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The Five Solas—Sola Gratia- 2

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The scandal of God’s grace.

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Text: Matthew 20:1-16
Theme: The scandal of God’s grace.
Date: 11/03/2019 File name: SolaGratia-2.wpd ID Number:
Some of the greatest hymns of the Church are hymns about grace. “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!” (John Newton). “Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt.” (Julia Johnston). “God of grace and God of glory, On Thy people pour Thy power.” (Harry Fosdick). Christians love to sing of the saving grace of God—and rightly so. John the Apostle tells us that out of Jesus’ “fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16). The very last words of the Bible read: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Rev. 22:21).
This morning’s message is our second of five messages looking at the Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation's teaching swirled around a fivefold repetition of the word Sola — Latin for Alone. Those five Solas were
Sola Sciptura - SCRIPTURE Alone ...
Sola Gratia - GRACE Alone ...
Sola Fide - FAITH Alone ...
Sola Christus - CHRIST Alone ...
Sola Deo Gloria - for the Glory of GOD Alone.
Put together they remind us of the core of the Gospel message—we are saved by Grace alone, through Faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the Scriptures alone, for the Glory of God alone. Salvation, from beginning to end, is the sovereign gift of God to the unworthy and undeserving sinner. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Galatians 2:8-9, NIV). So, this morning I want to preach on the Scandal of God’s Grace — that God saves sinners out of His goodness, and mercy, and love that come together under the banner of grace. In the words of hymn writer Augustus Toplady, “Not the labors of my hands Can fulfill Thy law’s demands; These for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone; In my hand no price I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling.
One of the best places to turn to understand the scandalous nature of God’s grace is the Parable of the Vineyard Workers.
In this sermon, I want you to notice two truths: 1. The Unacceptable Answer, and 2. The Unemployed Workers. Then we will look at 3.The Application.


1. the parable of the vineyard workers really begins back in Matthew 19
a. the encounter at the end of chapter 19 is the back-story for the parable of the vineyard workers at the beginning of chapter 20
2. this portion of the gospel narrative finds Jesus and his disciples on their way to Jerusalem
a. as they make their way south toward the city, Jesus is doing what he always does
b. he is healing those who are brought to him and teaching the crowds about the Kingdom of God
3. at one stop, Jesus sits down by the side of the road for a rest
a. as he sits, a young man who has been part of the throng following Jesus, bursts through the crowd, kneels at the Lord’s feet and asks, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”


1. this guy has so many things going for him that we count important in our own culture 2,000 years later
a. from this text and the parallel passage is Mark’s gospel we learn that ...
1) he is young
2) he is a leader in his community
3) he is morally upright—a paragon of virtue
4) he is rich
5) he is religious
a) I mean, doesn’t this guy sound like good Baptist deacon material to you?
b. here is a guy who seems to have it all together
ILLUS. In the culture of that day, religion, morality and success all went together. It was believed that if you lived a good life, a religious life, and a moral life, those things would lead to financial success and social prominence. If you had social prominence and financial success it must mean you had lived a good life, a religious life, and a moral life. Do you see the circular reasoning there? This philosophy of success is not so different in our day. The thought is, if you’re a decent person, you play by the rules, you don’t intentionally try to hurt people then you’re bound to be successful in life. Remember the song Maria sings in the Broadway Musical, The Sound of Music? Sister Maria is a young postulant who has been serving as a governess for the Von Trapp children. She and Captain Von Trapp eventually fall in love, and on the eve of her wedding, Maria (played by Julie Andrews), sings to the Captain, “Nothing comes from nothing; Nothing ever could; So somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.”
2. the man who comes to Jesus is a success story ... somewhere in his youth or childhood he must have done something good
a. but he is also struggling with spiritual discontent
b. his question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life” is an honest and earnest question that reveals that his spiritual life is unsatisfying — something is lacking in his life
3. but as we read the story we see that in the end the young man leaves Jesus unfulfilled
a. how can that be?


