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Sermon #5[i] — Ephesians Sermons
Title: Eternal Grace
Text: Ephesians 1:3-6
Subject: God’s Eternal Works of Grace
Readings: Mark Henson and Rex Bartley
The title of my message is Eternal Grace. I want to show you from the Word of God that God’s grace, in all its fulness and blessedness is eternal and was bestowed upon chosen sinners in Christ before the worlds were made. Our text will be Ephesians 1:3-6. God the Holy Ghost declares in Hebrews 4:3, regarding the everlasting salvation of our souls, that “the works were finished before the foundation of the world.” Then the fact that God’s works of grace for us were finished in eternity, the fact that our salvation was eternally accomplished by the Triune Jehovah is stated with emphatic clarity three more times in the New Testament.
In 2 Timothy 1 the Holy Spirit tells us that God saved us and called us before the world began, and that his grace given to us in Christ in eternity is brought to light by the Gospel.
(2 Timothy 1:9-10) God “hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, (10) But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.
In Romans 8 we are told that we were loved, justified, called, and glorified in God’s eternal purpose of grace in Christ.
(Romans 8:28-30) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (29) For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (30) Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
The third declaration of this great revelation of grace is found in our text — Ephesians 1:3-6. Here the Spirit of God tells us by the same Apostle, exactly how we were saved by God’s matchless grace in Christ long before the world’s foundation was laid; and he tells us that it was all accomplished in eternity “to the praise of the glory of his grace.”
(Ephesians 1:3-6) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (4) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: (5) Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (6) To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
Proposition: In these verses of Inspiration we are taught to bless, praise, honor, and extol the God of all grace for his eternal works of grace.
He begins by telling us that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” In verses 4, 5 and 6, he tells us how he did it.
The first work of grace Paul mentions here performed by our great and gracious God is the sovereign election of his people in Christ. — “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.” Our eternal election in Christ is the source and cause of all the other benefits and blessings of grace.
Apart from election there are no blessings of grace here or glory hereafter; but for the elect all the blessings and blessedness of grace and glory are sure. All God’s blessings of grace and glory flow to sinners “according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.” Adoption, acceptance with God, redemption, and forgiveness, regeneration, preservation, resurrection, and the heavenly glory of the inheritance awaiting us, all are ours, all are sure to all the elect, according to the election of grace! All the chosen shall obtain all these things according to the purpose of God
Do you see this? Preachers everywhere talk about the fact that Christ came into the world, but few have any idea who he is or why he came. Very few indeed realize that the cause of his coming here to live and die for sinners is to be found in God’s electing love and his sovereign purpose of grace. The Son of God came here to save his people, the people chosen by and given to him by God the Father, from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
(Matthew 1:21) And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
The promise here given is that the Lord Jesus Christ “shall save his people from their sins.” Who are his people? Who are these people specifically designated “his people,” whom he came into this world specifically to save?
Obviously, his people were his people long before he came here to save them. The angel said to Joseph, “He shall save his people from their sins.” He did not say, “He shall save those who shall be his people.” Whoever his people are, they were his people before he saved them, and they were his people before he came to save them. They were his people from eternity (Psalm 110:3; John 6:39; 10:16).
Almost everyone presumes that Christ came here to save everybody. Lost preachers everywhere love to please their lost hearers and tell them exactly what they are hired to tell them: — “God loves you.” — “Jesus died for you.” — “God believes in you.” — “The Lord wants to save you.” — “But the decision is yours.”
That is not what we read in Matthew 1:21. That is not the doctrine of Holy Scripture. If Christ came to save everyone in the world, if he died for everyone, where is the love of God? If Christ died to redeem and save all men, if he loves all, then his love is meaningless. — Where is the justice of God? If Christ died for all and some yet perish under the wrath of God, the justice of God falls to the ground, for he punishes sin both in the sinner and in his Son. — Where is the immutability of God? If he gave his Son to die for all because of his great love for them, and then sends many to hell, his love changes to wrath. — Where is the divinity of Christ? If he tries to save any he fails to save, he cannot be God.
