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Saved by Grace

Justified by Faith

In all the vastness of our world, in all of the diversity of religious beliefs, there are only two essential types of belief, works and Grace. There seem to be many differences between the world’s religions, but they are all essentially the same--they all center around human works. All involve human beings accomplishing a task or set of tasks to achieve a goal and receive a reward. The tasks may be different, the goal may have differing names, and the reward may be called many things (Heaven Paradise, Nirvana), but the principle underlying all of them is the same--Quid Pro Quo, which is Latin for “this for that.” In the world’s religions, salvation (righteousness, oneness with the Infinite, perfect nothingness, or whatever is the term in a particular religion) is earned by what one does. Unfortunately, within this group of religions based on human effort are many species of religion that go by the name of Christianity.

True Bible Christianity, however, “the faith once delivered to the saints,” is totally distinct from the world’s religions in this area as in so many others. The thing that makes Christianity far different from all other religions is the concept of Grace. To help us understand the difference, we need to look at the at the two basic paradigms for all religions. (A Paradigm is a model, an outline, a form that something takes, that we can diagram to help us understand it.)

    Paradigm #1: Works

(Followed by most religions, including much of “Christianity.”)

World Religions

“Christian” Version

We work our way to God, salvation, Nirvana, Paradise.

In salvation, we are returned to where Adam was before the Fall.

God (or whatever represents deity) judges our progress as we go along.

Even after “salvation,” we still have God as our Judge

Attainment of Godhood, salvation, Paradise, Nirvana depends upon what we do.

Our will and our efforts determine whether or not we go to heaven.

    Paradigm #2: Salvation by Grace

    1. Salvation is 100 percent a work of God--we are unable, because of our bondage to sin and rebellion, to do anything meriting God’s favor.

    2. God reaches down to save people--He conceived the plan, He sent His Son to accomplish the plan--He does 100% of the work.

    3. When we experience what the Bible calls the New Birth (John 3:3-8), we are then SAVED, we pass from death to life (Eph 2:1-6; John 5:24; 6:40; 6:47).

    4. As a part of the gift of Salvation, we become adopted children of God (Gal 3:26-4:7).

    5. When we sin, God deals with us as a Father to a child (Heb 12:4-8).

    6. God’s Grace and actions are the determining factors in our salvation, even to include His working in our lives to develop a lifestyle consistent with salvation. (Eph 2:8-10; Phil. 2:12-13)

The Grace of God is so simple, yet so profound that it is beyond the greatest minds to fully understand. It stands in opposition to the ideas that most of us have about earning our way in the world, about people getting what they deserve, about “fairness,” and about the independence of human beings. The best simple definition this writer has ever heard for Grace is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

The meaning of Grace behind that simple explanation is one of the most hated teachings in the world because it so totally undermines and removes all traces of human pride. The Doctrine of Grace teaches that we are totally unable to save ourselves, to help in our salvation, to do anything to merit all or any part of our salvation, or to keep our salvation. We are saved totally as an act of God’s will, and we do not deserve it in any way. Indeed, those that are saved are equally (if not more) deserving of Hell as those who actually go there! This is the most important first principle in understanding Grace--no one in the entire human race deserves any consideration from God, we are all rebels and sinners, and we all deserve Hell. Except for His own redemption plan, God could rightfully have sent the entire human race to eternal punishment long ago! The description Paul gives of believers before salvation fits the entire human race if they are without Christ:

Ephesians 2:1-3 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. (NIV)

In spite of our fitness for wrath, however, God has exercised His Grace toward us in Christ.

Ephesians 2:4-10 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (NIV)

What is the meaning of Grace? We were dead spiritually; we were fit for nothing but wrath; we were rebels and in bondage to sin and Satan. In the midst of that condition, God saved us. We exercised faith, which is itself a gift of God (John 6:44-47), and God blessed us with the greatest possible gift--eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord! (John 5:24; 6:37-40). What is more, we can add nothing to Grace. Before we were saved, we had nothing to contribute to the process ( Rom 3:10-11; 1 Cor 2:14; Job 14:4; Jer. 13:23), and During the New Birth experience, we add nothing to it. The Bible makes plain that the mysterious supernatural experience called the New Birth is an act of God.

John 3:3-8 “In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (NIV)

2 Corinthians 4:6-7 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (NIV)

You might ask, “If this is all a work of God, where do I fit in the process?” The answer is you must believe, you must exercise faith in Christ for salvation. (Rom 10:9-13; Acts 16:30-31). This exercise is not a work, however, because is involves no ability on our part and no effort on our part. That is the hard thing to understand about faith--it is not an action, it is a surrender, a throwing up of the hands and saying, “I can do nothing in myself.”

Justification by Faith

What does the term “Justified” mean? The Bible meaning of the word is to be totally blameless and totally guiltless--to be able to stand before God clean and pure in every way. A play on the word helps us to understand its meaning. If I am Justified, it is Just-as-if-I’d never sinned, and Just-as-if-I’d always been holy and done the right things. Remember our helpless position before God--as “children of Wrath,” we are unable to satisfy God--all His lovely and perfect Law can do is condemn us:

Romans 3:19-20 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (NIV)

Our Father, however, has devised a plan and made a way for us to stand righteous before Him. He has sent His own Son as a Sacrifice on our behalf, (Chapter 5) and those who believe in Him shall have everlasting life, and shall be seen as righteous in God’s sight.

Romans 3:21-24 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Romans 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. (NIV)

This righteousness we receive is imputed righteousness--that is a theological term which means it is put to our account, just like a deposit put in our bank account by someone else. God legally declares us to be righteous, and puts that on our record in Heaven.

Romans 4:1-5 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about-- but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” (NIV)

The illustration below shows a ledger, an account book. In order for you to understand the principle, do the following things:

    1. Write your name by the words “Account Holder.”

    2. Using a black or blue pen, under the column labeled “Sins on Account,” write some of your known sins--don’t be bashful, put several in. Then imagine how many pages the real account is!

    3. You can’t put anything in the column that says “Good Works Done,” because you have none (Isa. 64:6).

    4. Now take a different pen--a bright RED one, and across the “Sins on Account” column, write in large letters, “Paid for by Christ’s Blood!”

    5. Under the “Good Works Done” column, write again in RED, “Supplied by the Righteousness of Christ.”

ETERNAL ACCOUNT
Account Holder:

        GOOD WORKS DONE

        SINS ON ACCOUNT

        1

        1

        2

        2

        3

        3

        4

        4

        5

        5

        6

        6

        7

        7

        8

        8

        9

        9

        10

        10

This is Justification, to stand before God with all accounts paid, and clothed in the righteousness of His only Son, Jesus Christ. To be able know that you have “peace with God”--there is no more war between you and the Almighty. (Rom 5:1). Taken together, the concepts of Grace and Justification by Faith show the uniqueness of the Christian doctrine of Salvation. It is like the exclamation of Jonah--”Salvation is of the LORD!” (Jonah 2:9, KJV). The message of Grace is God Saves Sinners. It is His Plan, it was His Son who died and rose again, it is His Spirit who enlivens the preaching and witness of believers to awaken sinners to their need of salvation and lead them to faith in Christ.

Three of the watchwords of the revival of Biblical preaching known as the Reformation were: Sola Fide (Faith alone), Sola Gratia (Grace alone), and Sola Christi (Christ alone). These Latin terms describe God’s salvation plan in a nutshell--He has done it all, and we can claim no credit for ourselves. The result of this wonderful outpouring of His love is our salvation, and that results further in the fourth watchword: Soli Deo Gloria (The Glory to God alone).

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Regeneration, Justification, Law