These are notes on the sermon, Where Is Holiness In Grace?, preached by Pastor Joseph Prince on Sunday, 31 October 2021, at The Star Performing Arts Centre, Singapore. We hope these sermon notes will be an encouragement to you!
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Today, we commemorate Reformation Day. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, a German monk and scholar, nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This day is special because it commemorates the launch of the reformation and the restoration of the gospel of grace to the body of Christ through the ministry of Martin Luther.
This happened during a time when church tradition demanded that Christians work and pay for their salvation by their own efforts. Martin Luther’s theses marked the beginning of believers all over the world rediscovering the gospel of grace—the true gospel of Jesus Christ—which declares that we are saved and justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
The reformation is based on five solas, which means “only” or “alone” in Latin:
The gospel of Jesus Christ is based on Scripture alone, on Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, and it is all for the glory of God.
Yet, down through the ages, many have tried to add to the gospel, adding their good intentions and efforts to the mix. The flesh doesn’t mind being religious. It always wants to take the credit and get the glory for something it does. But the apostle Paul makes it very clear that we are saved by grace through faith:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
— Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
The grace of Christ is the true gospel. It is all about His righteousness, not ours (Rom. 1:16–17, 3:26b).
There are some believers who are afraid to rest in the salvation in Christ. There are also preachers and ministers who think that if they take the sense of eternal security away from the believers, the better their behavior will be or the more holy they will strive to be. However, this cannot be further from the truth.
The more insecure you are in your faith and salvation in Christ, the more fearful you are and the more liable you are to fall into a life of sin. On the contrary, when we are sure and secure in our salvation because of Jesus’ finished work, we are under grace and this grace produces holiness.
Through the finished work of Jesus Christ, God has made the finishing line our starting post. What Christ has done in His death, burial, and resurrection brought us to the finishing line! The Bible says that we have been made complete in Christ (Col. 2:10a) and we are seated in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 2:6b).
We begin our Christian walk being complete in Christ. When we can rest in the truth of our position in Him, we are able to walk out that completeness in our daily life.
There are people who think that grace is only the basics of Christianity—that you only need to learn about it when you are born again but after you have learned it, you now have to work your way to holiness. However, the Bible does not attest to this. God’s Word says that as we wait for Christ to return, we will always be pursuing righteousness, which is a gift. Pursuing righteousness is how we flee from youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2:22).
Righteousness is a gift from God—it is received, not earned. There is no way we can become more righteous. There is progressive walking out of holiness, but righteousness is not progressive, it is complete. We have been made righteous once and for all through the finished work of Christ.
The Bible says in Ephesians 1:6, “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” The word “accepted” is the Greek word “charitoo,” which means “highly favored.” It goes on to say that we are not just “accepted in Christ” but “accepted in the Beloved.” This tells us that God wants us to know that we are loved by Him and even feel it.
As we have learned last week, only when you know you have the wealth (“the riches of His grace”) of Ephesians 1:7 can you walk worthy of the calling with which you were called (Eph. 4:1). You cannot have the walk (e.g. the daily walk of being a good spouse or parent) without first understanding what you have and who you are (Eph 1:7).
Before we are able to walk, we have to learn how to sit, that is, how to rest in Jesus’ finished work that has made us righteous. The more secure we are in the wealth of our position in Christ, the more secure we will be in our daily walk. We are not striving to get closer to God through our good works. We are already close to God because we are in Christ, who is seated at God’s right hand.
The old hymn, “A Mind At Perfect Peace With God,” illuminates this:
“So dear, so very dear to God,
More dear I cannot be;
The love wherewith He loves the Son,
Such is His love to me."
We are so near to God. It is when we enjoy this nearness and intimacy with the Lord that we can show our loved ones grace and love.
Let’s take a look at two of Jesus’ closest disciples, John and Peter:
John was the disciple who always boasted of Jesus' love for him. The Lord loved all the disciples, but John knew it, believed it, and personalized Jesus’ love for him (1 John 4:16a).
At the last supper, John was the only one resting on Jesus' bosom (John 13:23). By doing so, John was presenting himself as the one whom Jesus loved. He even called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved” multiple times in his gospel, the gospel of John.
On the other hand, we have Peter (whose name means “stone”—a picture of the law), who always boasted of his love for Jesus (Mark 14:29). Peter is a picture of believers who depend on their own works and love for the Lord.
We can only love God and the people around us when we know God first loved us. It is vital that we preach this because knowing and believing how loved you are by the Lord will cause you to love the Lord more and give you the strength and grace to love the people around you as well.
