Saved by Grace through Faith

Saved by Grace through Faith
(Comments On Ephesians 2:1-10)

Much of the denominational world, which often dominates the Christian landscape, teaches that one is saved by grace only through faith only, and that this salvation has nothing whatsoever to do with any work or activity on the part of man.  We are saved solely on the basis of God’s sovereign acts alone.  Their creeds state this as a fundamental truth, and that such teaching is wholesome and full of comfort.    But is this what the Bible teaches?   So I want to address this question in a positive way by going to the primary passage used to prove this point.  When we read verses, it is important to understand the entire context of the passage.  So let us begin and look at Ephesians Chapter Two which is the bedrock text of the doctrine of salvation by grace only through faith only.  I am going to go through this step by step.

Ephesians 2:1-10

Ephesians 2:1-3: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 

Lindy’s Comment:  The above is taken from the New American Standard translation.  Here also is the New Century translation that makes it even more understandable: “In the past you were spiritually dead because of your sins and the things you did against God.  Yes, in the past you lived the way the world lives, following the ruler of the evil powers that are above the earth.  That same spirit is now working in those who refuse to obey God.  In the past all of us lived like them, trying to please our sinful selves and doing all the things our bodies and minds wanted.  We should have suffered God’s anger of the way we were.  We were the same as all other people.”   Notice that this refers to our own trespasses and sins, not the sin of Adam.  There comes a time of accountability when we become aware of our sins before God.  This truth is stated in a lot of other places as well.  The god of this world is Satan and his influence is seen everywhere (see 1 John 5:19).  The word nature does not refer to genetically inheriting the sin of Adam, but refers to the idea of continual habitual sin, or to be sold into bondage to sin as taught in Romans with no possibility of escape.  See Romans 6:13-18.  Such is also clearly taught in Titus 3:3-5.  But continue reading. . .

Ephesians 2:4-7:  "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Lindy’s Comments:  Mercy means receiving something that we do not deserve, and this is based upon God’s great love for us, even when we were spiritually dead due to our own transgressions.  Romans 5:6-8 teaches that Christ died for the ungodly.  Christians have been both buried and raised up with Christ in water baptism (see Romans 6:3-5).  Read also Col. 3:1-4: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”   Heavenly places refers to our exalted and blessed state in Christ.  This is covered in great detail in Chapter Three.  The expression “Ages to come” shows that this is part of God’s eternal plan, conceived before creation and enduring forever, that is, salvation in Christ Jesus.  Christians are presently saved in Christ and are greatly blessed, but will inherit the hope of salvation in the final resurrection where they will personally join Christ and all the saints in heaven (see 1 Peter 1:3-5; 2 Tim. 4:6-8).  Grace refers to the fact that God will bless us for beyond anything that we deserve.  So mercy means receiving less than we deserve (relating to punishment), while grace refers to receiving more than we deserve (relating to God’s blessings poured out on us in Christ). 

Ephesians 2:8-9"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."

Lindy’s Comments:  Grace refers to God’s role in salvation by making full provisions for our salvation by means of the blood of Jesus Christ.  There are many factors pertaining to God’s grace (that is, God saves us by means of Jesus coming to earth, His life, death, burial and resurrection, the Holy Spirit who has communicated this by the Word, etc.).  Faith refers to how man responds to what God has done.  Faith does not compete with the grace of God which is the ground of salvation, but rather, faith is the access to the grace of God.  Obviously Christ died for all men, but all men will not be saved.   Only those who are willing to put their trust in Christ will be saved.  Thus it is by means of faith that we can be saved. 

Grace here is contrasted with works.  It is by grace that we are saved as opposed to works.  The works under consideration here are works of human merit whereby we deserve salvation, or receive salvation because we have earned it through our own efforts.  This is only possible if we are sinless, which no one has achieved.  (See Romans 4:1-5).   It is impossible for man to earn salvation either in part or in whole.  The debt that we owe God can never be repaid.  All boasting is reserved for Christ and not ourselves.  We are drowning and God has thrown us a lifeline, but we must be willing to grab and hold on to this lifeline.  No sane person who has been saved because he grabbed the lifeline will say that he saved himself.   No, he will give credit to the one who saved him.  But some say that we don’t have to do anything.  They say that any effort on our part means that we are trying to earn salvation.  Even gifts have to be accepted.  To interpret “works” here to mean that any activity on the part of man is excluded in terms of fellowship with God or salvation is to ignore hundreds of passages of scripture that teach otherwise.  In fact, if I were to list all of these passages, it would make a very long list.  At the end of this particular article I will go into some of these passages.  Does the Bible contradict itself?  No, it is the doctrine that teaches that salvation is by grace only through faith only that contradicts the scriptures.  Do you really think that we are assured of salvation when we refuse to do what Christ has told us to do?   By obeying Jesus Christ, does anyone think that somehow he or she has earned salvation?

