Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 14, 1967
NUMBER 19, PAGE 2b-3a

Salvation By Grace

Jesse M. Kelley

That salvation is by the grace of God will not be denied or contested by anyone who is even in a small degree acquainted with the word of God. God's grace, or His "unmerited favor" to man is characteristically a New Testament theme; the religion of Jesus Christ is preeminently a religion of grace. This does not assume that prior to the coming of Christ God's grace was never extended to man. There are numerous instances in the Old Testament where God extended his grace to man. But the religion of Moses was a system of law, rules, and regulations wherein it was impossible for man to stand justified in God's sight. It was a system that demanded sinless perfection; one sin placed a man under the condemnation of God and it was impossible for the "blood of bulls and goats," the sacrifices under this system, to take away sin. (Heb. 10:4) One sin therefore placed man under the condemnation of the law. This is what James meant when he said, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." (James 2:10) Thus Paul calls the law of Moses the "ministration of condemnation," (II Cor. 3:9) while James refers to the will of Christ as the "law of liberty." (James 1:25) It sets one at liberty who was under the condemnation of the law and of sin.

Grace, in a preeminent sense, came into the world through the Son of God. "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. (John 1:17) Thus grace is incorporated in and became an integral part of the word of Christ. Paul therefore indentifies the word of Christ as the "word of God's grace." To the elders at Ephesus he said, "And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." (Acts 20:32) He further identifies grace as that which "teaches" or instructs. "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world." (Titus 3: 11, 12) The New Testament of Christ is therefore identified as the law of grace, word of Grace, or a system of teaching given by the grace of God by and through which a man can stand justified in God's sight. This is why Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation..." (Rom. 1:16) God's grace is administered by means of the gospel. Every command of the gospel therefore, is a manifestation of God's grace revealed through Jesus Christ. It is for man's good. It is not merited; man does not earn it; he does not deserve it. If he did it wouldn't be "grace," but rather a payment of a debt owed by God.

Grace is conditional. The conditions of the gospel which administer God's grace are clear and concise. You can't separate the grace of God from the conditions of the gospel. Let us illustrate: Physical life is by the grace of God; yet no one believes such life is by grace alone. Each knows that if he does not breathe the air about him, and take food for the nourishment of the body he cannot live. These are but conditions of the grace of physical life. If one does not appropriate such conditions to his needs the grace of God will not sustain life.

If we can see this principle in nature, we can also see it in the spiritual realm. Spiritual life is by the grace of God, but there are conditions that must be adhered to if we lay hold on and maintain it. God's grace is as abundant as the air, but let no man think that salvation is by grace alone in the spiritual realm any more than it is in the physical realm.

God is not a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality. The God that is over nature is over the spiritual. He does not implement one principle in one realm and go contrary to that principle in another. When Israel was in the wilderness God sent serpents among them because of their murmuring and they were bitten. God then provided them with the means of grace whereby they could be cured of the bite and not die. There the grace of God ended; and if Israel had insisted upon a "grace alone" salvation they would have died, even though God's grace had been extended.

But they recognized what multitudes fail to see today: they had to meet the conditions God stipulated in this case to lay hold upon God's grace. They knew that if they did not meet these conditions they would die in their misery. Again in Genesis 6, we have the account of God saving Noah. He extended His grace to Noah in telling him that He was going to destroy the living, and informing him how he could save himself and his house. There God's grace ended. Noah was left to lay hold upon the grace so mercifully provided him. Noah consequently appropriated God's grace by doing what God told him to do — he met the conditions of the grace extended to him.

The means of escape for us is not a serpent of brass in the wilderness as in the case of Israel, or a wooden ark as in the case of Noah. We reach, and are saved by the blood of Christ when we meet the conditions of the gospel of Christ. As in the cases of Noah and Israel, God has told us we can be saved; that He is willing to save us; and that He has provided the means (grace) whereby we can be saved. The means provided is the blood of Christ "shed for the remission of sins." We appropriate the blood of Christ by obedience to the conditions or commands set out in his gospel. Here is the "teaching" of grace supplied by the gospel. It teaches us to believe, (Heb. 11:6) Repent of sins, (Acts 17:30) Confess Christ, (Rom. 10:10) and to be baptized for the remission of sins. (Acts 2:38) When we meet these conditions we by no means earn salvation, or merit it; we simply appropriate the grace of God to our needs and God saves us. It is that simple. And as with Noah and Israel, we can say that we are "saved by the grace of God."

The truth is, "we have access by faith unto this grace." (Rom. 5:2) It is the same kind of faith by which Noah and Israel had access the faith which moves or motivates to obedience. This is why James said, "Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect." And, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (James 2)

This is salvation by grace. Any man therefore, who would separate grace from works, or grace from the conditions of the gospel, is putting asunder what God hath joined together.