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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Title:The Means of Grace
Text:Romans 10:1-15 (Lord's Day 25) (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

August 30, 2020


 Order of Worship for the Afternoon Service – 5:00 p.m.


   Welcome and Opening Prayer


Service of Praise & Profession


* Call to Worship


* Declaration of our Dependence upon God  


* God’s Greeting


* Song of Praise:  “Father, Again in Jesus’ Name We Meet”                                   # 168


* Profession of Faith - Apostles’ Creed - p. 851 TPH


* Gloria Patri:  “Glory Be to the Father”                                                                   # 571


   Congregational Prayer


* Song of Preparation:  “O Breath of Life, Come Sweeping through Us     # 395: 1-3,5


Service of God’s Holy Word


   Scripture Reading:  Romans 10:1-15


   Heidelberg Catechism - Lord’s Day 25                                                             p. 226 FP


   Sermon:  “The Means of Grace”


   Prayer of Application


* Song of Response:  “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken”                                  # 403


   Offering: Word & Deed Ministries - Collection basket located in foyer


* Benediction           


* Doxology:  “Savior, Again to Thy Dear Name We Raise”                                     # 160


“Savior, again to thy dear name we raise with one accord our parting hymn of praise.  We stand to bless thee ere our worship cease, and now, departing, wait thy word of peace”.


“Grant us thy peace upon our homeward way; with thee began, with thee shall end the day; guard thou the lips from sin, the hearts from shame, that in this house have called upon thy name”.


* Reverent Reflection


* Postlude             

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

The Means of Grace

Romans 10: 14-21; LD 25

Preached by Rev. Keith Davis at Bethel URC on 8-30-20


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we describe the way God “works” in creation around us, the way God brings about his will and decrees, we say that He works through secondary means or causes. In other words, God is pleased to use earthly agents, naturals agents to accomplish his divine and perfect purposes.   


When it comes to providing us with our daily bread, yes, God teaches us to pray for it, and to trust that God will provide. But what else do we know? We know that God provides us with a job to earn money, and human strength and know-how to go out and do our work, so we can make a living, to support ourselves, to earn a paycheck so that we can then go to the store and buy the food we need to feed our family.  


God provides, through the means he gives us. The same is true when it comes to faith. Ephesians 2 says faith is a gift of God. It is a supernatural gift of God. But how do we get that faith? How do we gain access to that faith? That’s what we’re going to talk about tonight. From whence cometh our faith?  


What means does God use to communicate, to impart, to bless us, to fill us with his faith? (LD 25: The means of grace!). Here we confess that The Holy Spirit Uses Ordinary Means to Impart unto us His Extraordinary Grace (namely, True Faith).

  1. True Faith is Formed through the Preaching of the Word
  2. True Faith is Fed by the Partaking of the Sacraments


1)  True Faith is Formed through the Preaching of the Word

Q 65 asks, You confess that by faith alone you share in Christ and all His blessings:  Where does that faith come from?  A. The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel.


There are several things to take note of here.  First, notice that faith is not an earthly commodity; in some ways, that is a very difficult concept to grasp because true faith is talked about and preached about and prayed for all the time.  And as God’s people we’re called to show faith and exercise faith and possess faith. Jesus rebuked his disciples for ‘little’ faith). 


But the truth is, faith is not something that we can simply conjure up on our own.  Faith is not something we can work-up from below (if I can say I like that).  Let me explain.  It’s possible that we might listen to a motivational speaker and decide that’s it’s time to apply ourselves; it’s time to study harder at school, lose that excess weight, or start our own business. 


But faith doesn’t work like that.  It’s not like a person without faith can just walk into church tonight and say “Hey, I noticed I’m really missing the element of faith in my life, so I’m going to start living my life with a lot more faith”.  It doesn’t work like that.   


Faith is a spiritual commodity.  Faith is a product of the inner working (intimate working) of the Holy Spirit of God in our heart.  As Paul writes in Ephesians 2, faith is a gift of God--something that only God, in His grace and mercy, can bestow upon lost sinners. 


And another aspect of faith that is helpful to point out is that faith is not something we can hand down from father to son, or from mother to daughter – just as we would a family tradition or a precious heirloom that stays within the family for time and eternity.   


