For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Eph. 2:8, 9)
Special occasions such as Christmas and Easter provide great opportunities to proclaim the clarity of the gospel to the lost. Often at these times folks come to church who trust religion but don’t truly know Christ. They are seeking to establish their own righteousness and must see their lost condition.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said of Ephesians 2, “We are here face to face with one of the most crucial statements that is to be found anywhere in Scripture. … We can never repeat that too frequently” But a person must understand the simplicity of the gospel message. “If we are not right at the beginning, we shall be wrong everywhere.” Yet many people fail to recognize their situation.
Trapped and Helpless
At 11 a.m. on Mother’s Day 1998, fifty-year-old Ray Shipway prepared to enter the murky, chilly waters of the California Delta. He was a marine salvage operator who had been hired to raise a sunken yacht that had become a hazard to boaters. His plan was to dig a trench through the mud under the boat and then slip a cable under the keel, to which airbags would be attached. When the bags were inflated, the boat would be raised.
The visibility in the water was about two feet. Shipway left his son Ray Jr. and coworker Ryan Contioso above as he swam to the sunken boat. Using a high-pressure hose called a water blaster, he dug a tunnel on one side. He then began working on the other side to connect the tunnels. After about forty minutes he had a tunnel two feet wide and fifteen feet long with walls of hard-packed mud. Lying on his stomach he pushed the water blaster ahead of him as he began to crawl under the boat through that narrow tunnel. He worked his way forward until his head and shoulders were under the boat.
Suddenly the walls of the trench behind him began to cave in. He felt tremendous pressure on his legs. Then the mud and sand collapsed around his shoulders and face, pinning him! The water blaster was pinned under him in a position that kept his mask clear so oxygen could flow through his regulator. Ray tried to tug on the air hose to signal his helpers on the surface that he was in trouble, but it too was pinned in the mud.
For almost an hour he clawed at the mud before giving up exhausted. He fought the urge to panic, for he knew if he panicked, he would die. One hour turned into two, and then three. Finally Ryan entered the water to check on Ray’s progress and found the air hose buried in a collapsed tunnel. He was able to reach into a small hole and squeeze Ray’s foot sending a silent message of hope.
The call for help went out, and rescue boats converged on the sight. A sixty-foot marine salvage crane was brought to the scene and hooked to the sunken, rotting boat. After being connected by a strap through the portholes, the crane began to lift the boat that pinned Ray. He felt the pressure being lifted off him, and every instinct urged him to swim away, but from experience he knew that a load didn’t always get lifted on the first try. With tremendous self-control he fought the impulse to flee. The strap tore through the rotted wood, and the boat sank back down. Fear swept through the hearts of those on the surface.
Divers rehooked the boat to the crane, and finally, after almost five hours of being trapped, Ray Shipway was free. As he broke the surface of that cold, muddy water a cheer went up! Ray Shipway was saved.
Imagine the exhilaration Ray Shipway experienced that day! How would you feel? How would you react? Would your life ever be the same? Ray commented, “Down there in the darkness, it was crystal clear to me what really matters in this life.” But greater than life is eternal life. Have you ever felt that sense of hopelessness, trapped in the mud of sin and pressed down by the rotting boat of guilt? The only hope is in Christ to set you free.
Trying or Trusting
“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:3, 4).
Verse 3 explains what they are “doing,” while verse 4 tells what Christ has “done.” The contrast between DO and DONE is probably one of the most complete contrasts in the English language.
- If you’re doing, you’re not done. If you’re done, you’re not doing.
- You do until you are done.
- How long do we eat a meal? Until we are done.
- How long do we drive to church? Until we arrive.
“It is not what I do that I trust in but what Christ has done for me.”
Puritan preacher Stephen Charnock reasoned, “Nothing in the world can raise itself to a higher rank of being than that which nature has placed it in; a spark cannot make itself a star, though it mount a little up to heaven. … So neither can our corrupt nature bring forth grace, which is a fruit above it. Effectus non excedit virtutem suae causae [The effect cannot exceed the power of its cause]: grace is more excellent than nature, therefore cannot be the fruit of nature.”
Martin Luther stated, “There is no such thing as merit; but all who are justified are justified for nothing (gratis), and this is credited to no one, but to the Grace of God. … For Christ alone it is proper to help and to save others with His merits and works.”
Pope Leo X authorized a commission to evaluate Luther’s teaching, and on June 15, 1520, a papal bull was signed condemning Luther as a heretic, declaring that “a ‘wild boar is loose’ in the vineyard of Christ.”
