Grace Alone

19th Sunday after Pentecost
October 15, 2017
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
Grace Alone

 

John 1:1–3, 14, 16-17 (NIV84)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Dear friends in Christ,

How could so many miss it for so many years? How could the medieval church in Europe have missed the central message of the Bible? There were individuals who understood and rejoiced in the true message of the Scriptures but to most people God was seen as an angry judge. God was always watching you and recording your sins. He was always watching you to see if you would do the right things to make up for your own sin. God was keeping score and if you didn’t make up for you sins in this life, you could look forward to several millenia in purgatory where your impurities would be purged by fire. The people were missing out on the best and predominate message of the Bible. They were missing the message God sent through his own Son. They were missing grace.

I know that many in our world are missing out on grace too. Even people in Christian churches can miss out on this most important message. Instead people look at Jesus as a new law giver who explained the law of Moses better. Or Jesus is seen as an example God gave us to follow so we too can be pleasing to God. The apostle John did not want anyone to miss out on the message of grace. He opens his gospel with a focus on the Word, Jesus Christ. John tells us that grace comes to us from the Word who Created All Things. Grace comes to us form the Word who is God’s Message to the world. We are saved by grace alone. Don’t miss this message from God.

From the Word who Created All Things

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

The Word is John’s unique name for the eternal Son of God. With the words, “in the beginning,” John takes us back to the beginning of Genesis that begins with the same phrase. John tells us that the Son of God was there with God at creation. Not only was Jesus with God, he is God.

By the time John wrote his gospel, Matthew, Mark and Luke had already been in circulation. People knew the story of Jesus. They could read the inspired accounts in the first three gospels. John does not tell us the genealogy of Jesus. He does not go into detail about Jesus’ birth like Luke does. John actually takes us farther back in time. He does not tell us about the origin of Jesus because the Son of God does not have a beginning or an end. Instead, John tells us who Jesus is and what he did at the beginning of time.

Jesus is the very God who made all things. The Son of God has the power to create out of nothing by just saying the word. If it was made in the beginning, the Son of God made it. John is telling us to pay attention. The One he is telling us about in his gospel is not just an amazing human prophet. He is not just a miracle worker. This is the all powerful God who made everything.

Maybe people in Europe 500 plus years ago stopped reading John’s gospel after the third verse. Then we could understand why they would see Jesus as someone to be scared of. And there is truth in this. Do not take Jesus lightly. Do not come here on Sunday and then ignore the Creator of the universe the rest of the week. Don’t think we can hide our secret sins from the Son of God who knows all things. Don’t think we can keep our sinful thoughts from Jesus. If Jesus came to this world in all his glory as the Son of God, everyone would be afraid. It will be that way on the Last Day.

However, when Jesus came to this world two thousand years ago, he came humbly. He did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.

From the Word who is God’s Message

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth...16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

This is John’s account of Christmas. The Son of God took on human flesh, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary. He came as one of us so that we could see his glory. John saw a glimpse of Jesus’ glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. But here, John tells us how Jesus revealed his glory to the world. Grace is what Jesus brought to sinful humans. John uses the word for grace five times in these few verses.

“Hail, Mary….full of grace” faithful Catholics will say in the rosary. While we honor Mary as the mother of our Savior and as an excellent example of faith, we would not say Mary is full of grace. John tells us that the Word, Jesus, is full of grace. When Gabriel greets Mary with the news that she will be the mother of Jesus, he uses a different phrase than John does for Jesus. Instead of “Mary, full of grace” we might better say, “Mary, fully graced.” She is not the source of grace but the recipient. The phrase John uses for Jesus is literally, “filled with grace.” Jesus is the source of grace.

In addition, remember John’s special name for Jesus – the Word. What does God think of you? What would God say to you if he spoke directly to you? Jesus is the answer. Jesus is the message God wants all in the world to know.

So what does God think of all of your sin? What does he think of those secret sinful desires and those not so secret sinful words and actions? What does God think of poor, miserable sinners like us. God’s answer is the Word – Jesus Christ. God’s answer is the Son of God becoming fully human for us. God’s answer is to send the Word who is full of grace. Moses already came with the law. The law condemns us, but God sends another message through Jesus – a message of undeserved and unending love.

Jesus arrives with a message from God. Your sins are forgiven. And this is not because of who you are or what you have done. He forgives your sins by grace. Jesus shows his love for us by offering his body on the cross unto death. The Son of God bleeds and dies in our place. Why? Grace – undeserved love.

The message from God through Christ is that you have received this grace. From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. The word grace is actually used three times in this verse. We received grace upon grace from Christ’s grace, not just blessing upon blessing. The grace of God is not just a one time thing. He does not just love us unconditionally once and then leave the rest of our lives up to us.

He is full of grace and continues to love us. Do you ever have one of those days when you feel like no one loves you? Maybe you’ve done something to mess things up in your home or at your job. Maybe it was an accident or maybe you meant to cause trouble. Either way, you are now regretting it. You wonder if people will forgive you. You wonder if God will forgive you. I can’t guarantee that others will forgive you but I know that God will. Jesus is full of grace and from that fullness he continually forgives. Jesus will never run out of grace. He is not keeping track of your sins to make sure you don’t go over the limit. Not that we deliberately want to test this, but there is no limit to the grace of God. There is never a time when the Son of God says to us, “I will no longer show you grace because you don’t deserve my grace.”

No one ever deserves grace! That is the very definition of the word grace. And grace is the very message of the Word, Jesus Christ. Repent and believe that this grace of Christ is for you because it is. The eternal Son of God who made all things in the beginning has enough grace to save all people. God in the flesh brings us a message from the Father which is all true. The message is Jesus himself – his perfect life to cover our imperfect life, his suffering and death to redeem us from our sins, his resurrection to give us eternal life. It is a message of grace, Jesus for us.

Many at Luther’s time did not get it. Many today don’t get it. Sometimes you may not get it either. All people fall into thinking that there must be something I can do or should do to deserve God’s love. If that was true, only Jesus would have done enough to deserve his Father’s love. However, the truth is that God loves the wicked, the rebellious, the undeserving sinner. Christ is full of grace and therefore the only way to be saved is saved by grace alone.


 

Amen.


 

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Worship 8:00 AM
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Worship 10:30 AM

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