By: Gary L. Hutchens
The apostle Paul 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.” (Eph. 2:8-9). We cannot save ourselves. It is totally, and only, by God’s grace that we can be saved. But, does God expect any response on our part to His offer to save us by His grace, and does our response have anything to do with our salvation?
Many people might stammer a bit, emotionally, in answer to the first part of that question, but would give a resounding “No!” to the second part. But both parts go together. The answer to one is automatically the answer to the other. Either God does not expect any response on our part to His offer to save us by His grace, and therefore any response on our part has nothing to do with our salvation, or God does expect some response on our part, and our salvation is inseparably connected to that response.
Let’s start with the bottom line. Does God expect faith in Him on our part? The Hebrews writer states, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6). Only by God’s grace can we be saved, but if we do not have faith in God we cannot be saved. God also expects us to have faith in Christ as His Son and our Lord and Savior. Jesus said, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (Jn. 8:24). Clearly, God expects faith in Him and in Christ as our responses to His offer of grace. Anything else God expects us to do?
Does God expect us repent of our sins in response to His offer of salvation by grace? Jesus said, “unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Lk. 13:3). On Pentecost, when asked by Jews gathered there on that day, “what shall we do?” the first word out of Peter’s mouth was, “Repent…” (Acts 2:37-38). That was a question of action; “what shall we do?” Peter told them something they must do; they needed to “repent.” Is there any other response on our part expected by God?
The apostle Paul stated, “…with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Rom. 10:10). Jesus said, “…whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32). Openly confessing our faith in Christ is an active response to God’s offer of salvation by grace through Christ. Is there anything else God expects of us by way of active response to His offer of salvation by grace?
As Jesus was ready to ascend back to Heaven He told the apostles to preach the gospel to everybody everywhere. Then He said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mk. 16:15-16). The second thing Peter told those Jews on Pentecost that they must do, after repenting, was “and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins;” (Acts 2:38). Jesus said a person will be saved when he responds to the gospel message by being baptized. Peter said a person will be forgiven of his sins as he responds by being baptized into Christ.
God saves us by His grace. But He expects us to respond to His offer in faith, repenting of our sins, confessing our faith in our Savior and being baptized for remission of our sins. Jesus added one more response. “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10). All of these are active responses expected by God, taught in His word, and our salvation is thus inseparably connected to them…
Gary L. Hutchens