Friday, March 5, 2010

Saved by Grace, through Faith

Grace is God's unearned favor. But how does it become effective in the life of a sinner? Here is a man who is lost in his sins. He's perfectly content to live his life as he pleases without God. How is it that he is going to come to benefit from God's grace? God has to do several things in order to save this man.

First, God must bring this man to an opportunity to hear the Gospel. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rom 10: 17). No person of ordinary years and intelligence can be saved apart from hearing the Gospel. That is why the church has and must fulfill its mandate to preach the gospel to everyone. You and I are part of the means by which God fulfills his saving purpose in the world by sharing the Gospel with friends, relatives, neighbors, and strangers. The kind of faith necessary to appropriate God's grace is not natural to a fallen man or woman. It is something that must "come" to him or her as a gift of grace from God, and God bestows that gift, according to Paul, through the hearing of the Gospel: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom 1: 16). The Gospel message, not my testimony, is what God has promised to bless for saving sinners. I need to share my testimony, but I need to be sure that it contains the Gospel and not just my religious experiences.

Secondly, God must bring the sinner to an awareness of his sinfulness, lostness, and need of salvation. This is often referred to as "conviction of sin". This is an aspect of evangelism that I believe has been by-passed in our day. Look at most of the evangelistic methods that are trumpeted in churches and what is substituted for this step is a quick admission that "you are a sinner". There is no brokenness in that. It is merely an acknowledgment of a fact. Sinners must come to be "broken" for their sins. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matt 5: 4 NASB). Our society has become jaded to sin. We watch it on T.V. and laugh about it when we should blush for shame. God give us sinners broken over their sins and desperate for some kind of deliverance!

Thirdly, God must work in the sinner the gift of the new birth. "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3: 3 NASB). This "new birth" must come from God and not ourselves: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3: 6 NASB). Contrary to the teachings of the revivalist Charles Finney, the new birth is God's work, not ours.
"[W]hen we were dead dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ" (Eph 2: 5 NASB). "In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth" (James 1: 18 NASB).

What results from this labor on God's part toward his enemy is that the sinner, as a result of God's merciful working, receives a new nature through the new birth that instinctively looks to Christ for salvation. Faith and repentance are born in the heart and the one who was a rebel now submits to the will of God freely and gladly. God drags no one kicking and screaming into his kingdom. Repentance from sin and faith in Christ come as the natural outflow of a life changed by the new birth. God then deals with the legal status before his bar of justice in relation to the changed sinner. He forgives all sin and declares the sinner to be as righteous as Christ himself. The sins of the sinner have been paid for by Christ on the cross, and the perfect obedience of Christ is "credited" or "imputed" to the sinner on the basis of his faith. Luther called this an "alien" righteousness, because it is not our righteousness that justifies but the righteousness of another given by grace through faith in Christ. "Therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 5: 1). And so the sinner is saved by grace through faith.


  1. Thanks AJ, good stuff as always!

  2. Good article!

    I reviewed the present-day gospel in the light of Peter and Paul's preaching in the NT and came up with my British website "What Is The Gospel?"

    See it here:

  3. AJ, you never leave a comment option on Face Book, so I dont get to thank you for all the updates and links.........thanks for all that you do, you are a great pastor and friend

  4. Brian,

    Good stuff. Read your blog on the gospel and enjoyed it. Others should look at it, too.