It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God! (Heb. 10:31) Paul writes of the time when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 1:7, 8). He says further, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom. 1:18). Are you scared yet? You ought to be, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Such is the human predicament. There was a time when preachers preached fire and brimstone scaring their audiences to death. But not much is said these days from most pulpits about God s wrath and vengeance. It s too negative and most people just don’t want to hear it. But that s what they need to hear. In fact they need to be scared, for it is against the stark backdrop of God s righteous wrath that the breath-taking concept of God s amazing grace is truly appreciated. Most people simply do not recognize their need for a Savior. Until they do, God s amazing grace will remain unimpressive and unnecessary. In the next few weeks we will explore some of the precious truths taught in God s word concerning the thrilling concept of salvation by grace.
The word grace is derived from the Greek, charis, a word which came to signify favor, goodwill, and loving kindness, especially as granted to an inferior by a superior. In the New Testament the word is found some 156 times as it takes on a special redemptive sense in which God bestows His favor upon the undeserving. Great emphasis is made of the fact that man s salvation comes not from his own works, but is the result of God s grace (Eph. 2:8, 9). The fact is, if any of us shall see the face of God in peace it will be by means of Heaven s grace! This wonderful truth should never be ignored. At the same time, it should not be perverted, as is the case by many who simply do not understand the biblical concept and teaching of God s amazing grace. To begin with, many do not accept the fact that God s grace has been offered to the entire human family, For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men (Titus 2:11). While this cannot mean that every soul will be saved, it does mean that every living human has the potential to be saved. This truth flies in the face of the notion that God, before the foundation of the world, chose only specifically predetermined persons to be the recipients of His grace. The truth is salvation by God s grace can be yours no matter who you are!
Sin is universal in its scope, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Thankfully God s amazing grace is as universal in scope as is sin, for the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men (Titus 2:11). As the Hebrews writer expressed it, Christ came to this earth, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone (Heb. 2:9). While God s grace is extended to everyone, access to that grace is by means of objective revelation, for only the truth can set one free from sin (John 8:32). And so, the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us ... (Titus 2:11, 12). Isaiah spoke of the coming Messiah who would teach us of His ways (Isa. 2:3). And Jesus Himself said, It is written in the prophets, And they will all be taught by God. Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me (John 6:45). God s amazing grace is not dispensed to man apart from instruction. Only as the seed of God s word is sown into the heart of honest and good souls will they receive the truth of God and have access to God s amazing grace. Faith comes from God s word (Rom. 10:17). Therefore, having been justified by faith ... we have access by faith in this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:2, 3).
As previously discussed, we have access to God s amazing grace through faith (Rom. 5:2), and faith comes from God s word (Rom. 10:17). Therefore, the reception of God s grace is conditional, for grace is dispensed only to whosoever believes in Him (John 3:16). This truth flies in the face of those who assert that grace is bestowed unconditionally by the sovereign will of God. The fact is, both Testaments negate the concept of unconditional election, and irresistible grace as taught by John Calvin and others. Consider, for instance, Noah, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Gen. 6:8). In spite of being saved by God s grace, By faith Noah ... prepared an ark for the saving of his household (Heb. 11:7; cf. Gen. 6:22). God offered His grace, which Noah accessed by faith as he obeyed the specific instructions of God, built the ark and saved his family. This perfectly illustrates that the reception of God s grace is conditional. While God extends His amazing grace to all people, those who would be saved must be willing to receive that favor. The reception of God s grace begins with faith but does not end there, for to be saved we must have enough faith to obey (see Heb. 5:9). Noah s faith compelled him to obey God s word and thus receive God s amazing grace. So it is with us today.
While the Bible clearly states that we access God s grace through faith (Rom. 5:2) and that faith alone will not save us (James 2:24), we must constantly remind ourselves that this obedient faith does not earn our salvation. Grace excludes meritorious works, for works of human merit can never earn pardon (Eph. 2:8, 9). We are saved by what the Lord has done for us as He died for our sins, was buried and raised for our justification (Rom. 6:25). Because we have all sinned (Rom. 3:23), we all need a Redeemer, for the debt we owe is so enormous we simply do not have the ability to liquidate that obligation (see Matt. 18:24-27). Even if we could live sinless from this day forward, there is nothing we can do in and of ourselves to erase the sin previously committed. We cannot earn our salvation. But thanks be to God the debt has been paid! This does not, however, negate the necessity of our compliance with the acts of faith God requires for access to His amazing grace. But beware! Make sure your faith is not in what you do, but in the Lord who died for you. Remember, only faith in Him can access God s amazing grace. Therefore, obedience must be the result of your trust in the Lord, not in yourself. And if it is, your obedience to God will flow with a freshness and zeal that will exhilarate the soul.
While it is true that grace excludes merit, it is not true that grace and obedience are enemies. Faith accesses grace (Rom. 5:2), but not faith alone (James 2:24), for faith void of response to God s commands is dead and will not save (v. 26). Consider, for instance, that Paul says we re saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8) and not of meritorious works. And yet he says in the same letter that sinners are cleansed by the washing of water with the word (Eph. 5:26). The washing of water that cleanses us is clearly baptism as we are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Notice also that Paul told Titus we are justified by His grace (Tit. 3:7) and that this justification comes not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (v. 5). Once again the washing of regeneration clearly refers to water baptism (Thayer, p. 382). But this act of obedience is not a meritorious work of righteousness through which we earn our salvation. It is merely an act of obedient faith whereby we access God s amazing grace. Our spiritual resurrection from the dead comes only as we are buried with him in baptism and raised with him through faith in the working of God (Col. 2:12).
The Bible teaches clearly that we are saved by grace and not by meritorious works (Eph. 2:8). Furthermore, we have access to God s amazing grace through our faith in Jesus Christ who died for our sins (Rom. 5:2). But this faith is not a dormant and dead faith, for faith only will not save (James 2:24). It is, rather, a faith that obeys as one repents of his sins and is baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). We are buried with Him by baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). This new life is an obedient life; one that walks in accordance with God s will. Having put Christ on in baptism, we are now sons of God by faith (Gal. 3:26, 27), and as such should walk as children of light (Eph. 5:8). But what if we do not? Many say it won’t matter, for once you are saved you are always saved. But Paul was concerned about Christians falling away from God s amazing grace. He warns those Christians in Galatia who would revert back to the Law of Moses, you have fallen from grace (Gal. 5:4). He even writes of himself, I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected (1 Cor. 9:27).