By Grace Are Ye Saved
by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1996
There is nothing more confusing to the majority of people who love and heed the biblical revelation than the subject of grace. There have been more heated arguments over this subject than any other within the Bible. The reason for this is because people have not been applying certain literary principles that govern the understanding of any subject. The truth is, there should be no difficulty in comprehending any topic in a perfectly proper manner if certain rules of biblical interpretation will be taken into account. It is the lack of using these biblical tools (that are plainly provided in the Bible) that the matter of grace has taken on the role of being the most difficult doctrine of the Bible to understand. The problem, however, arises because people wish to apply in their study what has been called the "apples and oranges" principle in doctrinal affairs, rather than the "apples and apples" or the "oranges and oranges." In other words, people are trying to compare the rules that govern the understanding of one particular subject with the rules that govern another subject that is not related to the original subject. This erroneous procedure always results in absolute confusion and disarray in the comprehension of biblical truths. This especially applies to grace.
The apostle Paul was well aware that such confusion would exist (because it was already happening in his own day), so what he did was to provide us with some principles of interpretation that would allow the seekers of biblical truths to know what the facts were on any subject of the Bible that they would study. Indeed, in the last epistle that the apostle Paul ever wrote, and as a final warning to all Christians endeavoring to understand the doctrines of the biblical revelation. he gave a maxim that should be applied when anyone starts to study any teaching of the Bible. no matter if the subject is prophetic, historical. chronological, geographical or even doctrinal: and indeed, especially if it is doctrinal.
The most important of all doctrines is the doctrine involving our salvation. Just how do humans get saved in Christ? That matter is a doctrinal one. and it involves the subject of this Report. The simple teaching of the apostle Paul is that humans are saved by grace (by the grace of God) and not by any other means. Or, as Paul stated it in Ephesians 2:8: "By grace are ye saved." But to understand what grace means as it relates to salvation one should look for the biblical definition of grace. Paul provides that plain definition for us.
"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth"
II Timothy 2:15
The apostle Paul informs the student of the Bible to "divide" (or, "partition") the Word of God. Yes, it is essential that one "partitions" the teachings that we find in the biblical revelation. But how do we "partition" them? It must be done RIGHTLY. If it is done WRONGLY, as so often is the case today with many people, then watch out, you can make the teachings of the Bible to be contradictory to one another. They can be made to conflict.
In other words, there are some subjects of the Bible that are linked together in a consistent and harmonious fashion (and if you always use the "apples to apples" comparison, all will be harmonious), but if a person introduces foreign "oranges" into the subject and tries to compare "apples with oranges," you will obtain utter confusion and even contradictions. This is what the apostle Paul was referring to when he said that the real seeker of biblical truths must "rightly partition" the Word of God. One must place all of the various doctrines and teachings into their selected folders in the "filing cabinets" and donít mix up one file with another file when they have diverse contexts.
The Old Testament illustrates this proper principle, though it gives it by the use of a comparison of proverbs. Since the various proverbs in the Bible were written to give wisdom and knowledge to all the people of God, one can compare one biblical proverb with another and understand the principle of keeping all the material on one subject separate from the material of another subject that may be entirely different from the former. Look at two proverbs which are placed by the divine writer into juxtaposition to one another. They are Proverbs 26 verses 4 and 5.
"Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him."
"Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit."
The teaching of these two proverbs is harmonious if one applies the "apples with apples" principle. Simply put, wisdom suggests that there are times when it is best to answer a fool in his folly and at other times (in different circumstances) it is better not to answer such a fool. There is no contradiction. The teaching is that there are times when one type of approach is necessary and at other times the exact opposite is essential. But as far as the wise person is concerned (in order not to be considered a fool himself) one should always compare apples with apples and not apples with oranges. The two are very different fruits, just as there are various doctrines of the Bible which have very different parameters associated with them in the understanding of their truths. So, the apostle Paul (who recognized this principle) warned all Christians to PARTITION the Word of God, but he dogmatically stated that the PARTITIONING must be done RIGHTLY And in regard to the subject of grace as it relates to the doctrine of salvation, this is most essential to do. The doctrine of grace fits into one category of discussion in the Holy Scriptures, and the doctrine of works (and rewards) into another.
