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Sermon #58 — Ephesians Sermons
Title: “For Christ’s Sake”
Text: Ephesians 4:32
Subject: Mercy’s Motive
Date: Tuesday Evening — December 20, 2016
Readings: Allen Kibby and Larry Brown
You will find my text in Ephesians chapter four, at verse thirty-two — Ephesians 4:32. It seems to me that our text is the sweetest, most tender verse to be found in the pages of inspiration. It speaks plainly and tenderly of the love of God to his people and the love for one another that God gives to his people. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” The sense of this verse is given in similar words by this same Apostle in the third chapter of Colossians (vv. 12-14). — “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness” (vv. 12-14).
As you know, the chapter and verse divisions of our English Bible were added by the translators, to assist us in finding passages with more ease. However, they sometimes occur in places that break up the thoughts of the writer. Such is the case here. When we read this latter part of the fourth chapter of Ephesians, we should include the first two verses of chapter five; for Paul’s thought continues through those verses. Let’s read them together, beginning at verse thirty of chapter four.
“Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God “for Christ’s sake” hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children: and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor.”
The imagery here is beautiful. It pictures the golden altar of incense with its perfume, its ascending sweet smelling odor, coming up to God. — Here we see that our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. is a sweet smelling, acceptable offering to God, both as the ground of our forgiveness and as the example of our conduct.
The blessed purity of our holy faith is obvious, not only in its precepts, but in the character of the God it reveals. There is not an excellency which we can imagine that is not seen shining brightly in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no line of conduct in which we should excel as believers that does not point us to Christ Jesus, our Lord and Master, as the example of it.
I come to you as God’s servant, to show you mercy’s motive. Here we are urged to constantly exercise the tender spirit of forgiveness, not by pointing us to the law of Moses, nor by showing us the virtues of such a spirit, but by pointing us to God our Father, who “for Christ’s sake” has forgiven us. I take those three words for the title of my message — “For Christ’s Sake.”
What nobler motive can we require for loving and forgiving one another? What manner of people ought we to be, who have such a high example of mercy? As we run the race that is set before us, we must be “looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith.” Christ is both the Object of our hope and the Example of our obedience. May the God of all grace grant grace to follow him.
Our text urges us to love one another and forgive one another continually. Paul sets before us the example of God himself. Purposefully, I will spend most of my time upon that blessed example. Then I hope to draw some practical lessons from it. God’s forgiving love is so fascinating that we could dwell upon it for many hours, and it would still be as fresh as the morning dew. But from that, I hope we shall be gathering grace by which to follow his example, forgiving one another even to seventy times seven.
Proposition: The only motive that has caused God to forgive us of our sins is the loving sacrifice of his dear Son; and we should follow his example, forgiving one another “for Christ’s sake.”
Divisions: As the Lord enables me, I want to draw three lessons from this text that is bursting with love and kindness. I pray that God the Holy Ghost will make them powerful lessons for our own hearts, and teach us to live in this world “for Christ’s sake.”
1. Every good thing that God bestows upon us comes to us “for Christ’s sake.”
2. It is “for Christ’s sake” that God has forgiven his people.
3. “For Christ’s sake,” we should freely forgive one another.
All Gifts of Grace
1st — Our text teaches us that all the gifts of God’s mercy, love and grace, every good thing the Lord our God bestows upon us comes to us for Christ’s sake.
This is a lesson which we should all be familiar with. It is a lesson that we all must learn. We use these words very often, “for Christ’s sake.” We talk about doing a certain thing, and refusing to do another, “for Christ’s sake.” Do not misunderstand me. This should be our motive in all things. But, I dare say, few of us have ever stopped to consider the force and meaning of those three words, “for Christ’s sake.” It is certain that I lack both the understanding and the ability to give you the fulness of their meaning. But this much is clear; every good thing that God bestows upon the sons of men, especially the forgiveness of their sins, is done “for Christ’s sake.” That is the plain assertion of our text.
