~ The Grace of God ~
by John W Blehm
If you believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, Then consider this…
Many Christian denominations say that our salvation is through Faith by Grace and not through our Works. I believe it to be true, plus the Bible outlines it that way (Ephesians 2:8-9). Many of these same denominations still put the cart before the horse by preaching works have to come before faith and many still get the two mixed up. Their doctrines actually deny God’s grace.
Christians can disagree because we interpret scripture passages differently and often times it hinges on one word in a passage that we may interpret differently. Words have meanings and many have multiple meanings. The definitions of a few key words, as they are used in this discussion, will be given. This is not a trap, but always be careful that the ground work or foundation is correct before buying anything.
A “work”, in this sense is something that we do either physically or mentally. It is God pleasing and often called a “good work(s)”. It may refer to an action or decision, but it is something that we do of our own individual free will. Protestant denominations will claim the Catholic church is wrong in their belief that good works on our part are required for our salvation. Many of these same denominations believe in a “decision theology” that says a person must do something, which is a work, to be saved. They don’t have as long a list as the Catholics, but even requiring one good work is blasphemous and hypocritical. The only work that was needed for our salvation was done by Jesus on the cross and no other human had anything to do with it.
To have "faith" is to be destined for heaven. It is the same as being saved, being a believer, being born again and being a Christian. You can't truly be one without the other (John 3:3). Faith is not a work. It is not an action or decision on our part, although we act and make decisions in accordance with our faith. Faith is imparted or given to us by God. Other words for faith in God include trust, confidence and belief. Faith is of a spiritual nature and will not depart from us when we depart from our physical bodies. God is completely spiritual and communicates with our souls on a spiritual level. Faith is the knowledge of, trust in, or belief in God but everyone that has it doesn't necessarily understand it.
Note that for this discussion the words “faith” and “belief” are the same. Faith is something believers have, so when substituting other words for faith we must not change the meaning or concept. Think of having trust, having confidence and believing in the same way as having or possessing faith that is God given. Do not turn them into verbs that show an action or decision on our part, like “I trusted”, “you must believe”, “make a commitment of salvation”, "make a commitment of faith” or “when we express faith” God gives His grace. If we have received faith from God we are saved and have done nothing to receive it. He just put it in us. Allowing God to save us by putting faith in us is not a work on our part. We couldn't stop the Almighty even if we wanted to. Rejecting God is a work, determination, or conscience decision on our part. If a person is damned (not saved) it is because he has rejected the faith God put in him (John 3:19). To reject God is to put someone or something ahead of him. The unborn, infants and those that don't have the mental capacity to understand right from wrong don't possess the ability to consciously reject God. For most people there comes a time when they are able to discern right from wrong or good from evil. You could refer to it as an age of accountability. Even if we haven't been told about God, God communicates with our conscience and reveals his will. There are times when each of us sin by going against God's will. This is human nature and all of us sin (Romans 3:23). Yet, this sin or "rejection" of God is not the rejection that damns us if we also continually acknowledge our sinfulness and are repentive (Galatians 5:13, 16-18). When we make a stand against the known will of God to live in sin we have damned ourselves by totally rejecting God and by doing so it can be said we have "fallen from grace" (Galatians 5:19-21, 1 John 3:10). That is not to say that someone that has rejected God, known as an unbeliever (sinner), has no knowledge of God. That person may even be a Bible scholar and not just have knowledge, but may even know (believe) that God is God, but still decided to live his life apart from God's will. The parable of The Sower and the Seeds (Mathew 13:3-23) gives great examples of God planting faith in people and then the various actions on our part that usually lead to damnation. A major key to better understanding grace is understanding the difference between works and faith. Because we already have faith we may daily do good works like trust, accept, receive, surrender or make Christ the center of our lives (Ephesians 2:10). Nothing, no work, has to be done on our part before “being saved”.
Once again faith is something we have from God.
Grace means we get something for nothing. It is favor. We can be gracious to one another and God is gracious in more than one area, but for this discussion we are only referring to the grace of God that imparts (plants) faith. He gives us faith as a free gift. This is the faith that is required for salvation and there are no strings attached to his giving it. Grace is the means by which all humans receive faith and everyone receives it (1 Timothy 2:6). That is not to say that everyone will be saved, but those that don’t reject the faith that God has already given them, because of His grace, will spend eternity in fellowship with Him.
Salvation is 100% God’s work, because He graciously gives us faith that saves. This is because He loves us and favors us and doesn’t want anyone to go to hell, even though we sin against Him.
Damnation is 100% mankind’s work, because a loving God gave us a will of our own and we can reject Him. The only people that will be damned are those that reject God and that may be many.
Believing there is a God and even knowing about Him and the sacrifice of Jesus, for your sins, won’t save you. There is no belief (head knowledge) that we can hold that saves us. Requiring someone to know something or understand some doctrine to be saved would be a work on our part. When the Bible says “believe” it means to have or keep the faith that God gave you and don’t reject it/Him. Be careful of works. Holding on to the faith could be considered a work and it doesn’t save you, since God already saved you. Simply put you are saved because God saved you, not because you believe, you trusted Jesus, you committed your life to Jesus, you said the sinners prayer, you accepted, you asked Christ into your heart, you came forward, you made a public confession of your faith, you were baptized, you made a decision for Christ, etc. When asked why or how you know you are saved tell what God did, not what you did. We should daily pray and do good works not to be saved, but because we are saved. Even though we are saved we should also pray that we do not turn away from God and lose that salvation.