Peter was the one who trusted in his love for the Lord. In the upper room, as Jesus was revealing who would betray Him, Peter had to signal to John to get him to ask Jesus who the traitor was. This shows distance between Peter and Jesus, while John needed only to “lean back” against Jesus’ bosom to ask Him the question.
The Urim and Thummim are two precious stones found in the breastplate of the high priest’s garments. The two stones represent perfect guidance and divine light. When you lean on the bosom of Jesus, your high priest (a picture of depending on His love for you), you will be able to hear His directions and be led by His perfect guidance.
The phrase “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was mentioned five times in the gospel of John.
This is the final mention of the phrase:
“Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?””
— John 21:20–21 NKJV
Peter saw John with Jesus and questioned Jesus about John, and the Lord’s response to Peter was simply, “What is that to you? You follow me” (John 21:22).
Peter had to be told to follow Jesus but John, the disciple who practiced the love of Jesus for him, was already following Jesus (John 21:20). John didn’t have to be instructed or commanded to follow Jesus; he was already doing it.
As you practice the love of Jesus for you, you will end up having divine intimacy with Him and you will find yourself following the Lord effortlessly.
Today, there seems to be a belief in the church that grace is contrary to holiness. If you believe in grace, it is deemed that you don’t believe in holiness. But the truth is that only grace can teach us true holiness.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts . . .”
— Titus 2:11–12 NKJV
“the grace of God . . . teaching us” — The grace of God is what teaches us. Grace is an amazing teacher. When grace is taught to the people, grace will teach them from within how to live holy lives.
Romans 6:14 makes it very clear for us: When you are under grace, sin shall not have dominion over you.
People try to dissociate holiness from grace but the result of being under grace is actually holiness.
If someone who has chickenpox comes near you and tells you he simply has rashes, the reality is that you are at risk of catching chickenpox. What matters is not what he says but what he has.
It is the same with all these debates about holiness. What matters is not what is said, but the result. And we have seen from countless testimonies that holiness is the result of grace.
Pastor Prince shares a testimony of a brother from Great Britain who was set free from the bondage of a 35-year pornography addiction by believing and declaring that he is righteous by faith.
God’s way of deliverance is always faith. No matter how sincere we are, if it is not based on faith, it will not bring about lasting change (1 John 5:4b KJV). Sin is a habit that we in our own strength cannot break out of. Despite how sincere our efforts are to break out of sin, if it is not based on faith, it will never work.
If someone is living in sin and claims that he or she is living under grace, that person is not truly living under grace. A person who has truly been born again and is under grace will not be dominated by sin or want to continue living in sin (Rom. 6:14).
A child of God can fall into sin but he or she will not desire to continue in it. This is the case of the brother from Great Britain who started confessing his righteousness in Christ because he wanted a way out of his sin and addiction.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and He cannot bear witness with a lie. If you are believing a lie, no matter how sincere you are or how religious that lie is, the Holy Spirit of truth cannot bear witness with it. And the Holy Spirit bears witness by working signs, wonders, and miracles (Heb. 2:4 KJV). That is why when people confess they are the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21), which is the truth, they see miracles and deliverance from all kinds of bondages.
When the children of Israel made the declaration to God that they could do all that He asked them to, they were looking at their own strength and flesh, not knowing that in and of themselves, they could not.
When God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, He did so based on His grace—His unmerited favor. He did not do it because of their goodness but because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was not their holiness that brought them out of bondage.
Between Egypt and Mount Sinai, even when the children of Israel murmured and sinned, there is no record of God punishing them for it. When they murmured, God provided. It seemed like every murmur brought forth a fresh supply of God’s grace. It was a period of complete dependence on God’s goodness and faithfulness, not theirs. God was so close to them. Their sin did not repel God because He was not looking at their sin.
Grace is all about God’s faithfulness. It is all of Him and none of us. The more we put our trust and dependence on Him and His faithfulness, the more we are transformed into His image (2 Cor. 3:18).
Because the children of Israel declared that they could do all that God demanded them to, God had to give the law. Once they decided to presume on their own strength, God gave them the law. Once Israel came under the law, when they murmured, they died.
In Exodus 19:12 (KJV), God specified that boundaries had to be made to distance Himself from the children of Israel. The God who had been so near to them when they came out of Egypt was now separated from them.
