By Eusebio A. Tanicala, PhD
This study is very important because it could spell out one’s eternal destiny: go to heaven or go to hell. “Saved by grace only” disregards humble obedience to many instructions and the exercise of human free will.
Grace (Xaris) – “. . but the N.T. writers use Xaris pre-eminently of that kindness by which God bestows favors even upon the ill-deserving, and grants to sinners the pardon of their offences, and bids them accept of eternal salvation through Christ x x x is used of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues” (Thayer’s Lexicon, p.666)
Two Interpretations of “Saved by Grace” found in Ephesians 1:1-12 and 2:1-10.
First View: The very strict Calvinistic view is that man is totally depraved, without any ability to desire to do good or total inability to decide to be spiritual and love God. Before creation, God had already decreed that He will create human kind, some to be elected and some to be reprobated (damned), with His permission to allow mankind’s fall when tempted by Satan at the Garden of Eden. When a person is saved, it is ALL God’s action, ALL God’s work. NO human participation; absolutely nothing! So the term “only” takes the meaning of exclusive and absolute.
Second View: Because God made the first step, because God is love, God is merciful, and God is sovereign over all of creation, His will to provide propitiation through Christ who is God who became human to help mankind, God’s work in SALVATION could be assigned 99% while 1% is assigned to human participation which consist of knowing God, loving God, obeying God, all summed up or condensed in the phrase, “in Jesus Christ” because a person obeys the New Testament of Jesus Christ. Our concern now is to explore and identify what are the requirements found in the phrase “in Jesus Christ” because our Lord Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15, 23-24; & John 15;14). Luke 6:46 records Christ say this: “Why call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do the things I say?” The phrase “Saved by Grace” is used emphatically, meaning: the greater part is emphasized but it does not exclude the very small participation of the human free will in obeying other instructions.
A. THREE TENSES OF SALVATION
- Past: Sins are forgiven when we undergo the steps to salvation: Hear, Believe, Repent, Confess, be baptized.
- Present: When a disciple sins, he needs to repent, pray for forgiveness, blood washes sins (1Jn 1:9; Acts 8:22).
- Future: Possibility of apostasy; Christ confirms final salvation at end of time. See Titus 11-14; 1 Peter 1:9.
B. GOD HAS NO PLEASURE IN THE DEATH OF THE SINNER
- Ezekiel 18:23, “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?”
- Ezek. 18:32, “For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the LORD God. “Therefore turn and live!”
- Ezek. 33:11, “Say to them: ‘As I live, ’says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?”
C. FREE WILL & CONSEQUENCES OF ANGELS’ DECISIONS
God is love, God is merciful, God is gracious. Yet the rebellious angels were judged immediately.
Please see Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:12-19; John 8:44; Luke 10:18; 2 Peter 2:4-6; Jude 6.
D. FREE WILL & CONSEQUENCES OF HUMAN DECISIONS
- Adam & Eve were given free will – Genesis 2:16-17, “And the Lord commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
- Cain & Abel – Cain did not do what was instructed him while Abel did what he was commanded to do.
- Noah – He did what was commanded and he was saved from the deluge.
- Abram / Abraham – He believed God’s promises and directives eventually settled in Canaan.
- Lot – He chose to dwell in the flat land near the tribes that were worldly in Sodom and Gomorrah.
- Ruth – Being a Moabitess, did she exercise her free will and chose to stick to her mother-in-law?
- Covenant with Israel – Exodus 19:5-8, “. . Then all the people answered together and said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do.’ So Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD.”
- 500,000 Israelites 20 years old and above who went out of Egypt:
- All those who died in the wilderness, including Moses, exercised free will, did they?
- Joshua – (1:7) “Only be strong and very courageous that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commands you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go.” (24:15), “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
E. GOD HELPS HUMAN KIND NOT ANGELS
Hebrews 2:16: “For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.”
F. DETERMINE W/C PERIOD OR TENSE
Determine which salvation period/tense you refer about because there are three stages of salvation.
- Salvation from past sins.
- Salvation from sins after a disciple starts his Christian life.
- Salvation in the future, the final confirmation – 1 Peter 1:9.
*Take the following in a spectrum or picture. Don’t isolate one from the others. Brief Quotations from the New King James Version.
- Saved by God – Titus 1:3, 4; Titus 2:10 “God our Savior” “God our Savior”
- Saved by Jesus Christ – Matt. 1:21; John 3:17; 1 Tim. 1:15; Heb. 7:25. Do you eliminate Love because of grace? No. “call His name Jesus, . . He will save His people from their sins.” “. . the world thro Him might be saved.”
