The Simple Gospel
We sing that beautiful song, Amazing Grace. (And the sentiment is a worthy one.)
I am afraid that many really do not understand what this song is saying or what the grace of God truly is. I would like to attempt to clear up these difficulties.
In order to do this, we need to first define the term "grace." The word "grace" means undeserved or unmerited favor. Grace is the opposite of Merit. This idea is best borne out with regard to the salvation of man. If any man believes that he can in any way earn or merit his salvation he is sorely mistaken. Paul stated in Romans 3:23, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Once a man sins, he forfeits his right to an eternity with the Father. In effect, he separates himself from God. When this takes place, a man is without recourse outside of God's grace. There is nothing that he can do to earn his way into heaven.
However, God loves man and does not wish Him to spend eternity in Hell. In order to spare man this final, deserved punishment, He made a way of escape. He gave us an opportunity to miss hell and reach Heaven. That is not to say that all men will go to Heaven. Unfortunately, most men reject that extended grace.
We cannot emphasize too greatly the power of the grace of God. The Apostle Paul, this time in the Ephesian epistle, chapter 2 and verses 8-10, wrote, "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. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." This passage teaches us many things. First of all, we are saved by the Grace of God. It is an undeserved gift from Deity. Second of all, this grace grants us salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Third, it teaches us that man can not "merit" or earn his salvation. Salvation is not of works. This we have already discussed and hopefully shown to be true.
One thing that this passages does not teach us, however, is that obedience is not necessary to be saved or justified. Too many read this passage, seeing Paul state that salvation is not of works, and assume that means that obedience has nothing to do with salvation. Nothing is further from the truth! Paul is simply pointing out that when a man dies, if he goes to Heaven, it is because God gave Heaven to him as a gift, not because he earned it by his works. However, we must understand that obedience is man's way of accepting this proffered gift. You do not earn your salvation by works, but that does not mean that works of righteousness, or obedience are not necessary. James understood this, and wrote in his epistle, chapter 2, verses 21-24, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only."
Let us never forget that we are saved only because God extended his grace in love, by sending His Son. Let us never forget that if we make it to Heaven, it will not be because we earned or paid our way there, but rather because of that freely offered gift. And let us never forget our part of this salvation equation. The extension of grace teaches us that we have certain responsibilities to our God. Notice what Paul told Titus in Titus 2:11-12, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age..." The gift has been offered, and it is up to us to accept it through the obedient faith described by James in his epistle.
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