mercy, because of his love, therefore offering us his grace, God came up with a way to solve our spiritual indebtedness.
Romans 5:8 puts it this way: "For God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us". He died for us while we were yet sinners. So here is what the cross is all about. It is about substitution. It is about God providing somebody who would pay a price that we owed. Born of a virgin, living a perfect life, and dying a substitutionary death in the place of men. In some inscrutable way, God looked at the payment of Christ on the cross as fully satisfying the demands of a holy God. This is why when Jesus was concluding his life on earth and was ready to offer up the Spirit, his final words were: "Tetelestai. It is finished". That means paid in full. All that a holy God demanded from a sinful world was picked up by the tab of Jesus's death on the cross.
So 1 John chapter 2, verse 2 says: "He not only died for our sins but was the satisfaction to a holy God for the sins of the whole world". God was so satisfied with the death of Christ that it satisfied God for every man, woman, boy, and girl who was ever born or who would ever be born. And the way we know that God was satisfied by the death of Christ is the empty grave on Sunday morning. That was God's receipt about being paid in full. The chasm between sinful men and God is so great that only God could build a bridge big enough to cross it. He did that through the sacrifice of Christ. And that is why the sacrifice of John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life".
God offers dead people life, and he offers it by grace. But remember, he's writing to Christians, so look at what else he says. That you were made alive together with Christ, you were raised with him and seated with him. Made alive, raised, and seated. So something else took place once you get saved. You're not only saved to go to heaven one day, you are saved to go to heaven right now. You see what he says? He says you were raised with him, you were seated with him, you were made alive with him, together with him. If you're waiting to go to heaven, you're taking too long to get there. What Scripture is saying is that the sacrifice of Christ was so successful you can piggyback on it. And when you piggyback on it, you get relocated with him, okay?
Remember, he's talking to saved people. He's saying you're in a relocation program, 'cause you were raised with him and seated with him. Where is he? In heavenly places. What does that mean? That means the spiritual realm. So Jesus right now, when he rose from the dead, he ascended up to heaven, he's seated on the right-hand side of the Father, so he's operating in the spiritual realm. He says, "Once you're converted, you're supposed to be hanging out with me where I am, 'cause you were raised with me". One of the reasons we don't experience more of the grace that God has given us is we refuse our new location. We wanna operate in the physical even though we're supposed to be hooked up to the spiritual. And therefore, we keep the grace away. Not because it's not there, but because it's not being actualized, utilized. He says he's done a marvelous work.
Now watch this, 'cause now he's gonna lay it out now for you. And by the way, look at verse 7: "So that in the ages to come he might show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus". So this grace thing is huge 'cause it's forever. And he's just gonna let-- just let it keep on coming. Okay, now he gives you the sine qua non of grace. Sine qua non is the essence, it's the bottom core, it's the heartbeat, it's the irreducible minimum. You wanna grab this. Verse 8: "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 no one should boast". By grace you have been saved. These are folk who already saved. But he has to remind them, they need a refresher course. By grace, you have been saved. Not according to works.
Point: grace cannot be earned. You cannot earn grace, work for grace. You can't pay for grace, buy grace. Because, he says, it is the gift of God. Look at Romans chapter 4, verses 4 and 5. Here's what it says: "Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited to him as righteousness". One of the reasons that we do not experience more of God is that we try to work for something God wants to give away. So when God sees me and he puts my bad on one side and my good on the other, I think my good is gonna outweigh my bad so that I will have earned heaven.
The only problem with that is Jesus said, "Thou shalt not commit murder". He says, "That's what the law says. Ten Commandments state that". But then Jesus said, "But I say unto you if you looked at a person and wished they were dead, you have committed murder in your own heart". So let me just ask a question right now, how many murderers do we have in the house? Jesus said, "Thou shall not commit adultery," 'cause Jesus said, "that's what the law says. But I say unto you he that looks at the woman, turns, and looks again has committed adultery already in his heart".
How many adulterers are in the house? Because God's standard is not only what you do, is what you wish you could have done, because his standards are rooted in the heart, not just in the actions. So even people who say, "I keep the Ten Commandments," just broke another one: "Thou shall not lie". So you can never earn it, because you never knew if you did enough to get it. He says, "It's not by works". Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, I thought we supposed to work. I thought there are things God wants us to do. I thought there are". Absolutely, there absolutely are, but not to get grace. Mm-mmm, no, uh-uh, 'cause grace is a gift. You can't work for it. You can't earn it. In fact, if you try to work from grace, you just cancelled what you worked for, 'cause he only gives grace away. He can only give it away, and it's always free.
He wants grace to become so big and so exciting, look, so I wanna give you such a big view of grace that grace is your motivator. Because the greater you understand it, the more you will want to do what God asked you to do and not just feel like you have to do what God asked you to do. 'Cause when you wanna do something, you're motivated to get it done. And then he gives you the bottom line: "Not as the result of works," verse 9, "so that no one should boast". Hmm. So that no one should boast. There will be no peacocks in heaven. There will be nobody strutting around at the corner of Gold Street and Silver Boulevard, strutting around saying, "Hey, God, we did it, didn't we"? God will only do it by grace to remove all boasting.
In other words, when you get to heaven, the only one who will get credit is the Lord, 'cause he's the only one who paid the price for your salvation. He will get all the glory because you will be there by grace, by a free gift. Your reward in heaven will be based on how much you appreciated the gift. So God has a whole new system of thinking so that you now operate with a whole new sense of victory being dispensed by grace, and yes, you'll learn about responsibility, you'll learn about sin, you'll learn about victory, you'll learn about all that. But out of a environment or in an umbrella of grace.
If you were in jail, and I paid your bail... you in jail, and I come up and I paid a bail, and then you came out of jail and you told all your friends, "Man, they let me go 'cause I behaved so well. Man, I did what they told me to do. I cleaned the floor, I did the dishes. And that's why I'm free". You've insulted my payment 'cause the only reason you got out of jail is I put up the bail. Jesus has bailed you out of hell, and he picked up the whole tab. So he don't want you breaking out of jail now that you've been set free, talking about, "Yeah, God had to let me out 'cause I was..." you know, so what a lot of folk do is they go to church thinking church is gonna wipe stuff away. Uh-uh. No, grace is what transforms us. Grow in your understanding of grace.
If you're here today and you're not sure you're a Christian, you don't know if you died on your way home where you would spend eternity, you need to solve that problem today, and it can be solved for free. It cost you nothing. Jesus paid it all. The price has already been paid. If you're here and you already a Christian, then run to understand grace, because you're running to something God wants to give you that will, when you understand it, empower you to be all he has created you to be. It is the magnificent grace of God that saved you, relocated you, and will deliver to you in ages to come the riches of his grace.