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It Takes Grace - 1 Corinthians 15

A service plan for Reformation Sunday focused on the sovereign grace of God as the only hope for our salvation. This is the final service in a four-part series on truths from the Reformation.

Worship Service
Also in this Series

Reformation Truths

This series of worship services explores the four main teachings of the Protestant Reformers

Theme of the Service

This service is the final in a series of four. It focuses on the sovereign grace of God as the only hope for our salvation. Paul's claim that grace explains who he is can be said of all God's children. It is the ground of our intent to give God glory!

This service is a festival of celebration of the grace of God, which is appropriate to Reformed Churches on Reformation Sunday. This service is more complex and lengthy than usual and may require more careful preparation.


Prelude: "Built on the Rock" [see music notes]
or: "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"

*The Call to Worship
As followers of Jesus Christ,
living in this world-
which some seek to control,
but which others view with despair-
we declare with joy and trust:
Our world belongs to God!
From the beginning,
through all the crises of our times,
until his kingdom fully comes,
God keeps covenant forever.
Our world belongs to him!
God is King! Let the earth be glad!
Christ is Victor; his rule has begun. Hallelujah!
The Spirit is at work, renewing the creation. Praise the Lord!
Come, Lord Jesus! Our world belongs to you. ("Our World Belongs to God," art.1, 2, 6)

*Song: "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" PsH 469:1-4, RL 179:1-4, TH 92:1-4, TWC 43:1-4, UMH 110:1-4 [see music notes]

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
People of God, where is your trust placed?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Response: "Built on the Rock" PsH 503, TH 351, TWC 705 [see music notes]


The Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: It Takes Grace!
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:10
Reformation Truths #4

The Prayer of Application


We are Dead in Sin (Total Depravity)

The Reading of Ephesians 2:1-5
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Our Testimony:
Apart from grace we prove each day
that we are guilty sinners.
Fallen in that first sin,
we fail to thank God,
we break his laws,
we ignore our tasks.
Looking for life without God, we find only death;
grasping for freedom outside his law,
we trap ourselves in Satan's snares;
pursuing pleasure, we lose the gift of joy. ("Our World Belongs to God," art.15)

Our Responsorial Prayer of Confession: "Psalm 51" RN 181/182, SFL 41, SNC 49
or: the settings of the Kyrie in SNC 50, 52 or 53

We are Chosen in Christ (Unconditional Election)

The Reading of Ephesians 1:3-6
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Our Testimony:
Jesus alone paid the debt of our sin;
there is no other Savior!
In him the Father chose those
whom he would save.
His electing love sustains our hope:
God's grace is free
to save sinners who offer nothing
but their need for mercy. ("Our World Belongs to God," art. 28)

*Song: "Father, Long Before Creation" PsH 464:1,3, RL 353: 1,3

Anthem: "I Was There To Hear Your Borning Cry," Helgen [see music notes]

Christ has Paid for Our Sins (Limited Atonement)

The Reading of John 6:35-40
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Our Testimony:
As our substitute
he suffered all his years on earth,
especially in the horrible torture of the cross.
He carried God's judgment on our sin;
his sacrifice removes our guilt.
He walked out of the grave, the Lord of life!
He conquered sin and death.
We are set right with God,
we are given new life,
and called to walk with him
in freedom from sin's dominion. ("Our World Belongs to God," art. 27)

Anthem: "Jesus Paid It All," Robert Sterling [see music notes]

God Has Opened Our Hearts (Irresistable Grace)

The Reading of 2 Timothy 1:8-12
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Our Testimony:
Jesus stays with us in the Spirit,
who renews our hearts,
moves us to faith,
leads us in the truth,
stands by us in our need,
and makes our obedience fresh and vibrant. ("Our World Belongs to God," art. 31)

*Song: "There Is A Redeemer" RN 232, SNC 145

No One Shall Separate Us From God's Love (Perseverance of the Saints)

