Salvation is by Grace through Faith
The Basics Foundational Teaching of the Christian Faith and Discipleship by Liberation Mission For Christ
What does the Bible mean that Salvation is by Grace through Faith?
Salvation by grace through faith is at the heart of the Christian religion. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). The statement has three parts, Salvation, Grace, and Faith—and they are equally important. The three together constitute a basic tenet of Christianity.
The word salvation is defined as “the act of being delivered, redeemed, or rescued.” The Bible tells us that, since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, each person is born in sin inherited from Adam: “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Sin is what causes all of us to die. Sin separates us from God, and sin destines each person to eternal separation from God in hell. What each of us needs is to be delivered from that fate. In other words, we need salvation from the dominion of sin and its penalty.
How are we saved from sin?
Most religions throughout history have taught that salvation is achieved by good works. Others teach that acts of contrition (saying we are sorry) along with living a moral life is the way to atone for our sin. Sorrow over sin is certainly valuable and necessary, but that alone will not save us from sin. We may repent of our sins, also valuable and necessary, and determine to never sin again, but salvation is not the result of good intentions. The road to hell, as the saying goes, is paved with good intentions. We may fill our lives with good works, but even one sin makes us a sinner in practice, and we are already sinners by nature. No matter how well intentioned or good we are or may be, the fact is that we simply do not have the power or the goodness to overcome the sin nature we have inherited from our father Adam. We need something more powerful, and this is where grace comes in.
The Grace of God is His undeserved favor bestowed on those He has called to salvation through His love revealed in His Son Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:4–5). It is His grace that saves us from sin. We are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:24). Being justified, we are vindicated and determined to be sinless in the eyes of God. Our sin no longer separates us from God and no longer sentences us to hell. Grace is not earned by any effort on our part; otherwise, it could not be called grace. Grace is free and freely given and freely received. If our good works earned salvation, then God would be obligated to pay us our due. But no one can earn heaven, and God’s blessings are not His obligation; they flow from His goodness and love. No matter how diligently we pursue works to earn God’s favor, we will fail. Our sin trips us up every time. For its written “By the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Romans 3:20, NKJV).
The means God has chosen to bestow His grace upon us is through faith. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. (Hebrews 11:1). Salvation is obtained by faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, in what He has done, specifically, His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave. But even faith is not something we generate on our own. Faith as well as grace is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). He bestows saving faith and saving grace upon us in order to redeem us from sin and deliver us from its consequences. So God saves us by His grace through the faith He gives us. Both grace and faith are gifts. In the book of Psalm 3:8, scriptures say “Salvation belongs to the LORD”.
By grace, we receive the faith that enables us to believe that He has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross and provide the salvation we cannot achieve on our own. Jesus, as God in flesh, is the “author and perfecter of our faith” scriptures declares (Hebrews 12:2). Just like the author of a book creates it from scratch, Jesus Christ wrote the story of our redemption from beginning to end. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:4–6). The Lord died for our sins and rose for our justification, and He forgives, freely and fully, those who accept His gift of grace in Christ, and that acceptance comes through faith. This is the meaning of salvation by grace through faith.
Understanding Salvation by Faith
The notion that salvation is totally of God and is the result of nothing that anyone of us does is hard to grasp. To many, this solution is too easy. Human nature almost demands us to tack something onto the end. And many through the ages have felt compelled to add onto the central message of Christianity. But the Bible makes it clear that salvation is by grace alone. As Ephesians 2:8–9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. It is not from yourself or anything you’ve done, but the gift of God.” Salvation, therefore, is a totally free gift of grace from God.
When a person accepts the gift of salvation, he or she is said to be justified, made acceptable before or made right with God. The process of being declared righteous is called justification.
Although all Christians agree that God’s grace is what saves people, they disagree considerably over what a person’s role is in this whole process. Obviously, a Christian needs to believe in Jesus Christ, but a sticky issue has always been whether faith by itself is sufficient for salvation.
The Christian Church is split on this issue.
Catholics believe that God’s gift of grace is received through faith and by partaking of the sacraments such as being baptized, taking Communion, being confirmed in the church, and confessing sins to a priest. Baptism is particularly important and Catholics consider it a key requirement for being saved.
Most Orthodox Christians believe salvation is more of a gradual process in which humans become more and more like God as they participate with him in the work of salvation. Protestants see the act of praying the sinner’s prayer as the trigger that brings salvation into a person’s life. In contrast, Orthodox Christians typically place far less emphasis on a specific “salvation event” that starts the Christian’s life, focusing instead on what must be done over the course of a person’s life to continue on in the faith. In other words, while Protestants ask, “What can I do to be saved?” Orthodox Christians ask, “What can I do to be most saved?”
Protestants believe in justification by faith alone. In other words, faith in Jesus Christ is all that is needed to actually save a person. “Faith” or “belief” in this context isn’t simply an intellectual belief in God, but rather something far deeper and life changing than head knowledge. Protestants point to several verses in Acts and Romans to back up their claim:
- “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)
- “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:22)
- “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” (Romans 3:28)
- “To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:5)
Protestants are very leery of the word that Paul speaks so loudly against in the Book of Romans — works. That’s why they disagree with the Catholic link between the sacraments and salvation and the tie that Orthodox Christians place on living a Christian life with one’s salvation. Protestants consider these efforts to be works, plain and simple, since they are actions that one takes apart from belief. Although Protestants agree with Catholics and Orthodox Christians that a Christian must live out her faith (Philippians 2:12), they see the practice of “living out” as something that is separate from salvation itself, an effect of receiving salvation, rather than a necessity to receive salvation.
Putting aside all these debates and nuances, here are two key truths about salvation and faith that all Christians agree on:
- Faith in Jesus Christ is essential to be saved and justified. See Ephesians 2:8–9.
- True faith has a backbone. The Book of James makes it abundantly clear that a declaration of faith by itself doesn’t amount to nothing if it isn’t backed up by action (James 2:14–26). In other words, if you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve to walk the walk. Therefore, if someone is truly a Christian, his or her life is going to be characterized by a growing faith and, over the long haul, will live in accordance with that faith. However, recognize that this is a consequence of faith, not a condition. Both Paul and James talk about faith from different view point. The Apostle Paul talks about faith in Jesus Christ for salvation where as James talk about faith in Jesus Christ after salvation.
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