Ephesians 2:10"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." 

Lindy’s Comments:  Yes, we have been created in Christ Jesus for good works.  How much are good works emphasized in the life of a Christian?   Just look at these passages.     “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Col. 3:17).
 “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed” (1 Tim. 5:18-19).  “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.  These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority.  Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:13-15).  Even the grace of God reinforces these truths:  “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,” (Tit. 2:11-12).  For men to teach that nothing is required of us that has to do with salvation is just not factual.  I might add that these works have to do with what God has authorized us to do.  Notice what Jesus said about this:  “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enterMany will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'  And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS'."(Matt. 7:21-23).  To practice lawlessness means to act outside of the authority of Jesus Christ. Some think that they are doing the works of God but they are mistaken, because they are doing their own works by their own authority and are not submitting to the authority of Jesus Christ.  And they do all these things in the name of religion.

Saving Faith Includes Obedience

When we separate faith from obedience or teach that salvation requires no action on the part of man, we make nonsense out of many passages of scripture.  For example, Jesus taught this:  "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).  And also this: "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10).  But men say loving Jesus does not require that we keep His commandments.   John wrote: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His command-ments.  The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;  but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:  the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:3-6).    But men say, in order to know Christ it is not necessary to keep His commandments.  This is optional and not necessary for salvation.  In Hebrews 5:8-9 we read: “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.  And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,”   But men say that it is not necessary to obey Christ in order to be saved.    Jesus said, “Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?  Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like:  he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.  But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great" (Luke 6:46-49).   But men say, we can recognize Jesus as Lord without doing what He says.   Jesus said that a wise man is one who builds his house on the rock by hearing and doing what he teaches.  Men say that we can build our house upon the rock without doing what Jesus taught.  Paul wrote: “and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.  When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions” (Col. 2:11-13).  But men say that baptism does not cut off sin in our lives.  Peter wrote: “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you-- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet. 3:21).  But men say that “baptism does not save us.  It has absolutely nothing to do with salvation.    I can produce hundreds of hundreds of passages that contradict the teachings of men.  So the question is simply this.  Do we believe Jesus or do we believe what men say that goes contrary to the words of Jesus?   Do men lord it over us, or do we allow Jesus to be Lord?  To me, that seems to be a simple choice.   The Pharisees refused to be baptized by John’s baptism (see Luke 7:30).  Jesus posed to them a simple question, “Is the baptism of John from heaven or from men?” (see Mark 11:30-33)  This passage also shows that believing John and the action of baptism go hand in hand.   If it was from heaven, they knew that it must be obeyed.  They refused to answer the question.   The same thing is true regarding the baptism commanded by Jesus Christ.   If we say “No, it is not necessary”, then we place ourselves in the same position as the Pharisees.   And yet I have been called a “Pharisee” or a “legalist” just because I teach that we must obey Jesus Christ.   Go figure?! 

Obedience Does Not Mean Sinless Perfection

Some may protest by saying , “Lindy, how in the world can we keep the commandments of Jesus Christ?”   When you ask this are you probably thinking that these passages teach perfect and absolute compliance?    If you have a heart to obey Christ, does that mean that you never sin?    If you come to recognize that Jesus is the Lord of your life, and decide to follow Him, does that require sinless conduct?   Our holiness is to be patterned after that of God (see 1 Peter 1:14-16 ) but does that make us as holy as God and worthy of all praise?    Do you not understand than none of us perfectly understand or practice the commandments of the Lord, yet we are to be taught to observe all that Christ has commanded (See Matt. 28:20).   Jesus taught that only God is good (see Mark 10:17-18).   This means that none of us, apart from God, is good in the ultimate sense.   For anyone to say that he is “sinless” and therefore does not need the blood of Jesus Christ is to make a ridiculous and arrogant claim.  But does that mean that it is O.K. to sin willfully?   Of course not!!  This point is fully dealt with by the apostle Paul and the apostle John.  Paul wrote: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?  May it never be!  How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2).   John wrote: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).   In both the Old and New Testament the Bible makes a very clear distinction between willful sins, and sins committed in ignorance or unwittingly.  The Christian is not to live in the practice of sin, for such is contrary to the character of the life in Christ.  The Bible is understandable, practical and sensible.  Every Christian should understand that the ground of his acceptance before God is the grace and mercy of God provided by means of the death of Jesus Christ.   Here is a crude baseball illustration.  The goal of the infielder is to catch the ball and throw out the runner.  But try as he may, he still makes errors.  That does not mean that he quits trying and is not seeking to improve his skills?  One of the blessings in Christ is that forgiveness is always available to the Christian. 

Salvation in Christ is a very broad subject.  My effort here is brief.  Thank you so much for reading.   My next article will discuss the importance of the blood of Christ and how the sacrifice of Jesus Christ relates to the grace of God and our salvation.

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--- Lindy McDaniel, December 12, 2013


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