The Reading of 1 Peter 1:3-5
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Our Testimony:
Our hope for a new earth is not tied
to what humans can do,
for we believe that one day
every challenge to God's rule
and every resistance to his will shall be crushed.
Then his kingdom shall come fully,
and our Lord shall rule forever.
With the whole creation
we wait for the purifying fire of judgment.
For then we will see the Lord face to face.
He will heal our hurts, end our wars,
and make the crooked straight.
Then we will join in the new song
to the Lamb without blemish
who made us a kingdom and priests.
God will be all in all,
righteousness and peace will flourish,
everything will be made new,
and every eye will see at last
that our world belongs to God!
Hallelujah! Come, Lord Jesus. ("Our World Belongs to God," art. 56, 58)

Anthem: "He Never Failed Me Yet," Ray [see music notes]

The Offering of Music: "I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord" [see music notes]
We offer our gifts for...


The Invitation
The Lord is Risen!
He is risen indeed.
This is the Lord's Table.
Come, for he is waiting.

The Thanksgiving
May the Lord abide in us.
And we in him.
Let us raise our hearts to the Lord our God
that we may be filled with his presence.

The Prayer of Thanksgiving

The Institution: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

The Remembrance
Let us proclaim the mystery of faith:
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
Dying he destroyed our death:
rising he restored our life.
"Lord Jesus, come in glory."

The Prayer of Consecration
Let us pray.
Holy Father, give us your Holy Spirit in the breaking of the bread,
so that we may be drawn together, and, joined to Christ the Lord,
receive new life, and remain his glad and faithful people until he comes. Amen.

Our Participation in the Bread

(While you receive the bread, spend time in personal meditation and reflection. Remind yourself "God knows me and God loves me" and center your thoughts on that idea.)

Our Participation in the Cup

(While you receive the cup, profess your faith in song.)

"I Will Sing of My Redeemer" PsH 479:1-3, TWC 492:1-3, TH 650: 1-2, 4

"Thine Is the Glory" PH 122, RL 327, TH 274, TWC 251, UMH 308

The Prayer of Thanksgiving


*Words of Doxology:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgment, and his paths beyond tracing out!
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen! (Romans 11:33, 36)

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "Now Thank We All Our God" PH 555, PsH 454, RL 61, SFL 33, SNC 228 (refrain only), TH 98, TWC 374, UMH 102 [seemusic notes]

Postlude: "Now Thank We All Our God" [see music notes]

*You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes:

Normally our perception of a sermon is that it is to be the primary carrier of the message of God's Word for the day. In this service, however, the sermon is only intended to begin the exposition of God's Word. After the sermon is finished, the service will continue to proclaim the message of God's Word in readings, song, and in celebration at the Lord's Table. This will necessitate a thorough integration of liturgy and word. As you prepare the sermon, therefore, bear in mind that it is intended to establish a platform on which the remainder of the service will build. (A short message may be necessary since the liturgy and sacrament will also take time.)

Paul, at times, had a unique ability to wrap up profound truth in a few words. What would take paragraphs to explain in some places, he can pointedly communicate in a brief and concentrated sentence in other places. Verse 10 of 1 Corinthians 15 is an example of a profound sentence. (Ephesians 2:8-9 and Philippians 4:19 serve as two other excellent examples.) In the words preceding our text Paul presents two ideas. First, he states the resurrection of Christ from the dead is the heart of the Christian gospel. Second, he declares his surprise that he has been chosen to be a preacher of that Gospel. Then he wraps up his whole autobiography in ".by the grace of God I am what I am." Paul's reference here is to his encounter with God on the Damascus road (see Acts 9).

In these words, however, Paul is speaking about more than his own personal story. He is proclaiming the core of the Christian faith: Grace from God! This is not a huff-and-puff religion in which we expend our own efforts to impress God and achieve salvation. This is religion that is built on the generosity of the heart of God as he looks at sinners and exclaims, "I know you don't deserve it, but I'll love you anyway!" Selecting illustrations from daily experience which point to living graciously with persons who forfeit it may help to communicate this concept. Illustrations from the pages of Scripture will also serve this purpose, such as an angry Moses, deceitful Jacob, adulterous David, or denying Peter. Grace is, by its very nature, surprising and without reason!

