The Bible teaches that we are saved by grace through faith – “by grace are ye saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). Somehow, this seems to have become “grace and grace alone” rather than “grace through faith”.
It is often repeated that you cannot earn salvation and that salvation is entirely about what Jesus Christ has done for us, as it were to suggest that you don’t have a part to play in your own salvation. But are we fooling ourselves? When the Bible says that we are saved “by grace. . . through faith”, the question is: Whose faith? And what does that faith entail?
Grace is an unmerited favour. And sure enough, God gave His only begotten Son to die so that we might be saved (John 3:16). This could not have been earned by us. That was clearly grace. But does this grace mean that everyone will be saved? Clearly not, as Jesus Himself said: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21). Therefore, doing God’s will is a necessary condition to be saved. That is where faith comes in, because we are told that “without faith it is impossible to please him” (Heb. 11:6).
Pleasing God is the same thing as doing God’s will. This is evident from the fact that we are told that “the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:7, 8). So, pleasing God, means that we are “subject to the law of God”. Those who are carnal “cannot please God” because they are not “subject to the law of God”. And “without faith it is impossible to please him” (Heb. 11:6). Therefore, faith enables us to please God by making us “subject to the law of God”.
In short, grace is like sunshine and rain, that everyone gets – “for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt. 5:45). But getting sunshine and rain does not guarantee you a harvest. You must play your part by ploughing the ground and planting seed. In a similar way, grace is provided to everyone. And without God’s grace no one can be saved. So, no one can boast about earning salvation. But we must exercise our own faith and use the resources God has given us to do God’s will, without which, we cannot be saved. Otherwise, we’ll be no different from the unbeliever who practises wickedness and will be lost. Even the thief on the cross had to repent. Grace includes the power to live righteously – “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” (Titus 2:11, 12).
It is by the gift of the Holy Spirit that we are empowered to please God. “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Rom. 8:8, 9). The Holy Spirit is given, not just for people to heal and do miracles but to empower us to do God’s will, which is to say, live righteously. We receive the Holy Spirit by asking God, the Father – “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13). And whatever we ask, we ask in Jesus’s name because we cannot come to the Father except through Jesus Christ, as Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6).
Without the power of the Holy Spirit to live righteously, we cannot be saved, as was said – “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” This point is important to note because Christians keep focusing on the part that God plays and seem to ignore the part that we must play. And it is the part that we must play that will ultimately make the difference between those who will be saved and those who will be lost. Without a focus on the part that we must play, many will be lost, while fooling themselves that they are saved, and society will not be impacted positively by their piety.
If Christians behave like unbelievers, sinners will not be brought to repentance. Might this not partly explain why there is so much crime and violence even while there are so many churches? The churches seem to no longer preach righteous living as a requirement to be saved but instead seem to be telling people that they are saved already based on what Christ has done, independent of anything that they might do; like they don’t have to do God’s will to be saved; that Jesus has done it all, and they have nothing to contribute to their own salvation. But the Bible teaches that we have a part to play in our own salvation. We are told to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12) – God provides the grace, and we must exercise the faith.
Without that faith being exercised by us, we cannot be saved, since only those who do God’s will are going to be saved (Matt. 7:21). Without faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6); and “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).
On a positive note, we need not despair if we are missing the mark. We can repent, pick up the pieces and move on – “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).
For further information, please visit Patience of the Saints at http://thecommandmentsofgodandthefaithofjesus.com/
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