It is the glory of God’s grace to forgive our sin; but he only forgives sin “for Christ’s sake.” — “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
God forgives sin for the sake of the atonement the Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished at Calvary. — Here is a marvel of God’s grace! The just Lawgiver, the glorious King, our great God readily passes over our offences because of the expiation for sin which Christ offered as our Redeemer. Without the suffering and death of Christ, God could never forgive sin. — “Without shedding of blood is no remission!”
If we but realize what sin is, we will readily perceive that it can only be forgiven, “for Christ’s sake.”
Š Sin is an affront to God’s holy character; therefore, it must be destroyed.
Š Sin is the breach of God’s holy law; therefore, it must be punished.
Š Sin is an attack upon God’s government of the universe; therefore, it must be punished.
Š “Sin is the dare of God's justice, the rape of His mercy, the jeer of His patience, the slight of His power, and the contempt of His love” — John Bunyan
Š “Sin is an attempt by man to rape God himself and rob him of his glory.” — Pastor Scott Richardson
Š Sin is man’s attempt to assassinate the Almighty!
If God could allow sin to go unpunished, it would be the worst calamity that could ever befall the universe, for it would be a license for all creatures to rebel. This is probably the best argument for those who advocate capital punishment. I am neither defending nor opposing that. I will leave it in the hands of Caesar. But it serves to illustrate my point. Sometimes, in the affairs of state, the lawgiver must execute death upon the murderer in mercy toward society. Otherwise, life would be in jeopardy, and everything would be insecure. Therefore, it becomes mercy to write out the sentence of death upon the criminal as a deterrent to murder. This is the case with God in reference to sin and sinners. It is his very love as well as his holiness and justice which compels the severity of his judgment. For the honor of God and the good of his creation, sin cannot be blotted out until a suitable atonement is made.
But here is God’s great mercy, love, and grace. He has supplied his own Son to make that sacrifice demanded by his justice. — God, “for Christ’s sake,” forgives sin, because his holiness and justice have been fully satisfied.
Until we see the Son of God dying in the sinner’s place, it is impossible for us to conceive that sin might be forgiven. But Christ’s death shows us how God can be both just and the justifier of the ungodly. — That is the message of the incarnation (Hebrews 10:1-22).
Š Our sorrow cannot wipe the slate clean.
Š Our repentance cannot answer for the sins of the past.
Š We could never make any sacrifice that would satisfy Divine justice, neither in this world, nor the world to come.
Š But, go with me to Calvary; see there the bleeding Lamb of God, and you will easily see that God may be just and yet justify the ungodly.
Behold “Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26).
(Hebrews 10:1-22) “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. (2) For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. (3) But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. (4) For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. (5) Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: (6) In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. (7) Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. (8) Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; (9) Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. (10) By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (11) And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: (12) But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God; (13) From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. (14) For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. (15) Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, (16) This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; (17) And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. (18) Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. (19) Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, (20) By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; (21) And having an high priest over the house of God; (22) Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
God has forgiven us because of the representative character of our Lord Jesus Christ. It must never be forgotten that we originally fell and became sinners by a representative.
Š Our father Adam stood before God as our representative in the Garden of Eden.
Š We should never object to this arrangement, because that is also the hope of our race.
The angels fell individually, one by one; and they are irretrievably lost forever. There is no hope of restoration for them. But, since we fell in Adam, our representative, there remained for us the possibility of rising in another Adam.
Therefore, in the fulness of time, God sent forth is Son, Christ Jesus, made of a woman, made under the law as the last Adam. Standing as our Representative, he undertook in the covenant of grace to remove our sins and to fulfill the conditions of our forgiveness.
Š According to the law, in as much as man had sinned, a man must die; therefore, Christ assumed our nature.
Š Man must perfectly obey the law, so Christ rendered a perfect obedience.
Š Man must suffer the penalty of Divine wrath, so Christ died.
As our Representative, having borne the penalty of the law he fulfilled for us, Christ Jesus is justified before God. And he ever lives before God as our Representative, so that we are justified in him (Romans 5:12-19.
