Difficult Scripture: Saved By Grace Only?

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Letís look at a Difficult Scripture and ask the question: Is Grace all that is required for salvation?

I. Scripture: Ephesians 2:8-9

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, {9} not of works, lest anyone should boast."

II. How This Verse Is Misused By Some: People sometimes use this verse to say we don't need works, because we are saved by grace through faith and not by works. By "works" a person might mean the law in general; or just the Sabbath, tithing and the annual Holy Days; or good works of charity in general.

III. True Explanation

A. Preliminary thoughts: Remember that although people say you don't have to keep the law, they really don't mean this literally. Do they mean you can kill or steal or murder with impunity? No, of course not. What they do mean is that you can break the Sabbath, not tithe and not keep Godís seven annual Holy Days, etc. This is inconsistent and a hypocritical stance towards Godís law.

B. This scripture shows that we are saved by faith -- not works -but it does not in any way show that works are not needed. Now letís notice verse 10, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Notice that this verse shows that we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus "unto good works." That is the purpose for which we are alive.

C. Salvation comes as a gift from God. We could never earn salvation in a million lifetimes of perfect obedience, but many scriptures prove that obedience is a condition we must meet before God will give us, as a free gift, salvation. "If you will enter into life," said Christ, "keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). God gives His Holy Spirit only to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32). If any man says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4).

D. Faith and works go together. Faith without works is dead, and faith is perfected by our works. Lets notice James 2:20-22, "But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? {21} Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? {22} Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?"

E. Clarification of Law and Grace.

The law of God defines right from wrong. It tells us what to do, and what not to do. God defines sin as "Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4).

The grace of God is His unmerited pardon for our many past sins. Grace is forgiveness for the sins we have committed and have repented of. When God bestows his grace on us, He forgives us for our past transgressions of His laws. He blots out our sins and removes the death penalty from us. Christ died in our stead paying the penalty for us. Just because we are no longer under the penalty of the law for sin, we are not free to live, however, we please, without fear of future consequences. If we break God's law, grace is not license to do evil and sin. God gives us grace to remove our past sins, but now he expects us to surrender to his authority and obey the spiritual laws which He ordained from the beginning for our good. God's grace removes the death penalty from us. The grace of God and faith in the shed blood of Jesus to atone for our sins must be accompanied by law abiding works. If you willfully turn again to the way of sin, knowingly rejecting God's way, there remains no more sacrifice for your sins, and you will incur the death penalty once again. This time without any escape. "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" (Hebrews 10:26).

"For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them" (2 Peter 2:21).

Salvation is a gift on certain conditions. A sinner cannot earn salvation, for he is condemned, but through repentance, and the grace of God, he can receive it as a gift.

Lets notice where we are commanded to repent in Acts 2 verse 38: "Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Grace is not contrary to the law, rather grace is the interposition of the mercy of God in regard to the death penalty, which we were under. Grace removes the condemnation. To remain in God's grace, we must obey His law through His Holy Spirit.

Law, apart from God's grace, is impossible for men to keep perfectly. But grace apart from God's law is not grace but license to do evil. It is not a matter of law or grace, but a matter of law and grace.