By: Gary Hutchens
During this period of time many people are giving extra attention in their thoughts and actions to God’s having sent His Son to this earth because of our sins. If this is the only time during the year that a person thinks seriously about the Lord, then it would seem to be a pretty empty gesture. Jesus said we are to take up our cross “daily” and follow Him (Lk. 9:23). The Christian walk is to be a daily walk, not an on again, off again experience. It is to be a lifestyle. But if something can stimulate people to a more spiritual mindset, as seems to happen with many during this time of year, perhaps some of them will get serious about following and serving their Lord on a regular basis.
Paul wrote about God’s kindness, love, mercy and grace being extended to man through Christ (Tit. 3:4-7). In sending Christ into this world, to live as a man and go to the cross as our savior, God made the way for humanity to be forgiven, to be saved, to receive eternal life in Heaven. Paul emphasized it is not by works that do that this salvation is given to us; it is given to us as an act of God’s mercy, by His grace (vs. 5). But there is, I believe, a reference in that very verse- “through the washing of regeneration”- to the necessity of baptism as part of our response to God’s grace.
In his letter to the Ephesians Paul again stated that we are saved “by grace” and “not of works” (Eph. 2:8-9). Our salvation is God’s doing, not ours. Yet in these verses Paul added another element of our response to God’s grace. He stated that we are saved by grace “through faith.” God offers us salvation by His grace. We respond to His offer through our faith. Our faith is the act of our accepting His gift of salvation through grace.
Now, just what is faith? James left no doubt that true faith is much more than just believing. In fact, James said faith that is no more than mere belief “is dead” (Jas. 2:17, 20, 26). He emphasized throughout that text, all the way through vs. 26, that true faith is a faith that is active, obedient, a faith that works.
There is no way we can earn our salvation by works alone. But there is also no way that faith without obedience can save us. Many people insist salvation is by faith only! Yet, the only place in the New Testament in which the phrase “faith only” is found is in that text of James, chapter two, and in that text we read “not by faith only” (Jas. 2:24).
When God, by grace, offers us His gift of salvation, true faith will respond in obedience (Heb. 5:9). We will repent of our sins (Lk. 13:3), confess our faith in Christ (Matt. 10:32) and surrender our lives to Him through baptism, at which point the blood He shed on the cross will cleanse us of the guilt of our sins (Acts 22:16), and we will be saved (Mk. 16:15-16). This is God’s offer of salvation by grace through faith...
Are you ready to come to God on His terms?...
Gary L. Hutchens