Jerry C. Brewer
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God…” (Eph. 2:8).
The gospel system of justification is one of grace on God’s part and faith on man’s part. So the gospel—the message of grace and faith—is that which reveals God’s grace and produces obedient faith in those who accept it. It was through the free gift of Christ that God’s grace was manifested to the world, but it is through the faith of man that His grace is applied to our souls. The plan of salvation is singular, but consists of two parts—God’s and man’s.
The Grace Of God
So far as God’s grace is concerned, He has done everything He’s going to do to bring about our salvation. His plan to save the race of man was purposed from eternity, executed in the birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and coronation of Jesus Christ, and revealed to man by the Holy Spirit through Christ’s apostles in the first century. His purpose was carried out, Christ died once for sin (Heb. 9:27), and everything necessary for man to know about God’s plan of salvation has already been revealed by the Holy Spirit (Jude 3; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Titus 2:11-12). Note the past tense of Titus 2:11—“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” God has completed His work in saving man, His grace has been revealed and there is nothing more He will do.
As the prime cause of salvation, God willed it according to His eternal purpose (Eph. 3:7-11). As the sacrificial cause of salvation, Christ freely gave Himself for our sins (Rom. 5:6-8). As the procuring cause, His blood purchased us from sin (Acts 20:28; 1 John 2:2; Eph. 1:7). As the revealing cause, the Holy Spirit miraculously guided the apostles into all truth (John 14:26; 16:13) and revealed the mystery—or plan—of salvation through them (Eph. 3:3, 5). As the instrumental cause of salvation, the gospel which was revealed by the Spirit brought life and immortality to light, (2 Tim. 1:10), and is God’s power to save (Rom. 1:16-17). Since God has done all of this, that leaves man responsible for availing himself of God’s grace and that must be done “by faith.”
It is by faith that man appropriates the grace of God and receives salvation. That was Paul’s argument in Galatians 3:6 when he said, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Notice that Paul doesn’t say “Abraham believed in God,” but that, “Abraham believed God.”
When Moses disobeyed God’s instruction to speak to the rock at Kadesh and struck it twice with his rod, God told him he would not enter Canaan, “Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel…” (Num. 20:12). Moses believed in God, but did not believe God. One may profess belief in God, but if one does not obey God, he is an unbeliever and in this sense, Moses was an unbeliever.
Faith in God is not mere mental assent to His existence, but a willingness to do whatever God says. That is amply illustrated in Hebrews chapter eleven. The faith of those worthies listed there was one which moved them to action. “By faith Abel offered…” (Heb. 11:4). God told Abel what to offer, and Abel did what God told him, for “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Likewise, “By faith, Noah being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear and prepared an ark to the saving of his house” (Heb. 11:7). By His grace (Gen. 6:8) God instructed Noah to build an ark, and gave him the specifications for it. By faith, Noah obeyed and built the ark according to God’s instructions and it was said of him, “Thus did Noah according to all that God commanded him, so did he” (Gen. 6:22). That was acting “by faith.” So it was with Abraham’s faith. He heard God’s voice and acted upon the commands God gave him. Thus, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Faith is doing what God says because God says to do it. No other kind of faith is acceptable to God, and no other kind of faith will make one righteous.