Once the law was given, the children of Israel built a golden calf and began worshipping it, breaking the first of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exod. 20:3 KJV). Before the Ten Commandments were given, the children of Israel had no desire to build a golden calf.
By the law is the knowledge of sin, not the knowledge of righteousness or holiness (Rom. 3:20b).
“Moreover the law entered that the offense (sin) might abound. But where sin abounded (increased), grace abounded (superabounded) much more,”
— Romans 5:20 NKJV
But where sin abounds, grace superabounds. It is grace alone that produces true holiness and repentance.
Even as Pastor Prince shares the Word each Sunday, he is conscious of the fact that he is resting in what God is working in him. If he is speaking based solely on his own knowledge, there will not be results. God works in him the message and his part is to deliver the message that God has worked in him.
As believers, we cannot work out something that the Lord has not first worked in us.
“. . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
— Philippians 2:12–13 NKJV
“work out your own salvation . . . it is God who works in you” — The verse does not say that you have to work for your salvation. It says work out your salvation because it is God who first worked it in.
It is when you rest from your self-effort and allow God to work in you and through you that you will see divine results. It is God who works in you the love for your spouse, and it is God who is able to work in you the forgiveness for someone whom you might find difficult to forgive.
We can only forgive freely when we know how freely forgiven we are by God. Likewise, those who know they are loved best are the ones who love best.
Your part is to rest in what the Lord has first worked in you.
It is so vital that preachers and ministers share this powerful truth of how much we have been forgiven in Christ. Contrary to what some think, preaching forgiveness in Christ does not produce licentiousness. In fact, on the contrary, it produces love for the Lord.
We see this in Luke 7. In this account, there is a woman who is described as “a sinner” (Luke 7:37). When she comes to Jesus, she washes His feet with her tears and anoints Him with precious ointment. There is a Pharisee present who judges and criticizes the woman in his thoughts, and Jesus defends the woman, saying, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little” (Luke 7:47).
Preaching forgiveness is the key to seeing people loving the Lord.
“And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,”
— Psalm 103:2b–3 NKJV
God wants us to remember all the benefits that Jesus purchased for us with His blood. The first benefit is the forgiveness we enjoy because Jesus bore all our sins at the cross.
For the truly born-again believer, knowing how God has forgiven all your iniquities because of Jesus will not cause you to want to go out and sin more but it will cause you to love God.
“Who heals all your diseases” — Unless we understand the first benefit (forgiveness of sins) we cannot receive the next benefit.
Perhaps the reason we are not seeing as many great signs and healing miracles in the church today compared to the early church is that the truth of our forgiveness in Christ has not been preached to its fullest. In the book of Acts, we read of how everyone was healed (Acts 5:16 KJV) and “with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33).
When the rich young ruler in Luke 18 came to the Lord boasting that he had kept all the commandments, Jesus didn’t give him an evangelical answer neither did He give him the gospel. Because the rich young ruler asked the Lord, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”, Jesus told him what he needed to do, which is fulfill the law.
Unable to keep the whole law, the rich young ruler walked away. No one can be saved by their own effort; we all need the goodness of God.
The Lord can give the law to bring man to the end of himself. The law was given for one purpose: that you would have the knowledge of sin and recognize your need for a Savior.
The holiness that is produced through grace is a fruit of the Spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
— Galatians 5:22–23a NKJV
Holiness does not mean that you will be somber, unhappy, and unable to enjoy life. There is joy in being holy when it is a fruit of the Spirit. Holiness is not a work of the flesh.
“Now the works of the flesh are . . . adultery . . . idolatry . . . hatred . . .”
— Galatians 5:19–20 NKJV
Whenever you energize your flesh, even in trying to do good, you can only produce works of the flesh.
When you are under the law, sin becomes attractive. When you are under grace, holiness becomes attractive.
Grace is all about God working and God moving on man’s behalf. The law is all about man and man’s efforts. Grace supplies but the law demands.
Under grace, God works in you both the willingness and the ability to do His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).
The fruit of the Spirit is the result of life, while the works of the flesh are products of self-effort.
The devil comes as a religious spirit. He doesn’t say outright, “Go and sin,” but he comes as an accuser saying God is still angry at you and you have to work your way to be near to God or to be saved.
But that cannot be further from the truth. Under grace, we get to celebrate and enjoy the unmerited favor of God. You don’t pray in order to get near to God but you pray because you are near to God. You don’t pray for victory but you pray from victory.
When you put yourself under the law, the result is the works of the flesh but when you are under grace, you will enjoy the fruits of the Spirit.
