WHAT SALVATION BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH ALONE IS AND WHAT IT IS NOT
BY: PASTOR TIM JAMES (TIM IS MY PASTOR AND IS A FUTURIST NOT A PRETERIST)
What is grace? Galatians 2:21.
Paul tells us repeatedly that we are saved and justified, called and sanctified, preserved and glorified by the grace of God, without our works; but what is grace? Almost all professing Christians say they believe that salvation is by grace. The Word of God lays such heavy emphasis upon the fact that salvation is by grace that it is very difficult for anyone to claim to believe the Bible and yet openly deny that salvation is by grace. Papists, Pentecostals, and fundamentalists, all claim to believe in salvation by grace, but most people think and speak about grace in such a way that they frustrate the grace of God.
That is the reason Paul declared, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain!” The grace that most people talk about is not grace at all. It is so mixed with human merit and human works that it is “no more grace” (Rom. 11:6). Grace that looks to the worth of man, waits upon the will of man, or depends upon the work of man is frustrated grace; and frustrated grace is not the grace of God!
Grace is the unmerited favor of God. Grace is free! Grace is unconditional! Anything earned, merited, or deserved by you is not grace. The man who thinks he deserves God’s salvation does not believe in grace. The person who imagines that his acceptance with God depends upon his will, his works, or his worth, does not believe in grace, as the Bible speaks of grace. He has fallen from grace (Gal. 5:2, 4). Such people may talk about grace, but grace does not mean to them what it does to poor, helpless, guilty, bankrupt, self-condemned sinners, whose only hope is Christ.
No one will ever honor and extol the grace of God until he has experienced it. It was only after he had experienced it that Paul declared, “By the grace of God I am what I am”. Before that, though he was religious, he was a blasphemer who hoped for salvation by something he did. Paul took no credit for his conversion. He ascribed the whole of his salvation to God’s free grace alone. He knew he did not make himself to differ from others. A great change had taken place in his heart. His opinions, affections, ambitions, desires, hopes, and motives had been radically changed; and he attributed the change to the grace of God alone.
Grace, as it is defined, described, and illustrated in the bible, has four distinct characteristics. Grace is not a passion or desire, in the heart of God to save sinners. Grace is an attribute of God and the work of God by which he accomplishes the salvation of his people. As such, it has certain characteristics. Any view of grace that violates any of these characteristics is heretical. Grace is eternal (II Tim. 1:9), immutable (Rom. 11:29), sovereign (Rom. 9:11-24), and effectual (Eph. 2:8-9).
Salvation by grace destroys all room for human boasting (I Cor. 1:29-31; 4:7). The only difference between saved sinners and lost sinners is the grace of God. Not even the repentance and faith by which we come to God is produced by us. These things are the gifts and operations of grace in us (Acts 5:31; 11:17; Rom. 2:4; I Cor. 3:5; Eph. 1:19; Phil. 1:29; Col. 2:12).
Salvation by grace means that the Triune God gets all the praise, honor, and glory for it: The Father for planning it, the Son for purchasing it, and the Holy Spirit for performing it (Eph. 1:2-14). “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake” (Psa. 115:3).
Any mixture of works with grace is a total denial of grace and is damning to all who embrace it (Rom. 11:6; Gal. 5:2, 4). Grace plus anything you do, feel, experience, or will to do is not salvation but damnation.
Are all religious people saved? Philippians 3:5-7.
Saul of Tarsus was a very religious man, sincere, zealous, learned and committed, but he was lost in his religion. The problem was not that he did not know his doctrine. He did. This man was a Pharisee. He believed in election, predestination and the sovereignty of God. The problem was not that he did not live right. He did. He lived in outward purity, blamelessly. His problem was that he did not know the living God, he did not know the Lord Jesus Christ. I fear that most of the people to whom I preach across this country are very much like Saul of Tarsus.