Let us first look at the apostle Paulís definition of grace. We will find that Paul never deviates from his definition in all matters dealing with salvation. Note what Paul said grace was. In his context. Paul was speaking of the fact that only a remnant of Israelites were then accepting Christ in the proper manner and he said this remnant was by the "election of grace." This teaching prompted Paul to give a definition of grace. It was:
"If by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it [the election to salvation by God] be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work"
Notice in the clearest of ways that Paul separated works (any works of any kind) from the election to salvation which God gives to Israel (and - in other scriptures to all mankind). If one puts the slightest amount of "works" into the subject of salvation, then one has invalidated the meaning of grace [which is a pure gift]. If we say that the subject of grace is like "apples," then the subject of works would be reckoned as "oranges." The two will not mix in a harmonious fashion. Even the slightest amount of works on manís part will vitiate and destroy the meaning of grace as it relates to salvation. This is Paulís teaching.
One man used to give the illustration of a beggar who asked for a handout. The man looked at the beggar and said to him: "I will give you my Rolex watch IF you walk over to this table and pick it up." The man who gave the illustration was a minister who was trying to explain what the meaning of grace was in the Bible. He said his illustration was the way God gives salvation by grace. He said God is willing to put the Rolex watch on the table and give it to a person, but it still required some works on the manís part. The beggar was required to go to the table and take the watch into his possession. In like manner, the minister said: "God will give you salvation by grace if you will do your part and repent, confess Christ, and begin to keep Godís commandments such as Sabbath-keeping, tithing, etc." So, said the minister, there is something for man to do in order to receive Godís grace of salvation. To this minister that was the only way to understand grace as it relates to salvation.
The ministerís illustration is a complete violation of the definition of grace that was given by the apostle Paul in Romans 11:6. This is because the illustration involved some works on the part of the beggar. However, if one wished to use the same illustration as the minister gave, then to bring it into harmony with the true definition of grace, the minister should have said to the beggar: "I am giving you this Rolex watch. It is yours by grace whether you take it into your possession or not. Of course, one would think the beggar would walk to the table and take possession of the watch, but notice carefully that there was no requirement (or any contingency) placed on the beggar to do so. This fact, that no works of any kind were imposed upon the beggar to receive the watch, is a proper illustration of what represents grace as defined by the apostle Paul in Romans 11:6.
It is quite easy to prove from the writings of Paul that manís salvation, that we all have in Christ, involves no works whatever on manís part. And this means no works whether those works be repentance, confession of Christ or even the keeping of the commandments of God. Now this may seem strange at first (it may even appear heretical and blasphemous to some), but this is the absolute biblical truth and it can easily be proved from the teachings of the apostle Paul (who, by the way, was inspired by the Holy Spirit of God to write his teachings). Let us look at a single scripture that proves this fact, though there are literally scores of them that show the principle. It reveals that salvation is purely by grace and not by any works of man, not even the slightest "works." That verse is II Timothy 1:9.
"Who [God] hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus BEFORE the world began."
Look at that verse carefully. It is full of meaning and significance. It tells us in no uncertain terms that each of us who is now saved was saved in Christ Jesus BEFORE Adam and Eve were ever created ó before the ages or the world ever came into existence. That is what the text states, and that is what the text means. It shows that we were given our salvations in Christ Jesus before any of us had done any works whatever ó whether those works were good or bad. Of course. it was in the pre-ordained plan of God that Christ would come into the world and die for all mankind (the divine actions of Christ on behalf of mankind were also programmed to occur right on time by God, even before the worldís foundation ó Revelation 13:8). So, even our salvations that we have in Christ were given to each of us by grace long before any of us ever came into existence (Ephesians 1:3-14; Colossians 1:12-21). That is why NO WORKS (whether good or bad) are ever associated with our salvations. It would be mixing "apples and oranges" if one tried to associate even the slightest work (like having to walk over and pick up the Rolex watch) in matters dealing with our salvation. The fact is, we were promised and given (that is, by grace) our salvations before Adam and Even were placed on earth and before any human had ever come into existence. There is a further point we need to consider about this.
