WHY THE GIFT IS UNDER THE TREE
NEED: TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT OUR SALVATION IS AN EXPRESSION OF THE GRACE OF GOD.
PROPOSITION: OUR SALVATION COMES TO US BECAUSE OF THE FREE GRACE OF GOD.
OBJECTIVE: TO LEAD PERSONS TO RECEIVE GOD'S GIFT OF SALVATION.
Do you have any presents under your Christmas tree yet? When presents begin to appear under the tree, the
excitement of Christmas begins to build. This is especially true when you have smaller children. It is always
exciting to see them as they make a daily trip to the tree to examine the presents under the tree. They will look
to see how many of the presents have their name on it. They will probably shake the presents to see if they
can determine what is in it. If you turn your back, they might even tear a little hole so they can take a peek at
We have already determined that the real Christmas tree is the cross of Jesus Christ. God's most precious gift
for each of us is under that tree. His great gift is salvation which is identified as justification in our text. To
justify means to declare righteous so in His salvation God pro¬vides for us everything that is needed to make
us acceptable before Him. As you look at the presents under the your Christmas tree, did you ever ask why
they are there? It would not be difficult to determine the reason for most of the gifts. You know that the gift
under the tree from your family mem¬bers is an expression of love and appreciation. However, sometimes we
may receive a gift for which we have difficulty identifying a cause. I have received gifts from people for which
there was no logical explanation. I could not understand why they had chosen to give me a gift. Have you ever
asked why God put the great gift of salvation under His Christmas tree for you? There is a reason and Paul
gives it to us in this verse. It is summed up in the words, "freely by His grace."
I. The cause for our salvation is not found in us.
There is nothing in you that can explain the presence of this great gift of salvation under God's Christmas
tree. Paul teaches us this with the word, "freely." This word is used several times in the New Testament and it
car-ries the basic idea of "without a cause." A good example of this is found
in the Gospel of John. When confronted by the unreasonable hatred of the multitudes, Jesus explained it to
His disciples with these words: "This cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled was written in their law,
they hated me without a cause" (John 15:25). We use three words in translat-ing the one Greek word.
"Without a cause" is actually the same word trans-lated "freely" in this text. Jesus was explaining to His
disciples that there was nothing in Him to provoke or justify the hatred He was receiving from the world. Their
hatred for Him was totally without a basis. This is what Paul is explaining concerning this great gift of salvation.
There is nothing in the one being justified to explain what God has done. The explanation
for God's saving activity must be found somewhere else. This has a
lot of implications for our salvation.
1. This eliminates our works as the basis for our salvation.
If God's justifying work is "freely" given, then we did not earn it by our
works. This was a favorite thing of the Apostle Paul. He wrote to the
Ephesians, "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith
not from yourself, it is the gift of God - not by works so that no one can
boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). "Not by works" says it all. God does not save us on
the basis of something we have done or not done.
Paul wrote to Titus the same truth. "But when the kindness and love of God
our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had
done, but because of His mercy" (Titus 3:4-5). Do you understand that the
great gift of God under His Christmas tree is not there because of anything
that you have done for God or your fellowman? Dr. Harold Ockenga illustrat-
ed this truth by an experience he had in a medical clinic. He was there to
get his semi-annual check up. As they were strapping him into the
cardiogram apparatus, he observed to the nurse that it made him wonder what
a man would think about when he was being strapped into an electric chair.
The nurse responded, "I think you would probably think on what was coming
after death." The pastor said to her, "What do you think comes after
death?" "Oh" she said, "I believe in heaven and in the hot place." So, the
pastor began to ask her questions designed to help him ascertain her confi-
dence. He asked, "What makes the difference as to whether you go to one
place or the other?" She quickly responded, "Your life." "But what stan-
dard," he said, "do you have for a righteous life which will enable you to go to heaven?" She replied, "I
suppose the ten commandments." Then he asked, "Have you obeyed the ten commandments?" She
responded, "Oh, yes!" So the pastor began with the tenth commandment and began to ask her ques¬tions
about them. After a few minutes she admitted that she had not kept the commandments and thus according to
that standard would not have a right to heaven. He was never able to help her see that there was nothing in
her and nothing that she could ever do that could serve as a basis for her re-ceiving God's great gift of
There are some of you like that. You have not yet realized that the cause for God's salvation is not in your life
or in your works.
2. It is not caused by your faith.
Some of us have mistakenly believed that God gives us the gift because of our faith. We mistakenly attribute
some kind of merit to our faith.
