January 22, 2021

The Homily



But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. (Genesis 6:8, NKJV)

Well then, no judgement stands now against those who live in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1, Knox)

Nothing stirs up dust in these Sunday morning visits like the topic of grace. Getting something for nothing is just so unAmerican. It makes us feel as if we are getting away with, well, murder. And yet we cannot escape it if we are honest. God’s grace is not a topic of creation. It is THE topic of creation. The blood of the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world covers our sins past, present and future whether we like it or not. That is the Good News. There is no other Good News but the Good News of the grace of our marvelous Lord.

Still, I seem to not be able to communicate it well, as I continually get stopped after the service to be told how I am missing it. You all constantly tell me that we have a role to play in all of this as well, that we need to do A, B or C in order to be made righteous in Christ. I’m often asked, “Are you saying all we have to do is believe Jesus’ death on the cross forgives our sins and it doesn’t matter how we act?” When I say, “Precisely!” I know I won’t be invited out to lunch anytime soon. So today I have asked priest, author and cook Robert Capon to share some thoughts on the topic of grace with us. Perhaps his words will present the idea of God’s Good News better than mine can.

I am and I am not a universalist. I am one if you are talking about what God in Christ has done to save the world. The Lamb of God has not taken away the sins of some — of only the good, or the cooperative, or the select few who can manage to get their act together and die as perfect peaches. He has taken away the sins of the world — of every last being in it — and he has dropped them down the black hole of Jesus’ death. On the cross, he has shut up forever on the subject of guilt: “There is therefore now no condemnation. . . .” All human beings, at all times and places, are home free whether they know it or not, feel it or not, believe it or not.

But I am not a universalist if you are talking about what people may do about accepting that happy-go-lucky gift of God’s grace. I take with utter seriousness everything that Jesus had to say about hell, including the eternal torment that such a foolish non-acceptance of his already-given acceptance must entail. All theologians who hold Scripture to be the Word of God must inevitably include in their work a tractate on hell. But I will not — because Jesus did not — locate hell outside the realm of grace. Grace is forever sovereign, even in Jesus’ parables of judgment. No one is ever kicked out at the end of those parables who wasn’t included in at the beginning.

But all the while, there was one thing we most needed even from the start, and certainly will need from here on out into the New Jerusalem: the ability to take our freedom seriously and act on it, to live not in fear of mistakes but in the knowledge that no mistake can hold a candle to the love that draws us home. My repentance, accordingly, is not so much for my failings but for the two-bit attitude toward them by which I made them more sovereign than grace. Grace – the imperative to hear the music, not just listen for errors – makes all infirmities occasions of glory.”

The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar full of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof Grace–bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly. The word of the Gospel–after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps–suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started…Grace has to be drunk straight: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness, nor badness, not the flowers that bloom in the spring of super spirituality could be allowed to enter into the case.

“The ultimate New Testament point is that God isn’t going to count your action one way or the other; it’s not going to make you any trouble with God. ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.’ We are accepted in the Beloved, because of Jesus only, not because of anything we do.”

She frowned. “I guess I know all that. But it’s hard to believe.”

“Correction,” I said. “Nobody knows all that. Not you, not me, not anybody. And nobody can feel all that, either. Out knowledge and our feelings are all on the side of the nasty old bookkeeping gods–the divine little CPAs, the ones we think are really respectable gods–the ones who know how to keep everybody honest, or else. But the God we believe in is not a bookkeeper, and he’s not respectable. As a matter of fact, he’s a crook, and he dies as one to prove it. Which is exactly why he’s Good News for badly bent types like you and me. Do you see what that means? It means that if he’s as weird as the Gospel says he is, we’d be well advised to stop trying to draw some neat little intellectual or emotional bead on what we think he’s like, and just shut up and believe in him–trust in him–as he actually reveals himself in Jesus.”

In Jesus’ death and resurrection, the whole test-passing, brownie-point-earning rigmarole of the human race has been canceled for lack of interest on God’s part. All he needs from us is a simple Yes or No, and off to work he goes. If we say Yes to something wrong or No to something right, he will reconcile it all by himself. Not only can he handle it, he’s already handled it: he has all our messes fixed in Jesus–right now, even before we make them. All we have to do is trust his assurance that losers are his cup of tea. In fact, it’s precisely our attempts to be winners that he warns us about: ‘He who saves his life will lost it; he who loses his life for my sake the Gospel’s will save it.’