It is commonly (and erroneously) believed that when Adam and Eve were created that they were formed as holy and righteous individuals in the eyes of God and that they did not have any sin in them until they partook of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is when, according to traditional theology, that Adam and Eve "fell." What nonsense! The apostle Paul shows in no uncertain terms that Adam and Eve, as far as God was concerned, were created in a "fallen state." From the first moment they drew a breath of air, they were fallen and in a depraved nature (theologically) before they had done any good or bad. Indeed, they were awarded this "fallen condition" by God the Father through His grace. That is, they were given this "fallen condition" through no actions of their own. Why? Simply because they were both created as fleshly human beings, and Paul stated in the clearest of theological language (but language that is of fundamental importance to God) that "they in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:8). By being created "in the flesh" made our first parents to be different from God (though they were in the likeness and image of God) because they were not made with spiritual bodies as the Father and Christ had (and now have). They were created fleshly to begin with. This means they were in a "fallen state."
Adam and Eve were created just like all of us humans are at the present, and just like the apostle Paul found himself to be. Paul said: "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing" (Romans 7:18). In fact, Paul went on in Romans 8:3-13 to state that simply being in the flesh separated a person from God. Adam and Eve were created with "fallen natures" because they were created in flesh. Taking of the tree was a consequence of their "fallen nature," it was not the deed that caused them to "fall."
As a matter of fact, when each of us was born into this world as a baby, we were then in flesh and from the moment we took our first breath of air, we were theologically considered by God and Christ to be in a "fallen state." That means that even babies need the blood of Christ (and His redemptive actions) to cleanse them of their "fallen states" in order to be saved. And they will be saved because their salvations are not given to them by their works (babies have no works, either good or bad), they (like us adults) are given their salvations by grace. Still, they were created as "fallen beings" by grace, but they will also be saved in Christ by grace, because when Christ died for all mankind on the tree of crucifixion, all mankind by grace were brought back into a reconciled and saved condition (not by mankindís actions, but by Christís actions for us when He died and rose for all mankind).
Now, we read clearly that mankind needs to repent, to confess Christ and to walk in the ways of God and keep His commandments as best we can (Romans 10:8-10). Yes, but we who are in the flesh cannot repent good enough, we cannot confess Christ good enough, and we cannot keep Godís commandments good enough (the commandments that God demands of each person). Notice that when Job repented in his experience with God, he only repented of having a base opinion of God and His powers, he did not repent of being fleshly (which Job still remained). Indeed, we can only repent of things that we are capable, and you are not capable of repenting from a condition of being in flesh into a condition of being in spirit (to have a spirit based body as the Father and Christ now have). Indeed, if you are 90 years old, you still cannot repent of being in flesh. Still, however, by being in flesh, you are in a "fallen state" as far as the clear theological teaching of the apostle Paul is concerned (and this is the teaching of God).
Do you know that as long as the apostle Paul himself remained in flesh that he was in a "fallen state" as far as he himself was concerned. Thatís right. And so are you and me in such a "fallen state" even now. Indeed, we did not ask to be born in this "fallen state" (we had nothing to do with being created in this fallen condition). But in God's eyes, we are "fallen." still in the flesh.
But Wait a moment. We are told in the Gospel (which is the Good News) that God the Father now views humanity not in this fashion any longer. Thankfully, God now views each of us through Christ. Read Romans 5:6-11. Though all of us (even still) are by nature (because we are in the flesh) reckoned to be "ungodly" (verse 6), that we are all "sinners" (verse 8), and that we are even "enemies" of God because of being in flesh (verse 10), God has determined to reconcile all of us to Himself "by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be SAVED through his life" (Romans 5:10).
Notice that our salvations (our being SAVED) comes to us "through His [Christís] life," NOT through any actions of our own. Indeed, in the process of salvation, nothing that we do or do not do is associated with that salvation which God gives to us through His grace. We were created in our "fallen conditions" by being in the flesh through the grace of God, but we are also given our "righteous conditions" in Christ through the grace of God. You see, salvation begins, it continues, and it ends IN CHRIST. It is His works that count in our salvations. It is His works that He did on earth (and those works of Christ have been awarded to us through grace) that grant us our salvations.
When the Father sees us in our present existence on earth, He no longer observes us as being "in the flesh," though we are in actual fact still "in the flesh." God now sees us as being "in Christ." And though we are created to perform good works (Ephesians 2:10), still Godís salvation is not something that is given to us by any works that we may do (whether they be good works or bad works). Christ did the works for us on our behalf while He was on earth. With this teaching, which is the true teaching of God, we should recognize Godís truth: "By grace are ye saved."
Ernest L. Martin
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