- Saved by mercy through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit – Titus 3:5*(4) Saved by grace – Ephesians 2:5; 2 Tim. 1:9; Acts 15:11; Titus 3:4-5, etc. Do you eliminate God?
- Justified by the blood of Christ – Romans 5:9, 10. “justified by His blood, we shall be saved. . .”
- Saved by the gospel if we hold fast to it – 1 Cor. 15:2. Do you disregard the gospel because of grace? No.
- Saved by faith – Eph. 2:8; Luke 7:50; Luke 8:12; 18:42; John 3:16, 18; Heb. 10:39
- Saved by the life of Christ – Romans 5:10. “. . we shall be saved by His life.”
- Saved by hope – Romans 8:24 (KJV). Does grace disregard hope? No.
- Saved by calling on the Lord – Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; 9:14.
- Saved by the implanted word – James 1:21; Acts 1114. Shall we disregard the Word because of grace? No.
- Saved by the teachings of Christ and the apostles – 1 Tim. 4:16. Does grace disregard apostles’ teachings? No.
- Saved through hearing the words of Christ and believing in the Father – John 5:24
- He who believes and is baptized shall be saved – Mark 16:16. Does grace disregard baptism? No.
- Repent and be baptized and receive remission of sins – Psalm 32:5; Acts 2:38. Does grace disregard baptism? No.
- Be born again and see the kingdom of heaven – John 3:3. Does grace disregard the New Birth? No.
- Be born of water and the Spirit to see the kingdom of God – John 3:5
- Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins – Acts 22:16; Gal. 3:27
- Confess with mouth Jesus Christ and believe God raised Jesus there is salvation – Roma 10:9, 10
- Abiding in the teachings and living righteously and godly until the appearing of Christ – John 6:27; John 8:31; 12:48-50; Romans 8:1; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 5:2; 2 John 8, 9; 1 John 2:15; Titus 2:11-14; James 1:27; Rev. 2:10. Does grace righteous and godly living? No.
- Saved by preaching the gospel – 1 Cor. 1:21, “. . foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” Does grace disregard gospel preaching? No.
- Saved by repentance – 1 Cor. 7:10; Luke 13:3. Do we disregard repentance? No.
- Saved by baptism – 1 Peter 3:21, “There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Does grace eliminate baptism in water? No.
- The Holy Spirit – John 16:8; Titus 3:5-6. Does grace disregard the work of the Holy Spirit? No.
- Salvation in His name – Acts 4:12. Does graces disregard the name of Christ? No.
- Love – Galatians 5:6. Do we eliminate Love and mention only grace? No.
NOTE: Good hermeneutics tells us that one item does not exclude any other item mentioned in the Bible that is related to salvation. Some items could be emphasized above others in some contexts, but not to the exclusion of any other items. We should take all these items together. Just like what we do in the Chart – Steps to Salvation (Hear, Believe, Repent, Confess, Be Baptized, Live a Holy & Obedient Life). Not all the steps are found in one verse.
G. THE FIRST ADAM & THE SECOND ADAM
- When the First Adam committed sin, was his sin automatically imputed on every human individual with culpability or punishment without any individual human participation? __ Yes; __ No.
- When the Second Adam gave himself as offering and atonement for sin on the cross, was His righteousness automatically imputed on every human individual (past and future generations) with justification, sanctification and glorification without any human personal participation? __ Yes; __ No.
H. POSSIBILITY OF APOSTASY
- ucifer – He was perfect until sin was found in him, (See Ezek. 28:14,15; Isa. 14:12; Lk. 10:18)
- Angels who became demons – Did they fall from innocence into wickedness? Yes.
- Adam and Eve – Were they not innocent until they disobeyed the prohibition? Yes. They did.
- Enoch “walked with God” and begot and begot sons and daughters (Gen. 5:19-24).
- God made a covenant w/ the nation of Israel (Exo. 19:5-6), “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Yahweh gave Moses and 70 Elders the Holy Spirit (Num.11:16-30), and yet out of the more than 1 Million adults, 20 years old and above who left Egypt, only 2 people, Caleb and Joshua entered the land of Canaan because of unbelief and died in the wilderness (See Heb. 2:7-19).
- King Saul, chosen by the Lord to rule Israel, did he not become disobedient and fall away?
- King David, did he not commit sin, but he was repentant and so forgiven?
