By Mike Willis
That man is saved by grace cannot be denied. Were it not for God’s wonderful grace, all of us would be lost in hell. Give glory to God that He loved this sinful world enough to save us from our sins. We appreciate God’s wonderful grace more when we understand our lost condition.
Man is a sinner condemned by God. Every one of us has departed from the right way revealed in God’s holy word. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isa. 53:6). “There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10-12). “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). When each of us is honest with himself, he will confess that he has violated God’s law and stands condemned before the law as a sinner. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Hence, each of us stands doomed before God because of the sin which he has committed.
When man could do nothing to save himself, God acted, to save him. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). God sent His Son to save us; that is the message of God’s grace. While we were yet God’s enemies, He sent Jesus as the propitiation for our sins. Some men would die for a good man but God commended His wonderful love toward us in that He sent His Son to die for us while we were yet alienated from Him and committing sins against His holy law. Indeed, the grace of God is most apparent when we remember that God sent Jesus to die on the cross to save the men who nailed Him to that cross.
We understand that the grounds of our salvation is nothing but the blood of Jesus. Man is not saved by his own works of righteousness; he cannot earn his salvation. Man can only be saved by grace. Yet the giving of salvation does not preclude there being any conditions for receiving it. We see examples of God’s grace which was given conditionally in other spheres than salvation and understand them perfectly. For example, note the following:
1. Jericho. God told Joshua, “See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor” (Josh. 6:1). Despite the fact that the taking of Jericho was a gift from God, there were divine conditions which had to be met before Jericho could be destroyed. Hence, the record states that God demanded that Israel march around the city once each day for six days in silence in a fixed order. Furthermore, God demanded that on the seventh day the Israelites should march around the city seven times, blow the trumpets, and shout with a great shout. When the Israelites would do these things, the wall of the city would fall down flat.
Anyone can see that there was no merit in what the Israelites did to cause the walls to fall down. Indeed, no man would plan such a strategy as a military means of conquering a city. Rather, these were divine conditions imposed by God for the Israelites to fulfill before receiving God’s grace. There was no work righteousness in what the Israelites did; they merely met the conditions for receiving grace.
2. The men who were saved with Paul. When Paul was being taken prisoner to Rome, -the ship on which he sailed wrecked during a storm. Prior to the storm, God revealed, “And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee” (Acts 27:22-24). Notice that God gave the deliverance to the men on the ship. Nevertheless, the record goes on to tell how that the sailors abroad the ship tried to abandon ship leaving the prisoners to die. When Paul found out about the plan, he said, “Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved” (Acts 27:31). Consequently, here is another example of a gift of God which could only be obtained conditionally.
Hence, when we come to a discussion of salvation, we need to understand that God gives His wonderful gift of grace, salvation, conditionally. That does not imply that there is any merit in what man does so far as providing the grounds for his salvation; rather man must act to meet the conditions for receiving God’s wonderful gift.
Salvation Is A Conditional Gift
God has so designed His plan for the salvation of man that His grace is given conditionally. He could have devised His plan whereby man was saved unconditionally but chose not to do so. Man can receive the benefits of God’s grace only when he complies with the conditions imposed by God. Notice the conditional statements in the following verses to see that God’s gifts require that man act to receive them:
I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins (Jn. 8:24).
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish (Lk. 13:3).
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:3).
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 Jn. 1:7).
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you-, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain (1 Cor. 15:1-2).
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved (Rom. 10:9).
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him (Heb. 5:8-9).
Hence, these passages show that salvation is given to man only when man meets God’s conditions for receiving it. Of course, the other side of this is that damnation is also conditional. God no more arbitrarily gives to man damnation without man doing something to receive it than he gives man salvation without man doing something to receive it. The difference is that man earns damnation by what he does but can never do anything to earn salvation. Yet, both are given conditionally.
Hence, when we study the subject of salvation, we see two sides-God’s part and man’s part. Perhaps the presentation of this through the following disection of these verses will clarify this for you.
|“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son,”
|“that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16).
|“God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world though him might be saved”
|“He that believeth on him is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (Jn. 3:17).
|“The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world . . . I am the bread of life”
|“he who comes to me shall not hunger and he who believes in me shall never thirst (Jn. 6:33, 35).
|“The bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh”
|“if anyone eat of this bread, he will live forever” (Jn. 6:51).
|“He came to his own, and his own receiveth him not”
|“to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (Jn. 1:11).
|“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation”
|“he who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 15: 16).
Even as there is a divine and human side to the salvation of the alien sinner, there is similarly a divine and human side to salvation of the unfaithful Christian. God does not unconditionally forgive the unfaithful child of God anymore than He unconditionally forgives the alien sinner. Even as we have given an extended study of the conditions which the alien sinner must meet in order to receive divine forgiveness, we need to give attention to the conditions which the unfaithful Christian must meet in order to receive divine forgiveness.
The alien sinner must believe in God and that Jesus is the Son of God (Heb. 11:6; Jn. 8:24), repent of his sins (Acts 2:38), confess faith in Jesus (Rom. 10:9, 10) and be buried with Christ in baptism (Mk. 16:15-16) in order to receive God’s gift of the forgiveness of his sins. The unfaithful Christian must repent and pray that the very thought of his heart might be forgiven him (Acts 8:22). Even as I know of no passage of Scripture which holds out hope to the man who does not comply with the conditions for receiving the forgiveness of his alien sins, I know of no passage of Holy Scripture which offers pardon to the child of God who has fallen into sin unless that child of God meets the divine conditions to receive that forgiveness. Hence, I have no grounds in the authority God’s word for promising a Christian that some of his sins will be automatically forgiven by God’s grace, as some seem bent on doing.
Yes, we are saved by grace. Yet that every passage teaches, “For by grace are ye saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). Grace is used in this passage to describe everything which God has done for the salvation of man; faith is used in this passage to indicate everything which man must do to receive the gift of God’s grace. Christ’s blood is the grounds of our salvation but there are conditions which men must meet in order to receive the benefits of that blood. Ours is a conditional salvation!
Truth Magazine XXII: 33, pp. 531-533
August 24, 1978