Their hope of salvation is nothing more than an emotional, religious experience. At some point in their lives they were pressured into a religious decision, baptized and joined the church. Most people, at the time of their profession of faith are so ignorant of spiritual truth that someone has to tell them what to say in prayer. After tearfully repeating “the sinner’s prayer” they are pronounced “saved!” Determined to live up to their word, at least for a while, they change their habits of life, go to church, become active in religion, and give their money, but after a while it all fizzles out. They may keep up their form of religion, but it is all either an outward show of hypocrisy, or an attempt to bolster their confidence before God. Ask them if they are saved, and they will, if not in word, at least in thought, look back to their experience and say, “Yes, I know I am saved”, but their hearts condemn them. In their hearts they know they are lost, because they do not know God.
Are you religious, but lost? Be honest with yourself and honest before God! Is your religion nothing but a shallow, empty shell, without the knowledge of the living God? If it is, give it up, renounce it at once, count it to be nothing but dung, and trust the Lord Jesus Christ. You have no righteousness and you cannot produce any righteousness, but Christ is Righteousness. He is the righteousness of God to all who believe. You cannot make atonement for your sin, but Christ has put away the sins of all who trust him. There is nothing to be done by you. If you trust Christ alone as your Savior, he has saved you. Will you cling to your false profession of faith and empty religion and be forever lost; or will you trust Christ and be saved?
What is the motive for good works? Titus 3:4-8.
“This is a faithful saying” – These words refer to what Paul has just stated in verses 4-7. He has declared that “the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life”. Having declared this faithful saying as the foundation, motive and inspiration, Paul gives Titus and every gospel preacher this exhortation: “And these things I will that thou affirm constantly”. What things? The things he has just stated! In other words, Paul is saying, Let every preacher constantly affirm the gospel doctrines of God’s free, sovereign, effectual grace contained in this faithful saying, for this purpose:-“that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.”
In this passage of scripture Paul gives us a fundamental, but almost universally ignored, word of instruction regarding good works. He shows us most plainly that the preaching of the gospel of God’s sovereign grace in Christ, and that alone, inspires and motivates those who believe the gospel to maintain good works. You will search in vain to find a single place where believers are encouraged to do anything on the basis of law. We are never threatened with punishment or enticed with reward to serve, obey and seek the honor of God our Savior. Why? The reason is obvious: “We are not under the law, but under grace”. We have a higher, more powerful, more pleasant rule of life and motive for good works than legal fears and legal rewards. Law may control a man’s outward conduct; but grace controls the heart. Law may motivate men to do great things, make great sacrifices and endure great trials; but grace motivates the heart and makes the man willing, even anxious, to obey, serve and honor his God and Savior. Grace is a detriment to good works only among graceless people. In the Church and Family of God, among blood bought and grace renewed sinners, grace begets gratitude, love begets love, security begets service, pardon begets perseverance and gospel preaching begets good works!
Who has assurance of faith? Hebrews 10:22.
Many people enjoy the assurance of salvation who have never experienced the grace of God at all. They claim peace and speak peace to their own hearts, but have no biblical grounds for peace. They delude themselves with a false peace. Multitudes live and die being fully persuaded that they are saved, only to wake up in hell with astonishment, suffering the wrath of God (Matt. 7:21-23). Such people base their assurance upon something in the past, a time, an event, a place, an experience to which they can point and say, “There I began to believe.”
Others, who truly have been saved by God’s grace have no assurance of faith in Christ. Perhaps you are among them. You now find in your heart repentance toward God, faith in Christ, and love for the Savior, but you have never confessed Christ as your Lord and Savior, because you lack the assurance that your faith is real. You have had no climatic experience that you can point to and say, “There I began to trust Christ.”
Conversion is not always a climatic experience. Sometimes it is a gradual thing. We do not all experience grace in the same way. The need is the same, the grace is the same, and the results are the same; but the experience of grace differs greatly. Blind Bartimaeus received his sight in a climatic experience (Mark 10:47-52); but the blind man of Bethsaida received his sight gradually, by degrees (Mark 8:22-25). Both men were blind. Both men received their sight. They were both made whole by the work of Christ alone, but they experienced that work in different ways.