What does the Word of God say? That alone is our standard. If a man does not speak according to the words of the Book, it is because there is no light in him. To teach that Christ came to save those who are lost at last in hell as well as those who are saved is to deny the very deity of Christ. He is not and cannot be God, he is not and cannot be our Savor, if he fails to do what he came to do, if people he loves now can become the objects of his wrath later, if his blood does not fully satisfy the justice of God.
The Lord Jesus Christ did not come to save all people everywhere. He came to save his people everywhere, his distinct, peculiar, chosen people. Who are his people? They are his seed (Psalm 22:30; Isaiah 53:10-12), his sheep (John 10:11, 15, 26), his chosen bride (Ephesians 5:25-27), his elect (Ephesians 1:3-6), all who trust him (1 Thessalonians 1:4).
Who are his people? They are those people whom God the Father chose in Christ before the world began, whom he loved with an everlasting love, whom he predestinated unto the adoption of sons from eternity by Jesus Christ to himself, to the praise of the glory of his grace, according to the good pleasure of his own will (Romans 8:28-31).
“According as he hath chosen us in him.” — We were chosen in Christ. Election, like all other blessings of grace is “in him.”
Jesus, we bless Thy Father’s name;
Thy God and ours are both the same;
What heavenly blessings from His throne
Flow down to sinners through His Son!
“Christ be My first elect,” He said,
Then chose our souls in Christ our Head,
Before He gave the mountains birth,
Or laid foundations for the earth.
Thus did eternal love begin
To raise us up from death and sin;
Our characters were then decreed,
“Blameless in love, a holy seed.”
Predestinated to be sons,
Born by degrees, but chose at once,
A new regenerated race,
To praise the glory of His grace.
With Christ our Lord we share our part
In the affections of His heart;
Nor shall our souls be thence removed,
Till He forgets His first Beloved!
The Son of God, as our Mediator and Surety stood before the Father as the Head and Husband of his Church from everlasting (Psalm 110:3-4. Hebrews 5:4-5. Psalm 89:19). We were chosen of God as his bride, a help-meet for him. It was not good in the Father’s sight that the God-man should be alone (Genesis 2:18). Therefore he chose the Church as a Bride for his darling Son, to be his companion, to whom he might impart all grace here all glory hereafter. All this was done for the glory of Christ, that he might be the “Head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23).
Look at Ephesians 1:4 again. The Holy Spirit tells us that the time of our election was “before the foundation of the world.” The Gospel of Christ is the revelation of “things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 13:35). Election was done in eternity. Our names were written in the Lamb’s book of life from the foundation of the world (Revelation 17:8). Christ is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8). The kingdom prepared for us which we shall receive in the world to come was prepared for us from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34). Indeed, all God’s works for us were finished from the foundation of the world (Hebrews 4:3). As John Gill stated, “No new will, or act of will, can arise in God, or any decree be made by him, which was not from eternity.” All of these things plainly tell us that the election of our souls was a free, unconditional act of God’s sovereign love (Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 9:13-16).
(Jeremiah 31:3) “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”
(Romans 9:13-16) “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. (14) What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. (15) For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (16) So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.”
How we rejoice to hear our Savior say, — “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you.” We bow before him and say, “Amen.”
‘Tis not that I did choose Thee,
For Lord, that could not be;
This heart would still refuse Thee,
Hadst Thou not chosen me.
Thou from the sin that stained me
Hast cleansed and set me free;
Of old Thou hast ordained me,
That I should live to Thee.
‘Twas sovereign mercy called me
And taught my opening mind;
The world had else enthralled me,
To heavenly glories blind.
My heart owns none before Thee,
For Thy rich grace I thirst;
This knowing, if I love Thee,
Thou must have loved me first.
Holy and Blameless
The Lord God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, “that we should be holy and without blame before him.” God’s choice of us in Christ was for this purpose, “that we should be holy and without blame before him.” How can I give a brief explanation of those words so full of meaning?
