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What does "by Grace through Faith" mean?

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December 3, 2009

What does “by Grace through Faith” mean in the Bible?


By Grace through Faith…

Some (including many 2x2s) believe the word “Grace” refers to a person who is gracious, extremely considerate, caring, merciful and/or a tactful, kind conversationalist; or a blessing spoken before you eat a meal. In the New Testament, to show Grace is to extend favor or kindness to one who doesn’t deserve it and can never earn it. It is often said that “Grace” means God’s unmerited favor or kindness to mankind.

For many Christians, the five letter word “Grace” is infused with an amazing concept. It contains an offer of an incredible, wonderful, marvelous, utterly amazing, absolutely free gift from God. That gift is Eternal Life. It is given absolutely free to those who choose to accept it through faith. This is extremely “Good News!” It’s far better than winning the lottery for a billion dollars with a ticket that was given to you free.

This concept of Grace is set out in Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; Not of works, lest any many should boast.

In other words Grace and Works are mutually exclusive (see Romans 11:16).  Believers are saved by faith--NOT by works.  It's important to understand that Salvation and Rewards are not the same thing.  Salvation happens instantly, whereas Rewards are doled out on Judgment Day.  In this passage, the Greek word for “Grace” means “free gift.” This verse tells us that it is by accepting a free gift that we are saved.

And that’s not all the Good News! We cannot work for Eternal Life. Access to Heaven is “not of works.” The heavenly entrance is not opened by trusting God AND obeying certain rules or doing certain works, or following certain requirements. Because we do not merit salvation and there is no way to earn it, any possible reason for pride or boasting is eliminated (Romans 3:27)

Faith is our ONLY hope. It is impossible to obtain Eternal Life by working for it or by attempting to merit or earn it. God’s plan doesn’t work that way. We are saved BY God’s grace THROUGH faith alone, and not on the basis of any good works we have done. Faith is the conduit, the channel to access the free gift (Grace). It’s about what God has done for us, NOT about what we do for God.

You don't receive a free gift because you earned it or worked for it. If you receive a payment for your work – that is what you earned – it isn't a free gift. Works do not earn or merit salvation (they count toward heavenly reward). According to Romans 4:4-5: "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."

We can receive Grace simply on the basis of our faith and trust in God. Heb 11:6 declares that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Faith is made up of three things: knowledge, belief and trust. We are forgiven by God simply by believing that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross paid for the sins for which we have repented. When we place our trust in Him, our slate is wiped clean. “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.

As Charles R. Swindoll said, "We were born wrong with God. The same sin that Adam introduced has polluted the entire human race. No one is immune to the sin disease. And no human accomplishment can erase the internal stain that separates us from God. Because Adam sinned, all have sinned. This leads to one conclusion. We all need help. We need forgiveness. We need a Savior. So how do we get out of this mess? See Rom 5:18-19: Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."

You have a choice. You can strive to make it to heaven by your own efforts and try to be as good and perfect as Jesus; or you can place your faith in Jesus and receive your right standing with God as a free gift of His grace. Either we approach God on our own merits; or we approach him completely without merit of our own on the basis of his Grace (free gift) alone.

The gospel (the “Good News”) is that God offers salvation as a free gift to those who believe: "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them. This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent," John 6:28-29

When a believer accepts His free gift through faith, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside the believer as an internal guide, and the result is that there is no desire to sin.  Grace is not a license to sin.  Rules aren’t needed because Christians are set free; not to sin, but to "faith which worketh by love" Gal 5:6.

The Galatians fell in the trap of trying to merit salvation by their works, by law. Galatianism also called Legalism is the mingling of law and grace; the teaching that justification is partly by grace, partly by law, or that grace is given to enable an otherwise helpless sinner to keep the law.  False teachers told the Galatians they had to keep the works of the law to be accepted by God. By relying on their personal efforts for their salvation, they were saying that God's free gift of justification was not enough to save them.

Gal. 3:2, 5 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?...He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Placing our faith in Him and His provision of love for us, we were born again by His Spirit, and new life began. This new life was entirely the product of His grace through faith, not of any works that we had done to deserve it. However, the new life brought with it an understanding that changed our whole manner of living: If we deserved to die, and one loved us enough to take our place, the least we can do is to love the Lord with all our heart and dedicate our lives from this point forward to His cause and interests.

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40)

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. Then my Father will love him, and we will go to him and make our home within him. John 14:23 (ISV)

Faith is not mere intellectual assent to Bible truth.  It is faith in the sense of full reliance or trust.  It is not of yourselves (Eph 2:8).  It is not a meritorious work for which God bestows salvation.  Faith should always be considered with its object--faith in God alone through Jesus.  Jesus called men to do more than simply believe in His existence.  He called sinners to put their trust in Him; in His life, in His words, and ultimately in His death as payment for their sin. The moment we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, confess and repent our sins, we are saved.  

There are two great differences between salvation and rewards:

Salvation is free, it's a gift
Rewards are earned, merited.

How do we earn rewards? We earn rewards by faithfully serving Christ, by the work they do for the Lord. Christian works are the product of salvation, the fruit of the new life engendered by the Holy Spirit, the result of lives whose motivation and purposes have been changed, living no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again. Works are the cart, not the horse; not the egg, not the chicken.

The Bible says that one day we must stand before the Lord Jesus Christ to be judged. Every believer will be judged for the things he did, whether good or bad. This judgment is called "the Judgment Seat of Christ." The Bible says, For we (believers) must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body... II Corinthians 5:10

This judgment is not to see whether or not we will go to Heaven. Every true believer will go to Heaven.  This judgment is for rewards. If we have faithfully served the Lord Jesus, this will be a time of great rejoicing for us because we will receive wonderful rewards for our works.

WORKS:


Eph. 2:5, 8-9 - Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God;  Not of works, lest any many should boast.

Romans 11:16 - And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Titus 3:5 - Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us."

2 Timothy 1:9 - Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace...

FAITH & SALVATION:


Acts 10:43 - To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

Acts 16:31 - And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

John 3:36 -  He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

REWARDS:

1 Cor 3:8 - …and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

Matt 16:27 - For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

Rev 2:23 - … and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
Rev 22:12 -  And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.

2 Corinthians 5:10 - For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.