I guess what I really don’t like is the way people start out by defining sin as ‘moral failure’ and then go on to think if they commit ‘sins’ they’ll cut themselves off from grace. That’s all nonsense, of course: ‘sinners’ are the very thing God gives his grace to–lost sheep, lost coins, lost sons. As a matter of fact, the true New Testament opposite of sin isn’t virtue, or moral success, or getting your act together; it’s faith in the grace that takes away all of the sins of the world. Paul says, ‘All that is not of faith is sin.’ And Jesus says, ‘The one who believes is not judged.’ We’re not on trial. ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’

…there is therefore now no condemnation for two reasons: you are dead now; and God, as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, has been dead all along. The blame game was over before it started. It really was. All Jesus did was announce that truth and tell you it would make you free. It was admittedly a dangerous thing to do. You are a menace. Be he did it; and therefore, menace or not, here you stand: uncondemned, forever, now. What are you going to do with your freedom?

Let us pray.


  1. I loved every letter, every word, every sentence. Some more than others. Some I had to re-read for their bigness. Some I nearly melted into my chair while my heart soaked up their goodness. Best line: “God saves us single-handedly.” Amen. Thank you. And pass the grace…..

  2. Robert F says

    Let me see if I’ve got this right. You’re saying:

    1) redemption from sin has been provided for the whole human race by Jesus on the cross without any merit on the part of the redeemed;

    2) each person for whom Jesus has provided redemption must decide whether they will accept or reject the gift, in effect appropriating or refusing salvation.

    Is that right?

    Isn’t that basic Arminianism 101?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Isn’t that basic Arminianism 101?

      And so the Theological fight begins…

    • Marcus Johnson says

      It has some of the basic principles of Arminianism, as does practically every Christian tradition. Still, I think Arminianism focuses on the “choice” one makes, rather than the continuous work of redemption that God has engaged in throughout the history of humanity. That’s the major difference for me, at least.

    • He does say:

      one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly.

      …which is the essence of monergism. I don’t see him using the language of “decision” anywhere. I’d say he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth, kind like Paul.

  3. I wish I could understand the sort of person who “worried about the perfection of [my] bootstraps”. There was never any doubt in my mind about the quality of my bootstraps. Everybody in my life from my family to the briefest of acquaintances has been quick to point out to me the inadequacy of my bootstraps. The mind set of someone trying to nickel-and-dime their way with good deeds into heaven is alien to me.

    What I needed respite from was from the Pissed Off god. You all know him. He’s ever ready to pounce on you and flay you into a million twitching pieces because you looked down some girlie’s blouse and liked it, or because you made off with something that didn’t belong to you, or even because you killed six million Jews and laid a whole continent to waste. The vengeful, grudge-carrying god who holds himself in such high esteem that he had to brutally torment and cruelly murder the best person who ever breathed in “payment” for all of that.

    I can’t deal with him. If you all want him, you can have him. Just beware of becoming like him.

    • Are we moderated now?

      • No. Did one of your comments not appear, Mule? That happens sometimes with the spam filter. Just let us know and we’ll try to retrieve comments that get hijacked.

    • Robert F says

      But Mule, what about the God who is concerned with the cries of the oppressed, the God who is just rather than unjust? And what about the truth that big evils and corruptions are quite often enabled by small evils and corruptions? And never mind looking down a girl’s blouse and enjoying it, what about the violence and envy in so many human hearts (I know in mine) for which Jesus had very harsh words?

      And if you had to do without God’s justice to avoid his wrath, is that something you’d be willing to do?

    • Did you just appeal to ad Hitlerum to argue for grace? That, my friend, is truly scandalous.

      But let’s be careful to not pit God’s attributes against each other. God is perfectly just, and that fact ought to scare sinners, but he loves to show mercy. The two would seem mutually exclusive to finite mortals. The God who accepted the sacrifice of Christ is the same God who as Christ laid down his own life. The paradox of these attributes strikes at the heart of the Trinity.

  4. Good News, indeed! Loved it!

  5. It’s all “pie in the sky.”

    That Jesus would die for us and forgive us, His murderers.

    And we don’t want to hear it. We have a better way. A way of our own doing, even if we think we need a little help from God or to pitch in a little bit of our own in addition to God.

