Author: Ron Graham
You may hear it said that a person is saved by grace and grace alone —“grace and nothing else”. Or you may hear the principle implied in statements such as, “I had absolutely nothing to do with my own salvation!”. Or maybe, “There is nothing you can do to be saved. There is no human part to salvation.” Is this true?
Now I'm not going to say that grace is like a rescue boat without a lifeline aboard, and God calls out, “If you want me to save you, you'll have to throw me a lifeline, because I lack one in this boat!”. That would be silly, and I can assure you that I don't see grace like that. God has the lifeline. God heaves the lifeline. God says, “Quick, grab this!”
Here's what is true: God doesn't need our help, rather we need his. We cannot save ourselves by ourselves. We are wholly dependent on God’s grace. We don't pool resources with God so as to fill a lack in his grace. Grace is all-sufficient.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not from works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Salvation cannot be earned by works. We are in debt to God and nothing we do can pay the debt. Salvation is a gift from God, a gift wholly undeserved. But I ask you: does this mean that we have absolutely nothing to do with our own salvation or that there is no human part to salvation? No, Paul never said any such thing.
Firstly, you will observe that Paul says above, "saved by grace through faith" (Ephesians 2:8-9). People say, “by grace and grace alone.” They contradict Paul. He says "by grace through faith".
Now it is true that faith is a gift of God given by grace. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Clearly we could not have faith unless God kindly revealed to us what we should believe.
So faith or believing is something we must do in order to be saved by grace. One cannot be saved by grace if one does not believe, because salvation is by grace through faith. and not by grace only.
Perhaps you will say, “Yes, but faith is not a work.” That is curious. Do you mean that believing is not something we do? Suppose we ask someone, “Do you believe?” and the reply is, “Yes I do.” Clearly this language shows that faith is something done. It is a work.
"Then they asked him, 'What must we do to do the works of God?' Jesus answered them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent'" (John 6:28-29).
Faith is a work of God, and we do that work by the grace of God. Through doing this work we are saved by grace. So we see that it is wrong to say we are saved by grace and grace alone. It is true to say we are saved by grace through believing.
Truly, we have faith by God’s grace. Nevertheless it is we who hear the word of God, and we who believe. It is our doing, though we do it by grace.
Believing is no easy work. It is no small thing to maintain your faith in the face of persecution. God, however, requires such a committed faith for salvation by grace.
¶"You have been grieved by various trials. Gold is melted by fire, yet refined. Your faith has more value than gold. When tested by fiery trials, your faith will yield praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1Peter 1:7).
Not only do grace and faith go together, but but so do faith and obedience. A genuine saving faith is a working faith. We are not talking about works without faith. Nor are we talking about faith without works. Neither of those can save us. We are talking (as indeed the scriptures speak) about faith working in obedience to God.
James, speaking of Abraham, says, “Don't you see that faith was working with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (James 2:21-24). We are saved by grace through faith perfected by obedience to God.
Paul, at the beginning of his letter to the Romans claims, “Through [the Son of God] we have received grace and apostleship for the obedience of faith among all nations for his name” (Romans 1:5).
Again at the end of his letter he uses the same phrase, “the obedience of faith” or “obedience to the faith” (Romans 16:25-27). Readers of Romans who miss those words at the beginning will, I hope, catch them at the letter’s end.
By grace the gospel has been revealed. If people want to be saved and to glorify God, they need to believe the gospel —and not just believe, but also obey. Is God glorified by someone who refuses to believe the word of his grace? Or is God glorified by someone who believes his word but will not obey?
This brings us to an argument used to support the notion of “Grace and grace alone”. It is said that if human beings add anything to grace, then they steal some of God’s glory and sovereignty. All glory and power belongs to God, therefore salvation is by God’s grace alone, and human beings contribute nothing. Is this so?
The Bible does not speak of “adding” anything to grace, whether it be faith, repentance, or good works. As we saw above, the scriptures say that we are saved by grace “through” faith “perfected by” and “working with” works of obedience (Ephesians 2:8-9, James 2:21-24). We don't add anything to grace, but true grace will add an obedient faith to us, to God’s glory.
Because our faith and obedience come by grace, we glorify God in believing and obeying his word, and in no way detract from his glory and power. Paul spoke of “the obedience of faith... for his name” (Romans 1:5) which means for the honour and glory of his name.
As Paul said to the Philippians, “Be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11).