How well do we understand the fundamental Christian doctrine of “saved by grace through faith?” How does one come to the faith? What are we putting our faith in? What does this faith save us from? What is the act of God’s grace towards us?
I’m going to answer these questions in basic terms because it’s actually very simple. Over the years, these ideas have been somewhat lost at times, but that does not mean they are difficult to understand. I think sometimes we just need someone to declare it then trust the Spirit to stir our hearts up so that we can seek these things for ourselves.
Before you get started, take a look at Ephesians Chapter 2 if you can. If you cannot, here are the first 10 verses for your convenience. After you read this, what are your thoughts about the above questions?
Ephesians Chapter 2 KJV
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
The Process of Salvation by Grace Through Faith
We need to be careful when explaining the faith in a step-by-step or otherwise legalistic way, but as I mentioned, I want to keep this as simple to understand as possible. Generally speaking, this is my understanding of the salvation by grace through faith process:
- Faith is God-Given: Faith in the Son, Jesus is given to us by God the Father. Though from our perspective, we “accept Jesus,” it is only by the calling of God that we are allowed to know that Jesus is the Son of God.
- Faith Brings is to Jesus: Faith tells us that Jesus is the Son of God who came in the flesh to atone for our sins. We not only believe in who Jesus is, but what he will do. Because we believe these things, we will seek to obey his commandments (Matthew chapter 5-7).
- Jesus Provides the Remedy for Sin: The atonement for our sins includes forgiveness and remission. As the laws of God are written in our hearts as promised though the covenant of Christ (Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:10), we are changed from a sinful nature to a righteous nature through the course of our lives—always striving for greater perfection of heart—a heart conformed to “that which is perfect” or the laws of the kingdom of heaven. This is accomplished by the Spirit of Truth working in us and freeing us from all things that “steal, kill, and destroy.” (for more on the Holy Spirit, read John chapters 14-16).
- Faith in The Remedy by Jesus Allows us to Approach God: As we strive in this faith, just as Abraham, our faith is counted to us for righteousness (Romans Chapter 4). That is the imputation. It means God sees us based on our faith. He sees us for what we will become while we are yet in sin. That does not mean we continue in sin. “Should we sin more so grace can abound? God forbid” (Romans 6:1). Our imputed righteousness is a means by which we can approach God as we grow from righteousness to righteousness. Darkness cannot fellowship with light, but through the Light which is Jesus, we can have a relationship with God!
- Faith Causes Works: As we continue and our natures change, we bring forth “fruit of the Spirit” which leads to true righteousness that can only come from a new heart, not performance that is vain or something we try to do by our own power or by law. This is a product of faith; only by faith it is given. This is not works-based salvation, but rather, salvation creates “a peculiar people zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).
- Continued Faith Results in Resurrection: If we continue in the faith, we will be saved from death and granted everlasting life.
- Salvation is Given, Not Earned: Salvation is a gift of grace because it can only be given—never earned. We can never come out of sin and have a new nature on our own, no matter how hard we try. The old covenant law shows us this. The gift of salvation by grace and through faith means freedom from this wicked world and entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven—both in this present world, in the age to come, and eternally.
Additional Scriptural References:
How does one come to the faith?
We come to faith in Jesus by the hearing of the word of God, but only by God are we able to have “ears to hear.”
- John 6:44
- Hebrews 12:2
- Romans 12:3
- Romans 10:17
What are we putting our faith in? What does this faith save us from?
We place our faith in the new covenant which is given by God and through the Son, Jesus (who is one with God and distinct from God). Unlike the first covenant where one nation obeyed outward laws of righteousness to set them apart, the new and “better covenant” is given to all nations and writes the laws in our hearts—actually changing our natures so that we can live according to the laws of the kingdom of God in this present world—thereby saving us from a present life of sin and death, and granting us entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven to come as adopted sons of God unto everlasting life.
- Too many scriptures to name. It’s all over the New Testament. Here is a broad list. God has truly blinded many people to the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Check out links below.
Let’s go back to Ephesians Chapter 2 and take a look at each verse.
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
Without Jesus, we are all dead because of our sin. To sin is to follow the ways of this world and the prince of it rather than following the ways of God. As earthly creatures, it is our nature to follow after the flesh and after this world. Only Jesus walked in the flesh in this world without sin.
3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
Because of our sinful natures, we do things that cause death—and death is our just reward. Death is the natural cause of sin. We see this presently, not just in that all man die, but we see that those who live a very sinful life often live self-destructively. God loves righteousness and He hates sin. Those who continue in disobedience will face His wrath.
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Though God hates sin, God is also love. Through His abundant mercy, He came to this earth in the person of Jesus the Christ. Notice, it is God who made us alive in Christ. We did not choose to make ourselves alive in Christ. It is through faith that we are saved by grace, and faith is given to us from God. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, a sacrifice which the old covenant sacrifices foreshadowed, we are forgiven and cleansed from our sins so that we can approach God for redemption.
6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Through Christ, we can approach the throne of God presently and we will live with Him eternally. We can abide in the Kingdom of God now, in the future, and forever. This is a gift beyond measure that is shown through the abundant love of Jesus Christ.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
Our faith is not something we create from within ourselves, it is a gift from God: a gift if grace. All things that result from this faith are also of grace, otherwise we might have cause to boast over our righteousness. We are to never be self-righteous. Instead, we are to understand that all good things in us are a gift of grace. It is very gracious that God would come to this earth and die so that we can be transformed from destructive and wicked people into those who are fit for God’s kingdom. Grace is not a means of excuse for continued sin. It is freedom from it as well as forgiveness as we strive in the faith.
10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Everything about our salvation is given to us. Though this leads to good works if our faith is not dead, it is not these works that save us. Rather, the works are what we call “fruit” which shows us that our “calling and election is sure” (2 Timothy). God has purposed all of this for His will to bring up many sons, and He will complete his work in us. So, we continue in the faith knowing that God is true to His word and He will deliver us from the death of this world and of the flesh.
This article is part of a series entitled, “Minuscule Faith Moves Mountains”