My point is this – If you now trust Christ, if you now repent of your sins, if you now love the Lord Jesus Christ, it does not matter when or where you began to do so. If you trust Christ, you are born of God! You are an heir of God! You have eternal life! It is written”, He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life ” (John 3:36). That is the assurance of faith”, The full assurance of faith !” If you do believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, I urge you, by an act of faith to confess Christ in believer’s baptism and publicly devote yourself to him, avowing your purpose of heart to walk with him forever in the newness of life.
Election or free will? I Peter 1:2.
Many try to destroy the doctrines of absolute predestination and unconditional election by asserting that “election is according to the foreknowledge of God”. That, I grant, is a very scriptural statement, but the Arminians, the freewillers, and the work mongers make a very unscriptural interpretation of it. Contrary to Holy Scripture they assert that God chose some to salvation because he foreknew, or foresaw that they would choose to be saved, that they would repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, that they would by the exercise of their “freewill” decide to follow Jesus. The Bible no where teaches such doctrine.
The word of God teaches us that man by nature has neither the will (John 5:40) nor the ability (John 6:44) to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. All the sons and daughters of Adam are by nature spiritually dead (Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:1-4), having no more ability in the spiritual realm than a dead man does in the natural realm (John 3:3-7). We are all by nature morally depraved sinners, incapable of doing anything good toward God (Rom. 3:9-19). As we are incapable of doing anything good or spiritual by nature, we are not capable of believing on Christ. Faith in Christ is a gift of God brought forth in the heart by the sovereign, irresistible power of God the Holy Spirit in regenerating grace (Psa. 65:4; 100:3; Eph. 1:19; 2:8; Col. 2:12).
According to holy scripture, the purpose of God in election is an eternal act of free, sovereign, unconditional grace (Rom. 9:11-16; Eph. 1:3-6; II Thess. 2:13-14). God did not choose us because of anything good that he foreknew we would do or be. His foreknowledge of us, according to which we were elected unto salvation, was his everlasting love and foreordination of us unto life in Christ. Election could not have been based upon fore known goodness because there is nothing good in any man for God to have fore known! God chose us because he was determined to be gracious to us. He was determined to be gracious to us because he loved us. He loved us because it was his good pleasure to do so!
What is Heresy? II Peter 2:1.
Let me warn you about three damning forms of heresy to which all people are naturally attracted because they are all appealing to the flesh.
Freewillism – Freewillism is that doctrine that says, “God loves you, Christ died for you, and the Holy Spirit is calling you; but it will all be vain unless you choose to be saved”. Freewillism makes the determining factor in salvation to be the will of man. It makes the work of the Triune God and the grace of God to be impotent without the consent of man’s “freewill”. Freewill religion is in direct opposition to the gospel of the free grace of God. The Bible declares that salvation is not accomplished, determined by, or dependent upon the will of man, but by the will of God (John 1:12-13; Rom. 9:16). The word “freewill”, when used with reference to salvation is a blasphemous obscenity!
Legalism – Legalism is the teaching that sinners are saved (justified, sanctified, and accepted with God) upon the basis of their own works of legal obedience. Legalism is as damning to the souls of men as Hinduism, Mormonism, and atheism! We are not saved by our obedience to the law of God (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9). We are not sanctified by our obedience to the law of God (Gal. 3:1-3). Our inheritance in heaven is not, to any degree, won or earned by our personal obedience to the law of God (Rev. 7:9, 10, 14, 14). Salvation is, in its entirety, by grace alone. Believers are not, in any sense whatsoever, under the yoke of the law (Rom. 6:14-15; 7:4; 8:1-4; 10:4; Gal. 5:1-4, 18; I Tim. 1:9-11).