Be sure you get this. — The Lord God has always viewed his people as a perfectly holy people, altogether without blame in Christ. This is the only view our Father has of us, the only view he ever had of us, the only view he shall ever have of us, and the only view he constantly has of us. He sees us in Christ, holy and without blame, justified and glorified in him. And in Christ there can be no change.
Yes, when we sinned and fell in our father Adam, we became polluted, just like all other people; and we were born with Adam’s fallen, depraved, corrupt nature, just like all other people. But that which we experience in time, in this present state, does not and cannot, in any way, alter what God did for us in eternity. Our fall in Adam did not and could not destroy the holiness and blamelessness that was given us in Christ in eternity. Yet, that which was done in eternity must be accomplished in time. We were chosen in eternity that we might be made holy and without blame…
· In Redemption by Accomplished Righteousness. — By his one offering of himself, our blessed Savior redeemed us from all iniquity, and “perfected forever them that are sanctified.”
· In Regeneration by Imparted Righteousness. — In the new birth, the Holy Spirit puts a new, righteous, holy, and unblameable nature in the chosen, redeemed sinner, imparting to us the righteous, sinless nature of Christ. — “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). — “Partakers of the Divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). — Paul calls this new nature “the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). — John says this new man that is born of God is “his seed…and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” Christ in you can no more do evil than Christ incarnate could do evil on this earth, “because as he is so are we in this world” (1 John 3:9; 4:17).
· In the Resurrection by Glorious Righteousness. — When, in the resurrection, we are finally brought home to glory by Christ we will still be found in him, holy and without blame, before God. And our all-glorious Savior will present us to himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish before the triune God.
(Ephesians 2:7) “That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
(Ephesians 5:25-27) “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (26) That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (27) That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
(Jude 1:24-25) “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, (25) To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever. Amen.”
It is difficult to say whether the last two words of verse 4, “in love,” should be read as the end of verse 4 or the beginning of verse 5. So let’s read the text both ways. Both ways are true; and both ways are precious. — “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: — In love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”
· In love the Father chose us.
· In love he blessed us in Christ.
· In love he beholds us holy and without blame before him.
· In love he predestinated us unto the adoption of children.
· In love he accepted and accepts us.
O my soul, bless God the Father for that love he has for me and has had for me from everlasting, and shall have for me for evermore, that great, infinite, immutable, eternal love, which is the source and fountain of all grace and salvation in Christ! — Can you grasp this? — The God of Glory loves his people in Christ. He loves us because of Christ. And he loves us as he loves Christ, because we are one with Christ!
Our Savior’s purpose in all his work, and that for which he prayed as our great High Priest in John 17 is that we might be one in him and with him (v. 21). He declares that the glory he has as our Mediator he has given to us, that we may be one even as he and the Father are one (v. 22). And all this great bounteous grace is to this end, — “that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me…for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (vv. 23-24).
In verse 5 the Apostle continues giving us reasons to bless, praise, honor, extol, and adore our heavenly Father. Here the reason he gives is his great, gracious, eternal work of love called “predestination.” — “In love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”
This is the Bible doctrine of predestination. I give it to you in the very language of Holy Scripture. — “In love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” Here the Holy Spirit tells us that God has predestinated us to that which he elsewhere calls “the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).
· Our Father adopted us and named us as his children in eternal election before the world was made (1 John 3:1).
· Because we were adopted in eternity, he sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts in regeneration, giving us the nature of his Son (Galatians 4:6-7; 1 John 3:2).
· And he will soon bring us unto himself as his children in the final phase of our adoption. Then we “shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
(Romans 8:15-21) “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (16) The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: (17) And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (18) For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (19) For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. (20) For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, (21) Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
(1 John 3:1-2) “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. (2) Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
Look at verse 5 again. Our God and Father has “predestinated us unto the adoption of children in Jesus Christ to himself!” — “To himself!” Those are weighty, precious words. — “To himself!” Not merely to happiness, to blessings in time, or to blessings in eternity, not to all the creation of God, with all that the whole world can supply, — “To himself!” What wondrous grace is contained in these words! — Our God and heavenly Father, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has “predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will!”