(Romans 5:12-19) “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (13) (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. (14) Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. (15) But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. (16) And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. (17) For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) (18) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. (19) For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”
His Love for Christ
I will go a little further and say that God forgives our sins for the sake of his love for Christ. — It is always the joy of God to express his love for his Son. We cannot begin to understand the wondrous mystery of the sacred and eternal love between the Father and the Son. Throughout all the ages, yea, before the ages began, they have enjoyed loving fellowship with one another. They have always been one in their designs. They have never differed upon any purpose. Indeed, they cannot differ, for they are one. When our Lord says, “Father, glorify thy Son,” he is so united to the Father that he says, “that thy Son also may glorify thee.” —— God forgives sin, because he loves his Son. Blessed be God, there is no sin that he will not forgive, “for Christ’s sake!”
Once more, our great and ever-gracious God forgives sin for the sake of glorifying Christ. — Christ took the shame of our sins that he might glorify the Father. And now his Father delights to magnify him by forgiving sin on his account.
Sinner, here is the ground upon which you may pray with hope: “Lord, I am a vile sinner. There is nothing in me but sin. I have nothing to offer you. But, would it not be for the glory of Christ to forgive such a sinner as I am?”
(Psalm 25:11) “For thy name's sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.”
Not only has God forgiven our sins, but he hears our prayers “for Christ’s sake.” What can God refuse, when it is sought for the sake of his Son? Let this be the constant guide of your prayers, “for Christ’s sake.”
God accepts our labors and our sacrifices, only “for Christ’s sake.” We “offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
Š Ever bear in mind that our noblest labors and most costly sacrifices are not acceptable to God, except by Christ.
Š Do your service “for Christ’s sake,” and God will accept it.
Š Come to worship “for Christ’s sake,” and God will be worshipped by you.
Š Offer your prayers to God “for Christ’s sake,” and your prayers will be heard.
Š Offer your songs of praise “for Christ’s sake,” and your songs will be embraced by the Lord God.
Š Give your money “for Christ’s sake,” and God will accept it.
Remember this: every blessing and promise of God in the covenant is yours, “for Christ’s sake,” and be thankful.
Š Are you loved of God? It is “for Christ’s sake.”
Š Are you God’s elect? It is “for Christ’s sake.”
Š Are you redeemed? It is “for Christ’s sake.”.
Š Are you accepted? It is “for Christ’s sake.”
Š Are you the sons of God? It is “for Christ’s sake.”
Š Are you instructed? It is “for Christ’s sake.”
Š Are you sealed with God’s Spirit? It is “for Christ’s sake.”
Š Are you saved? It is “for Christ’s sake.”
Let this truth humble our hearts and make us thankful, giving all praise, honor, and glory to Christ. — “Who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).
2nd — “For Christ’s sake” God has forgiven his people of all sin. I have told you what God can and will do for us. Now, let me remind you of what he has actually done. Notice the words of our text. — “God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Here Paul speaks with confidence and finality of a great blessing which God has done for every believing soul for the sake of his Son. — “God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
These words show us the certainty of our forgiveness. The forgiveness of sin is not something to be hoped for when we come before the judgment seat. It is not the prize for which we run. It is a blessing conferred upon us, which we receive when we come to the Lord Jesus Christ by faith.
If you believe in Jesus Christ, your sin is all gone. — We receive the declaration of pardon in our hearts the moment we believe. — The pardon of sin is not a matter of hope, but a matter of fact.
“The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.”
If Christ took your load, then your load cannot remain on your back. If Christ paid your debts, then they do not stand in God’s book against you.
God has so completely forgiven our sin “for Christ’s sake” that it shall never be mentioned against us forever!
God’s forgiveness of our sins is also continuous. — “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Once pardon is given, sin continues to be forgiven. When we are in doubt, unsure of our pardon, it is still sure and true. He who believes on Son of God is not condemned, even if his heart own condemns him. — “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God” (1 John 4:20-21).
This forgiveness of sin is absolutely free and unconditional on our part. God has forgiven us “for Christ’s sake” alone. It was not because of our faith, or our repentance, for even these are given to us “for Christ’s sake.” Purely of his own love, he delights to show mercy to us “for Christ’s sake.”