Some preach a doctrine of “eternal security” saying that once you are saved you are always saved. There are many Bible verses that they use to backup their belief, but they are reading more into them than what is there. The “once saved always saved” group believe that God takes away the “free will” of everyone that is “saved” so they can’t reject Him. They don’t state it that way, but that’s what their doctrine gets down to. The Bible doesn’t suggest that at all. It does say God will never forsake us, but not the other way around. While you are still alive and have the free will that God gave you there are opportunities to reject Him and lose your salvation. Once you reject faith (God) you may get it back, but you can’t earn (gain) it back. Most humans either think or know there is a God, yet most decide to live this life the way they want, while knowing it is not what God wants. The souls of these people will be eternally separated from God when they die (Ephesians 5:5-6). While we are alive we are subject to this physical world of time and matter and still have time to repent and again receive saving faith (Luke 16:19-31). Once we die it is too late for decision making and our spiritual souls are bound for eternity either in fellowship with God or separated from Him. Once someone is dead and they are eternally separated from God it is too late for any reconciliation with Him. Repentance, in this sense, is not just being sorry for your sins. It is a complete turnaround, like doing a one-eighty. Just as a saved person has the free will to reject God, once damned that person has the same free will to reject sin and turn away from it and be under God’s grace again. This action can be considered a work, but remember works don’t save so turning away from sin or turning back to God doesn't save you.
Here’s where it gets tricky and may sound like you can do something to be saved. Remember God did the saving from the beginning and when you rejected Him you threw away the faith he originally planted in you. By rejecting God you did something that allowed you to damn yourself, so you have to do something again not to save yourself but to allow God’s grace to save you. Repentance is a work and it needs to be in place for faith to survive. God is very orderly and He had John the Baptizer preaching repentance, as he prepared the way for Jesus to preach salvation. Many times throughout the Old Testament the Israelites would reject God and repentance was always necessary before reconciliation. That relationship between God and people hasn’t changed.
Who is saved? If you believe we are saved because of the grace of God and not by our works, you cannot at the same time believe that you have to claim the name of Christ to be saved. That would be a work on our part. Many Churches want to add disclaimers to what they say they believe. They will say you are saved by grace through faith, but some want you to interpret the Bible the way they preach it to receive that free gift. There is no getting around the fact that the sacrifice of Jesus paid the price God demanded to pay for our sins. God is sovereign. He is perfect and what He does is always right, just because He is God. Some Christians think you have to confess that Jesus died for your sins in order to be saved. Not so. The Bible is clear that Jesus died for our sins, but to have to confess it or even know it in order to be saved is not scriptural. To require anything of any soul as a prerequisite to receiving salvation is to reject the grace of God. To knowingly deny the fact that Jesus died for our sins may lead to damnation, but I don't think ignorance of any doctrine is the same as rejecting God and God will judge those situations.
When are we saved? Some believe without faith young children are damned, but faith can be received through baptism (water). Others believe in an “age of accountability” with the understanding that young children are saved, without faith. Both of these two doctrines are based on very little scripture and are easily contested by someone with an opposing view. At least the infant baptism doctrine acknowledges the requirement of faith. Anyone that possesses faith is saved.
To better understand when we receive salvation (faith or fellowship with God) it is helpful to look at when we receive damnation (separation from God). With the exception of Jesus, every human inherited sin at the time of conception. Whether you believe we start out with a full blown totally deprived original sin or just a little sinful nature, chances are you agree sin is sin - we got it - and God demands payment.
Conception is the moment when an individual becomes an individual, a human person with a soul. Every human begins with a physical body, but also has a soul associated with him/her that is spiritual. The soul is the innermost spiritual part of a person and is that person. Like our bodies, our souls come into existence at conception, but unlike our bodies our souls live forever. Even after a body dies the person (soul) continues to exist forevermore spiritually. The reason we inherit sin goes back to the original people, Adam and Eve. They were not born, but were created by God without sin. They did have the same free will that each of us have and eventually sinned. We are all descended from Adam and Eve and have inherited that sinful nature. Even though we can’t understand how a baby in the womb or an infant can be sinful, it doesn’t change the fact that they are. Some of us have physical defects that we inherited at conception, but all of us inherited the spiritual defect of sin. Remember that God is holy and prefect. He cannot have fellowship with us defective sinful humans. That’s the law. Now here comes the gospel (good news)! God came up with a plan to reconcile us with Him. Instead of each of us having to pay for our sins He spiritually conceived one sinless human, just to be sacrificed as payment for every sin, inherited or committed. That one and only sinless man was Jesus. His conception was miraculous and he only had one physical parent, his mother, Mary. It is our souls, not bodies, which inherit sin. So, God Himself became the spiritual father of Jesus (the human) at conception. Jesus the Christ (Messiah) was 100% human (Jesus) and is 100% God (Christ). The death of Jesus was the sacrifice required by God to pay for the sins of us all. By all God meant "all", not just some special folks that he chose or predestined and not just those that would chose to follow him. He predestined, elected or chose ALL to be saved. That was and is still His will. The sacrifice was a onetime payment for all sins by everyone. The Calvinists and Arminians can end the debate. Neither view is correct. Before creation God chose to save everyone, but not everyone will end up in heaven (eternal fellowship with God). Many reject him. The only way that everyone can be included in the universal salvation that God planned is to receive "original grace" at the exact same time as we receive "original sin" (Romans 5:12-19) – at conception. Grace (salvation) is not imparted to us a split second after sin is imparted. They are inherited by us or imparted to us at the exact same time that we are conceived and become an individual (soul). It's like Paul said: "Christ died for us while we were still sinners", so that makes us saved sinners by the grace of God (Romans 5:8a). It doesn’t matter if your parents consider themselves to be Christians, atheists or have some other beliefs. At conception every soul is saved by the original grace of God (Acts 10:34-35, Romans 3:22, Romans 5:18, John 12:32, Hebrews 2:9, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Everyone is saved until they reject God.
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