In the short passage under consideration, Peter refers to: the anticipation of God's grace, the experience of God's grace and the personification of God's grace. The four verses are all about different aspects of God's grace as it delivers salvation to men and women.

(1) The anticipation of God's Grace. v10.

Throughout the Old Testament, wittingly or unwittingly, there are numerous references of varying degrees of explicitness to God's grace in salvation.

Right at the beginning of human history are God's words to Satan, mankind's chief enemy - words repeated at many a carol service: He will crush your head and you will strike his heal." Who is the 'He'? 'He' is of course Jesus - both offspring of the woman and Son of God - come to defeat our greatest foe. The hymn writer, puts it like this:

          O loving wisdom of our God!
          When all was sin and shame,
          a second Adam to the fight,
          and to the rescue came.

I love the words of Abraham spoken to Isaac on the way to Moriah where God had instructed the patriarch to sacrifice his one and only son. Isaac asked his father, "The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham replied, "God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering my son. Gen22v7and8.

God did! He supplied the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

Then there are the thrilling words of God to Moses at the instigation of the Passover meal the night before the Israelite exodus from Egypt. This is what God said to Moses: "For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the first born of the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment. I am the LORD.

And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood I will pass over you and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt."

Paul, writing to the Corinthians said, For Christ our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. 1Cor5v7.

Countless sermons have been preached on God's promise to Moses, "When I see the blood I will pass over you." The Passover blood anticipates the shed blood of God's precious lamb for the remission of our sins. It anticipates God's grace in accepting the sacrifice for sin Jesus offered on the cross.

Another passage from the Old Testament that features in our carol service is found in Isaiah 9v6and7: For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. v6.

What splendid words these are and how brilliantly they describe the majesty of the Lord Jesus. Yes he was born of a virgin, laid in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes but he is also a far greater ruler than his ancestor David. The blessed saviour rules in the hearts of men and women the number of which are beyond counting.

There are many other references to Jesus in the ancient Scriptures but I will finish with just one more. It is a passage I was made to learn by heart in my day school by the strict but stylish head mistress - Mrs Gibbs. Even as a lad I rejoiced in the stirring, powerful words of the prophet: But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Is53v5and6.

Prophets like Isaiah were prompted by the Holy Spirit as they anticipated the coming of a Saviour, one who would make the forgiveness of sin possible. This is very much the theme of Isaiah53. The suffering of Jesus and his ultimate triumph go hand in hand. Jesus poured out his life unto death, he was numbered among the transgressors; he bore the sins of many: "Therefor," said God, "I will give him a portion with the great and he will divide the spoils with the strong." v12.

(2) The experience of God's grace.

Verse 11 conveys three truths about experiencing God's grace:

(a) The prophets anticipated the grace of God for the benefit of generations to come. The Old Testament references to God's grace are powerful testimonies to the grace of God we experience today.

I love the story of Esther interceding for her people before king Xerxes. The Jews faced annihilation at the hand of Haman, Mordecai's enemy.

When Mordecai sent word to Esther of the threat to the very existence of her people she was reluctant to intercede on their behalf before Xerxes. People did not go unbidden into the presence of the king. But Mordecai sent word to Esther: "And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this."

I love these words. They remind me of Jesus' anguish in the garden of Gethsemane and the message God must have conveyed to him: "Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this."

So Jesus ventured all to save mankind from eternal destruction. My knowledge of God's grace in saving the Jews through the intervention of Esther helps me experience the grace of God in not sparing his Son in order to save all mankind.

(b) Today the grace of God is made known through preaching the gospel. I love the early chapters of John's gospel with their immensely heart warming declarations of the best of good news: in John3v16 is the promise of forgiveness to all who believe in Jesus: in John1v13 is the glorious assurance that all who believe in Jesus will be adopted into God's family; in John6v40 we find the pledge to believers of resurrection and life everlasting.

I must stress the crucial importance of belief to enjoying the benefits of all God's splendid promises. Belief, belief, belief delivers forgiveness, adoption and eternal life.

(c) The combination of human effort and heavenly empowering fascinates even the angels themselves.

It is amazing how this has worked through the centuries. An evangelist wil choose a text, for example, 1John1v7: The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. The evangelist will expand upon the text. The Holy Spirit will take the words uttered by the preacher and use them to convict a listener of their sin and convince same listener that Jesus will cleanse them from their sin if they but believe in him. If the listener responds positively and believes, the Holy Spirit will impart new life. This new life is typified by assurance of sins forgiven, a new understanding of the Scriptures, a desire to meet with like minded people, a genuine love for Jesus and a blessed hope of one day seeing him and being like him. This transforming process is known as a miracle of grace.

(3) Grace personified.

Believers will receive grace when Jesus is revealed at his Second Coming to reward all who love him. He will be grace personified. We need to bear this in mind AND:

(a) Prepare for action. Paul likens the Christian to a soldier prepared for action with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.

The word of God, the Bible, is not something to be kept in a glass cabinet and worshipped. It is the possession of every Christian for use against the enemy and for the extension of the kingdom of God. Consider Paul's response to the Philippian jailor. After the earthquake the jailor cried out to Paul, "What must I do to be saved?" Paul did not say, "Nothing, my friend. If God has chosen you - you will be saved." Instead Paul used the Word of God to good effect. With one great thrust, owing much to Jesus' words recorded in John3v16, Paul tells the jailor to believe on the Lord Jesus and he would be saved.

What a sword thrust cutting as it did through the jailor's superstition, his tradition, his doubt, his ignorance, his pride - setting him free to be saved and to inherit eternal life. The Bible is a book to enlighten, to banish doubt and fear, to assure the believer of forgiveness and new life in Christ.

(b) Be self-controlled. The soldier needs to practice self-control to give of his best. There are things to do: exercises, drills, and forced marches to get and keep fit. There are also things to refrain from: over indulgence in food, alcohol and sex.

The Christian needs self-discipline; to worship regularly and pray every day. Just consider the prayers Paul offered on behalf of the churches and individuals within those churches - like those he lists in Romans 16.

As Christ's followers we need self- discipline to avoid wasting time and spending hours in fruitless activities. We should be careful what we read and how much we watch TV.

(c) Look forward to the day of Christ's return. It will be a day when the grace of Jesus will reward those who have fought the good the good fight in his name and for his sake.

I waste quite a bit of time watching the TV program, MASH. It is about a mobile medical unit in Korea during the 1950s 'police action'.

When the employees of the MASH unit learned they were going to be visited by none other than their Commander in Chief, General MacKarthur,how excited they were. Everything had to be just right for the inspection by the highly esteemed Commander.

How much more excited should we be in anticipation of the Second Coming of our Supreme Commander, the Lord Jesus Christ. We should look forward to his coming and be ready for it. There is no better way to be ready than to be found active in Christ's service.

          Oh may we never weary, watching,
          Never lay our armour down,
          Until he come, and with rejoicing
          Give to each the promised crown.

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