"Not of Works"
Robert H. Farish
Paul preached the Gospel for three years in the city of Ephesus; five or six years after this, while a prisoner in Rome, he wrote a letter "to the saints that are at Ephesus." In this Ephesian letter he described these saints before their conversion as "dead through your trespasses and sins." He then describes the magnificent proportion and glorious accomplishments of the grace of God - "But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (By grace have ye been saved) ... that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: for by grace have ye been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, that no man should glory" (Eph. 2:4-9).
Salvation by grace through faith can never be understood until one has a scriptural concept of the works excluded by the language, "not of works." This passage has been mis-used to make obedience antithetical to grace. Whereas, proper use of the passage excluded only works which would give men ground for glorying, i.e., works of such character that by the performance of them salvation was earned. Salvation in such a case would not be "as of grace, but as of debt" (Rom. 4:4). Sincere men will ever keep before their minds that salvation is "not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." But sincere men will also avoid teaching or acting in such a way as to cause "doing the will of the Father" to be despised. The inspired declaration that salvation is "not of works that no man should glory" does not relieve men of the obligations of faith. It needs to be constantly remembered that salvation is not by grace alone. If such were the case then all men would be saved for the grace of God has appeared "bringing salvation to all men" (Titus 2: 11). Many will be lost but this is not due to any deficiency of the grace of God; they will be lost because of their unbelief (disobedience).
"By Grace Through Faith"
Salvation is not by grace alone, it is by "grace through faith." Grace provides salvation for all men; but it is through faith that it is gained. Faith is the human exercise by which one comes to stand in the grace (favor) of God (Rom. 5: 2).
The saints at Ephesus were "saved by grace through faith." This is accepted by those who believe the Bible to be Gods word. Reference to the account of the conversion of some of these who are described as saved "by grace through faith" will show us what it is to be saved by grace through faith." "Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples: and He said unto them, did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? and they said unto him, Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was given. And he said, into what then were ye baptized? And they said into Johns baptism. And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him that should come after him, that is, on Jesus. And when they heard this they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 19: 1-5).
From this account the student learns that these people responded to the requirement that they believe on Jesus by being baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Salvation by grace through faith includes baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus. Not only has God told us that we are saved by grace through faith, but he has shown us by the case of the Ephesians, What it is to be saved by grace through faith. It is very evident that "not of works" does not exclude a thing which these people were required to do by the apostle who was present when they were saved by grace through faith.
Baptism is a command of the Lord (Acts 10:48; 22:16). Any "faith" which despises a command of the Lord Jesus is not "faith unto the saving of the soul;" it is dead faith (Jas. 2:17-20).
We conclude that when the Bible says "not of works," it is not speaking of any work, which is by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Obedience to such commands is covered or described by the phrase "through faith."
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 3, pp. 5-6