- King Solomon, was he not called “beloved” but he became idolatrous and fell away? 1 Kgs 11:1-11.
- The people of Israel (Read Isaiah chap. 1), did not this nation sin and fall away so it was taken into captivity? Only a small remnant left? Yes, it did. Read also Ezek. 20:33-44).
- Was not Israel as a chosen nation, as a branch, cut off according to Romans 11:1-24? Notice the terms: “cast away”-15, “broken off”-v.17, 19, 20, “fell”-22; it means it used to be a branch attached to the trunk. The verbs in the past tense tell us that falling away was real and actual.
- John 14:1-11, Unfruitful branches could be cut off.
- Matt. 10:22; Mk. 13:13; Rev. 2:10, He who endures to the end shall be saved.
- 1 John 4:20, a disciple who is a liar and doesn’t repent will not be in heaven; Rev. 21:8.
- Col. 4:14; 2 Tim 4:10 – Demas with Paul then forsook Paul and went to the world.
- Galatians 5:4 & Romans 9:30-33, “you have fallen from grace.”
- 1 Tim. 1:19-20; 2Tim. 2:17 – Hymaeneus strayed from the truth, overthrow the faith.
- 2Peter 2:22, “A dog returns to his own vomit,”and a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
- Hebrews 6:4-8, “it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, have tasted heavenly gift, have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, if they fall away to renew them again to repentance”
- Heb. 10:26, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment…”
- Hebrews 12:25-26, “”See that you do not refuse Him who speaks…” Choice or free will is involved.
- 2Peter 2:22, “A dog returns to his own vomit, and, a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” Dogs and pigs do these acts of returning to the dirt, so people also do.
- John 8-9, “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God…” This section teaches personal choice and free will in the disciple.
- 1 John 4:12-13; Rom 5:5; Eph. 4:30; James 4:5, God’s love perfected in the disciple, the Holy Spirit is given, but the Spirit could be grieved and quenched and gets out.
- Seven Churches in Revelation given warning which suggests possibility of falling away:
- Ephesus – “you have left your first love x x x you have fallen; repent and do the first work…”
- Smyrna – “He who overcomes…”suggests freewill and determination to be faithful to God.
- Pergamos – “Repent, or else I will come to you. . . to him who overcomes. . .”
- Thyatira – “Hold fast what you have till I come. . . he who overcomes and keeps My works. . .”
- Sardis – “You are alive but you are dead. . . repent . . he who overcomes. . .”
- Philadelphia – “. . . test those who dwell on earth. . . hold fast what you have.”
J. EXPLANATION OF EPHESIANS 1 & 2 IN RELATION TO SALVATION.
Consider the phrases:
(1) “in Christ” 1:3
(2) “He chose us in Him (Christ)” 1:4,
(3) “adoption as sons by Jesus Christ” 1:5
(4) “accepted in the Beloved” 1:6
(5) “In Him we have redemption thro His blood” 1:7
(6) “in whom also we have obtained an inheritance” 1:11
(7) “we who trusted in Christ” 1:12
(8) “we who trusted in Christ” 1:12
(9) “after you heard the word of truth” 1:13
(10) “in whom also, having believed” 1:13
(11) “your faith in the Lord Jesus”1:15
(12) “in the knowledge of Him” 1:17
(13) “He worked in Christ” 1:20
(1) “made us alive together with Christ” 2:5
(2) “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” 2:6
(3) “His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” 2:7
(4) “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” 2:10
(5) “good works. . . we should walk in them” 2:10
(6) “now in Christ Jesus. . . by the blood of Christ” 2:13
(7) “He Himself is our peace” 2:14
(8) “having abolished in His flesh” 2:15
(9) “He preached peace to you” 2:17
(10) “through Him” 2:18
(11) “in whom. . . in the Lord” 2:21
(12) “in whom you also are being built. .” 2:22
Conclusion: To be saved by grace through faith, one has to be in Christ, and how does one be in Christ? There is hearing the word of truth, knowledge of Him, faith in Jesus. Add Matt. 28:18-19, there is preaching and discipling and being baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; Romans 6:3-4; Acts 2:38; Mark 16:15-16; Gal. 3:27-28; Acts 10:47: Acts 16:31-33; Acts 22:16 there is baptism. To be baptized for the forgiveness of sin is a humble, obedient act of a disciple that dramatizes an inner impulse which is the conversion of the inner man, the born again, adopted child of God. (Oct. 17-18, 2016)