By Grace – Through Faith – In Christ – Plus Nothing
For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners,
even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. NASB
When we say that salvation is by grace alone, we mean it is something that is given to us by God. It is a free gift and cannot be merited or earned. In biblical terms, grace is the unmerited favor of God. God’s grace is the origin of salvation and it is free. All elements of salvation are an unmerited gift from God. He is the One who elects, predestines, calls, justifies, sanctifies and glorifies. In short, salvation is wholly the work of God, from first to last, its origin and completion is His work. Therefore, salvation is “not merited” by any work of mankind nor can it be, in any sense, merited or earned by anything we can do. We cannot work for or buy salvation.
God isn’t going to let you into Heaven because you were a good person or did many good things in your life. That is simply not true. By His standards you are not a good person, you are a sinner deserving of everlasting banishment from His good presence. You are lawless and disobedient, unholy and profane, defiled and unbelieving and you have provoked Him to anger 1000 times. In fact it is a miracle of God’s amazing patience that He lets us take another breath or lets this planet spin one more day. Therefore the last thing that the Bible is saying is that somehow we can merit, or earn the good favor of God, or that we can work for, or buy salvation in any way, shape or form. Rather, salvation is the “free gift” (Rom 6:23) of God, “not of works” (Eph 2:9), and justification is a “gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24). Look with me at Romans 5:1-2….
Romans 5:1-2 – 5 Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. NASB
Here Paul points out that we have been “justified by faith.” By simply believing in what Christ has done, and trusting in and relying upon Him, we receive justification in the sight of God. This Paul says, gives us “peace with God.” In this “justification,” we have “peace with God.” This he says, is “through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand.” What Paul is saying is that it is because of Jesus Christ and what He has done that we now “stand in the grace” of God. We stand in the favor of God, saved from His wrath, all of our sins forgiven, and abiding in eternal life, because of what Christ has done in earning our favor with God. Grace comes to us on the basis of what Christ has done for us and in our place. Salvation by grace means salvation by the free gift of God. Salvation is a free gift by God’s grace. Look with me at verses 5:15-17….
Romans 5:15-17 – 15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. NASB
Here Paul tells us in crystal clear terms that the grace of God comes to us a “free gift.” Now if it is a “free gift,” that means you cannot buy it and you cannot earn it. Moreover, he explains that through this “free gift” (v-15) we receive “justification” (v-16) and “righteousness” (v-17) through “the free gift” of God’s grace. Therefore, the Gospel holds out a salvation which is a free gift of God’s grace. Because salvation, and here in this context, “justification” and “righteousness,” is a free gift, then it is said that salvation is “not of works lest anyone should boast” (Eph 2:9). In other words, the Gospel holds out a salvation which comes to us by God’s free grace only and that it cannot be bought or worked for, but rather is a free gift. Now this is good news, and it is very clear right here in Romans 5, and it is what we mean that salvation is by grace.
That brings us to our next point, that salvation is received through faith….Look with me at Romans 3:20-24….
Romans 3:20-24 – 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; NASB
Here Paul is again discussing “the righteousness of God” (which is “right-standing” with God) and “justification” before God. Notice first that he says that this “righteousness” is “apart from the Law.” That means it is not through the Law that one is justified before God because as verse 20 states, “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” The Law doesn’t justify us, it shows us plainly that we are law breaking sinners. But God’s “righteousness has been manifested,” and that “apart from the Law.” Here we ask then, what is the “righteousness” that “has been manifested” and how can it be apart from God’s Holy Law which is His standard for righteousness? Paul’s point comes shining through in verse 22… “even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe;”…Here he points out that “the righteousness of God” is received “through faith in Jesus Christ,” and this is for “all those who believe.” Then in verse 24 he tells us what the “righteousness” is that “has been manifested.” It is “the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” Christ’s redemption, His perfect life of obedience to the Law, and His sacrificial death to pay the debt and penalty of sin is the “manifested righteousness of God.” Now this is good news. The Gospel holds out “right-standing with God” and “justification in His sight,” “through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe.” We receive or appropriate the righteousness and justification by simply believing (or having faith) that Christ has merited it for us. Summarizing this passage then, we see that it is not by obedience to the Law that we can be righteous or justified in God’s sight (v-20), but rather through faith and believing that Jesus is God’s righteousness for us (v-22), that we are made right with God.
This also means then that salvation is not on the basis of good works but rather on the basis of faith in Christ, (whose work alone is sufficient for righteousness in God’s sight). This is why when Jesus was asked by the crowds in John 6:28-29….
John 6:28-29 – 28 “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” NASB
The Apostle Paul also makes this crystal clear when he summarizes the Romans 3 passage in verse 28 in unmistakable terms….
Romans 3:28 – 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. NASB
To be sure, we must qualify that the kind of faith that saves people is NOT just a mere profession of believing in Christ, but is one that proves itself true by repentance from sin. If one truly is broken and sorrowful about their sins, for which Christ had to die, then they will prove their repentance by their deeds (Acts 26:20) and their faith will bear the fruit of good works, because faith without works is dead (James 2:14). Salvation doesn’t come because of the good works, but true saving faith produces good works in our lives and causes us to see the reality of true faith.
Salvation therefore is the gift of God by grace and is received through faith. The Gospel announces salvation from God’s wrath, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life through simply believing in the person and the work of Jesus Christ the righteous One. Now this is good news.
Now most important of all in this matter is the fact that the person and work of Christ alone is the basis on which this salvation is available. This is why we say that salvation is by grace, through faith, IN CHRIST….
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