Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďRECEIVING GRACEĒ

James 4.6; First Peter 5.5

In Ephesians 4.29, the Apostle Paul encourages Christians to be channels of Godís grace to others when he writes, ďLet no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.Ē He writes along the same line to the Colossians in Colossians 4.6: ďLet your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.Ē It is only reasonable that Christians should speak so as to minister grace to others, in light of the fact that our God is gracious, which is to say that He sovereignly bestows His unmerited favor on undeserving sinners in a variety of ways. Thus, when a believer speaks as we ought, we are useful to God to impart grace to others.

Grace is given to Godís creatures for two basic reasons, to meet physical needs and to meet spiritual needs. The physical needs that each of us has is graciously provided by Godís providence. The sun shines and people benefit from the sun quite unconsciously. The rain falls on us all and everyone benefits as a matter of course. The breeze cools us all in the evening. These and other examples show us how God graciously addresses our physical needs. Spiritual needs are graciously met in other ways. Since spiritual needs are beyond the reach of the material world, which is to say the physical events that occur around us, God has provided for grace to be ministered to us for our spiritual needs in a variety of ways, with the already mentioned speech of a Christian being but one. Before more fully addressing the means by which grace is provided for individuals, it is important that you are persuaded that grace is first available to you.

Turn to First Corinthians 1.3-9, where Paul addresses this matter of the availability of Godís grace:

3      Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

4      I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;

5      That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

6      Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:

7      So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

8      Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9      God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Please do not think the Apostle Paul is merely observing a social convention in verse 3: ďGrace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.Ē The Corinthians had serious spiritual issues that needed his attention. What Paul shows in this passage we have just read is that Godís grace is available. Notice verses 4-5 once more:

4      I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;

5      That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

Here Paul is informing the Corinthians, in so many words, that Godís grace is available to them. Thus, the divine favor and enablement to live and be a blessing to their fellow man, and to honor God by their lives and their service, is presently accessible to them. Notice verse 6: ďEven as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you.Ē There Paul reminds them that in addition to grace presently being available to them to live for Christ and serve God, it was also available to them in days gone by. Verse 8 establishes that Godís grace will always be available to the child of God: ďWho shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.Ē How do we know grace is available, was available in the past, and will certainly be available in the future? It is a matter of Godís nature. His faithfulness demands that grace be available to those of us who are chosen to be recipients of Godís grace in Christ. Verse 9: ďGod is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.Ē Before anyone begins to think, ďHold on a moment. You defined grace as Godís sovereign blessing, as that which God does not have to do. If that be true, how is grace guaranteed?Ē Good question, and I am delighted you asked it. Turn to Romans 5.1-2:

1      Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

2      By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

To be sure, salvation is by Godís grace, and grace is sovereignly bestowed by God. Upon some He bestows saving grace, and to some He does not bestow saving grace. How are we to know who is sovereignly bestowed saving grace and who is not? It is revealed by oneís response to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Turn from your sins and come to Christ and you are revealed to be one chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1.4, that you should be holy and without blame before Him in love. What Romans 5.1-2 shows us, among other things, is that once a person has a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, through that same Jesus Christ (who saves you from your sins and reconciles you to God), you have access by faith into this grace wherein we who are Christians stand. That is, once you are saved by grace you forever have access to Godís grace. Grace is available to you. However, whether you are a believer in Jesus Christ or one who rejects the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, your reception of Godís grace, whether or not you access Godís available grace, is either received or not received. That is what we will consider this morning.

Turn first to James 4.6, and then to First Peter 5.5, where we find the keys to receiving and not receiving Godís grace:

James 4.6       ďBut he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.Ē

1 Peter 5.5     ďLikewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.Ē

Whether it has to do with interpersonal relationships, such as is the context with James 4.6, or dealing with spiritual leadership in the congregation, First Peter 5.5, the principle is the same:

First, THE REASON WHY GRACE IS NOT RECEIVED Ė PRIDE

There is only one reason why that nasty witch savagely ridiculed someone she was angry with, be it her husband, her sister, her coworker, or the unaware victim in the checkout line at Wal-Mart. She had no grace to give those other people instead of the tongue-lashing she actually delivered. How did it come to be that she had no grace? She is proud.