And it is very expensive! Grace is expensive to God because it cost him his only begotten Son, and it's expensive to Christ because he gave his life for us. But we must not overlook the fact that it also has a cost for us. We must relinquish control of our life and give it over to our Sovereign Master.

Music Notes:
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Suggestions for prelude based on the first two hymns of the service and alternative harmonizations for those hymns can be found in the following resources:

KIRKEN ["Built on the Rock"]

Childs, Edwin T. Organ Music for the Seasons, vol. 3. AugsburgFortress ISBN 0-8006-7564-9
[2003] (M)
Hobby, Robert A. Three Hymns of Praise, set 2. Morningstar MSM-10-757 [1994] (M)
Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations, set 8. Concordia 97-5342 [1979] (M)
Peeters, Flor. Hymn Preludes for the Liturgical Year, vol. 10. Peters 6410 [1966] (M)

Helman, Michael. Built on A Rock. Alfred 19006 [2000] (3-5 octaves, level 3)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Johnson, David N. Free Harmonizations of Twelve Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9190 [1964]
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]

EIN' FESTE BURG ["A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"]

Bach, Johann Christoph. Music for a Celebration, set 4. Morningstar MSM-10-579 [2005] (E-M)
Bender, Jan. Festival Preludes on Six Chorales. Concordia 97-4608 [1963] (M)
Bish, Diane. The Diane Bish Organ Book, vol. 1. Fred Bock B-G0548 [1980] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 1. AMSI OR1 [1980] (E-M)
Held, Wilbur. Hymn Preludes for the Autumn Festivals. Concordia 97-5360 [1976] (E-M)
Helman, Michael. Five for Autumn. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7671-8 [2004] (E-M)
Hobby, Robert A. For All the Saints. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7537-1 [2002] (E-M)
Johnson, David N. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. Augsburg 11-822 [1965] (M-D)
Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 2. SMP KK235 [1982] (adaptable for piano; E-M)
Manz, Paul. God of Grace. Morningstar MSM-10-599 [2004] (M)
Marpurg, Friedrich Wilhelm. Music for a Celebration, set 4. Morningstar MSM-10-579 [2005] (E-M)
Marpurg, Friedrich Wilhelm. Twenty-one Chorale Preludes. Augsburg 11-9506 [1967] (E-M)
Ore, Charles W. A Mighty Fortress. Concordia 97-6061 [1990] (D)
The Church Organist's Golden Treasury. (ed. Pfarreicher and Davison) vol. 1. Ditson [1949] (E-M)
Walcha, H. Chorale Preludes, bk. 1. Peters 4850 (M)
Young, Gordon. Organ Album. SMP KK 280 [1983] (E-M)
Young, Gordon. Seven Hymn Voluntaries. Presser 413-41118-21 [1965] (E-M)

Gerig, Reginald. Piano Preludes on Hymns and Chorales. Hope 251 [1959] (M)
Wilhelmi, Teresa. Hymns.Light Jazz Style. Word 301 0136 315 [1997] (M)

Tucker, Margaret. Variations on "A Mighty Fortress". Morningstar MSM-30-800 [1987]
(3-5 octaves, M-D)
Wagner, Douglas E. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. Agape 1256 [1986] (3-4 octaves, E-M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Busarow, Donald. Thirty More Accompaniments for Hymns in Canon. Augsburg 11-10163 [1992]
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000]
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 2. Ludwig O-07 [1983]
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Organ, Anne Krentz. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

The anthem "I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry" by John Helgenis is published by Kjos 8826 [1996]. It is scored for SAATB voices, keyboard and recorder or other C instrument (M). If you wish to sing this congregationally, it can be found in With One Voice 770.

The anthem "Jesus Paid It All" arranged by Robert Sterling is published by Glory Sound A6223 [1985]. It is scored for SATB voices and keyboard (M). If you wish to sing this congregationally, it can be found in The Worshiping Church 489.

The anthem "He Never Failed Me Yet" by Robert Ray is published by Jenson 44708014 [1982]. This black gospel anthem is scored for SATB choir with soloist and keyboard (M).

