“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”
October 31, 1517, the evening before the church’s All-Saints’ Day, November 1, Martin Luther nailed the ninety-five theses to the church door at Wittenberg, thereby challenging anyone to debate these theses with him. The church of that day was teaching and practicing a salvation by works, had presented to the people seven sacraments, denied the people of God free and unhindered access to God and His throne of grace, and had also denied them the divine Scriptures, thrusting itself between the child of God and the God of his salvation. The church had denied the truth that we are saved solely by or out of grace, through faith, the gift of God.
For by grace are ye saved. Do not fail to notice this very significant “for” here. We have here the reason for something the apostle had stated in the immediately preceding context. Notice what we read in verse 7. God, according to verse 4, is rich in mercy; He has loved us with a great love. According to verse 5, He has quickened us together with Christ, and already in this verse we are told, in parentheses, that we are saved by grace. God has raised us up together, made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show us the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Why is all this true that is set before us in the verses preceding our text? Why? Because we are saved by grace through faith, and this is the gift of God. May we never forget this. Twice in this brief context (also in verse 5) the expression occurs: by grace are ye saved. It is this truth that is impressed most emphatically upon the consciousness of the church. Destroy this truth, ignore or distort it, and you destroy the very foundations of the church of God.
One more thing. To what does the apostle refer when he writes: “and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God”? The form of the words “that” and “faith” indicates that the one cannot refer to the other. The word “that” refers to all that which precedes in this text. The apostle means to say that our salvation by grace through faith is not of ourselves, but that it is the gift of God.
Saved by or out of grace!
How simple is this truth of the Word of God! How clearly this is set before us throughout the Scriptures! Everywhere this truth receives all the emphasis! And, yet, how contrary is this grand testimony of Holy Writ to the natural man. How true it is that man always seeks to distort and to destroy it! How true this was at the time of the Reformation! The church of that day proclaimed a salvation by works. That church actually declared accursed whoever denied the meritoriousness of our good works. Imagine, the church assigned people to hell who believed that we are saved solely out of grace, and who believed that grace, the grace of God, is the exclusive source of all our salvation. They actually persecuted them!
Saved out of grace. What is this grace of God? Is it merely an attitude of divine favor, or a divine unmerited favor? Of course, God’s grace to us is a divine attitude, an attitude of love, and it is surely unmerited. But the Scriptural significance of grace is surely deeper than this, and this is true particularly in this text. At the beginning of this chapter we read that we are quickened, made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins. In verses 5-6 we read that God quickened us together with Christ, hath raised us up together, and made us to sit together in heavenly places through Christ Jesus. All this surely emphasizes the wonderful grace of the living God. That a sinner, dead in trespasses and sins, is saved, made alive through Christ, raised up together with Christ, sits in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, surely indicates that this wonderful grace of God is more, ever so much more than merely an attitude or unmerited favor.
Indeed, the grace of God is a power, a power of God. God Himself is the God of all grace, the God of all beauty, the God Who is eternally attracted to Himself as the God of infinite perfection. And the grace of God to us is the almighty love of God whereby He causes sinners, dead in trespasses and sins, to share in His own beauty and perfection. It is this grace which the Lord would bestow upon His own.
