Chapter 47: SHE
AFFIRMS SALVATION BY FAITH BUT NOT BY FAITH ONLY
by Batsell Barrett Baxter
Salvation is by God's grace. It
is a gift from God, motivated by his love for us, and is provided through Jesus
Christ. Grace means "unmerited favor." Salvation is an unearned, undeserved
blessing, offered freely to all mankind, and made possible by the sacrificial
death of Christ on the cross. In short, there was no way that man, the sinner,
could earn or merit salvation, so God provided it for him as a gift. This is the
Good News of the Gospel.
One of the clearest statements
of this theme is from the pen of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:8-9, where he
said, "For by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of
yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory." This
passage emphasizes that salvation is God's gift - a matter of grace. It would be
impossible to overemphasize the fact that salvation is a gift from God - a
matter of grace.
SALVATION BY FAITH
In Ephesians 2:8-9, mentioned
above, there are several key words, two of which stand out. The first is grace,
the unmerited favor of God which provides salvation as a gift for all men. The
second key word is faith, which is man's response to God's free gift. Salvation
is by grace - on God's side; and by faith - on man's side.
Now it becomes very important
for us to understand what faith means. Exactly what is meant by faith? Many
people define faith as a mental acceptance of certain facts. That is historical
faith and we have historical faith about many things. We believe, for example,
that certain cities exist and that certain people have lived though we have
neither seen the cities nor known the people. That kind of faith, however, is
not sufficient to save a man. The devils believe and shudder (James 2:19), but
they will not be saved. Saving faith is something beyond the mental acceptance
of the existence of God and of Christ. It is that,
but it is more.
The theme of the book of Romans
is "salvation by faith." When we study Romans we discover that faith meant, to
the apostle Paul, a mental acceptance of the existence of God and Christ, plus
an active commitment of his life. When a man has faith he not only believes, but
also invests himself in Christ. The clearest way to convey Paul's meaning is to
read a phrase from the opening sentence of Romans and another from the closing
sentence. In the opening sentence we find the expression "unto obedience of
faith" (Romans 1:5). Paul emphasized faith throughout the sixteen chapters which
make up the book. It is obedient faith" (Romans 16:26). We are saved by grace,
to which we must respond in obedient faith (Rom. 16:26). Grace is God's part and
faith is our part. Faith, in order to be saving faith, includes within itself
the obedience which God asks of us.
We are disturbed by those whose
interpretation of faith leads them to preach, in many pulpits across the land
and on many radio and television programs, that all one must do in order to be
saved is to believe in one's heart. The emphasis often made is that whenever a
person believes in the Lord and mentally commits himself to the Lord, he is
immediately saved. Sometimes this is called "being born again," and is described
as having happened while riding on an airplane, or on one's knees in prayer, or
while facing some special trial of life. This interpretation of faith, commonly
held by many people, is not the interpretation of faith reflected in the pages
of the inspired Scriptures. Biblical faith is an obedient faith.
GRACE AND FAITH
What is the relation of grace
and faith? "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Both elements are in this passage - God's gift and man's response. Later in that
same chapter there is this additional sentence, "He that believeth on the Son
hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the
wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). In this sentence, believing is the
positive side, while its opposite is disobedience, the negative side.
Salvation is God's gift; there
can be no question about that. But, the gift must be appropriated by man's
response in obedient faith. Grace makes salvation possible; obedient faith makes
salvation actual. When man responds in Biblical faith to God's offer of
salvation, he is neither earning nor deserving the gift, but only accepting it
on the condition on which the Lord has promised to give it.
In this connection let us also
read 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9: ". . .To you that are afflicted rest with us, at the
revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming
fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not
the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal
destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might." Notice
that the vengeance of the Lord at the time of judgment will be rendered against:
(1) Those that know not God, and (2) Those that obey not the gospel. These
passages obviously indicate that obedience to the commands of God is imperative
if one expects to be saved eternally.
Do not misunderstand this
emphasis upon obedience. We do not earn salvation, but we must comply with the
conditions laid down by the Lord in order to receive the free gift of eternal
salvation. Christ said, "Even so ye also when ye shall have done all the things
that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that
which it was our duty to do" (Luke 17:10). Man cannot earn salvation through
works of merit, but he must comply with the conditions that the Lord laid down
in order to receive the gift of salvation.
NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLES OF
In the book of Acts there are
eight major conversions, given as models for all people of all time. In every
case the gospel of Christ was preached, the people believed in their hearts, but
they did not stop there. Their faith led them to make known their faith in some
manner (confessing Christ as their Savior) and then they were baptized for the
forgiveness of sins.
As an example, let's notice the
beginning of the church on Pentecost, at which time 3,000 were saved. It all
began with the preaching of a great sermon concerning Christ by the apostle
Peter. Then we read, "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their
heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we
do? And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the
name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the
gift of the Holy Spirit ... And with many other words he testified, and exhorted
them, saying, Save yourselves from this crooked generation. They then that
received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day
about 3,000 souls" (Acts 2:37-38; 40-41). Obedient faith is demonstrated very
clearly in this example: They heard the gospel of Christ, they believed it, at
which point they asked what they must then do. Peter told them to repent of
their sins and to be baptized. When they had made their faith in Christ actual
by obeying the conditions upon which salvation is given, the Scripture then
tells us that they were added to the church or family of God. The same pattern
is found in each of the other stories of conversion.
We are saved by grace - on
God's side; we are saved by faith - on man's side. But Biblical faith is more
than mere belief. It is more than an intellectual commitment. It involves
obedience: confession of Christ before men (Matthew 10:32-33), repentance for
our sins (Luke 13:3), and baptism for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38).
In your own words, explain the
meaning of "salvation by grace."
Since God loves all people, and
since God's grace is extended to all people, does this mean that all will be
Does "Biblical faith" include
only the idea of believing that Jesus is the Son of God? Is salvation provided
when one believes intellectually that Jesus is the Savior?
What are the "conditions of
pardon" which the New Testament teaches?
Exactly, at what point does
salvation come - When Christ died on the cross? When man believes that Jesus is
his Savior? When man responds in obedient faith?