Grace Available and Accomplishing - Part One
Topic: Grace Passage: 2 Corinthians 6:1–6:13
Grace Community Church
January 17, 2021
Grace Available and Accomplishing - Part One
Let’s turn in our Bibles to 2 Cor. 6. We’re going to work our way through vv. 1-13 a little at a time starting with verse 1. Let’s open with prayer.
Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
The appeal not to receive the grace of God in vain confronts us with a difficult question: can the grace of God not work? Can the grace of God not do it’s job in our lives? That’s what this passage seems to be saying. The word “vain” means empty or useless, in other words, the grace of God we received isn’t doing what it was given to do. The grace of God isn’t accomplishing what God means for it to accomplish.
Let’s get a little theological here. God is sovereign over all and no one thwarts His sovereign will, no one derails His perfect plan. From a wide-angle lens, God is working everything for the good of His people and for His great glory. God is all-powerful and nothing can stop His work from being accomplished.
But from a narrow angle lens, we can experience more or less of God’s good work in our lives depending on our choices. The Bible says the Pharisees rejected God’s purposes for themselves (Luke 7:30). God’s purposes flowed unstoppingly like a mighty river, but the Pharisees refused to get in. They couldn’t stop God’s purposes, but they could reject those purposes for themselves. Romans 12 tells us we have received a measure of grace, and then it exhorts us to steward that grace through faith and diligence. We have received the grace, Paul then says, put it to work. In 2 Cor. 6:1 Paul appeals to them, let the grace of God that you have received accomplish all that God means for it to accomplish in your life. Don’t empty grace of its power by letting it sit dormant and unused in your life.
Paul might have unbelievers in mind who get close enough to grace to enjoy it, who like to attend church, like the fellowship of believers, feel built up by encouraging messages from God’s word, but refuse to allow God’s grace to do its work deep in their heart. God’s appeal to them is clear: be reconciled to God! Draw near to Christ by faith and be saved by grace!
But Paul isn’t just talking to unbelievers here, he’s talking to Christians. Chuck Swindoll identifies two ways a Christian can receive the grace of God in vain: first by embracing a graceless lifestyle. By trusting in good works to be right with God rather than the righteousness that comes from God by grace. Legalism empties grace of its power in our lives.
The second way he suggests is when the believer fails to take advantage of the opportunities for ministry God gives to us. If we let God-given opportunities pass us by, in essence we’re putting the grace of God on a shelf. If God has given us grace to witness, but we choose not to witness, we’ve received God’s grace in vain. If God has given us grace to serve, but we don’t serve, we’ve received God’s grace in vain. If God has given us gifts to build up the body but we don’t use those gifts, we’ve received God’s grace in vain. God’s grace is available, but it won’t accomplish what God means for it to accomplish if we’re not putting it to use. The river of grace is flowing, but we’re not getting in.
Title: Grace Available and Accomplishing Part One
There’s a sense of urgency as Paul appeals to them to re-engage with the awesome grace of God available to them in Christ and re-engage in the ministry of reconciliation that God has called them to. That urgency says, “now”, “today” as Paul quotes Isa. 48:9
2 For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
Now is the favorable time, now is the day of salvation. Christ has accomplished all that is needed to save us and reconcile us to God…now! We don’t have to wait. And we shouldn’t wait, because now is the favorable time. And “now” won’t last forever.
There is a day that won’t be “now”. The person putting off getting saved needs to know that there is a day when it will be too late to turn, too late to be saved, too late to be forgiven of your sin, too late to be reconciled to God. You don’t know when your “now” will come to an end. God says today is the favorable day, now is the time.
But this speaks a needed word to Christians too. Now is the time to engage with God’s grace. Now is the time to seize the opportunities for ministry that are all around us. Don’t say, “the opportunities will be there tomorrow. I’ll engage God’s grace and seize them tomorrow.” God says you don’t even know that you have a tomorrow. Now is now! Today is the day! When we get into the habit of saying “not now, tomorrow” we risk of coming to the end of our lives only to find a trail of missed now’s, a lifetime of missed opportunities to live in the active grace that God makes available to us today. Now.
I’m speaking to myself as much as anybody. Now is the favorable time, God’s grace is available and ready to bear fruit in our lives for His glory. Now!
Let’s continue in verse 3.
3 We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.
11 We have spoken freely to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.
I was listening to NPR the other day, and they were introducing a composer I hadn’t heard of before, and it was really interesting as they dissected his style, how he would sometimes speed up, and then slow down to create a tension in his music.
As I was working through these verses I had a decision to make: do I speed up and power through these
verses quickly, or do I slow down to make sure we don’t miss what God wants to say to us in these verses? At first glance it doesn’t seem like these verses have a lot to say to us personally. This is Paul’s ministry resume and none of us have Paul’s calling. But a closer look will reveal these verses have a lot to say to us.
