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The 4th Annual Preachers Files Lectureship

 

Youth Gathering Oct 25th

By Grace are Ye Saved Through Faith

The text for our lesson is found in Ephesians 2:8-10

"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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."

There is great religious contradiction today about the role of God's grace in the salvation of man.  There are a number of variations on beliefs and we aren't going to have time to examine them all so what we are going to do is look at what the relationship of Grace and Faith is in the salvation of man and that should serve to eliminate what they are not. 

Many people today use Ephesians 2:8-10 to say that God's grace is available by faith exclusive of and apart of any action on the part of the believer, and upon this belief, one is saved and then lives a life of obedience to God's will.  They believe Paul's words, "It [meaning salvation] is a gift: Not of works" means that one is saved completely apart of any action on his or her part whatsoever.  This is a belief that can be put to the test easily.  Scripture defines belief as a work in John 6:29, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent".  According to Jesus, believing is a work of God.  In 1 Thessalonians 1:3 Paul writes concerning faith, "Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father".  Paul, who wrote Ephesians 2:8-10 also wrote that faith is a work to the Christians in Thessalonica.

So we know immediately that Paul is not saying our salvation does not depend on any act of man whatsoever because belief and faith at their most basic level is an act of man which requires mental exercise and an implementation of one's resolve in an obedient response to God's will.    In other words, just believing in God and having faith in Him is a work of righteousness upon which one's salvation depends.  Therefore Paul's use of the words, "not of works" does not mean exclusive of works", because if it did, then salvation would be given to all mankind, faithful or not.  We could therefore expect to spend eternity with all the Godless individuals that ever lived on earth.  A few really distinct ones from history leap to mind.  I'm sure we can all reflect and come up with some examples of people who lived in the past that we would not want to spend our eternity with. 

So since "not of works" cannot mean "exclusive of all works then what does it mean?  The purpose of this lesson is to determine what Paul meant when he wrote Ephesians 2:8-10

"For by grace are ye saved through faith"  There are two components there we need to examine:  Grace and Faith.   Paul wrote in Romans 5:2, "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."  Paul says God's grace is accessed by faith.  If we take away faith, then there is no access to God's grace.  God's grace is therefore conditional upon faith, and keep in mind, that Paul called faith a work in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 and also again in 2 Thessalonians 1:11.  So we know that once we properly define all that God's grace is and all that Faith to God is, then we know what Paul meant. 

First let's look at grace.  The definition of grace is undeserved, or unmerited favor.  Paul says salvation is a "gift of God: not of works".  The gift of God means that God offered it freely to us.  Scripture is clear that God's promise of eternal life was in place before the foundation of the world: Titus 1:2 "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began".  God did all the work in the plan of man's redemption.  He planned it, He created the Universe, He created man, He devised the means where man could be forgiven of sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.  God did everything to prepare and provide sinful man a means where he could live with Him in heaven.

The only part man played in all this was to do what God knew he would do before He ever started, which was to sin and fall short of the glory of God.   Man had nothing constructive to do in this whole process.  Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord".  When we sin, our lives are forfeit.  Anything that God does for us at that point is a gift.  We didn't have ANYTHING to do with our opportunity for salvation, we don't deserve, we can't earn it.  Our opportunity for salvation through Christ is a gift because of God's gracious sacrifice and offer to mankind.  It doesn't matter what we have to do, God's gracious offer is still a gift.  Our works had nothing to do with it.  Our opportunity at salvation did not come as a result of anything we did, or can do or will do, either individually or collectively.   That is what Paul meant when he said it is  the gift of God: not of works.  

Even if we lived our lives sinless from the moment we became a Christian, Christ still had to die for us.  Christ's sacrifice is a gift.  We didn't do anything to deserve that.  And we can't do anything to repay it.  It doesn't matter how faithful we are, we can't take Christ down off that cross.  We can't make His sacrifice unnecessary.  He had to die so that we could live.  We can't fix that. 