Faith is not something that a husband can claim for his wife, or a grandparent for their grandchildren.  It is a something which each man woman and child, as a son or daughter of God must appropriate for himself or herself.  We cannot believe for someone else so they can be saved.  If that was possible, Paul would have believed for the sake of his own people, the Jews.  But again, that’s not the way faith works.


A. 65 says that the Holy Spirit produces this faith within us through means.  We can put it this way: God uses certain tools to accomplish His ends. Boys and girls we can understand that.  We know that every tradesman has the tools of his trade.  The carpenter has his hammer.  The tool of the trade for the house-painter is his paint brush. The mechanic has his wrenches.  The plumber has his pipe wrench.  The accountant has calculator. 


Well, if we can say that God’s trade is salvation (creating/confirming saving faith in the hearts of his people), then the tools of His trade are the preaching of the Word and the faithful administration of the sacraments (the primary and secondary means of grace).


First, the Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel.  Here too we make an important distinction.  It doesn’t say that faith is produced by the reading of the Bible, or by just sitting in church, or by singing songs, or by quiet reflection about spiritual things.


No.  The catechism echoes the Word of God when it says that faith is produced by the official means of the proclamation of the Gospel.  Notice Romans 10 is footnoted below.  There the Apostle Paul is speaking about the power of the gospel. 


Vs. 13 Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  But then he asks a series of questions. How, then, can they call on the one whom they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?   


Do you see what Paul is saying?  He says that all those who call on the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved; but you can't call on Christ if you don't believe in Him, and you can't believe in Him if you don't hear His Gospel, and you can't hear the Gospel unless it is preached to you.


As Paul writes in verse 17, Consequently faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ!  This is essentially the same argument he uses in his letter to the Corinthians.   In chapter 2 Paul emphasizes that the message which he brought to them was not contrived in any way. 


His message and preaching were not with human wisdom and persuasive words (eloquence and superior wisdom), but his message and preaching were a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.  That’s why Paul’s preaching was powerful and effective!  The Spirit worked through Paul’s preaching and his messages were accepted and believed by those in whom the Holy Spirit had worked (cf. I Corinthians 2. 12-13).  I Thessalonians 2:13 They received the Word from Paul as it really was: the Word of God!


God comes near to us (we do not ascend into heaven, to bring Christ down, or descend into the deep to bring Christ up).  God comes to us through His Word. The WORD is near.  The Gospel preaches Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who died for our sins! And by His Spirit, God generates faith within us – faith to believe; faith to draw nearer to God!


How different this is from false religions that keeps God at a distance, whose faith remains a mystery; or that teach a religion where we must close the gap and come to God.  That is not the way the Christian faith works or operates. Man does not find God; God finds man.  John 4:23 True worshippers worship the Father Spirit and in Truth – for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks! 


See, God, in His grace, comes to man through the preaching of the Gospel, and in the person of His Holy Spirit God imparts saving faith within us. Even as this sermon is being preached, the Holy Spirit is busy creating and strengthening our faith.  It is said that the assembled church is the workshop of the Holy Spirit, it is the context within which the Holy Spirit is pleased to do (to accomplish) His supernatural work. 


The Spirit comes to us through the preached Word and He gives us the knowledge and the conviction that what God says in His Word is true.  He gives us a deep-rooted assurance that all our sins are forgiven, that we're made forever right with God, and that we've been granted salvation out of sheer grace in Christ Jesus.


That’s the faith which the Spirit creates within the hearts and souls of God’s people.  That's His promise to us.  And God does this through the simple, plain, “foolish” message of the Gospel.  This is the Lord’s Day that teaches us about the power and the primacy of preaching


This is the LD that teaches us that it’s not enough to come to church and witness a Baptism, or partake of communion, and sing a few songs, read a litany, hear a short homily, and go home.  No.  This LD and the ones to coming up, teach us that the sacraments cannot save us. 


For, if we who partake of communion do not have true faith, then the sacrament signifies and seals nothing unto us except our own judgment.  Without faith, the sacraments are nothing but empty, meaningless rituals. 