There is only one reason that fellow does not seem to respond to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to the saving of his eternal and undying soul. He is not fully persuaded that his eternal destiny is in Godís hands and not his own, that Jesus Christ is the only hope he has for deliverance from the wrath to come, and that he will never be able to figure out a way to bypass the gospel of Godís grace in Christ and find an alternative means of being saved. He is proud.

He did not mind following her around while they were dating. After all, she is pretty. He did not mind yielding to her in all important matters in the development of their relationship before they married, and for several years after they married. However, there came a point when he decided that enough was enough, that he did not like deferring to her, that he had gradually come to feel embarrassed by her condescending attitude toward him, and he now does what he wants without her being able to do anything about it. He has thought about addressing the relationship he has with his wife, but he has to date done nothing. Why does he do nothing to improve matters, but continues to defiantly show his independent attitude without repairing their relationship? He is proud.

There are a variety of means by which God imparts grace to an individual. The primary means, of course, is preaching. However, someone who is proud frequently thinks he does not need to attend church services more than, say, once a week. He does not perceive his profound spiritual need, and has no conception that it pleases God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe, and that a sovereign God might choose to save him by no other means than gospel preaching.[1] The proud person is also the one who will not get on his knees before God to approach the throne of grace, that he may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need, Hebrews 4.16. Being proud, this fellow cannot admit to himself that there are issues in life he cannot deal with himself, and that God has created him to be constantly dependent upon His great grace. Therefore, the wisdom he might have sought and been granted in prayer, James 1.5, is wisdom he will never otherwise obtain to be better at his job, to be a better husband, or to be a more successful father.

Grace, you see, is all about Godís blessings through Jesus Christ. The lost man or woman, and in too many situations the Christian who has slipped into an attitude of self-sufficiency, looks at life very simplistically and concludes that most of lifeís problems and difficulties can be handled by a smart guy such as himself. What he does not realize is that not only is life vastly more complex than his dim vision of reality perceives, but that because of his pride he has exalted himself to being the object of his own worship instead of God. Thinking so highly of himself, elevating himself as a statue to be worshipped by himself if not others, is it any wonder that God will resist him? Is it a surprise that God arrays Himself against such a person, and is determined to bring down such a false god?

No wonder Paul wrote ďthat not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are calledĒ to Christ, First Corinthians 1.26. Such individuals typically have convinced themselves that they are sufficient unto themselves, and have no need of help from anyone, not even God or His Son, Jesus Christ. Pride is the problem, one of the two sins of Lucifer; the other being lies. Therefore, it is thoroughly understandable that even though God is gracious, such a sin as pride will be resisted by Him, and grace will be withheld.

Even in the case of afflictions the matter can still be pride. The sick man, the injured man, the arthritic man, will stay home from church because he feels it is his right to alleviate his pain and moderate his discomfort. However, in doing so he has proudly asserted that concern for his own afflictions is more important than dealing with his sins against God. My friend, nothing is more important than addressing your sins against God, no matter the affliction you must endure. This is because great affliction is to be endured rather than the least sin. Of course, it is an entirely different matter for the child of God. God help the person who is so proud as to think affliction of any sort is license to commit sins against God, such sins as missing church, or ignoring your personal devotions, or missing your seasons of prayer. If you must suffer affliction in order to receive grace, then suffer affliction in order to receive grace. Grace, you see, is indispensable.

Next, THE REASON WHY GRACE IS RECEIVED Ė HUMILITY

No one should be shocked to discover that every one of us has a desire to be well thought of, to be exalted in some way and to some degree. After all, God originally created Adam and Eve to preside over His creation here on earth. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that a latent urge to preside would be present, without that urge necessarily being sinful. That is why God counsels wisdom, wisdom of course being characteristically humble. In Proverbs 15.33, we are told that, ďThe fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.Ē God has no issue with anyoneís desire to be honored, per se. The problems occur when men take matters into their own hands and arrogantly seek to exalt themselves rather than humbly bowing before God and waiting on Him to honor them. In Proverbs 18.12, we are told what will invariably come to pass when pride takes the place of humility, a haughty spirit: ďBefore destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.Ē

