Bible Question:

Is salvation by grace through faith alone?

Bible Answer:

The New Testament teaches that a person obtains eternal life or salvation by God’s grace (Acts 15:11; 18:27; 20:24; Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:7-8) though faith (Romans 5:1-2; Ephesians 2:8-9).

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9  (NASB)

By Grace We Have Been Saved Through Faith

A complete examination of the New Testament reveals that God’s grace gives us salvation and everything that follows the moment of true or saving faith. By His grace a person is saved, justified or declared to be as holy as God (Romans 3:24).

. . . being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus . . . Romans 3:24 (NASB)

If we examine Ephesians 1:4, we discover that God planned to provide salvation before the foundation of the world.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. Ephesians 1:3-4 (NASB)

God did this because He knew His creation would become sinners and sin. Romans 5:6-10 says that we are not good people but sinners and enemies of God.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8  (NASB)

We could not gain eternal life because we were helpless. Therefore, He decided to help us. The message of Ephesians 1:7-8 is that our gracious God rescues sinful men and women from their sin by His grace. This incredible grace has been made available to us as the result of Christ’s death on the cross (Romans 5:15). But He did not give us a little grace or a cup full of grace. He lavished His grace on us!

 In  Him we have redemption through His blood, the  forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.  Ephesians 1:7-8  (NASB)

Salvation Is By Grace Alone 

The New Testament also teaches that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone (Acts 4:12; 15:11; 18:27; Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9). That is, eternal life is not the result of anything that anyone can do. It is not the result of a person’s works before or after he or she believes in Jesus Christ. Instead, salvation or eternal life depends exclusively on God’s grace.

. . . being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus . . . Romans 3:24 (NASB)

By His grace we are given true faith. Ephesians 2:8-9 states it this way,

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9  (NASB)

The literal Greek of Ephesians 2:8-9 states that salvation: 1) is “not out of yourselves,” 2) is “the gift of God,” 3) is “not out of works” and, 4) consequently, “no one may boast.”  That is rather emphatic! Nothing “out of ourselves” earns us salvation because it is a gift from God. Salvation is not the result of any effort or works. Consequently, no one will have any reason for boasting. Salvation is exclusively the result of God’s grace through faith. God will get all the credit for a person’s salvation. No one deserves salvation and no one can earn it (Romans 4:4-8). This means that salvation is possible only because of God’s grace.

The Greek word for “grace” is charis. It means “generosity or favor.”

In the inscriptions and papyri of the Hellenistic period, grace is still synonymous with favor and friendship, but it means especially the “favor” of a friend, a prince, or the gods.[1]

The best description of grace is that it is undeserved favor because of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. As a result, God the Father justifies or declares Christians to be righteous, as righteous as God is righteous. Then we continue in His grace. Wow! By God’s grace we receive faith, are declared righteous and then continue in God’s grace. That is the message of Romans 5:1-2,

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2

Notice that the verse says, “into this grace.” That is a wonderful reality for every Christian. Christians remain in His grace.  Christians do not deserve God’s grace and we cannot earn His grace, but we live in it. Since we cannot earn salvation, this reveals that God’s grace is unbelievably special. It reveals God’s heart toward to every Christian.

Salvation Is By Grace Alone Through Faith Alone

Faith is also God’s gift (Acts 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9). We are urged to believe in Christ, yet faith is given to us by God. How these two truths work together is a mystery and only God has the answer. Many people think they understand how election works, but the apostle Paul did not understand (Romans 9:14). The message of scripture is that by God’s grace we receive faith, which is the act of believing and trusting that Christ did everything that was necessary to forgive our sins and grant us eternal life. True, saving faith is evidenced by repentance and submission to Jesus Christ. They all exist at the moment of saving faith.

Grace, salvation and faith are all gifts from God (Acts 3:16; Romans 3:24; 5:15). That is the message of Romans 6:23.

For the wages of  sin is death, but the free gift of God is  eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (NASB)

We can rejoice that God did not require us to perform works in order to obtain eternal life. Instead, He decreed in eternity past that salvation would be by faith and not by works (Romans 3:27). Why? The answer is found in Romans 3:10-12 which states that we cannot do any works that are good enough to obtain eternal life.

. . . as it is written, “
There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”  Romans 3:10-12  (NASB)

Note that Jesus told the rich, young ruler in Matthew 19:17 that there is only One who is good. The man wanted to do some good work. Jesus said he couldn’t. Then Jesus played along to prove that even if given a chance to do some good work he wouldn’t, and the rich, young ruler didn’t. If we keep reading, Jesus reveals that He knew the man wouldn’t (Matthew 19:23-26). The message is that we are not good (Psalm 14:2-3; John 8:24, 34; Romans 3:10-13). We are slaves of sin at birth and all that we can do is continue to sin during our life. Abraham was saved by faith and not by works (Romans 4).

Work Out Your Salvation With Fear

Yet, Philippians 2:12 tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. But notice that verse 13 says that it is actually God who is working in us according to His good pleasure – His will. Verse 13 refers to God’s sanctifying or transforming work in the life of a Christian by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-23; Ephesians 5:17-6:5). There are many passages in scripture that urge us to do good works. But only a true Christian can do good works (Matthew 13:19-23; Ephesians 2:10) because good works are actually the result of the Holy Spirit through us.

If a Christian must avoid “bad works” once saved, then salvation is not a gift. Then it is earned by human effort. If salvation is conditional, then Jesus lied in John 3:16 when He promised that a 1) Christian will not perish and 2) will have eternal life. If I must work hard to earn or keep my salvation, then salvation is by works and we are not helpless! Not only are not helpless, but then salvation is not by God’s grace through faith.

Conclusion:

Romans 10:9-13 is a wonderful passage because we are not told to work, to pray the rosary, do penance for sin, or continue to work after obtaining salvation. Instead people are urged to believe in Christ and confess or declare that Jesus is Lord of their lives.

. . .  that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be  disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is  Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-13  (NASB)

Salvation is not by works, but by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone! Salvation is God’s gift.

References:

1. Ceslas Spicq and James D. Ernest, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 501–502.

Reference Links:

What Jesus Taught About Eternal Life
Does a man choose salvation, and does God choose a man to be saved?
Do you believe that baptism is a part of salvation?
Is baptism (immersion) essential for salvation?