By Grace are Ye Saved
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
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
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.
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:
"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
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.
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:
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
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
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.
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"