“For by grace are ye saved through; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” This is a beautiful text, and a avery popular one. In this short passage we see the amazing offer of salvation which God has extended and the necessary response man must make in order to receive the greatest of all blessings.
First of all we are told in this text that salvation is by grace. Grace means the love and favor of God toward man. Everyone experiences the temporal grace of God as he blesses us with the necessities of life, the beauty of creation, and the many inexpressible blessings which we regularly take for granted. The eternal blessings found in Christ are offered to all through God’s grace.
Grace is receiving a blessing which is undeserved. If you have an insurance policy you will likely find a clause stating that if your premium is not paid on the due date, you will have thirty days grace during which time you may the premium. If you are unexpectedly “laid off” from work and cannot pay your bank note on time, the banker may give you 30 days grace. All of us understand the meaning of the word “grace” in such connections. It means that we receive something that is undeserved.
What about the temporal graces? Our daily food is a matter of grace. In what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer, he taught his disciples to say, “give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). As far as God is concerned our bread is a gift, a matter of grace. And yet such temporal blessings are conditional upon our part. If mankind fails to use the means which God provided, bread will not be given. We must farm the ground and make the bread, or work to buy the bread. If a man does not work neither shall he enjoy this temporary grace of God. God says, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground” (Gen. 3:19). Paul says, “We commanded you that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). However, the conditions are only appropriative in nature, and not meritorious. Our labor does not benefit God and does not “earn us” our bread. As Jesus said, “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.'”
What about saving grace? Paul speaks of “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). This grace, like the temporal grace of God, is offered to all men alike. But it too is conditional on our part. Paul says that the saving grace that has appeared to all men is “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12).
There are two unequal sides to the matter of salvation: God’s incredible work and man’s response of reception of that grace. All that God does for mankind is done because of his grace or favor. He is prompted by his own nature to do all he does. He owes us nothing, yet he proposes to give us all things. Referring to both God’s side and mankind’s side of the plan, Paul says, “By grace are ye saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). God saves by grace and we respond by faith. The word “grace” includes all of God’s wondrous plan of redemption from eternity past until Jesus presents us to Him in eternity’s dawn. The response of the saved is called “faith” and refers to mankind’s accepting of God, his will, and yielding obedience to Christ.
Christ was a gift of God’s grace. Paul says, “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Hebrews 2:9 says, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste of death for every man.” Paul speaks of what he called “the gospel of the grace of God,” and “the word of his grace” (Acts 20:24, 32). We have never paid for and could never fully appreciate the atonement made for us by Christ, nor for any other provision of the Gospel by which we are saved. All of these things are indescribable gifts of God offered to mankind through faithful obedience to the Gospel. Yes, the very fact that God teaches us is a part of his grace (Titus 2:11-12).
Mankind is active in responding to God’s grace. Because the Bible says that we are saved by grace, some have jumped to the unwarranted conclusion that the sinner cannot do anything to be saved. But the very text of our sermon which says we are saved by grace makes it conditional on man’s part by saying it is “through faith” (Eph. 2:8). Faith must be there in order to be saved through it. You cannot receive a text message unless it comes through your phone. In the same way, faith is the conduit of grace. Faith must be present in order to be saved. Jesus said, “Unless you believe that I am He you shall die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24). Paul says, “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace” (Rom. 4:16). So there is no salvation by grace without faith. Again Paul says, “We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand” (Rom. 5:2). Faith is not simply belief in God, but it is also what must be believed about God–Jd. 3. In order to avoid the fact that salvation is conditional on man’s part some have taken the position that faith is not an act of man. But Paul says, “With the heart man believes unto righteousness” (Rom. 10:10). So man does the believing. Faith is not for God, but for man.
Baptism is not excluded from faith. Baptism is a great act of faith. There is no reason to be baptized unless it is an act of faith. We might reason the necessity of belief, repentance, confession, and obedience. However, the act of baptism is simply a matter of faith in God the demonstration of one’s willingness to completely surrender to him. Paul speaks both of the “salvation which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:10) and being “baptized into Christ” (Rom. 6:3 & Gal. 3:27). This is how one is “raised with Christ” (Rom. 6:4) and how all become “one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27).
Salvation by grace through faith is not of yourselves. This means that we do not pardon our own sins. Neither do we pay for our salvation–“It is the gift of God”. God has given us the testimony which is able to produce faith. “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). John says, “These are written that ye might believe” (Jn. 20:31).
Salvation is not of works. Some claim this excludes any action of man in response to God’s grace. Yet the same passage eliminates this possibility. Faith itself is described as a “work”. John wrote his gospel so that we might believe. Composing the book was certainly a work. Reading the book is a work. The mental effort put forth to digest the book is work. The response demanded by faith is a work. The answer is in how the actions are viewed. The response of mankind to God is not work to demand repayment, but is in truth the response of helpless creatures eternally indebted to the loving God of Heaven.
Jesus says, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (Jn. 6:29). Here we learn that faith is a work. Faith is a most fundamental and exhaustive work. It is a requirement for salvation (Eph. 2:8). It also stands as representative of the entire system of Christianity. Paul says that nothing will save except, “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6). James says, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (Js. 2:24). Furthermore, he adds, “For as a body without a spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (Js. 2:26).
Salvation is by grace through faith. In the conclusion of the matter we see the grand gift of God offered to whosoever will receive it. We announce this salvation to the world and to you. We beg you “be reconciled unto God”. Be saved by grace through faith in God, faith in his word, faith in obeying his commands, and faith in his awaited return.
Do you believe in God? Make it a living faith by coupling your belief with your actions. Make the decision to begin a life of faith by being baptized into Christ today. Live by faith through serving him every day.