And so the preaching of the Word must be central, because only through the preaching do we sinners hear the very voice of Christ Himself calling out to us to repent and believe.  Only through the preaching does God open the doors of His kingdom and invite us to come in. 


And that’s why we emphasize, why we stress the need to come to the house of the Lord morning and evening – so that we may sit under the preaching of the Word; so that we may sit in the workshop of the Holy Spirit – and that God (by His Spirit) might continue to strengthen us in our faith. We need that like we need our daily bread. We need the means of grace! 


2)  True Faith is Fed by the Partaking of the Sacraments.  

So, true faith is formed by the preaching of the Word.  But secondly, we see that true faith is fed by partaking of the Sacraments (see the last section of A. 65: and confirms it through our use of the holy sacraments). 


Here we are called to understand the relationship between Word and Sacrament.  We should understand that the preaching of the Word can stand on its own.  God’s Word doesn’t need any crutches.  It doesn’t need anything to prop it up, to make it believable, to make it work


Nonetheless, out of mercy, out of consideration (as BC 33 states) for the weakness and infirmities of our faith, Christ ordained the sacraments to give us visual confirmation of the promise that is made to us in the preaching of the Gospel.  (A 66 What are the sacraments?  Then read Q & A 67).


You see, the sacraments do not add anything new to the preaching of the Word.  In Baptism, nothing new or nothing different is signified and sealed to our children than what the Gospel has already proclaimed. 


The sprinkling with water simply teaches us, it reinforces for us, what we already know to be true for that child.  That the blood of Jesus Christ was shed to cleanse him from all his sins!  (Same in regards to communion = partaking of the bread and wine simply signifies and seals unto us the reality of what Christ has done for us with His crucified body and shed blood).


That is precisely the purpose of the sacraments.  They work along side the preached Word, as a visible means of confirming that which we already believe and know to be true, of what Christ, though His finished work on the cross, has accomplished for us.


To use a familiar illustration, the sacraments function like a wedding ring for the bride and groom.  That ring doesn't add anything to the wedding vows, but in a way, it makes the vows visible.  Those rings are exchanged as a symbol of the vows which were made in the wedding.  


The sacraments are like Christ’s wedding ring to us.  Christ wants us to trust Him.  He's made vows that He promised to us in His Word, covenant vows.  He has promised to take us to be His bride, to make us into His people.  That includes the whole of our salvation--the washing away of our sins, reconciling us with God, pouring out upon us the blessings of His Spirit. 


He made those promises in His word, and the substance of those promises are signed and sealed unto us in the sacraments -- so that whenever we celebrate baptism and communion we can are reminded of Gods vows again and again. 


So, what a great blessing we have from God’s Spirit.  We have the blessing of assurance, so that when we fall into doubt or temptation, when we struggle with assurance, wondering Am I still a child of God?  Does God still love me?  Am I really saved?  How can God ever forgive me after all the sins I’ve committed, after all my rebellion and hard-heatedness?


When we ask those questions, we can simply look back at the promises God made to us in our baptism and rest assured that His promises are sure (God does not change His mind!).  His promised are signed and sealed to us in the blood of Christ! 


And so the Holy Spirit uses these ordinary means to remind us and assure us that we’ve been forgiven and cleansed and released from our sin; that through Christ’s precious blood, we have been made right with God.   


And as we should know, that’s what we need more than anything else!  Let’s face it beloved, we can’t find such strength, such grace, such power to believe and power to live anywhere else but here, in Christ’s Church—in the workshop of the Holy Spirit. 


And you know, for us, this wonderful demonstration of the Spirit’s power occurs only twice a week.  And even at that, only for a few hours on a Sunday.  So in that sense we dare not treat our worship as a necessary evil, or as something that’s no big deal if we skip a service or miss a Sunday night here and there.   


On the contrary, we should be excited about the opportunity to come here to church to have God’s Spirit feed and fortify our faith.  We need that, congregation.  I know that I need that; I pray that that you share the same need as well.


So let’s not neglect the means of grace. Let’s give the Holy Spirit every opportunity to work within us, to produce faith within us and to strengthen our faith, all for the glory of God, and for the enrichment of our lives in Christ Jesus. Amen. 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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