There is a principle of Bible interpretation called the law of first mention. When you are studying a topic or a word, look at the first time it appears in the Bible. You will find a lot of spiritual truth and significance when you study the first occurrence of that word in the Bible.
For example, the word “blood” was first mentioned in the story of Cain and Abel. The first mention tells us that blood has a voice (Gen. 4:10). Abel’s blood cried out for vengeance but when Jesus shed His blood on the cross, His blood cried out for mercy and redemption for the ones who don’t deserve it, and that is why Jesus’ blood speaks of better things than that of Abel (Heb. 12:24).
The first mention of the word “holiness” is also found in the book of Genesis. Studying this will help us understand an important truth about holiness.
The opposite of holiness is not sin. It is commonness. The Hebrew word for holy is the word “kadosh,” which means “set apart.” To be holy is to be uncommon, set apart from the world.
“Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified (‘kadosh’) it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”
— Genesis 2:3 NKJV
The first mention of the word “holiness” or “kadosh” is associated with rest. God blessed the day He rested and called it holy. Rest is holy. Hebrews 4:9 ESV tells us that “there remains a Sabbath rest for people of God.” This “Sabbath rest” is not referring to a specific day but it is referring to the rest that Jesus has bought His people through His finished work at the cross. This is a rest you are meant to experience every day of your life.
It is a rest where you know that God is supplying everything through grace. It is a rest built on knowing how much you have been forgiven and are loved by Him because of what Jesus has done at the cross.
It is a rest that allows you to take on an assignment or go for an interview being conscious that you are highly favored by God and His supply of grace is flowing to you.
You can be supply-oriented when you know that God has finished all His work through Jesus Christ (Heb. 4:3 ESV).
To be holy is to be set apart. We only set apart things that are valuable. When God tells His people to be holy, He is telling us to rest and to let Him do all the work, as we have learned from the law of first mention.
Our only labor today is to labor to enter His rest (Heb. 4:10–11a KJV), and as we rest, He will work in us every good thing and we will produce the fruits of the Spirit.
“Heavenly Father, I thank You that You send Jesus Christ to die on the cross for all my sins.
I thank You that You raised Jesus from the dead when I was justified in Him. I thank You, Father, that Jesus Christ is my Lord and my Savior. And I thank You from now on, I look forward to the abundant life that Jesus promised that He will give me. I'm now saved. I'm justified. I am the righteousness of God in Christ. And I step into a future full of Your favor and blessings. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.”
“This coming week, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself protect you by His power from the COVID-19 virus and from the Delta variant. The Lord keep you and your family. The Lord bless you richly with all the blessings that were made of effect through His finished work on the cross. They are now yours. Receive them in Jesus’ name. Blessings upon your head, blessings upon all that you do, blessings upon your family that there will be light in all your dwellings. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And now the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, His favor, and the love of your Father in heaven and the sweet friendship and communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you now and forever, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.”
“Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest . . .”
— Hebrews 4:11 KJV
“for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
— Philippians 2:13 NKJV
Jesus’ finished work has made you holy—set apart from the world. How do you walk in this holiness and see fruits of the Spirit like love, joy, peace, and self-control produced in your life? By living under grace!
While the law demands from you, grace is all about allowing the Lord to supply you with all you need.
This week, in whatever task you take on or in the face of whatever challenge may come your way, be conscious that the Lord wants you to rest in His supply for that situation. Should you fall into a bad habit, see the Lord supplying you with His righteousness and grace that will cause you to reign over sin and reign in life (Rom. 5:17, 6:14). If you are struggling with a strained family relationship, see the Lord supplying you with the forgiveness, love, and wisdom you need to navigate the situation. If you are faced with a difficult task at work, see the Lord supplying you with the ideas, insights, and capabilities you need to succeed. And if you find yourself battling negative thoughts and emotions, see the Lord supplying you with His peace that surpasses all understanding.
Our Lord Jesus, through the Spirit of grace, is supplying you with both the desire and the ability to do according to His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). That is why you can rest in Him.
Rest is not inactivity but Spirit-directed activity. As you are conscious that the Lord is supplying you with all you need to rise to any challenge, you will produce the fruits of the Spirit and begin to walk in true holiness and success!
We hope these sermon notes blessed you! If they did, we encourage you to get the sermon and allow the Lord to speak to you personally as you watch or listen to it.
© Copyright JosephPrince.com 2021
These sermon notes were taken by volunteers during the service. They are not a verbatim representation of the sermon.
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