2006-10-18 / Religion

The Gospel Truth

Sin, secrets and the salvation of God
Dr. Charles F. DeVane Jr. First Baptist Church

In biblical preaching, God speaks to us. Although the perfect word of God is mediated through an imperfect pastor, what we get is still a revelation from the Lord. This revelation serves to convict us of sin, communicate grace, and give us the opportunity to confess our faith (salvation for previously unbelieving, affirmation for believers). Baptism (for new believers) and Communion (for old believers) are the proper outlets for confession of faith.

So today let us hear a revelation from John's gospel, 6:41-58, a sermon about sin, secrets, and the salvation of God, and let us confess our faith together. The Sin of Grumbling

(vs. 41-43)

The sinners in this text are "the Jews," a direct reference John makes 60 times in his gospel. The background of the gospel (late first century, when Jews were turning away from Jesus while Gentiles were turning to him) and the context of the passages in which this phrase appears gives the obvious connotation that to be among "the Jews" was not a good thing. This is not an anti-Semitic statement, for the author himself was a devout Jew.

So if "the Jews" were the sinners, what was their sin? In this case, it was "grumbling" (KJV "murmuring, RSV "complaining"). I have heard it said that you cannot grumble with grace in your heart, you cannot murmur with a smile on your face, and you

cannot complain when in Christ's presence. I have also heard God say that "grumbling" can be a particularly heinous sin (1 Corinthians 10:6-11).

The kick is that "the Jews" thought they were grumbling against a mere man, while all the while they were grumbling against Almighty God. God had sent his son from Heaven to be the bread of life, but "the Jews" did not want to sit down at that table. So they grumbled at God even after Jesus told them to stop.

Jesus was showing them God's way. They were fixed on doing things, particularly religious things, their own way. When God's will collides with your will you will either acquiesce to God or acquire a taste for grumbling.

Grumbling is something a lot of church members do today. To paraphrase Spurgeon, "Those who grumble in church the most are the ones who help the church the least." But the sin of grumbling goes deeper than just the mouths of shallow hypocrites.

Grumbling is the very sin we were all guilty of before we were saved. We may not have articulated our grumps, murmurs, and complaints. But any life lived outside the boundaries of the lordship of Christ is a life of bitter complaint against God. God has told us his way. Lost people want it their way. You can't have it both ways.

So what does God do with grumpy, rebellious sinners? I'll tell you a secret.

The Secret of Grace (vs. 44, ref. also vs. 37, 65)

God looks down on this sea of grumpy old men and women, boys and girls, and rescues some by grace. Notice I said some. Scripture and history prove that God allows most grumps to go to their graves without grace. But some, the explanation of which is a secret known only to him, get grace. They are drawn to God, they are given the gifts of faith and repentance from God, and they are saved by God. Grace is God's secret weapon.

Let me explain what grace is by telling you what it is not.

Grace is not a human right. I've heard zealous missionary preachers declare that no one has the right to hear the gospel twice until every person on earth has heard it once. I admire the zeal, but it is zeal without knowledge. The truth is no one deserves to hear the gospel even once. If they do, and especially if they respond, it is grace, and grace is something no one deserves.

Grace is not a human ability. I've read where a popular Christian leader defined grace as "the ability to please God." What? God's grace and ability are antonyms, diametric opposites. If we had the ability to please God, we wouldn't need grace.

Grace is not a human condition. Grace means, if you are chosen by God to be his child, there is nothing you can do to make God love you more or less. If God has set his affection upon you, you are chosen, called, loved, and saved to the uttermost and nothing can change that. Your love and obedience to God is a response, not a condition.

Well, "the Jews" didn't want to hear that. They were proud of the fact they were better than everybody else. They were pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. They thought grace was for losers, for tax collectors and prostitutes, for sinners. At least at this latter point the pharisaical Jews finally got it right.

Jesus' words to them, if you can understand this, were "I'm not talking to you." You see, God's preaching to the choir. He is drawing the elect. He is busy gathering his children. And why he calls who he calls is the divine secret of grace.

But if the secret of grace has covered your sin, God knows it and you know it, too. The Salvation of God

(vs. 45-58)

How do you know you've been, or are being, drawn to salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ?

First of all, you respond to the word of God. It isn't boring or irrelevant to you. When someone is teaching from the law or the prophets or the writings or the gospels or the epistles you listen. You are drawn to the words like a thirsty man to a drink of water.

Secondly, you respond to the person and work of Christ. The proper biblical responses are repentance and faith. You quit your old, self-willed way of life and make an about face to a new, Christ-centered way of life. This is because you really believe what this book has to say about God, his son, and his salvation.

Thirdly, you are not ashamed to confess your faith. Baptism is taught in scripture, the proper place of Christian witnessing and works are taught in scripture, and in this particular scripture Jesus teaches about the sacred confession of communion.

You don't have to take the Bible literally to believe in the literal truth of the Bible. Jesus was not teaching cannibalism here. He was teaching about a sacrament (means of grace), an ordinance (symbol of grace), and Christian duty (confession of grace). Jesus was saying that sinners saved by the secret of grace confess the salvation of God by partaking of the Lord's Supper.

Return to top