Grace Faith Christ Alone?
Is it true that a person can really be saved simply by “grace through faith in Christ alone,” or is there something I also must do? This is critical, seeing that, if grace is not enough, then all who are relying on it are actually lost. Contrariwise, if we are also relying on something of ourselves and it is by grace alone, then all these people are still lost in their sins! So what is the truth? Let us find out!
What Needs Fixing
Imagine a repair person showing up at your place to fix something when nothing is broken in the first place! So then, we must ask ourselves, just precisely why do we need saving? What is the problem that needs mending?
The problem is fairly straightforward. God is holy. He is the creator and we the creation. We rebelled against God by sinning. Therefore, a rift or separation, has come between us who are now sinful, and the holy God who cannot be in the presence of sinful people. Now, because of this separation as a consequence of our sin, the verdict has come down that we are all alike guilty and worthy of eternal separation from God in the lake of fire. For we understand that God is holy and therefore God cannot compromise with sin but must punish the sinner! It is the same as the principle, “Do the crime. Do the time!”
We could further highlight our problem by posing these two questions. One, how can I get rid of my sin-debt that I don’t want, and secondly, how can I gain a righteousness that is equal to that of God’s, that I don’t have?
This then, presents our problem. Therefore we need to now pursue what the solution is.
Is Grace Enough?
First of all, what is grace? Very simply, it is something done for us as a favor. In fact, it is a favor done that is not deserved.
Now, there are people who raise objections to “grace alone.” It is said that, “There is also my part that I have to do.” If this be the case, I would simply put forward this, can you, by what you do, get rid of your sin-debt? Can the good you do or your obedience erase sin? The biblical answer is no. Why? It is written, “Without the shedding of blood [death] there is no forgiveness of sin.” (Hebrews 9:22) This is true, because it is also written, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) Very plainly then, we see that for one’s sin-debt to be forgiven, there must be the death of one who does not have a sin-debt and is therefore able to pay the other’s sin-debt. This of course, would exclude all of us, as we all have our own sin-debt to pay for.
Secondly, can you gain a righteousness that is equal to that of God’s? Again, this is an impossible feat, seeing that, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) If we’re honest, we know very well that we are not perfectly sinless.
We must ask then, what does God’s grace do for me? A lot! Seeing that it grants you a complete salvation! See then, that God’s grace forgives you your entire sin-debt, past and future. Then, it also credits righteousness to you that makes you acceptable for time and eternity before the holy God! For this is what the Word of God mentions, “The free gift of righteousness.” (Romans 5:17) Again, “The righteousness that is by faith.” (Romans 9:30) This is the reason we read, “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy.” (Titus 3:5) Again, in respect to our salvation, we read that it, “Is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
Is Faith Enough?
Again, let us first answer this question, what is faith? It is confidence placed in something or someone after becoming convinced by way of argument. For example, someone may approach you with a new product. The salesperson then presents to you why they think you need this product. If you become convinced that you do in fact need this product and that the price is right, you will go ahead and make the purchase. You have now placed your faith in the product to perform as advertized. Another example. Say you walk into a building and needing a rest, you scan around for a chair. Eying a chair in the distance, you walk up to it, look it over, and being convinced it can hold you up, you take your seat. This is called placing your faith in the chair!
We must now ask, will placing one’s faith in this grace of God be enough to save me for time and eternity? Perhaps we would make the argumentation that we must also obey. That there is something I need to contribute to what Christ has done. I ask, what is to add to one’s sin-debt being paid in full by Christ, past and future, some 2000 years ago? For it was then that God placed upon His Son all your sins! As it is written, “The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) Then we hear Jesus’ cry of triumph from the cross, “It is finished”! (John 19:30) That is, the debt has been paid in full! Yes, this is precisely why we read that for those who place their confidence (faith) in Christ to save them, that He has “forgiven us all our trespasses.” (Colossians 2:13) Then also, what is to be gained for righteousness, when Christ’s righteousness is credited to the believing one? Truly, this one’s account has been settled once and for all!
Now, this doesn’t mean that obedience doesn’t matter, it does! However, we don’t obey in order to become a Christian or stay a Christian. Rather, we are called upon to conduct ourselves in accordance with what we already are!