This takes place through Christ Jesus. How this is emphasized in our text and context! We read repeatedly of the Christ here. Besides, we read that we are saved by grace, and this means deliverance out of the greatest misery, sin, and translation into the highest good. By the grace of God we were reconciled to God. We were dead in trespasses and sins. In Adam we could sin but never pay for sin. In Adam we could die but had no power to regain life in God’s favor. We could only increase the guilt of our sin every day. We had become enemies of God, hating Him and hating one another. But we were saved, and saved by grace! God reconciled us unto Himself. We, who were legally objects of divine wrath, have now, legally, become objects of His love and favor, entitled to the life of His everlasting covenant. How necessary was this reconciliation, this paying of all our guilt and this meriting of God’s everlasting fellowship, as in harmony with the full satisfaction of God’s unchangeable righteousness! Eternally the Lord chose us in Christ Jesus. Eternally He ordained Christ to be the Head of His church, that He should become flesh, assume the burden of all our sin and guilt, enter our deepest woe, become sin for us that we should become the righteousness of God in Him. It was by grace that God sent His Son into the world. Always the Lord was prompted by the desire to save His people, dead in sins, that they should be perfect and, beautiful as He is. It was by the power of that grace of God that His Son was born in our flesh and blood, ascended the cross of Calvary, was sustained and empowered to bear God’s infinite wrath and to pay for all our sins and trespasses. Indeed, we are saved by grace, in and through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Shall we adopt the Arminian conception of salvation? Reconciliation itself can never save us. If the work of salvation be confined to the cross, we, who are dead in sins by nature, will remain dead in sin. We ourselves must be saved. Shall we say that the work of God was finished at the cross, that then the work by man begins? Or, shall we mix the two, the work of God and that of man, God and man cooperating, working together, God offering salvation and man accepting it?
How impossible is this view!
The Arminian claims to have a richer gospel than do those who preach a Christ only for a few. Does he not speak of a Christ for all? Really, however, he impoverishes the gospel. Really, he has a Christ for nobody. A Christ that died for all really died for none, because a universal Christ never paid for sin. Had He really paid for the sins of all, none could possibly perish. Hence, a universal Christ did not pay for the sins of any.
How impossible is this view also, thanks be to God, according to the text. Are we not saved by grace through faith? Always we must remember that we are saved by grace. We must never separate grace and faith, as if grace proceeds from God and faith proceeds from us. Faith belongs to grace, is part of it; faith is grace in operation in the heart of the elect sinner. Besides, we read in the text: not of ourselves; it is the gift of God. And then we read in verse 9: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Hence, it is all a gift of God, from the beginning to the very end. Nothing proceeds from us. The whole work of salvation is a gift of God.
O, we are not saved because of faith, as if God saves us because we believe. Neither are we saved upon the condition of faith. As a prominent commentator remarked: Grace is God’s part, faith is man’s part. Faith is then a condition which we must fulfill before God will save us. Indeed, there are no conditions unto salvation at all. Salvation is a gift of God. We make not a single contribution toward it. We are saved throughfaith and by grace. Grace operates through faith.
God’s mighty grace.
Faith is the spiritual tie that unites us with Christ. In Him is all our salvation. Faith is the spiritual faculty whereby we know Him, taste Him, long for Him, trust in Him, rely on Him, appropriate Him, live out of Him, as a tree lives out of the rich soil. Saved through faith, God’s mighty work of grace, His means of grace, a power that is wrought in our inmost heart by the mighty power of the grace of God. Saved by grace through faith. By this grace of God the Lord unites us with Christ, quickens us together with Christ, makes us new creatures in Christ, calls us, powerfully and irresistibly and efficaciously and sweetly, out of darkness into the light of the gospel, so that we may sing forever of the glories of our God: saved by grace, that no flesh may ever boast.
Always salvation is of the Lord.
It was solely of God that He chose us in Christ. Then the Lord had no counselor with Him. It was by the same grace that He reconciled us to Himself through the death of His Son. It was also by sovereign grace that He wrought faith in us, implanting us into Christ. And now it is by that same almighty grace that we are preserved unto the very end, until the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. For by grace ye are saved, and the form of this word emphasizes that this work is perfect and that it therefore will be finished.
By grace we are preserved and through it we persevere. Yes, our preservation is all of God. It is never by works, or on account of works, or by virtue of our cooperation with the grace of God. It is all pure grace; nothing of man is ever mixed with it. On the other hand, we persevere. Indeed, we are not simply carried into glory, as in a Pullman sleeper. This work is a power within us, causes us to hold fast to the God of our salvation, so that we fight even unto the end. Indeed, the grace of God preserves and we persevere. And nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, because it is all grace, from the beginning to the very end.
The Reformation gospel!
We are children of the Reformation?
May we ever hold fast to it!