    But the faithful preacher announces this Good News to unbelieving sinners, anyway. And every once in a while someone hears it…and believes it…and comes to a living faith in Christ Jesus. Totally apart from anything that we do, say, feel, or think. And the angels rejoice in Heaven.

    No, we don’t make the choice. He does. And we are freed by His choice. So…now that you don’t have to do anything…what will you do?”

    • PS- I happen to love pie.

    • “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.
      His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
      And He will come to us like the rain,
      Like the spring rain watering the earth.”

      • Amen.

      • Christiane says

        ” . . . He will come to us like the rain,
        Like the spring rain watering the earth”

        SO refreshing,
        after reading this:

        • Something a bit off w/that guy’s speaking style…

          But I do wonder – how would you respond to him given that he is pointing out verses in the Bible to support his statement?

          • Christiane says

            I suppose I would remind the young man that even satan quotes scripture to his purposes . . .
            but that would not be my BEST response, no

            my BEST response to ‘God Hates Sinners’ supported by ‘verses’, would be to remind the young man that Our Lord is the final revelation to us about Who God Is . . . and that if we want to know the Father, we look at Christ: There is no scriptural evidence that Our Lord ‘hated sinners’ . . . far from it . . .

            ” Jesus reveals God in the most authentic way, because this revelation is based on the one absolutely sure and unquestionable source, the very essence of God. Therefore, Christ’s testimony has the value of absolute truth. . . .
            “No one has ever seen God; the only Son who is in the bosom of the Father has made him known” (Jn 1:18).”

          • Christiane says

            SRS, I have a question for you:

            what is there about the theology of that young man that would lead him to affirm that ‘God hates sinners’;
            that is, other than a fundamentalist literal reading of Scripture that does not honor the Words and Example of Jesus Christ as the lens through which all sacred Scripture must be seen?

            you see, it is like that definition of Christ as ‘eternally subordinate’ to the Father’ that was promoted by those who wanted to use the model as verification for their belief in the position of women as under the headship of their husbands (Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood)

            so I am left to wonder now about the REASON(s) why the young man’s theology will be advanced by his statement about how ‘God hates sinners’ . . . and I can only think that perhaps this is another case whereby a doctrine demands support, even when that support crashes against the true knowledge of God as authoritatively and finally revealed in Jesus Christ, and that support then shatters into pieces.

          • Even the devil can (and has) quote Scripture.

          • I had never heard David Platt before. His style sounds like a cross between John Piper and Mark Driscoll [OFF-TOPIC ALERT; TED: DON’T GO THERE], and then about the five-minute mark I was reminded of Nietzsche’s Madman Parable. I’ve always kinda wanted to see that acted out.

            Was also reminded of the Westboro Baptist Church rants (God hates fags, God hates dead veterans, God hates America and lately He hates Oklahoma).

            Platt may have pulled out of that tailspin in the last few seconds, by saying that because of the cross, God has no recollection of any sin in our lives. Perhaps he should have started with that.

          • Christiane –
            I was not trying to troll your comment – I agree with your perspective. I was just wondering what would be a good response to people who point out the existence of those verses. (They are in there and people reading the Bible trying to understand God will ask about them.)

            I don’t know anything about Platt beyond that video, so I cannot really guess guess as to his theology beyond that he was probably trying to reconcile verses that were in conflict for him. He did seem to enjoy the controversy a bit much. (Or maybe I’m just not cut out for the SBC)

  6. Perhaps I don’t quite understand ,I just woke up. Grace preached correctly should get the response Paul got. Should we sin no was His response. Knowing that the letter Killeth and the Spirit gives life and having been born again with a freewill such as demas reflects in the new testament. I ask myself did paul turn people over to the devil that they may lean not to blaspheme. Dis Paul tell titus to send their letter to the ladocian church and to make sure they read the letter written to the ladocian church. Yes Paul did.Did Peter tell simon the sorcerer who believed and was baptized and yet offered to by the gift of God.Your heart is not right you need to repent.(confess your sin change your course of action. He did and he brought up the fact pray that God will grant you repentance. As stated in Hebrews after a point He doesn’t have to. Indeed if you read jude in the original language you’ll find the reason some won’t be saved again is because of the warning in Hebrews.