(Psalms 4:3) But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him.
(Psalms 135:4) For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.
(Isaiah 43:21) This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise.
His Good Pleasure
All this, he has done, Paul tells us at the end of verse 5, “according to the good pleasure of his will.”
· We were not blessed according to our will, but “according to the good pleasure of his will.”
· We were not chosen according to our will, but “according to the good pleasure of his will.”
· We were not adopted according to our will, but “according to the good pleasure of his will.”
· We were not predestinated according to our will, but “according to the good pleasure of his will.”
· We were not accepted according to our will, but “according to the good pleasure of his will.”
Our Savior’s delights were with us from everlasting, and it was our Father’s good pleasure from everlasting to save us! Well might we pray continually, — “Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem” (Psalm 51:18). In all things God performs his good pleasure; and my heart says, “Let him do his pleasure!”
(Philippians 2:13) For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
(2 Thessalonians 1:11-12) Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: (12) That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Luke 12:32) Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
The Lord our God ought to be ceaselessly blessed by us because he has eternally blessed us in election, in predestination, in adoption, and we read in verse 6 that he has done all this “to the praise of the glory of his grace!” The purpose of God in the salvation of poor, doomed, damned, hell-bent, hell-deserving sinners is that we should be, “to the praise of the glory of his grace.”
There are other Divine attributes manifested in the salvation of sinners by Christ. The wisdom of God devised the plan of redemption. The power of God accomplishes the work of regeneration. And the immutability of God is the security of our souls. In fact, all the attributes of the triune God are gloriously displayed in the salvation of sinners. But grace is the fountain head of salvation. Grace is conspicuous throughout the whole work.
· Grace is to be seen in our election. “There is a remnant according to the election of grace.”
· Grace is evident in our redemption. We have been “justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
· Grace is the basis of our calling. God “hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”
· Certainly, all who are born of God know that we are justified, pardoned, adopted, accepted, and blessed of God according to the riches of his grace toward us in Christ Jesus.
I see a golden thread of grace running through the whole of the believer’s history, from his election before all worlds to his admission into eternal glory in heaven. All along the way, “grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life.” There is no point in the history of a saved soul upon which man can put his finger and say, “I did that. This part of my salvation was my own work. I have this by my own merit.” Every blessing we receive from God, in time or eternity, comes to us through the channel of free and sovereign grace in Christ.
“Boasting excluded, pride I abase,
I’m only a sinner, saved by grace.”
Boasting is excluded because all human merit is excluded. In the vocabulary of God’s Church “merit” is an unknown word. It is banished from our speech forever. Our only shoutings over the foundation stone and the top stone are – “Grace, grace unto it!”
Grace first inscribed my name
In life’s eternal book.
‘Twas grace that gave me to the Lamb,
Who all my sorrows took.
‘Twas grace that taught my soul to pray
And made mine eyes o’erflow.
Yes, grace has kept me to this day,
And will not let me go!
The salvation of our souls is the glory of his grace! — Grace quickens the dead, enlightens the blind, and makes the dumb shout and sing for joy. — Grace pardons the guilty. — Grace justifies the ungodly. — Grace brings prisoners out of their prison-house, and sets the captive free. — Grace communicates Divine holiness to unholy sinners. — Grace raises the poor out of the dust, and the beggar out of the dunghill, and sets them among princes, even the princes of God’s people. — Grace gives immortal dignity to the most degraded. — Grace strengthens the weak, confirms the feeble, and upholds the faint. — Grace preserves the tempted, revives the languishing, and restores the fallen. — Grace brings poor vile worms into communion with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. — Grace brings countless millions of once poor wretched sinners to ineffable glory, and makes them more glorious than the holy angels, — and all “to the praise of the glory of his grace.” — Not only to the praise of his grace, but “to the praise of the glory of his grace!” It is as if Paul is telling us that God’s glory is made more glorious in the manifestation of the riches of his grace in Christ. And to crown the whole, all these unspeakable gifts of God the Father are the result of his own everlasting love and his own free and sovereign grace, given us in Christ before the foundation of the world!
