Are you saved? That is the crucial question in life. What is your answer? That we live in frightening times is an understatement. We live in a day such as the world has never seen. It is a time when the very foundations are being shaken. A time of abounding lawlessness that reveals itself in fearful rebellion and bloodshed. Our cities are unsafe. There is no regard for law and order. The entire structure of our modern, enlightened civilization is on the verge of total collapse.
And everywhere men are desperately searching for answers. The trouble is that men search in the wrong way and from the wrong source. Men refuse to reckon with the fact that the root of the terrible problem of the world is sin. Sin against the living God of heaven and earth who will not excuse or ignore sin, but Who executes vengeance and holy wrath against the workers of iniquity. Refusing to reckon with God man searches in himself for comfort, peace, and hope in the troubled world. He will never find it. His end will be the utter despair of hell.
The Bible has the answer. And that answer is Salvation from sin and death in Jesus Christ by the grace of God! Those who are saved by grace through faith as the gift of God are not disturbed by the terrible events of the day. They see these things and they rejoice. They rejoice because they know that through all these events Jesus is swiftly coming again to realize the salvation He has purchased for them in the glory of the new heavens and earth. And these have comfort, peace, and hope!
And that basically is the message of the little text we wish to expound for you in this pamphlet. It is taken from Ephesians 2:8 and it reads: "By grace are ye saved, through faith and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God."
We ought to notice at the outset that little word "For" with which the text begins. "For" means "because" and it indicates that this text is the reason for something, an explanation of what the Apostle Paul has stated in the immediately preceding context.
This implies that the statement of this text does not stand alone. It is not an isolated truth which one can either accept or reject without any effect upon the rest of the contents of his faith. FOR by grace are ye saved... salvation is by grace and by grace alone. And it is the indispensable ground or foundation without which something else cannot stand. Denying the truth of salvation by grace means one destroys the very foundation of the truth of the Word of God.
That for which this statement is the reason is stated in verse 7 where we read: "That in the ages to come He (that is God) might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Jesus Christ." We learn from the preceding verses that we were dead in trespasses and sins, that in these sins we walked following the devil, that our conversation or life in the past consisted in the fulfilling of our sinful lusts and desires. Thus we were children of wrath. But God is rich in mercy and full of love for us. And even when we were dead in sin He caused His love to reach us by quickening, making us alive in Jesus Christ - by grace. And He made us to sit in heavenly places in Christ. The purpose of it all is that He might show the exceeding riches of His grace. In other words, God saved us exactly in order that through that salvation the riches of His grace might be displayed. And this is possible simply because salvation is by grace! Here we have laid our finger upon the very heart of the gospel message. A message beautifully summed up by the same Apostle Paul in Romans 11:36, "For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen! ..."
Turning our attention to the next text itself we notice that it says three things about salvation: salvation is by grace, it is through faith, and it is the gift of God. Let us briefly consider each of these thoughts.
Salvation is by grace. What is salvation? A currently popular idea of salvation is that it is social and moral improvement. Jesus is not a Savior in the sense that He suffered and died on the cross and thus made atonement and brought reconciliation for the sins of God's children. Jesus, it is said, is our example. He showed us in his life how to live in peace with all men, how to realize the brotherhood of mankind under the fatherhood of God. If men would but follow the simple example of Jesus there would be peace on earth, all of our troubles would be removed, the Kingdom of God would be ushered in, and all men everywhere could enjoy the good life. You recognize this as nothing but the old social gospel which is just as prevalent today as it ever was. The church is urged to get out into the world and do something about race relations, pollution, overcrowding, population control, war and many other things. The church must not preach a "pie in the sky" salvation based on the blood of the Lamb that taketh away the sin of the world. This is NOT salvation. And the preaching of this kind of salvation is not the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the infallible Scriptures. Neither will this kind of preaching yield the precious fruits of comfort, peace, and hope for God's people.