  7. Scripture survey says says

    Heb 10 :29 28He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29Of how much sorer punishment, suppose you, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, with which he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite to the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him that has said, Vengeance belongs to me, I will recompense, said the Lord. And again, The Lord shall JUDGE HIS people. …2 Peter 2:15 cursed CHILDREN: 15Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 1 john 5:17 …16If any man see his BROTHER sin a sin which is not to death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not to death. There is a sin to death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. 17All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not to death.Romans 1:18 18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who HOLD THE TRUTH in unrighteousness; 2 Peter 2:21 …20For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.1 Corinthians 6:18Flee fornication. Every sin that a man does is without the body; but he that commits fornication sins against his own body. 19What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? 20For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. All these kinda go contrary to the article. Even Paul the Apostle told titus to have His church read the letter written to the ladocian church.Let not many become teachers for the accountability will be double.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      Must be kind of frustrating, to have that huge hodgepodge of verses and still miss the point about what salvation is.

      I should also point out how interesting it is that you only pulled verses from the New Testament epistles, which skips over the other 65% of the Bible. Could it be possible that each verse you mentioned had a specific context which might be totally unrelated to the other verses with which you grouped them?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        That has no relevance when you’re hosing the heretic with Bible Bullets.
        Bible as weapon, nothing more, nothing else.

      • as far as the once saved always saved no. says

        2 Peter 2:21 …20For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. Hebrews talks about those who do despite to the Spirit of grace. Many people will preach by the letter and neglect the relationship and rightful place of God to control His temple. Perfection on our part response yes. Jesus made this clear in the parable of the Heart. As david Wilkerson always said some are preaching another Jesus and another gospel. While I don’t know if I can agree I could say many are preaching a partial Jesus and a partial bible,God left us all a freewill not on works but through response for even Jesus did the works the Father had for Him to do.

  8. Marcus Johnson says

    I think the God to which this homily refers is perhaps more terrifying and mysterious to us than a God whose salvation is assured to us through what we do. It’s more than just that we pride ourselves on our works; practically every man-made institution that exists on this planet grants rewards and benefits to people who do the right things, fill out the right form, have the proper demographics, etc. To step in to that broken, human world dynamic, and say, “There is no scripted prayer you can recite, and making a plan to stop all of your bad habits would be pointless, if your goal is to be saved,” is very frustrating, because it removes the physical identifiers that prove that we have been saved. Without me saying a prayer, or quitting smoking and drinking, how will my pastor be able to tell that I am saved? How will my family know? How will my friends know?

    Perhaps, however, that’s the head space in which God wants us, the place in which we just throw up our hands and say, “Screw it; I’m saved,” then recognize how the re-creation process has been playing itself out inside of us. I use the present perfect continuous here (has been playing), rather than the future (will play), because I believe that the process of redeeming us as individuals and as the human race in general started well before any of us was even born and had the chance to sin.

    I think we also need to stop thinking of “sin” in the redemption process as just individual “wrong” acts. We have to start thinking of sin as something that we can’t fix on our own, anymore than drinking lots of water will cure cancer. Once we do, then it would make more sense to say that “it doesn’t matter how we act,” because a change in our behavior cannot cure this problem.

    • Well put, Marcus, especially the last paragraph.

    • I think there’s merit to both view of sin: self-centered actions of self-centered people, vs the fact that we’re born broken and intrinsically turned in on ourselves. If we go only with the latter, then sin is truly not bad, any more than a dog barking would be wrong. We’re just acting out according to our nature, which we did not choose. I think one ties in with penal sub type atonement theory, and the other with Christus Victor. Both are well warranted in Scripture, but I am coming to believe a greater emphasis on the latter (CV) is more psychologically healthy. “Mea culpa” is important to a life of repentance, but the victory of our savior must be of infinite superiority to the depth of our failure.

      I’m with you on the present perfect continuous, with the caveat that, while you can never know for sure if somebody ELSE is saved, you can have assurance for yourself, rooted in your baptism, where God has acted upon you to make you his child. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      To step in to that broken, human world dynamic, and say, “There is no scripted prayer you can recite, and making a plan to stop all of your bad habits would be pointless, if your goal is to be saved,” is very frustrating, because it removes the physical identifiers that prove that we have been saved.

      Then what happens to The Altar Call and Sinner’s Prayer school of Salvation?

      We have to start thinking of sin as something that we can’t fix on our own, anymore than drinking lots of water will cure cancer.

