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Friday, December 29, 2023

For By Grace You Have Been Saved Through Faith Alone

No, Eph. 2:8-9 does not read that way but that is the way most seem to want to read it.  Let me quote the verses for you from the New King James version. 

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." 

No believer would discount the grace of God in man's salvation.  You surely do not believe you deserve to be saved, do you?  If you cannot count your own sins I suspect it would not be too hard to find someone who would be willing to do it for you.  And, I add, that is to say nothing of those hidden sins that no man can see in another, those sins that only God knows about you. 

Many people are unaware that evil thoughts are sinful in God's sight.  "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.  These are the things which defile a man." (Matt. 15:19-20 NKJV)  "There is none righteous, no, not one." (Rom. 3:10 NKJV)  "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23 NKJV)  That means me; it means you. 

So, I am thankful for grace for my sins but it distresses me to see what man has done to Eph. 2:8-9.  The passage has been perverted; the perversion has been made the be-all and end-all of God's teaching on the subject.  It is as if no other verses in the Bible have any authority on the topic of salvation.  If God has spoken elsewhere it makes no difference for these two verses (I should say the perversion of them) are all we will take into account and accept.  We tell God do not waste your time telling me anything else for I do not want to hear it. 

We are unwilling to accept that the same man who wrote Eph. 2:8-9 by inspiration of the Holy Spirit also wrote other books of the New Testament by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and also spoke in those books on the subject of salvation.  We forget the Psalmist said, "The entirety of your word is truth." (Psalms 119:160) 

We pit Paul against himself to make sure that Eph. 2:8-9 (our perversion of it) remains on a pedestal above all other passages on the subject.  The passage in Eph. 2 teaches the truth on how man is saved when properly understood and not perverted but my problem is with the perversion.  The passage is a summary statement of how man comes to have salvation but where the trouble comes is man's willingness to define the terms there as he very well sees fit and desires.  For example, who gets to define terms like grace, faith, and works?  And, that is where the perversion comes in. 

Let me define grace for you the way it is commonly defined by man--grace is God doing all the work and me not lifting even my little finger.  It is total unconditional salvation.  The idea is if God makes any demand on me (puts a condition on salvation) it cannot be grace.  Well, tell that to Noah who found grace in God’s eyes (Gen. 6:8 NKJV) but nevertheless had to build an ark to be saved. 

Faith is commonly defined, in this context (Eph. 2:8), as what I believe.  It is subjective, not objective; it does not depend on a book, chapter, and verse because it is what I believe.  I knew a lady who once said words to the effect that she did not care what Paul said about women preachers.  She knew what she believed was her idea.   That is how faith is commonly defined among men today as it relates to Eph. 2:8-9. 

Works is defined as being anything that requires me to take a single breath.  If I have to lift my eyelids it is salvation by works.  That is the way much of so-called Christendom views works as it relates to salvation. 

I totally reject all of the above. It is a perversion of truth.  It is a perversion of the teaching of Eph. 2:8-9.  Let us hear a little from Paul, the one no one seems to be willing to listen to except in Eph. 2:8-9.  Let him explain himself. 

"But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God which is through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe.  For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 3:21-24 NKJV) 

Does this sound familiar to Eph. 2:8-9?  It ought to.  But, how does the passage say we are justified by faith and grace?  Answer--"through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (v. 24) 

Well, how does Paul say a man enters Christ Jesus where this redemption is--redemption "is in Christ Jesus?"  He says just two chapters later, "do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus." (Rom. 6:3 NKJV)  Was this a slip of the tongue or of the pen?  No, for he says it again, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Gal. 3:26-27 NKJV)  By the way, can you put on Christ without baptism?  If so where is the verse that says so?  (see also 1 Cor. 12:13) 

Why is a man a son of God through faith in Christ Jesus?  Because he was baptized into Christ.  Reread Gal. 3:26-27 again.  I challenge one and all to find even a single passage of scripture in the New Testament that tells you how to get into Christ outside of baptism. 

By faith, a man is led to be baptized into Christ Jesus.  No one would or could be baptized into Christ without first having faith in him.  Forgiving grace is found in Christ.  The reader will see readily that I do not pit Paul against himself.  Faith, grace, and baptism all fit together into one package.  Paul meant what he said in every single passage of scripture he wrote but those who interpret Eph. 2:8-9 the way most do today have him fighting himself for they cannot admit he meant what he said in passages like Gal. 3:26-27. 

They cannot understand why he arose and was baptized to wash away his sins (Acts 22:16) unless of course the passage does not mean what it literally says.  They have to symbolize all such passages (and dream up what the symbols are supposed to mean for the Bible does not tell them).  Paul could not have literally meant that a man enters Christ by baptism no matter what he said about it for that would mean one had to be baptized to be a Christian, to be in Christ, the very thing they deny.  They thus pit Paul against himself by their man-made tradition. 

Paul was baptized to wash away his sins (Acts 22:16) and taught that one enters Christ by baptism.  He said Christ is the savior of the body (Eph. 5:23) and that the church is his body (Eph. 1:22-23) but says that body is entered through baptism.  "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." (1 Cor. 12:13 NKJV)  If Christ is the Savior of the body and you are baptized into that body how are you going to be saved without being baptized (for the remission of your sins--Acts 2:38, Acts 2:16) the same way Paul was baptized?  This body one is baptized into, the body of Christ, the church, is cleansed "with the washing of water by the word." (Eph. 5:26 NKJV)  No washing of water (baptism) then no cleansing. 

Paul, unlike those today, did not see a conflict between being saved by grace through faith and being baptized for the remission of sins.  As said earlier, it was all part of one package.  Baptism for the remission of sins is a part of God's grace.  A man is led to it by faith. 

When Paul was baptized to wash away his sins he did not see that as salvation by works but salvation by a living faith (by grace you have been saved through faith).  When Ananias, a Holy Spirit filled man sent by God to Paul, told him to "Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins" (Acts 22:16 NKJV) faith led him to believe that this was God speaking to him.  When he complied with God's command he was, you get to choose:  (a) justified by faith (b) justified by works. 

Let me ask another question.  What if Paul had refused to be baptized to wash away his sins?  Would his faith have been a living faith or a dead faith?  When you answer that one you will know why you will find baptism in a proper exegesis of Eph. 2:8-9.  The way Eph. 2:8-9 is commonly understood today it demands a dead faith for there will be no baptism to wash away your sins found in it according to the common understanding. 

Paul believed and obeyed and was saved by grace.  We disbelieve and disobey and say we are saved by grace.  Friends, there is a world of difference in those two positions.  Both cannot be right.    

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