Salvation in the Biblical sense is a very rich concept. The term used in our text literally means: to heal, to make well. It is sometimes used in reference to the healing of various persons which Jesus performed. In the spiritual sense the idea is that we are healed of the deadly disease of sin and restored to spiritual health. It also has the meaning of: to rescue from danger or destruction. And in this sense the emphasis is on the fact that God rescues us from the destruction of hell where His fierce and holy wrath burns eternally.
Salvation then contains two essential elements: 1) it is deliverance from deepest woe, and, 2) it is a raising to highest glory.
This is obvious from the very context in which we find this Word of God. Paul begins the chapter by telling us that we are dead in trespasses and sins, apart from the grace of God. The sentence of God spoken already to our first parents in paradise has been executed: "The day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." They ate of the forbidden fruit and thus rebelled against God, and they died immediately, and we died in them. We are born dead in sin. All we can ever do is sin. We hate God and our neighbor. We live and walk according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Dead in trespasses and sins we have our conversation in the lusts of our flesh, we fulfill the desires of the flesh and of the mind and are by nature children of wrath even as others.
This is our misery! Spiritual death! And as far as we are concerned it is hopeless! We cannot save ourselves, we cannot even desire to save ourselves let alone do anything towards our salvation. No more than a dead corpse is able to arise out of the coffin can we save ourselves. It is from that deepest woe that we are delivered when God saves us!
And we are raised to highest glory! In terms of the context we are quickened together with Jesus Christ. We who by nature are spiritually dead are made alive with Christ -- that is salvation. Not only so but we are raised to highest glory for being made alive with Christ we are raised up from our death and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. . . THAT is salvation.
How is that salvation accomplished? To put it personally, how am I saved? The Bible answers, "By grace"!
Grace has various meanings in the Bible. It has as its essential meaning, "beauty". Sometimes it is translated "thanks". But more often it is used in the sense of the unmerited favor of God shown to His people in Christ by which power He saves them. That is the obvious meaning in our text.
Grace is, we should not fail to note, first of all an attribute of God, a characteristic of His Being. God is the God of all grace; He is the gracious God. God is in Himself beautiful, beautiful in all of His adorable virtues. That means that when the Bible says as it does in this text that salvation is of grace, it is the same as saying salvation is of the Lord. How absolutely necessary! How else could dead, lost sinners be saved than by the Almighty God Himself? Unless God Himself puts new life in us we remain dead and forever enslaved in the prison of our sin.
That is the beauty and comfort of the Gospel! God willed to make us alive by the power of His wonderful grace. God who is rich in mercy for His great love wherewith He loved us determined to make us beautiful with His own beauty.
By grace therefore He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him. By grace He predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ. All of this is according to the good pleasure of His will. And the purpose of this gracious election of His people in Christ is "the praise of the glory of His grace" by which power He has made us accepted in His beloved Son. Thus the Scriptures testify in Ephesians 1:3-6. By grace are ye saved, therefore, even before the creation of the world.
By grace God sent His only begotten Son into the world to seek and to save that which was lost. There was no other way. We were fallen sinners and the justice of God had to be satisfied. And that satisfaction could only be made by His Son, true God and Man in the way of substitutionary atonement. By grace God gave His Son over to the death of the cross. By grace He poured out all of His holy wrath upon Him so that He descended into the very depths of hell and cried out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Atonement was made for us. Through the shedding of His blood we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. And again it is all according to the riches of His grace! (Eph.1:7).
Hence, by grace the children of God were reconciled through the death of God's Son. They now stand before God righteous, free forever from the guilt of sin and worthy of everlasting life. That's precisely why the text says "ye ARE saved". Salvation for the saints of God is accomplished. It is finished. They are at this moment saved and they always will be saved. God's justice is forever satisfied. All by grace!