In its planning, in its purchase, in its performance, in its preservation, and in its perfection our salvation is “to the praise of the glory of his grace!” Therefore, we bless God forever, saying, “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake” (Psalm 115:1).
Now, look at the last line of verse 6. — “Wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” In his great, boundless, infinite, free, eternal grace the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our heavenly Father, “hath made us accepted in the Beloved!” What a climax this is to the Father’s eternal works of grace! 1st, chosen in Christ. 2nd, predestinated to glory in Christ. And, 3rd, accepted in Christ as eternally one with him and everlastingly united to him! And considered one with him forever! What unspeakable blessedness those words convey! — “He hath made us accepted in the Beloved!”
Remember, Paul has not yet mentioned the gracious works of God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit. He has not yet spoken of our redemption by Christ, or our being called by the Spirit. Our acceptance is here spoken of as something done before redemption was needed.
· We were accepted as a holy people in Christ before we became unholy by Adam’s transgression.
· We were accepted as justified from sin before sin was committed.
· Being accepted in Christ, we were made the sons of God before we were made the sons of Adam.
· We were accepted as a redeemed people in Christ before redemption became necessary. — In verse 7 Paul speaks of redemption as something we now have. — “In whom we have redemption through his blood.” — But he declares our acceptance by grace in the Beloved is spoken of as a thing accomplished by our heavenly Father before the world was made.
Now hear this and go to your homes blessing the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. — When God the Holy Spirit here declares that all who come to trust Christ in time were “accepted in” Christ before the world was made, this is what he is telling us…
· We are eternally one with Christ, in him as the members are in the body, united to him as the head is united to the body, eternally and everlastingly inseparable from Christ!
· God our Father always sees us in Christ, only in Christ.
· The God of Glory, our heavenly Father, embraces us and looks upon us in Christ with immutable, eternal, complacency, delight, and satisfaction!
No fact is more constantly spoken of in the New Testament, and none is more comforting, than the fact of our union with Christ. The Church of God is so really united to her Head that she is positively one with him. We are the bride, and Christ is the bridegroom. We are the branches, and he the Vine. We are the body, and he the glorious Head. Every individual believer is thus united to and one with Christ. As Levi was in the loins of Abraham when Melchizedek met him, so was every believer chosen in Christ and blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in him before the worlds were made. We have been spared, protected, converted, justified, and accepted solely and entirely by virtue of our eternal union with Christ.
The soul can never obtain peace until, like Ruth, she finds rest in the house of her Kinsman, who becomes her Husband — Jesus the Lord.
Joseph Irons once said…
“I am as sure as I am of my own existence that wherever God the Holy Spirit awakens the poor sinner by his mighty grace, and imparts spiritual life in his heart, nothing will ever satisfy that poor sinner but a believing assurance of eternal union with Christ. Unless the soul obtains a sweet and satisfactory consciousness of it in the exercise of a living faith, it will never ‘enter into rest’ this side eternity.”
Nothing this side of heaven can be more blessed than the confidence of our oneness with Christ. —— Spurgeon said, “To know and feel that our interests are mutual, our bonds indissoluble, and our lives united, is indeed to dip our morsel in the golden dish of heaven.”
We are eternally and unalterably one with Christ, justified in his glorious righteousness, holy in his spotless holiness, perfect in his perfection, and lovely in his loveliness! — “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). That is grace. Free grace! Eternal grace! That is the grace of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! And that is — eternal grace!
[i]: Danville — Sunday Morning — June 11, 2006
Danville — Sunday Evening — March 15, 2015
Rescue Baptist Church, Rescue, CA — (WED 06/28/06)
Beech Grove Baptist Church, Bardwell, KY — (WED 03/25/09)
Sovereign Grace Fellowship — Wasilla, AK — (WED-03/14/12)
Kingsport Sovereign Grace Church — Kingsport, TN (03/18/12)