Humility, you see, sees oneís own need, respects the propriety of God being exalted while all others are bowed before Him, and recognizes that God is the All-Sufficient One, the Meeter of every need:

16     Do not err, my beloved brethren.

17     Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.[2]

Humility also understands that no one always understands, or fully understands. Life as it is supposed to be lived is really quite beyond us, and the only people who think they do not need Godís grace are those who are not humble, who do not see, and who do not see that they do not see. The humble person, on the other hand, recognizes that he does not completely recognize, sees that he does not always clearly see, understands that he does not always fully understand, and seeks help. Because he is humble, he will faithfully attend church services at great inconvenience to himself, expectantly waiting for God to supply grace to meet his spiritual needs through the preaching, the singing, and the interactions he has with believers. Because he is humble, he will pray, seeking Godís wisdom, seeking Godís will, and pleading with God to do for him what he cannot possibly do for himself, as well as to do for others for whom he is also praying. Because he is humble, he will read Godís Word, knowing it to be a treasure trove for the needy soul, and studying to discover truth to apply to life for living and loving God and his fellow man. How should I deal with this problem? What must I say in that situation? How should I go about seeking the forgiveness of others? What are the ways in which I can dwell with my wife according to knowledge? He will receive from others words of instruction, words of encouragement, words of correction, and will actually seek the advice of others, because other believers are humbly recognized by him to be channels of blessing and avenues of Godís grace into his life.

Turn to James 1.21 and read with me: ďWherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.Ē Setting aside consideration of the first half of this verse for the present, take special care to observe the manner by which the reader is urged to receive the Word of God. Surely, you recognize the correspondence of receiving the Word of God and receiving Godís grace. You cannot do the one without simultaneously doing the other. Yet, what is required to receive the Word? Meekness, which is the behavior that is most associated with the heart attitude of humility. Thus, when you are reading Godís Word, when you are studying Godís Word, and when someone is teaching you Godís Word (whether in a classroom environment or over a cup of coffee), humility (what some would describe as a teachable spirit) is crucial.

Our word grace is found more than 150 times in the English Bible, showing it to be a major theme in Godís Word and a matter of vital importance to anyone concerned about his eternal welfare and the quality of his life here on earth. The concept of grace described without the specific use of the word occurs in as many places in other passages. Sinners are justified by Godís grace[3], Christians stand in Godís grace[4], have different spiritual gifts by Godís grace[5], are able to live and serve and give by Godís grace[6], are able to abound by Godís grace[7], can deal with the most severe afflictions by Godís grace[8], and can even be strong in Godís grace.[9]

However, the child of God can also frustrate the grace of God[10], fall from Godís grace (this is not losing oneís salvation, by the way)[11], can actually insult the Spirit of grace[12], and can fail of the grace of God (which, again, is not losing oneís salvation).[13] Thus, the grace of God is not a commodity that can be stored away like frozen meat in a locker, to be thawed out and used when convenient. Grace has no shelf life. Rather, grace is presently dispensed by God through the use of various means. Therefore, there are times when the Christian needs grace but does not have grace, because he has not sought grace by the means God has provided. Tragedies, difficulties, heartaches, temptations, sicknesses, betrayals, spiritual assaults, and a whole host of other things are issues that can only properly be dealt with by Godís grace. That means you need to make sure you are constantly accessing the available grace of God by the right use of means; praying, reading Godís Word, studying Godís Word, attending to preaching and fellowship, and so forth. However, you can do all those things and still have no access to Godís grace unless you attend unto the use of means with humility. Remember, God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble.



[1] 1 Corinthians 1.21

[2] James 1.16-17

[3] Romans 3.24

[4] Romans 5.2

[5] Romans 12.6

[6] 2 Corinthians 6.1; 8.1, 6-7

[7] 2 Corinthians 9.8

[8] 2 Corinthians 12.9

[9] 2 Timothy 2.1

[10] Galatians 2.21

[11] Galatians 5.4

[12] Hebrews 10.29

[13] Hebrews 12.15



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org