Tell Them That Again
Charles Spurgeon considered punctuality one of those “little virtues that may prevent greater sins,” but on a certain occasion, due to circumstances beyond his control, he was late for a preaching engagement. When he arrived, the service was in progress and his grandfather, who was preaching from Ephesians 2:8, said, “Here comes my grandson! He may preach the gospel better than I can, but he cannot preach a better gospel; can you, Charles?” Together they co-preached the wonderful message of salvation by grace alone, not of works. At times, as Charles Spurgeon spoke, his grandfather would say, “Good! Good!” Once he said, “Tell them that again, Charles.” We too must “tell them that again,” that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and not of works.
Yes, There Is Hope
At 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 23, 1939, a newly built submarine, the USS Squalus (pronounced “skway-lus”), left the Portsmouth Navy Yard and headed out of the Piscataqua River (the border between Maine and New Hampshire) to run a test off the coast of New Hampshire. This nineteenth and final test for the 310-foot diesel-electric sub was designed to insure that the sub could avoid enemy attacks. The vessel was to reach her top surface speed of sixteen knots and then dive to fifty feet in sixty seconds. On board that day were 59 men, five officers, 51 enlisted men, and three civilian inspectors. At 8:40 a.m. the commanding officer, Lt. Oliver Naquin, gave the order, “Take her down!”
As the vessel submerged, it suffered a catastrophic failure with an air intake valve, and within five minutes came to rest on the ocean floor in a cloud of churning mud, 243 feet below the surface. Three compartments were flooded, killing 26. Of the unflooded areas, the control room had 23 men, and the torpedo room ten. Over 240 feet below the surface, with the water temperature surrounding the vessel just above freezing, 33 men waited—trapped in a prison house of death.
After several hours communication was briefly established through a buoy telephone, but soon lost again. Each one of the crewmembers was aware that if a submarine went down the crew was as good as lost. In the entire history of the submarines, no rescue attempts over twenty feet had been successful.
When the rescue squad reached the stricken sub, one of the divers tapped with metal on the hull in an effort to locate the sailors. He then placed his helmet up against the side of the vessel. He heard the familiar tapping—the longs and the shorts—of the Morse Code. What was the message that was being spelled out from within? It was repeating the same question. The question was, “Is … there … any … hope?”
That is the cry of the ages: “Is there any hope?” The hope for sinners is proclaimed in Ephesians 2. “But God, who is rich in mercy,” has provided the way of salvation not by human achievement. For the 26 men trapped in the Squalus, there was a ray of hope because others were trying to figure out how to rescue them. Lt. Commander Charles B. Momsen (“the Swede”) sought a viable plan of rescue. As the Squalus sat at the bottom of the ocean, divers worked to free the trapped men. Swede Momsen adapted a diving bell that had never been tested at such depths, and he, along with many others, labored to free the trapped men. Finally, after forty hours on the ocean floor, the last man was freed! Yes, there was hope! But the hope was not in themselves, but in Lt. Commander Momsen and the others. They were saved, but not of their works.
Nothing I Bring
“There are only two kinds of religion in the world. The one says, ‘Nothing in my hands I bring’; the other says, ‘Something in my hands I bring.’”
Together the redeemed may glorify God, and together sing:
Could my tears forever flow,
Could my zeal no languor know,
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.
Ken Endean serves as President of International Baptist College.
(Originally published in FrontLine • March/April 2005. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)
- God’s Way of Reconciliation, p. 128. [↩]
- ibid., p. 129. [↩]
- “Diver Down!” in Reader’s Digest, April 1999, pp. 100ff. [↩]
- http://www.angelfire.com/ky/dodone/DOD.html [↩]
- D. L. Moody, The Biblical Illustrator, Ephesians, ed. Joseph S. Exell, p. 158. [↩]
- http://www.puritansermons.com/charnock/charnoc3.htm [↩]
- quoted by R. C. Sproul, Faith Alone, p. 133. [↩]
- ibid., pp. 63–64. [↩]
- http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/3479.htm [↩]
- Adapted from several sources including information posted at the following websites: www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq99-1.htm; www.subnet.com/fleet/ss192.htm; http://www.cisatlantic.com/trimix/other/squalus.htm; http://www.hampton.lib.nh.us/hampton/history/military/usssqualus/; http://www.nlag.net/Sermons/Transcripts/mjisthereanyhope.htm; http://sonrisechurch.com/easter_2003.htm. [↩]
- Walter B. Knight, Knight’s Treasury of Illustrations, p. 338. [↩]
- “Rock of Ages”, Augustus M. Toplady [↩]