THE GRACE OF GOD
By Tommy Thornhill
Jesus, just before His ascension back to the Father, gave orders to His disciples, saying to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” promising that “he who believes (the gospel –t.t.) and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” Mk.16:16. Following Jesus’ orders they did so, and by teaching other faithful men to duplicate their teaching 2.Tim.2:2. They were able to carry the gospel into the whole world in less than 35 years Col.1:5, 6, 23.
The gospel they preached, when believed and obeyed, placed those who received it Into Him (Christ) in whom they obtained “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” Eph.1:7. While man has to respond in obedience (believe and be baptized) to be saved and obtain the redemption in Christ Heb.5:9; Gal.3:26-27; Acts 2:38, 41, the salvation promised comes through the grace of God. Man was undeserving because they were dead in trespasses, but through God’s grace they could be made alive together with Christ Eph.2:5. It was God’s grace that formulated the plan and then sent His Son to execute the plan by becoming the acceptable sacrifice for sin. This plan was then revealed by the Holy Spirit as He guided inspired men to declare the grace of God to mankind Tit.2:11.
Even though God’s plan of salvation is simple enough in Mk.16:16, and plainly states that if one will believe the gospel and be baptized for the remission of sins Acts 2:38 one is saved. Yet, many in the religious world would deny the necessity of baptism. They say that if one must be baptized in order to be saved this is a denial of the grace of God. They refer to Eph.2:8-9, “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” They contend this passage teaches that salvation is solely through the grace of God. And since it is a free gift from God, anyone who teaches that one must be baptized in order to be saved not only denies the grace of God, they are also teaching salvation by works or “water salvation” which is to say that one can earn or merit salvation through the work of baptism and as one put it, they believe “more in the creek than Christ.” This charge is blatantly false. Teaching the necessity of obedience to the gospel is not a denial of the grace of God, rather it is a confirmation that the person has accepted God’s terms for receiving His grace He is bestowing on him through His Son. No one can earn salvation by meritorious works of any kind. If man is saved, it will be by the grace of God, and not by works devised of man. While it is true that I do not always use the words “the grace of God” when I teach God’s plan of salvation, it is always there in the background. The problem is that those who ridicule baptism as part of God’s plan of salvation do not have a right understanding of the grace of God. So let’s study the grace of God that saves.
What is grace? A simple definition often given is “God’s unmerited favor,” but the grace of God is much deeper than that. The grace of God is the revelation of His free and everlasting love and favor as He extends His mercy and consideration to undeserving, fallen mankind. Man rebelled against God by sinning, forfeiting every claim to the love and mercy of God. By every rule of jurisprudence, human and divine, man stood condemned. “The wages of sin is death” Rom.6:23, and if the stern edicts of justice were followed, all men would be condemned, but this is where the grace of God comes into play. Man was, and still is, undeserving of salvation, but God’s free gift of eternal life comes through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God’s grace to man Jn.1:17; Jn.3:16. It was through Jesus’ death that God exercised “the riches of His grace” to redeem man Eph.1:7. Without the grace of God there would be no gospel. One cannot preach the gospel of Christ without an understanding of how the grace of God is involved in it, whether spoken or not 1.Cor.15:1-4; Rom.1:16. So the grace of God is a tremendous subject, fundamental to our redemption. It is the heart and core of our salvation. Make no mistake, salvation is the gift of God Eph.2:8-9, not because we deserve it, but because God’s grace is extended to us. While we were yet sinners God loved us enough to give His Son to die for us Rom.5:8. But to say that our salvation is wholly by the grace of God, and there is nothing that man can do to obtain it is a gross misunderstanding and misrepresentation of God’s grace.
I agree that one finds the Bible formula for salvation in Eph.2:8-9 “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” But notice there are two things that play a part in salvation, grace and faith. Grace is God’s part, faith is man’s part. It takes both parts to obtain salvation. If man’s faith plays no part in salvation then no one can be saved “but without faith it is impossible to please Him” Heb.11:6.
So how do “grace” and “faith” work together? First understand that the words “grace” and “faith” in Eph.2:8-9 are generic in nature. This means the words include all the things necessary to affect man’s salvation. Grace is God’s part in salvation, the divine side. It includes all that deity has done and continues to do to save man, i.e., revelation, Christ’s sacrifice and blood atonement to procure remission of sins, the church, etc. These are things that man cannot do for himself; they are gifts of God’s grace. Faith, the human side, is man’s response to the grace of God, i.e., repentance, confession, baptism, godly living, etc. Man cannot act on God’s behalf, and God will not omit man’s responsibility in accepting His grace. He has placed conditions on His free gifts. Man responds to the demands of God grace by “the obedience of faith” Rom.1:5; 16:26, that is by believing, accepting and obeying the terms by which God bestows His grace Heb.5:8-9; Rom.6:16-18. In this way man obtains salvation, not by works of merit of which he can boast that he has earned salvation, but by doing the conditional “works” that God has commanded that show his faith in God’s grace Jn.6:28; 8:39-43; Tit.3:5; Jas.2:17-26. In doing this man will be saved even though it is still undeserved Lk.17:10.
“Brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you ip and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” Acts.20:32.
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