      Not “lots of water”. VEGAN VEGAN VEGAN diet, plus Lotsa VITAMINS VITAMINS VITAMINS. (I am currently in the middle of a Prostate Cancer scare, and have encountered a Babel of One True Way-ism when I set up preliminary contact with a local Prostate Support Group. That was one of the most blatant One True Ways.)

  9. Ok, help me out here. I remember reading this quote a while back and thinking, “did somebody as brilliant as Capon just clearly proof-text this verse to mean exactly the opposite of what its context clearly requires?” :

    On the cross, he has shut up forever on the subject of guilt: “There is therefore now no condemnation. . . .” All human beings, at all times and places, are home free whether they know it or not, feel it or not, believe it or not.

    That verse should end something like “…to them which are in Christ Jesus.” Romans is clearly referring to the exclusivity of redemption to the church, and he is using it to support the inclusivity of redemption to the world. I’m not even saying he’s wrong here. But he is certainly pulling the wrong verse to support that. Am I missing something here?

    • Miguel, I think the answer lies in Fr. Capon’s comment about being a universalist and not being a Universalist. He holds that “no one is out who was not in to begin with.” In other words, Jesus’ death and resurrection does indeed encompass all people. Some will trust in him for that. Many will refuse to place their trust and insist on earning, deserving, and striving through all manner of do it yourself righteousness. Those who refuse to join the feast are destined to remain outside.

      I recommend “Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law and the Outrage of Grace.” as an introduction to his soteriological thought. Be warned. It will blow the top of your skull off.

    • Agreeing with DaveD and expanding in response to Miguel…

      It really isn’t that God will reconcile every human being to himself, but that God has done so, past tense. One of our classic Pauline text states that reality;

      1 And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest…
      4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 5 even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you are saved! – 6 and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.

      (*quoting from Robert Capon*)

      What our author has done here is to take one of Paul’s greatest insights and give it cosmic dimensions. In Romans 5:8, Paul had written, “But God proves his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Now, in Ephesians, that passing reference to the Messiah’s embrace of the world in its sins (not after it gets rid of them) becomes a hymn to the completed work of the Messiah acting quite on his own. And the hymn is about our joy, because we were saved by grace, even when we were dead in our trespasses. We’ve always been alive together with him; we’ve always been raised together with him; and we’re already sitting in the heavenly places with him now—all because in every now, we’ve always been in the Messiah Jesus. We’re not there because we managed to reform our lives and make ourselves deserving of such a privilege; we’re there because it’s all his doing: we’re his handiwork, not our own. And last bet best, we’ve never been anywhere else; because, as the writer of Ephesians said at the very beginning in 1:3-5: “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” Even before we were born—even when we were nothing whatsoever—we were home in him forever.

      Moreover, contrary to much of the church’s preaching for two thousand years, neither Ephesians nor Paul seriously means to say that we will be made alive after the second nothingness of either our death in sin or our actual, physical death. They insist that we’ve been alive in him all along, no matter what. Death is not a prelude to our life; it’s the very sacrament, the real presence of the life of Jesus in us. Death is the Messiah’s chosen place for his eternal rendezvous with us, not a disaster he has to overcome. Everything can go wrong for us; be he never fails to show up for his assignation. In the words of the Lady Julian of Norwich, the great English mystic, “Sin is behovely [sin does indeed fit into the picture], but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” Our life in Jesus is a grace irrevocably given and a gift fully received by all. Like it or not, respond to it or not, believe it or not, everybody has it, and nobody will ever lose it.

      …(Paul’s) insistence (is) that the redemption of the world is a gift to be trusted, not a deal yet to be closed.

  10. Josh in FW says


    Thank you for your continuous preaching on grace. I need to read this stuff often.

    • I’m with Josh. I need the continual reminder of God’s grace.

      I will add…especially if I’m to show God’s grace to others.

  11. Christiane says



    if we are called to ‘respond’ to God, to act in some way because He asks it of us, then I think it must be that we are called to be loving beings . . . does this ‘save’ us? or is ‘being loving’ a ‘sign’ that we have been given the grace to do it, even when we could not do it on our own?

    sometimes I think ‘salvation’ is so much more than just ‘not going to hell’
    . . . and the longer I live, the more I think this

    • sometimes I think ‘salvation’ is so much more than just ‘not going to hell’
      . . . and the longer I live, the more I think this

      Keep thinking this, and think it more steadily until it erases every alternative from your mind.
      Nothing truer than this has ever appeared on this Board.

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