Antinomianism – Antinomianism is that doctrine that says, “Since we are saved by grace it does not matter how we live. We have no law by which to regulate and govern our lives. Character and conduct are of no importance to the believer”. Antinomianism means “lawlessness”, or “against the law”. I realize that it is impossible to preach salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone without being denounced by legalists as an antinomian. The Pharisees accused our Lord of being an antinomian, and the Judaizers accused Paul of being and antinomian; but anyone who really is an antinomian is as lost and ignorant of God as the freewiller and the legalist (Tit. 1:16).
If salvation is by free grace then what do I have to do to be saved? Romans 3:24.
The word “freely” is used seventeen times in the Word of God. In every case, since the fall of Adam, with only one exception, it has a direct connection to grace, either the grace of God operating toward his people or the grace of God operating in his people. Grace is always free. Conditional grace is not grace, but works parading in the name of grace.
The love of God for his elect, the fountain of grace, is free. He declared of old, “I will love them freely!” (Hos. 14:4). What human mind can grasp the thought of free love? All human love is caused, conditional, and qualified. Only the love of God is free, uncaused, unconditional, unqualified! In free love he chose us to be his people (Deut. 7:7-9). In free love he sacrificed his dear Son upon the cursed tree and redeemed us (Rom. 5:8; I John 4:10). In free love he called us to life and faith in Christ by the power of his Holy Spirit (Jer. 31:3). In free love he forgives all our sin and keeps us in his grace (Hos. 14:1-4).
Justification, our righteous standing before God, comes to redeemed sinners freely, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). Justification is being made righteous by God, it involves both the forgiveness of all sin and the imputation of perfect righteousness, even the righteousness of God in Christ. This justification comes to guilty sinners freely by God’s matchless grace, however, it comes only through the redemptive work of Christ. Justification is free to us, we obtain it by faith in Christ, without works, but it cost our dear Savior everything, even his life’s precious blood!
Christ, the exalted redeemer, freely gives salvation, in its entirety, to needy sinners. Christ says, “I will give to him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Rev. 21:6). Salvation is a gift, a free gift; but it is a gift that must be taken by faith, and the Lord Jesus Christ graciously invites you and me to take his free gift. Christ says, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come and let him that heareth say, Come and let him that is athirst come and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).
What is the evidence of faith ? Hebrews 11:1.
Assurance in the Word of God is based upon faith. The Scriptures never speak of the assurance of love, or the assurance of works, or the assurance of experience. The Scriptures only speak of “the full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22) and “the full assurance of hope” (Heb. 6:11) and hope is built upon faith. This faith is the gift of God the Holy Spirit, wrought in and given to God’s elect in regeneration by the preaching of the gospel (Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29; Col. 2:12; Rom. 10:17; James 1:18; I Pet. 1:23-25). True faith is based upon and born of the knowledge of the gospel. No one can or will trust Christ until he sees:-
1) His need of a Substitute.
2) How that God can be just and the justifier of the ungodly through the merits of Christ.
3) That salvation is by grace alone.
This faith in Christ is the sure, certain, infallible evidence, proof, and assurance of eternal salvation. Faith is not the cause of grace, salvation, and eternal life, but faith is the proof and evidence of these things.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for”. That word “substance” means “faith is the essence, certainty, and assurance of things hoped for”. Faith possesses beforehand what God has promised to give. “Verily, verily”, our Lord said, “He that believeth on me hath (in possession) everlasting life” (John 6:47).
“Faith is the evidence of things not seen“. “Evidence” means “proof”. By faith in Christ I read my name in the Book of Life. Faith did not write it there. God wrote it there before the world was made, but my faith in Christ is the proof that it is there. “Faith is the proof of things not seen”. Faith is the proof of things past, done in eternity, but not seen by men. It is the proof of my election and interest in the covenant of grace. Faith is the proof of things done in time though now unseen; the creation of the world, the righteousness established by Christ, the redemption accomplished by Christ, and my justification in him and faith is the proof of future things now unseen; the resurrection of the dead, the judgment, and my eternal glory in and with Christ.
If you can now believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, I assure you upon the authority of God’s Word, you have a saving interest in Christ (I John 5:1, 5-13).