The offertory music serves as a bridge from Celebrating God's Grace to the Celebration at the Table. During this time you may wish to encourage the congregation to reflect on the text of the first verse of this song: "I come with joy to meet my Lord, forgiven, loved, and free; in awe and wonder to recall his life laid down for me."

LAND OF REST ["I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord"]

Callahan, Charles. Six Meditations on American Folk Hymns. Concordia 97-6140 [1992] (E-M)
Haan, Raymond H. O Worship the King. Broadman 4570-42 [1979] (E-M)
Held, Wilbur. Seven Settings of American Folk Hymns. Concordia 97-5829 [1984] (E-M)
Hobby, Robert A. Variations on Jerusalem, My Happy Home. Morningstar MSM-10-807 [1996]
Sedio, Mark. Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ. Augsburg 11-10718 [1996] (E-M)
Stearns, Peter Pindar. Twelve Hymn Preludes for General Use. Flammer HF-5145 [1987] (E-M)
Wood, Dale. Seven Folk Tune Sketches. H. W. Grey. GB 357 [1966] (E-M)

Suggestions for alternative harmonizations of the closing hymn and postlude suggestions based on the same hymn can be found in:

NUN DANKET ["Now Thank We All Our God"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 2. Ludwig O-07 [1983]
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]

Asma, Feike. Fantasie voor orgel Dankt, dankt nu allen God. G. Alsbach 5312 (M)
Bach, J. S. Now Thank We All Our God (arr. Fox) H. W. Grey. 868 [1959] (E-M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving, set 4. Morningstar MSM-10-754 [1991] (E-M)
Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving, set 5. Morningstar MSM-10-755 [1993] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Postludes on Well Known Hymns. Augsburg 11-10795 [1997] (M)
Haan, Raymond H. O Worship the King. Broadman 4570-42 [1979] (E-M)
Helman, Michael. Five for Autumn. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7671-8 [2004] (E-M)
Johnson, David N. Hymns Settings for Organ. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7498-7 [2002]
Johnson, David N. Now Thank We All Our God. Augsburg 11-9330 [1982] (E-M)
Karg-Elert, Sigfrid. A Collection of Thanksgiving Music. H. W. Grey. [1938] (M)
Karg-Elert, Sigfrid. Music for a Celebration, set 3. Morningstar MSM-10-565 [2004] (M)
Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations, set 8. Concordia 97-5342 [1979] (M)
Mendelssohn, Felix. Music for a Celebration, set 3. Morningstar MSM-10-565 [2004] (E-M)
Tauscher, A. W. Music for a Celebration, set 3. Morningstar MSM-10-565 [2004] (M)
West, John. Now Thank We All Our God. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7567-3 [2002] (could include
Wold, Wayne. Harmonies of Liberty. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7575-4 [2003] (E-M)

Carter, John. Hymns for Piano II. Hope 8197 [2003] (E-M)
David, Anne Marie. Here I Am, Lord. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7566-5 [2002] (M)

Dobrinski, Cynthia. Now Thank We All Our God. Agape 2155 [2000] (3-5 octaves, level 3)
Wiltse, Carl. Now Thank We All Our God. Stained Glass [1984] (3 octaves, E-M)

Liturgy Notes:

1. Since this service is intended to be a celebration of our Reformation heritage, the central truths are those of the Canons of Dort (TULIP). The headings of the sections following the sermon reflect these five Reformed doctrines. However, in an attempt to convey the timelessness of these truths, our testimonies are given in the words of the Contemporary Testimony of the Christian Reformed Church ("Our World Belongs to God"). An explanation of this will help the worshipers participate thoughtfully.
To reprint "Our World Belongs to God" for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom use, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. Reprinted with permission.

2. Notice that each of the sections built around these five truths have a similar structure within them: the reading of Scripture, our testimony of belief, and our response in song. Such a structure reinforces the dialog with God that marks Reformed worship.

3. We suggest that lay readers read the Scripture passages in each of the five sections of the service. These readers should become very familiar with the passage and understand that the words they read have great importance for the faith of the Church!