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When Grace Saves

Conrad Hilton of the famous Hilton Hotel chain was reportedly asked on national television if he had one vitally important message he would like to share with Americans. Turning to the cameras, Hilton said, "Please . . . place the shower curtain inside of the tub." Ephesians 2:8-9 proclaims a message that is truly vital to a world undone by sin: 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." Wayne Kilpatrick gave this succinct analysis of Ephesians 2:8.9: "The plan of God for our salvation is outlined in the phrase 'by grace you have been saved through faith.' `By grace' summarizes all God did for us in sending His Son, giving us the Bible, etc. 'Through faith' summarizes all we do to appropriate God's gift: trust, love, and obedience (including baptism)" [written sermon "Amazing Grace" in Truth For Today; October 1997, Vo1.18 , No. 5; p 31. While practically all believers agree with the first part of Kilpatrick's statement, many reject the idea we have to "do" anything to appropriate the grace of God. It is frequently asserted that salvation is by "grace alone" through "faith alone," and that if a person must "do" something to be saved they are "working" their way to Heaven, thus contradicting the statement that salvation is a "gift." This objection often arises in an attempt to avoid the Bible's teaching that baptism a necessary part of our faith response to the Gospel (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21).

Members of the church of Christ should not argue with other believers in Jesus over what saves us – "for by grace are you saved." A cross where God's Son died a bloody, painful, violent death should convince all of us that human brains and brawn could never accomplish our salvation from sin or put God in our debt. If I can get to Heaven under my own moral or religious steam; if I deserve to go just because I don't smoke or drink or cuss; if I can curry favor and balance the books with an infinitely holy God just by going to church and doing religious things on Sunday; if I can qualify to enter the pearly gates of Heaven by loving my neighbor and doing good works — if I can work my way to Heaven just by being "good" — pray tell me why did Christ have to come to earth and die? If the question is what saves us, the cross of Christ settles the issue — we are saved by grace, it is the gift of God, and no one ever has grounds to boast. Ever. End of discussion. But if the question is when does God's grace save a sinner from sin, the Bible answer is NOT that God has done it all and we don't have to do anything. The Bible answer is that God will save by His grace if and when we have enough faith to obey what He tells us to do (Ephesians 2:8.9; Hebrews 5:9)! *Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Genesis 6:8), but that grace saved him because he built an ark (Hebrews 11:7). God told Joshua, "I have given Jericho into your hand" (Joshua 6:2), but an inspired man reminds us, "By faith the walk of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days" (Hebrews 11:30). There is no getting around it: God's grace is what saves us, but it saves us when —– and only when —– our faith obeys what God tells us to do. Think about it.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