Mark this and rejoice, God has forgiven us fully! The whole horrible list of our sins was destroyed at once. All our transgressions were swept away. All were carried away with that crimson flood, so fully removed that not one trace of them is found.
“Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me!”
Š My sins against a holy God are forgiven.
Š My sins against his law are forgiven.
Š My sins against his Gospel are forgiven.
Š My sins against my body are forgiven.
Š My sins against my neighbors are forgiven.
Oh, my soul, this thought is too great for me! The sins of my body and my mind, as numerous as the sands of the sea, as great as the sea itself, are all removed from me, as far as the east is from the west. All my evil was rolled into one great mass, laid on my Surety, and made his; and having borne it in my stead, Christ has made an end of sin forever! O blessed Redeemer! O blessed forgiveness! Our dear Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ took the handwriting that was against us and nailed it to the cross, to show to the entire universe that its power to condemn us has ceased.
Do you want assurance? Look to the risen Redeemer. There, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, is your assurance. He says concerning the demands of the law — “Paid in full!”
This forgiveness which God has given us “for Christ’s sake” is an eternal forgiveness.
Š Our God will never rake up our past offences and require them at our hands.
Š It is an irreversible forgiveness.
Š Though we sin a thousand times a day, as we all do, he will never look upon us without pronouncing us clean through the blood of Christ.
Š We will never be dealt with any the less graciously because of our sins.
“Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who ought to my charge shall lay!
Through Jesus’ blood absolved I am,
From sins tremendous curse and shame!”
3rd — The third lesson that the Holy Spirit gives us in this text is most practical. – “For Christ’s sake” we should freely forgive one another. Each of us requires the forgiveness of another. We have a great deal to forgive in other people, but is always a great deal more to be forgiven in ourselves by our brethren. For me to forgive my brother is a very small thing in comparison with God forgiving me. — Here is the inspiration, the motive for forgiveness that we cannot resist: if we are truly God’s children, we should forgive one another “for Christ’s sake.”
Š Forgiveness is Christ like.
Š Forgiveness honors Christ.
Š Will you not forgive “for Christ’s sake”, regardless of the offence?
Our forgiveness of one another must be even as God “for Christ’s sake” has forgiven us. We should forgive our brethren even before they repent and seek forgiveness, and without them asking for it, simply “for Christ’s sake.”
This final thing, I hope, will be impressed upon our hearts. — I must willingly forgive or I am not saved. Listen to the words of Christ himself. — “If ye forgive men their trespasses, your Father in heaven will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 7:14-16). Yet, this forgiveness is not something done by force or compulsion; but it is something done willingly, “for Christ’s sake.”
I want to make two or three statements to apply this subject to your hearts. I pray that God the Holy Spirit will himself apply it both to you and me.
1. This spirit of forgiveness will make your own life and your life in Christ’s family sweet.
“How sweet, how heavenly is the sight,
When those who love the Lord,
In one another’s peace delight,
And so fulfill his Word.
When each can feel his brother’s sigh,
And with him bear a part;
When sorrow flows from eye to eye,
And joy from heart to heart.
When free from envy, scorn, and pride,
Our wishes all above,
Each can his brother’s failings hide,
And show a brother’s love.
When love in one delightful stream,
Through every bosom flows,
And union sweet and dear esteem
In every action glows.
Love is the golden chain that binds,
The happy souls above;
And he’s an heir of heaven who finds,
His bosom glow with love.”
Let us not follow the example of Ham who uncovered his father’s nakedness. But be like Shem and Japheth who covered their father’s shame. Do not publish your brother’s faults, but cover them with love and forgiveness.
2. Some of you know nothing of this spirit. Your heart is hard and calloused with malice, because you have never experienced forgiveness. O sinner, turn this moment to Christ by faith; and God will forgive you “for Christ’s sake.”
3. Saints of God, let this be the motive for all that you do — “For Christ’s sake!”
4. Children of God, make this subject the theme of your meditations and praises – “God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you!”