Over half of the New Testament comes from the pen of Saul of Tarsus, or better know to us as “The Apostle Paul”. We learned some of his story last week. Saul hated the church and was a persecutor of Christians until he encountered the risen Christ and had his life totally transformed (Galatians 1:13-16). The Apostle Paul became a missionary who dedicated his life to teaching the gospel of Jesus to the Roman Empire– a world full of Gentiles. But this was controversial to many of the Jewish Christians who were among the first to believe the good news. So much of Paul’s letters in the New Testament are written to unite Jewish and Gentile Christians, and to do that he provides an important explanation of how God saves us from our sins: by Grace through faith.
Though Paul is the author of 13 different letters in the New Testament, his Letter to the Ephesians is sometimes thought to be his “widest survey” of our theology of salvation.
Here and elsewhere, Paul reminds us that our salvation does not come by doing good works or being nice people, but it comes to us, “by grace through faith– the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8). The concept of grace is essential to understanding the heart of the Christian message. We’ve talked at length how Jesus befriended sinners, that he forgave his murders, and that he has taken upon himself the responsibility of making us a holy people.
These are all examples of how God shows us undeserved mercy. One definition of God’s grace goes this way:
- When you don’t get the punishment you deserve
- And when you’re given a gift you did not earn
God’s unconditional love and undeserved kindness are what make us holy people. “God’s kindness leads to our repentance,” (Romans 2:4).
If you are familiar with the story of Les Miserables, you may know a profound example of grace. The main character, Jean Valjean, is a thief being pursued by a policeman. He’s on the run during the French revolution and finds himself taken in by a Bishop on a cold night.
When the police catch Jean Valjean with stolen goods from the Bishop, the Bishop would have the right to condemn Jean. Instead he shows mercy, and insists the silver was a gift (and even offers up some extra) and Jean is set free. This is not unlike God’s grace towards us, “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
One of the greatest misconceptions about Christian faith is that people think Christianity is a program for good morals. Certainly God wants us to live holy, just, and righteous lives… but that is not what saves us from the human problem. Salvation does not come from us becoming good enough people to be acceptable to God. We’re all sinners. No one is perfectly innocent and none of us are as good as we’d like to think we are. But by trusting in God’s mercy (faith), by believing Jesus will love us till the end, we become united with Christ and the Holy Spirit leads us to repentance and trust. This is grace through faith.
Read Romans 3:10-30
- When is a time in your life someone showed you kindness you didn’t deserve?
- What would your life be like if you truly knew your biggest mistakes and betrayals could be erased?
- Who does the Apostle Paul say is righteous and who does Paul say is a sinner?
Second year students need to pick a topic for their final project and begin working on it now.