Is Christ Enough?
We could simply rephrase this and ask, is there any other savior besides Jesus Christ?, Or, is there any way in which I am my own savior? If then, there is no other save-ior, then it stands that Jesus Christ can indeed save us for time and eternity! Indeed, very clearly it is written, “Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Again, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Truth be told, it seems rather audacious to think that God needs help from the one that needs rescuing! Yes indeed, it is our human pride that says, “I’m not so bad. I can obey well enough to get myself into Heaven after having Jesus save me up until this point in time. Now, with God’s help, surely I can do it!” Look then, if this be so, then eternal life is no longer simply a gift, and grace is no more grace. For it is written, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:6)
We see then that Jesus is indeed, “Able to save to the uttermost [completely].” (Hebrews 7:25) I
What then did Jesus do to save us? We read that we, “Are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith…And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” Yes, “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” And further, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised.” (Romans 3:24-25, 4:5, 5:10, 8:33-34) Therefore, we have a Savior who has done everything to save us completely!
Final Objections and Resolutions
Two items that we want to take a quick look at. One, since I am under grace, does this mean that I can sin without impunity? Then, secondly, and closely related, am I not called to a life of obedience as a believer, and if I then stumble, do I not lose my salvation?
It seems to me, from my experience, that these two questions arise more so from what we have observed in others, rather than from a biblical basis. What we see is people who once attended church doing so no more. We also see those who say they are Christians living awful lives of sin. Therefore, we conclude that one must obey and stop sinning in order to keep one’s salvation. Yet, I ask, is there not another satisfactory and biblical explanation for what we have witnessed? Let us first look at our former questions, and then proceed with the latter thought.
Okay then, can a person who says they’re under grace sin without impunity? Interestingly, those to whom Paul the apostle wrote raised the same objection! So clearly Paul was teaching that grace is enough to save a person completely! Let us read, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” Now, by his answer we will see that these people had a misunderstanding that needed clarification. The apostle clarifies, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:1, 6-7) I ask then, can this one whom Christ has “set free from sin” continue sinning since they are no longer “enslaved to sin”? Let me put it this way. If a person were a slave of Mr. Mean and then purchased by another person who set them free, would that person now be in danger of doing servitude for Mr. Mean as much as they wanted since they are now set free from his tyranny? I would simply answer as Paul the apostle would, “By no means! How can we…?” (Romans 6:2)
Know then, that by God’s grace we have been set free from the rule of sin in our lives! We conclude then, that God’s grace is not a licence to sin but freedom from sin! For the true believer is “now ashamed” of the things they once practiced! (Romans 6:21) And this is the reason we read, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace”! (Romans 6:14)
What then of obedience? You see, we do not obey in order to become Christians, and neither do we obey to stay Christians, but we are called to obey because we are Christians! Big difference!
Imagine for a moment, a couple adopts a child. Now, when this child disobeys or even rebels and runs with a gang, do they cease to be the couple’s child? Certainly not! Though this child might well be met with discipline! So with God. When we commit an act of sin as a believer, God may have to resort to discipline. Why? Because He loves us as His dearly beloved children! However, we never ever lose our position of being God’s beloved ones! Therefore we read, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)
Lastly, what of these people who say they were Christians, and then leave the church and become such things as atheists? Does this not make clear that one can stop having faith and lose their salvation? No, it doesn’t. For we read, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19)
We see then that, many profess to be saved and are not. We have in our countries what are referred to as “illegal immigrants.” These people act as if they are legal immigrants. Yet upon inspection, they are found to be empty professors. They are not of us! So it is with many who profess to be Christians, but are not. These are people who put on the act of being a Christian, but have never actually been saved. These are indeed “illegal immigrants”!
In conclusion. We see that God by His amazing grace alone is fully capable of saving sinners! God does not need our help and in fact, we are incapable of helping! As helpless sinners we simply cry out to the fully capable Savior to save us by His doing alone! Thus we place our faith, our confidence fully in the Savior to save oneself!
Let me draw this to a close with a couple of verses. “The gospel…that Christ died for our [my] sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) And then lastly, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) This is God’s promise!
Victor J. Reimer
Photo credit: “Old Car City” by Dolf Botha
*Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV), copyrighted © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.