1. in answer to his original question “what must I do to inherit eternal life” Jesus tells him to keep the commandments
a. to which he answers “which ones” to which Jesus responds in vs. 19 “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”” to which the young man responds, Been there, done that
1) these are, of course, the last six of the Ten Commandments
b. this man measured his spiritual life by external obedience to religious rules and regulations, and moral excellence
2. Jesus tells the young man “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me,” (vs. 21)
a. how does the young man respond?
“When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (Matthew 19:22, NIV84)
b. the word sad in this verse literally means to grieve ... what Jesus told him grieved him
1) grief is an emotion that goes to the very heart of our human experience
2) in grief every part of our life aches ... our emotions, our intellect, and even our body
3) it’s an all-encompassing emotion—this young man grieved at what Jesus told him
3. what’s going on here? two things very quickly
a. 1st, He Went Away Grieving Because Jesus Smashed His Assumption about How Religion Works
1) he thought that eternal life came by merely adding something to his life
a) when asked, he ticked-off all the things he had been doing to win eternal life
b) but he felt like something was missing; that he needed to add something to his life to make it spiritually complete and assure his eternal life in heaven
c) for him eternal life was like adding another App to his iPhone to give it more functionality
2) that young man is like so many of us
ILLUS. When I was eighteen years old, a Church Youth Minister asked me why I thought I had eternal life. Like the young man of our story, I ticked-off for him all the reasons why I thought I had eternal life — I was a good person. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t drink ... much. I wasn’t smoking weed with the potheads. I didn’t sass my parents. I was an Eagle Scout. I took seriously the Scout Oath, and the Scout Motto, and the Scout Law ... a Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, etc., etc. I believed in God, and I went to Church. I mean, what else does God expect?
3) Jesus smashed this young man’s assumption about religion by telling him it’s not about adding a new behavior or a new ritual to a life already well lived, but coming into a relationship with a person — Christ, the Son of the Living God
b. 2nd, He Went Away Grieving Because Jesus Got Personal
1) this man wants an intellectual, well-reasoned answer to his question, but Jesus immediately moves past the superficiality of the question to get to the heart of the issue—his heart
2) Jesus smashed this young man’s assumption about religion and tells him that what he really needs to do to have treasure in heaven is to follow him, and the thing that is preventing him from doing that is his wealth, which he needs to divest himself of
a) wealth had become this man’s idol, of which he needs to repent
b) you ask, “Pastor, are you saying I need to get rid of my wealth in order to follow Jesus?”
c) no, not necessarily, but Jesus is saying you need to forsake whatever it is that keeps you from following him — it could be your wealth, or it could be a friendship that is dragging you down, or a sexual relationship you shouldn’t be in, or a job, or the pride of self-reliance
c. or like this young man, it could be a preconceived idea of what it means to have eternal life rather than what Jesus has to say about it
4. when you ask the question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life” Jesus will always get personal, and he’ll always stomp all over your assumptions about eternal life


1. the thing that the rich young man lacked was unrivaled allegiance to Christ
2. we live in a culture where most people believe their own efforts determine their eternal destiny
a. like the rich young ruler, the lost of our culture see the demand of Christ to follow him in total surrender of life and loyalty as extreme and unacceptable
1) men still want eternal life, but they want it on their own terms and not Gods’
3. even the disciples were disturbed with the answer Jesus gave
“When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” 26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”” (Matthew 19:25–27, NIV84)
4. this leads us to the parable that Jesus now tells


1. Jesus uses his encounter with the rich young ruler, and his conversation with the disciples as an opportunity to tell a story
a. this is going to be a parable that smacks the disciples—and us—right between the eyes with a profound truth about the character of our Heavenly Father, and the scandal of unmerited grace


““For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.” (Matthew 20:1–2, NIV84)
1. this would have been a typical scene in the days of the Bible
a. just as we have employment agencies today, in the first century there were places where day laborers gathered to seek work
b. they worked from job to job, many of which lasted no more than a day
1) like the migrant workers of our day, they frequently moved north with the harvest
c. because they had no guarantee of work beyond what they might be doing at the time, they would gather in the market place before dawn to be available for hiring
2. working in a vineyard was not easy work
a. at harvest time—late summer in Israel—the grapes had to be picked, often in temperatures of 100 degrees or more
1) the grape harvest was a hectic and demanding time
3. these workers were promised the pay of a denarius—a day’s pay at that time
a. the promise of a denarius to these workers would have been quite generous and so they agreed to this rate with great eagerness!
4. now, this particular landowner's property obviously was large, and so he needed more laborers to get the job done
““About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went. “He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ 7 “ ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’” (Matthew 20:3–7, NIV84)
a. the Jewish workday began at 6:00 a.m. and was called the first hour
b. the third hour began at 9:00 a.m.; the sixth hour began at noon, the ninth hour began at 3:00 p.m. and the eleventh hour began at 5:00 p.m.
1) so, you’ve got some laborers who have worked a full twelve-hour day, some who have worked nine hours, some who have worked six hours, some who have worked three hours and some who worked only one hour
c. at the end of the day, they come to collect their wages
5. at this point the parable takes a dramatic turn—Jesus’ listeners discover what the laborer’s wages are going to be
““When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ 9 “The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.” (Matthew 20:8–10, NIV84)
ILLUS. One Bible commentator, F.W. Beare, one of Canada’s most renowned New Testament scholars, says the this parable should more rightly be called, The Parable of the Eccentric Employer. F.W. Beare writes that the vineyard owner obviously does not have good business sense. His practices are unusual to say the least and most likely unprofitable. 1) he seemingly hires more men then he needs to do the job, 2) he probably pays out more in wages then he brings in for his crop, 3) he knows that paying them all the same would make the first to be hired unhappy, and 4) he leaves himself wide open to be labeled ‘unfair’.
a. with all due respect to F. W. Beare ... HE MISSES THE POINT OF THE STORY!
6. Jesus is not trying to teach us about sound business practices—he is trying to teach us something about the nature of God’s grace
a. the point of the parable is that God delights in lavishing upon people what they do not deserve


