What God Gave Us At Christmas: The Gospel

Bible Book: Ephesians  2 : 8-13
Subject: Christmas; Gospel; Birth of Christ; Salvation

This time of the year we are bombarded from seemingly everywhere to "buy the right gift." One advertiser strongly encourages you to buy your wife diamonds because "diamonds are forever." All of the toy manufacturers are encouraging the purchase of their latest inventions. The question is posed thousands of times per second, "What should I buy them?" or "What does he need?" Ponder with me for a few minutes, "What did God give each of us on that first Christmas?"

Answer: The Good News of Jesus Christ. He gave us a Savior! You talk about a gift that keeps on giving. I have been giving Him away for over 18 years and I enjoy Him more than ever. Why did God give us the Gospel?

I. Our Past: Before Christ v.11-12

What we were before we came to Christ - "uncircumcision" - a term of defamation; we were outcasts as far as the Jews were concerned. David called Goliath an "uncircumcised Philistine" (I Samuel 17:26). Since the Gentiles did not have the physical mark of circumcision to set them apart as the people of God, many Jews had come to consider them to be inferior, and, in fact, of no concern to God.

A. Without Christ v. 12a

The Ephesians worshipped their famous goddess, Diana, and before the coming of the gospel message, knew nothing about Christ. How true of our own lives. I worshipped at the shrine of my own making until I heard the gospel.

B. Without Citizenship v. 12b

The Jews were God's nation, they had His laws and His blessings. The Gentiles were spiritually alienated because we were excluded from the commonwealth of Israel. God had chosen Israel as His own nation.

C. Without Covenants v. 12c

Great Messianic promise was given to the Hebrew people. The Pharisees prayed, "O God, I give thanks that I am a Jew, not a Gentile." God made His covenant with Israel through Abraham.

D. Without Comfort v. 12d

Historians tell us that a great cloud of hopelessness covered the ancient world. Philosophies were empty, traditions were disappearing, religions were powerless to help man face either life or death. Men today are the same. Our nation is more educated than ever, yet more miserable. Divorce, suicide, aids, drugs, murder, etc., are more prevalent than ever.

E. Without God v. 12e

"in the world" - this is why God came into the world in the Person of Jesus Christ. The heathens had gods aplenty, as Paul discovered in Athens (Acts 17:16-23). Someone in that day said that it was easier to find a god than a man in Athens.

In 1 Corinthians 8:5 we read, "There be gods many and lords many." But the pagan, no matter how religious or moral he might have been, did not know the true God.

In Psalm 115:1-9, we find the contrast between the gods we create and the God that created us. Psalm 115:1-9, states, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy,

and for thy truth's sake. Wherefore should the nations say, 'Where is now their God?' But our God is in the heavens; he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not. They have ears, but they hear not; noses have they, but they smell not. They have hands, but they handle not; feet have they, but they walk not; neither speak they through their throat. They who make them are like unto them; so is every one who trusteth in them. O Israel, trust thou in the Lord; he is their help and their shield."

Note verse 8 specifically It is worth noting that the spiritual plight of the Gentiles was caused not by God but by their own willful sin. Religious history is not a record of man starting with many gods (idolatry) and gradually discovering the one true God. Rather, it is the sad story of man knowing the truth about God and deliberately turning away from it. It is not the story of evolution but devolution. The first 11 chapters of Genesis begins with God and declines.

II. Our Potential: With Christ v. 8-9, 13

What God did when we came to Christ...

A. Divine Initiative 8-9

"grace" - unmerited favor; it is that benevolent act of love which bestowed mercy on the undeserving. Grace is bestowed freely while expecting and demanding nothing in return. Grace is motivated by the wholehearted, free-heartedness of the giver. It is bestowed unconditionally and without human merit.

Could it be merited by goodness? Romans 3:12, "There is none that doeth good, no not one." Could it be by righteousness? Romans 3:10, "There is none righteous, no not one."

Could it be by the law? Romans 3:20, "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight."

Could it be by works? Ephesians 2:9, "Not of works lest any man should boast."

Could it be by heritage? John 1:13, "Not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man." John MacArthur told the story is told of a man who came eagerly but very late to a revival meeting and

found the workmen tearing down the tent in which the meetings had been held. Frantic at missing the evangelist, he decided to ask one of the workers what he could do to be saved. The workman, who was a Christian, replied, "You can't do anything. It's too late." Horrified, the man said, "What do you mean? How can it be too late?" He was told, "The work has already been accomplished. There is nothing you need to do but believe it."

Since we have not been saved by our "good works," we cannot be lost by our "bad works." Grace means that God does it all for Christ's sake.

B. Human Response v. 8

"faith" - I realize that faith is a gift from God, but we must put it into action, that is human response. Every person lives by faith. When you open a can of food or drink a glass of water, you trust that it is not contaminated. You cross a bridge and trust it to support you. When I ride to church with my wife, I am risking my life through faith. Then when I eat her dinner, I trust that she doesn't poison me. No human being, no matter how skeptical and self-reliant, could live a day without exercising faith.

Faith is God's grace in accepting the finished work of Christ on your behalf.

C. Grace Intervention v. 13

I was without grace until God gave the gospel, His Son, Jesus Christ.

III. Our Present: In Christ v.10

"workmanship" - from this word we derive our English word poem. It means that which is made, a manufactured product. A piece of literary workmanship. We are His new creation - I Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

John MacArthur told the following story: "The story is often told of the rowdy, disruptive young boy in a Sunday school class who continually frustrated his teacher. One morning the teacher asked him, 'Why do you act like that? Don't you know who made you?' To which the boy replied, 'God did, but He ain't through with me yet.'"

"unto good works" - no good works can produce salvation, but many good works are produced by salvation. Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven."

"good works" are the results of the work of God in our hearts. The same power that created us in Christ Jesus empowers us to do the good works for which He has redeemed us.

John MacArthur also told about a famous actor who was once the guest of honor at a social gathering where he received many requests to recite favorite excerpts from various literary works. An old preacher who happened to be there asked the actor to recite the Twenty-third Psalm. The actor agreed on the condition that the preacher would also recite it. The actor's recitation was beautifully intoned with great dramatic emphasis, for which he received lengthy applause. The preacher's voice was rough and broken from many years of preaching, and his diction was anything but polished. But when he finished there was not a dry eye in the room. When someone asked the actor what made the difference, he replied, "I know the psalm, but he knows the Shepherd."