Now, you ask; but how does this salvation merited on the cross by Christ become mine? Many preachers will tell you, you must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. That of course is true in itself. Certainly the Bible makes plain that there can be no salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ. But what many mean when they say you must believe is you must accept the sincere offer of the gospel. God loves all men, they say. By grace He provided salvation for all men through His Son on the cross. Now that salvation is all wrapped up in a pretty package and God says all you have to do is accept My gift and you will be saved. Salvation then is no more entirely by grace, it is partly by grace and partly by the work of men who must accept it. And so many preachers will beg and cajole (And I use that term deliberately! - it means deceive!) their listeners in highly emotional "altar calls" to accept Christ and the offer of salvation. If this be your answer to the question "how do I receive salvation" then I pity you! I pity you because you have lost all the comfort of the gospel. If I must accept the offer, if I must do anything at all towards my salvation I am forever lost. I know that from my own experience. My experience tells me every day, I am a damworthy sinner, dead in trespasses and sins.
Thank God for the comforting, peace giving, hope encouraging message of the gospel which answers, "through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God"!
Salvation is received by the sinner, no, we should say given to the sinner through faith. THROUGH FAITH, you understand! Faith is the means by which God gives us salvation. It is not a condition to salvation which we must fulfill. It is not an act which we must perform upon the basis of which God will save us. Faith is the living bond between God's people and Christ. It is the connection between us and Christ through which God causes all of the blessings of salvation which are in Christ to flow into us. By faith we are united to Christ and live out of Him just as the branches live out of the vine (cf.John 15).
Through faith we receive the knowledge of God. Not a mere intellectual knowledge of the mind, but the spiritual knowledge of the heart which is, according to John 17:3, life eternal. Knowledge by which we know God as our God, the God who loves us in this life, and who will save us one day in the glory of heaven. Along with and rooted in that knowledge of faith is the confidence of faith by which I am assured that all of this is true for me.Through faith I have the firm conviction that Jesus died for me and that I am saved by grace through faith! Through faith I say I am not my own but I belong in life and in death to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. I belong to Him in life, this life, twentieth century life with all of its frustration, fear, and anxiety. And I belong to Jesus also in death. when the cold hand of death takes hold of me I shall not stand alone. Jesus shall be with me also in the shadow of death's valley to comfort me and receive me into Father's house of many mansions where He has prepared a place for me!
Yes, Christian friend, you are saved by grace, through faith! And that not of yourself: it is the gift of God! You did not earn your salvation, you did not even want it. It is not of your works, not even of the work of faith. It is the gift of God. Salvation by grace is the gift of God, salvation by grace through faith is the gift of God! It is the free, unmerited, undeserved gift of Almighty God!
Are YOU saved by grace through faith? The Word of God is not merely presenting some objective doctrine. It doesn't say salvation is by grace through faith; and it is the gift of God. Listen, by grace are YE saved.... Does God say that to you? Have you been chosen in Christ, reconciled to God by His death, united to Him by faith? Let me ask you this: "Are you a sinner?" Do you recognize yourself as an empty vessel, dead in trespasses and sins? That is the fruit of the Spirit of Christ in you.
Do not despair, do not fear; rather, rejoice and be very glad! Flee to the cross of Jesus and see there the blood of Him Who died for you. Go to Joseph's empty tomb and see that He arose the victor over death. Look heavenward and expect your Savior -- He is coming quickly and his reward is with Him. You have comfort, peace, and hope. The comfort of salvation by grace, the peace of forgiveness by grace, and the hope of life everlasting by grace.
Do you know that? Then you say with the same Apostle Paul, "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of Jesus Christ" (Gal. 6:14). There is no room for boasting. Salvation is all by grace. But that also means that every ground for despair has been removed. The eternal, faithful God will never fail! Glory be to Him, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things!
That is not my word, it is the blessed gospel of Jesus Christ.
Prof. Robert Decker (Wife: Marilyn)
Ordained: October 1965
Pastorates: Doon, IA - 1965; South Holland, IL - 1969; Professor at the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1973
Emeritus: 2006Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Robert_Decker
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