1. there has been much debate over this parable throughout the centuries
a. some place the emphasis on the grumbling of the workers first to be hired
1) these commentators insist that the point of the story is God wants sincere service motivated by love from His people
2) I suppose that’s one way to look at the story
2. in light of the event of the rich young man who came to Jesus just before he tells this story, the real emphasis is on the vineyard owner who graciously gives to all equally regardless of when they came into his service
a. if you were converted, and came to Christ at six years of age, you got exactly the same amount of saving grace as the teenager who comes to Christ at age sixteen, or the old man who comes to Christ at age seventy-six
3. we sometimes lose perspective about God’s grace
a. we forget that grace is not earned
1) we start to think that God owes us something
b. we become envious because God blesses some, and not us in the same way
1) we forget that they do not deserve it—nor do we
c. whether a person comes to God as a small child and lives a long life of faithful, obedient service, or whether he comes to Him on his deathbed after a life of debauchery, all come into the kingdom on the same basis and receive the same glorious, eternal grace
4. this is the scandal of grace—that God does not treat us as our sins deserve
ILLUS. In 1994, Curt Booth, a Christian involved in prison ministry in Texas, began corresponding with one of America’s most notorious serial killers, Jeffrey Dahmer—a man known worldwide as a pedophile who murdered 17 boys and men, dismembering their bodies, and cannibalizing them. He was arrested in 1991, and as his crimes came to light, the nation gasped. In April 1994, Curt Booth saw an interview with Dahmer on television, and Dahmer mentioned that he wished he could “find a little peace.” Booth began writing Dahmer and sent him information on how to come to Christ, and find forgiveness in him. In time, Dahmer wrote Booth, telling him he had received Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord. Because Booth lived far away from the prison Dahmer was housed in, he contacted Wisconsin pastor Roy Ratcliff to minister to Dahmer. Ratcliff was hesitant, but eventually began visiting with Dahmer, baptized him, and met with him once a week until Jeffrey was murdered in prison by another inmate. Ratcliff has written a book, Dark Journey, Deep Grace, about Jeffrey’s journey of faith.
a. there is a part of us that screams, “No, no, no! Unfair! How could, why would God save a monster like Jeffrey Dahmer?”
1) we’re like the vineyard workers complaining to the land owner that it’s not fair that he would be so generous toward the johnny-come-lately’s
b. this is the scandal of God’s grace
5. grace teaches us that God does for others what we could not, and probably would not ever do for them
a. if it were up to us to determine who went to heaven and who didn’t, we might include the not-so-bad person, but the bodaciously bad person—the wicked woman, the evil man—well, they can just rot in hell where they belong
“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7–8, NIV84)
1) we forget that hell is where we all belong!
2) but, praise God, Christ died for sinners—he died for us
6. grace is a gift that cost God everything, and us nothing
a. the parable of the vineyard workers reminds us that God gives His full measure of grace to those least expecting it, and undeserving of it
b. that’s why God alone gets the glory
7. the only way for you to inherit eternal life is to surrender your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ
“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”” (Matthew 19:26, NIV84)
a. what’s impossible for men?
1) inheriting eternal life through religious ritual, moral excellence, or benevolent works
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; ... .” (Isaiah 64:6, NIV84)
b. what’s possible with God?
1) saving men through the righteousness of Christ that comes through his blood
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4–5, NIV84)
The Scripture cannot get any planner. Let me close with one of my favorite stories. There is probably not a home here that does not have a Betty Crocker cake mix in the pantry. Boxed cake mixes have been around since 1933. The original mixes required adding only water to the mix. But consumers were skeptical, and the mixes did not sell well. In the early 1950's General Mills developed its own cake mix. Test consumers found the cake mix to be of superior quality to the other mixes then available. It tasted good, it was easy to use, and it made a moist, tender cake. The company spent millions of dollars on an advertising campaign and then released the cake mix to the general market. But very few people bought the new cake mix.
The company then spent more money on a survey to find out why the cake mix didn’t sell. Result? Women thought it was too good to be true, and so they didn’t believe the claims. The company recalled the mix, reworked the formula, and released the revised cake mix. The new mix still required you to add water, but also one egg.
The new mix was a huge success, and continues to be a leading product for Betty Crocker. Why didn’t the first mix sell? People thought the mix was just too simple to be believable and so people did not accept it. The simple act of adding an egg to the mix made people think they were actually “doing something” to create a cake.
Do you get it? Do you see the point? The same is true of salvation by grace alone. It just seems too good to be true. Surely we must have to do something to earn God’s salvation, but the good news is that it is true!
We are saved by the grace of God alone. He offers that grace in the person of His Son who died on a hill called Calvary. When we come to Jesus, and place our faith in him, God’s grace comes flooding into our lives.
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