By Phillip A. Owens
Two of the most common beliefs of many are that eternal salvation of our souls is predicated on either “faith only” or “grace only.” Some say we are saved by “faith alone,” excluding anything we might do. Others say there is nothing we can do (including belief or having faith), but that our salvation is totally dependent upon “grace alone.” The truth of the matter is that there is no one thing by which we are saved and that one thing alone. The Bible teaches we are saved by God’s love (Jn. 3:16), mercy (Tit. 3:5), the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1,2; Rom. 1:16), faith (Rom. 5:1), Christ’s blood (Rom. 5:8), His death (Rom. 5: 10), belief (Acts 16:31), repentance (Acts 3:19), and baptism (1 Pet. 3:21). While there are others, these should be sufficient to convince the honest reader that one certainly should not say we are saved by any one thing “alone.”
A comprehensive and yet very concise statement is found in the second chapter of Ephesians which concerns how we are saved. Paul said: “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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them” (vv. 8-10). Two factors concerning our salvation are readily observed: (1) Salvation is “the gift of God,” and (2) It is “not of works.” But does “not of works” mean we do nothing? No, for the works that will not concern our salvation are those works which have their origin with men or have been devised by men as acts of works we must accomplish in order for salvation. These are works in which man “should glory” if salvation were thereby obtained. Are there works then which affect our salvation? Yes. What works are those? The works “which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.” Christ worked the works of Him that sent Him by doing the will of the Father (Jn. 9:4; 6:38). We work the works “which God afore prepared that we should walk” when we do the will of the Father.
Since we are not saved by works of our own devising but by the grace of God, how are we then saved by grace through faith? Grace is the gift God “tends to man. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Hence, God grants our salvation as a gift – “For by grace have ye been saved.” But how does God save us “through faith”? The same way every individual listed in Hebrews 11 was saved through faith. When an individual believes all God says, to the extent he is willing to do all God says, God extends His grace to such an individual and he is thereby saved through faith. James expressed it this way: “Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself. Yea, a man will say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith apart from thy works, and I by my works will show thee my faith” (James 2:17,18). Was James discussing works of man’s devising which cannot save? No, for in the same context he later said, “Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith” (v. 24). Therefore, the faith that saves is the faith that works the works “which God afore prepared.” A faith without obedience is an incomplete faith (James 2:22) and one that is not “unto the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10:39).
While the goodness and graciousness of God is manifested through the sending of Christ, making man’s salvation possible, salvation will be procured only when man turns to God in simple obedient faith. Faith pleasing to God comes by hearing what God says, not some “better felt than told experience” (Rom. 10:17). By believing what we read, turning to God in repentance, being baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:36-38), and living faithfully throughout life, we will be saved by grace through faith.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 11, p. 333
June 7, 1984