These verses describe the opposite of grace received in vain; the opposite of empty, fruitless grace. Don’t we want that? God wants it for us too, so let’s unpack it together.
But I think a holy pause here is appropriate. Through Christ, God has made His grace abundantly available to us. There’s no shortage of grace! You say, “I don’t deserve God’s grace.” Neither do I. Grace can’t be deserved, grace is given to the undeserving – you and me. We come to Jesus, nothing in our hands to give him, but with hands wide open to receive all he freely gives us by grace. God’s grace won’t grow in power and activity in our lives because we try harder for Jesus, His grace will grow in power and activity by our abiding more closely in Jesus, receiving and believing Him to do His great work through us! Paul says, working together with him. God working in us and through us!
The world doesn’t need to see more people working for God. The world needs to see the power of God working through more people.
He has given you the power of the Holy Spirit. Believe it! Have faith and step out in power that’s not yours but God’s. Let’s not look back on past attempts and failures, past starts and stops, and say, why even try? Today is the favorable day. Now is the right moment to believe God to pour fresh grace on our lives. And then step out by faith and get into God’s river of available grace!
- Grace enables us to influence people towards Christ
3 We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:
I say passion because there’s strong feeling in Paul’s statement: we put no obstacle, we commend ourselves in every way…
So much of life is about influence. John Maxwell says leadership is about influence. Our flesh wants to influence people to follow our agenda. To get our way. To stay out of our way. To give us what we think we need. To manipulate them to do what we want. To think highly of us. We could go on, but bottom line our flesh wants to use our influence to further our agenda.
God’s grace effectually working in us gives us a new passion to influence people towards Christ as we see Paul describe in both the negative and the positive: we don’t want to put any obstacle that keeps them from coming to Christ. We do want to do whatever we can to help people be reconciled to God.
God has put people in our sphere of influence, and we need to prayerfully consider: am I an obstacle to their faith? Does my life make it harder for them to believe in Christ? Or am I a non-influence, not really making a difference in people’s lives? Or does my life, my character, my actions, my words engage the grace of God in such a way it influences and moves people towards Christ?
Paul exudes the grace of God so powerfully his life and his ministry puts no obstacle but commends Christ in every way. I can’t say that, can you? I’ve probably put some obstacles up for some along the way and I’ve not been commending Christ in every way. You and I aren’t perfect, and we’ll need to ask for forgiveness along the way. But as we ask God to use our imperfect lives to influence precious souls towards Christ and believe He will use us by His grace, we will see what God and His powerful grace can accomplish through us!
But we haven’t completed Paul’s thought. In verse 4 he writes, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way, but what follows is a colon not a period. Paul’s saying I do everything possible to influence people towards Christ and not obstruct them and here’s how that grace plays out in real life: in midst of hardship, in the face of opposition, when people misrepresent me and slander my reputation.
And there’s one other important way that grace in Paul’s life enables him to influence towards Christ: he keeps an open heart in a closed heart world. He’s got the grace-empowered courage to be vulnerable before the other person is vulnerable. We’ll get to all that next week.
I want to close with these encouragements: If you don’t know Christ as your Savior, his appeal to you is this: be reconciled to God! God wants a relationship with you, and Jesus has done everything needed to make that relationship possible by dying on the cross. Will you come to Christ today? God says today is the day. Don’t put it off until tomorrow. None of us knows for certain that we have tomorrow. Come to Christ and believe today. Right now.
And for all believers: Now is the time. Let’s believe God and call upon the Lord to do great things. Let’s not be satisfied with grace available. Let’s cry out for grace accomplishing!
God has given you grace – use it! God has a river of grace flowing – step into it!
You say, “where do I begin?”
Begin by abiding more closely in Jesus. Lean upon him and draw life and grace from him. The first work is to lay down all our works and trust in the finished work of Christ on our behalf. He has reconciled us to God. He has made us new creations in Christ.
I think those who have been believers for many years especially can become disheartened and grace can become dormant. We see a trail of disappointments and failures. Maybe we’ve been hurt by other Christians (Paul knew something about that). Maybe we feel the weight of regret, knowing we have hurt others. Grace sits dormant.
Don’t let yesterday define today. Today is the day, now is the time. Let’s take the grace God has given us off the shelf.
I want us to pray God pours out fresh faith and fresh power on His church today. I want us to pray that God draws those who don’t know Him to Jesus Christ with cords of love. Let’s pray that grace available becomes grace accomplishing!
Wednesday prayer time from 7pm-7:30pm. One half hour zoom prayer, to call upon God for His church to experience a greater outpouring of His Spirit. A fresh infusion of grace. I’d love it if you joined me!