There is much contradiction on the role of "faith," "works," "law," and "grace."  People are frequently confused on what sorts of works are involved in our salvation vs. what sorts of works are completely excluded from the salvation process.

The very first thing to do is to insure that everyone is clear on whether or not man can save themselves. The answer is that we cannot. There is not anything we can do to put God in our debt. One important passage that teaches this clearly is the following:

Luke 17:10
"So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do."

If we were to do all things commanded us, without exception, then we are still unworthy of God's gracious blessings. Thus, we cannot earn salvation! But, part of the confusion expressed in the ongoing give and take, is located in failing to distinguish types of works in Scripture. When the Bible says that "works do not justify" (Rom. 4:1f; 11:1f.), and "works justify" (James 2:14-26), it becomes pretty clear that either the Bible is hopelessly contradictory on this point, or more than one type of work is under consideration in the Bible. The latter choice is the correct one! Some works are completely excluded with reference to salvation, and some works are included such as belief, confession, repentance, all of which scripture says are absolutely necessary if one is to be saved! When those works that are included are performed, they do not merit salvation in any sense whatsoever.

WORKS THAT ARE EXCLUDED:

1. Works of the flesh (Galatians. 5:19-21);
2. Works of human merit (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:3-5);
3. Works of the Law (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:20); and/or
4. Works of human devising (Romans 1:1-4).

WORKS THAT ARE INCLUDED:

1. Works of righteousness (Acts 10:34-35; John 6:28-29).

The question is (and always has been) whether our faith is active and submissive in the salvation process, or totally inactive and passive! Many argue that faith is totally inactive and passive.  The scriptures are clear that faith must be active and submissive (James 2). And, isn't it interesting that Abraham, the very one who is used by Paul to argue salvation apart from works of human merit and devising (Romans 4:1-5), is used by the author of Hebrews as well as James as the primary example of active and submissive faith (Hebrews 11:8, 17; James 2:24-26). One other example is used, namely, Rahab. Her faith was expressed through works (James 2:25-26), which the author of Hebrews defines as an obedient faith. Hebrews 11:31, "By faith Rahab the harlot perished not with them that were disobedient, having received the spies with peace". (ASV) Since Rahab didn't perish with those who disobeyed, she therefore must have been saved because she obeyed. 

Nothing in the process of the Christian life lived in mandatory obedience in any way militates against salvation being by grace through faith. Neither does it argue against salvation being FREE! God's gracious offers to man are always FREE.  Man can do nothing at all to purchase, earn, merit, or in any other way obtain salvation apart from God's gracious offer. It does not, however, imply that nothing at all must be done by man to receive it.  Paul never taught that nothing at all must be done to receive salvation. 

For God to even reveal himself and his expectations is grace.

For God to reveal our violations against that will is grace.

For God to provide a way of atonement for sin is grace.

For God informing us of that atonement is grace.

For God to defer judgment to give us time to respond is grace.

For God revealing to us how to respond is grace.

The availability of salvation, under any circumstances whatsoever, must be grace.

This is because God does not owe salvation to anybody. He would perfectly entitled to send a sinless man to eternal punishment. If God were to require nothing of us, not even faith, in order to receive salvation, it would be grace. If He were to require only acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God as many people wrongly believe and teach, it would be grace. His making salvation available through obedience to the gospel plan is grace. If He extended salvation only to those who suffer fatal martyrdom, it would still be grace. Under all of these conditions, any provenance of salvation is grace, because He does not owe us anything, nor is there any possible set of circumstances by which God can be placed in debt to anyone that He has created.

If we think of grace as a comprehensive theological term standing for everything God does to procure our salvation, then it refers to His plan of salvation through history, the promises to the Patriarchs, preparation through prophecy, the life, teachings, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our atoning sacrifice--the coming of and death of Jesus Christ, the establishment of the church, the announcing of terms of admission into the church-kingdom, and the requirement to live faithfully unto death.  ALL of these things are expressions of God's grace. Mankind did nothing to provide it, could not earn it, and does not deserve it!

