If I were to ask you to take out a sheet of paper and write down one or two of the most distinctive or unique beliefs of the Christians faith, I suspect that many of us here this morning would write down things such as “the Trinity” – or “Jesus being the Son of God” – or “Jesus dying for our sins” – or “the resurrection of Jesus.”
And you know… those would be excellent answers. They are indeed distinctive Christian doctrines. But I think that a central and crucial doctrine that we might find conspicuously missing from many of our lists… is GRACE. Grace is a very unique Christian doctrine. It’s one that we absolutely need to understand. And yet, history shows us over and over again… that it’s often been misunderstood. And it often is today as well… even within the church.
You and I… as United Methodists… stand in a long line of folks who’ve taken GRACE very seriously. Both John Wesley, and the Protestant Reformers before him, sought to put a proper understanding of grace back on center stage. They did this because, as one writer put it, there is “a primacy of grace” found all throughout the Bible.
In other words, GRACE is by no means an obscure or hidden idea buried deep in Scripture. Instead, the life-transforming idea of GRACE is found everywhere in God’s Word.
Kenneth Kinghorn puts it this way…
At the center of the biblical revelation stands the doctrine of grace. …God’s grace comes to us in many ways, and it attends us from birth to death. We depend upon grace in every aspect of our lives. (Kenneth Kinghorn, The Gospel of Grace: The Way of Salvation in the Wesleyan Tradition, p. 61)
You know, it really is interesting to see how GRACE is such an important part of our culture – and even our language. Charles Swindoll points out how the word GRACE is used to describe countless things in our day, such as…
All of those can be described with the word “GRACE.” We sometimes even call a blessing before a meal as… “saying grace.”
Well, biblically speaking, one of the best-known texts on GRACE is the text that we just read. It’s here that Paul emphasizes the great importance of GRACE. Let me read it again…
Ephesians 2:8-9 – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–  not by works, so that no one can boast.
And so, that raises the question: if we’re saved by grace – if it’s all the gift of God – we ought to ask: What is GRACE? Well, if you’ve ever been through a confirmation class, you’ve no doubt heard this:
“Grace is the unmerited or undeserved favor of God.”
In other words, there’s nothing in us or about us that could ever deserve or earn the favor or blessing of God.
Grace and Truth,
Preached on July 12, 2009