Part 6 in an 8 part series. View series intro and index.
The pillar of the Reformation was “justification by faith.” Justification is by faith alone, but if there was no grace—unmerited favor from God—there would be no opportunity for faith. God’s grace is the foundation for our faith.
Romans 4:16 makes this clear: “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring.” Justification is by faith, then, in order that the promise of eternal life may depend wholly on grace, not works.
If justification came to men by anything other than grace through faith, it would be on the basis of works. We must hold firm to this truth, otherwise this precious pillar of the Christian faith come tumbling down. Man would be exalted, not God. Man would get the glory, not God. Man would be most powerful, not God. As Wayne Grudem said in the introduction, if the gospel is to go forth in power for generations to come, we must firmly uphold this truth.
This is clear in other passages, too. Outside of the epistles, in Acts, Peter tells the Jerusalem church, “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as [the Gentiles] will” (15:11). In Romans 3:24, Paul says that people “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Later, in 4:4, he writes, “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.” In Titus 2:11, Paul writes, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.” Later in 3:7, he says, “So that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
In Galatians 2:21, Paul contrasts works of the law with God’s grace. He says, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” God’s grace cannot be canceled-out. Jesus died for our sins—this was grace. But if we could be righteous from our own good works, then Jesus’ death (i.e. God’s grace) would be null and void.
Perhaps the most popular passage on the distinctive roles of grace and faith is found in Ephesians 2:8-9. Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this [i.e. faith] is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Grace is the foundation for all that Christians do. It is even the foundation and reason for the faith that comes to us when we believe.
To be continued.