If we also think of faith as a comprehensive theological term standing for man's response to God's gracious offer, then faith, as a summarizing term, contains everything we do to avail ourselves of God's offer. It involves hearing, believing, repenting, confessing, being baptized, a life of loyal commitment, etc. Grace is God reaching down to fallen man through Christ; faith is man reaching upward to God through response. As such, it is always active, and never passive. James could not have said it any more clearly:

James 2:20-26

20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Faith is far more than a mental assent of who God is and what He did for us.  Earlier in the lesson when we defined belief as a work, we used Jesus' words in John 6:29 to illustrate that.  It reads, "Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent".   If we are going to believe on Jesus, then we have to believe everything He said and taught.  Jesus said in Matthew 7:21, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven".  Clearly there is more to believing in Jesus Christ than a mental of assent of who He is and what He did. 

Jesus said in John 3:18, "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."  Clearly it is the will of God that we work the work of belief in Jesus Christ. 

Jesus said in Luke 13:3, "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish".  Jesus is talking here about spiritual death.  If we are going to believe on Jesus Christ then we must believe His teaching that we must repent.  If we do not repent then we did not believe what Jesus said and therefore do not believe Him.  Jesus said only those who do the will of God will enter the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus also said in John 12:49, "but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak." Clearly it is the will of God that we work the work of repentance. 

Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven".  Again, if we are going to believe on Jesus Christ then we must believe His teachings on confession as well.  Jesus said Luke 6:46, "why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?"  If we do not confess Jesus before men then we obviously did not believe that He said we must and therefore do not believe on Him.  Jesus said only those who do the will of God will enter the kingdom of heaven.  Clearly it is the will of God that we work the work of confession.

Jesus said in Mark 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned".  Jesus earlier told Nicodemus in John 3:5 that "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God".  We are born again and experience newness of life at baptism (Romans 6:4).  if we are going to believe on Jesus Christ then we must believe His teachings on baptism as well.  If we find ourselves standing at judgment not having been baptized into Christ, Jesus may well say, "I guess you didn't believe me when I said he that is baptized shall be saved and that we must be born again to enter the kingdom of God".  Jesus said only those who do the will of God will enter the kingdom of heaven.  Clearly it is the will of God that we submit to baptism.

Jesus said  in John 15:4, "Abide in me, and I in you." In verse 6 He went on to teach, "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." He then went on to teach exactly how to abide in Him in verse 10, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love"  Jesus commanded us to abide in Him, warned that those who do not will be cast out and burned and then taught that obedience was how to do it.  if we are going to believe on Jesus Christ then we must believe His teachings on faithful living as well.  If we find ourselves standing at judgment not having been obedient, Jesus may well say, "I guess you didn't believe me when I said you had to obey me".  Jesus said only those who do the will of God will enter the kingdom of heaven.  Clearly it is the will of God that we work the works of obedience. 

Ephesians 2:8-10

By grace [the unmerited favor God]

we are saved through faith [faithfullness to God];

and that not of ourselves [we didn't do anything to bring about God's mercy],

It is the gift of God [He offered and implemented it because He loves us],

and that not of yourselves [we had nothing to do with crafting and implementing God's plan of redemption],

lest any man should boast [we certainly have nothing to boast about, we can never say God owes us salvation].

For we are His workmanship [Those who are saved are the workmanship of God through His plan of redemption]

Created in Christ Jesus [The sacrifice of Jesus made it all possible]

unto Good works which God hath foreordained that we should walk in them [faithful obedient service].

We access God's grace through faith the same way the first century Christians did.  Paul told us exactly how it was done for him in Romans 1:5

"By whom we [meaning Paul and the other apostles], have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name"

We have access to God's grace through faith and Paul received Grace for his obedience to the faith.  Today, we access God's grace the same way, by obedience to the faith.  And that goes perfectly with what the Hebrew writer teaches in 5:9, "And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him"

 


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