Actually, the faith by which we receive God's salvation is also a gift from God. Paul included faith as an
expression of God's grace in His statement to the Ephesians. "For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and
that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God." The faith that receives salvation is included in that "gift of God." It
is a mistake to believe that some way our faith in God in itself gives us standing before God. The sobering
truth is that the cause of salvation is not in us.
This word "freely" takes the focus off of us and puts it on God. God justi-fies sinners without finding any cause
for the justification in the sinner. And well it should be for the sinner in himself is not capable of doing anything
that would make him acceptable before God.
II. The cause of our salvation is found in God.
"By His grace" indicates that the explanation for God's saving work is found in God Himself. The personal
pronoun "his" points to God. It is His grace
- not our grace.
The word grace is one of the great words of the Bible. It translate the Greek word CHARIS. There are two or
three ideas that are prominent in this word. One idea is that grace involves a favor that is freely done. That is
it is totally undeserved. We traditionally have defined it as "God's unmerited favor.” This means that there is
nothing in the object of grace that explains the generosity of grace. Another idea that is in the word is that it is
conferred freely with no expectation of return favor, and finding
its own motive in the bounty and free heartedness of the giver.
So, essentially when something is of grace it is unearned and unmerited.
The explanation for the gift is found in the giver not in the one to whom it
1. Salvation is God's idea.
If it is by grace then it is God's idea. The whole scheme of salvation originated with God. It was God who took
the initiative. This is true in
the great provisions of salvation, but it is also true in the personal experience of salvation. None of us in our
sinful confusion would have ever imagined the great salvation plan of God. Only a God of grace could have
ever conceived the idea of salvation.
2. Salvation is God's provision.
This is really the thrust of this passage. This great gift of righteousness which God has placed under the tree
of His Son for sinners like us is some-thing that God has provided. Every aspect of it is a divine provision. It is
in no way something that we have created or put together.
3. Salvation is God's work.
God saves sinners. They cannot save themselves. The great work of salva¬tion is of such magnitude that only
God could do it. It involves so much that only a God of grace would ever want to do it. Dr. Donald Gray
Barnhouse loved to use a story from the ministry of Harry Morehouse. Henry Morehouse was an English
evangelist who shared in the ministry of D. L. Moody. Dr. Barnhouse wrote, "One morning as Henry
Morehouse was walking along the street in a poor part of one of our great cities, and witnessed a minor
tragedy. A small boy, who could not have been more than 5 or 6 years old, came out of a store with a pitcher
of milk in his hands. The little fellow was making his way carefully along the street when he slipped and fell; the
picture breaking, and the milk running all over the sidewalk. He let out a wail and Harry Morehouse rushed to
see if he was hurt. There was no physical damage but he would not be consoled, crying out over and
over, "My Mama will whip me!" "My Mama will whip me!" "My Mama will whip
Mr. Morehouse said to him, "Maybe the pitcher is not broken into two many pieces; let us see if we can put it
together again." The boy stopped cry¬ing at once as he had no doubt seen bits of crockery glued together to
re¬make a broken plate or cup. He watched as Mr. Morehouse put the base of the pitcher on the sidewalk and
started building up the pieces. There was one or two failures and the pieces fell apart. At each failure the boys
started crying again but silenced by the big preacher who was helping him so much. Finally, the entire pitcher
was reconstructed from the pieces, and stood there in perfect shape on the sidewalk. The little fellow was
given the handle, and he poked it toward the place where it belonged and of course, knocked the whole thing
apart once more. This time there was no stopping his tears. It was then that Mr. Morehouse gathered the boy
in his arms and walked down the street with him to a nearby crockery store. He entered with the lad and
bought a new pitcher, then he went back to the milk store, had the pitcher washed and filled with milk. Carrying
the boy on one arm and the pitcher of milk in the other hand, he followed the boy’s instructions and they
arrived at his home. Very gently he deposited the lad on his front steps, carefully put the picture in his hands
and then said to him, "Now, will your Mama whip you?" A smile broke on the boy's street- face and he
answered, "Uh, no, sir! Because it is a lot better pitcher than we had
This is a simple illustration but it puts before us what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. We have obviously
made a mess of our lives, and there is
no way we can put them together again. He comes to us in his grace and gives us something better than that
which we lost. He gives us his own righteousness to make us acceptable before God. He himself carries us
into the presence of God and presents us before the Father. The reason for this is found in him and not in us.
Jesus is not only the reason for the season; He is also the reason for our salvation. It is "freely by His grace."