By Sunday Ayandare
The word of inspiration declares: "For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8,9). From this passage, some of our friends have concluded, albeit erroneously, that our salvation is predicated on nothing else but grace. Therefore, as far as they are concerned, we do not have to be baptized to be saved.
First of all, what is the "works" under consideration in this passage? A careful reading of Eph. 2:8,9 shows that we are not saved by meritorious works. Nobody merits salvation. Our salvation is of God, "who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our WORKS but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (2 Tim. 1:9). Moreover, we are not justified by the works of the law of Moses (Gal. 2:16; Acts 13:38,39). But we are saved by the grace of God WHEN WE OBEY HIS COMMANDS. This is the thrust of the argument of James:
"Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God and it was imputed unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God. Ye see then how THAT BY WORKS A MAN IS JUSTIFIED AND NOT BE FAITH ONLY" (Jas. 2: 21-24).
To be accepted of God, we must WORK righteousness (Acts 10:35). Noah was saved by grace (Gen. 6:8). How? When he obeyed God (Gen. 6:22). Certainly, the grace of God does not preclude obedience. Obedience to the commands of God, on the other hand, does not rule out God's grace. Bro. Bill Hall puts this succinctly in his excellent article: "Two men err regarding grace. The first man preaches grace, but fails to recognize that God's grace is linked to human responsibility. The second man preaches respon- sibility, but seldom speaks of God's grace. The first man believes that salvation is solely by God's grace. He contends that any required action on man's part in obedience to commands would nullify grace and would constitute meritorious salvation. 'It is absurd to believe that God's grace could be linked to anything like baptism', is the way one person stated it.
"The second man speaks well of the requirements of the gospel. He often preaches the necessity of baptism, faithful attendance, liberal giving, good morals, doing one's part in the activities of the local church, etc. He speaks of Jesus as our perfect example and of His full submission to the Father in His death, but rarely of Him as the propitiation for our sins. Seldom does he bring his listeners to feel their constant need for God's mercy and forgiveness and their absolute hopelessness apart from the cleansing blood of Christ. The first man would promise salvation without necessary diligence in learning and doing God's will. The second man would place so much emphasis on learning and doing God's will that he would focus the eyes of his listeners more on themselves than upon the Lord. The first man needs to learn the truth of Titus 2:11,12; "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness adn worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world." The second man needs to learn and appreciate the exhortation of Phil. 3:1: "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord."
"We would remind the first man of the nature of God's grace as it is revealed throughout the ages. We would begin with God's grace as it was extended to Noah at the time of the flood. "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Gen. 6:8). Noah, however, was given instructions to be obeyed. And Noah recognized the necessity of obedience: "Thus did Noah: according to all that God commanded him, so did he" (Gen. 6:22). Had Noah failed in his responsibilities, he would never have been saved from the flood by the grace of God. We would remind this man of God's grace as it was extended to Joshua in the capture of Jericho. "See, I have given into thine hand Jericho" (Jos. 6:2). But God had instructions for Joshua; march, blow the trumpets, shout. When Joshua and the Israelites fulfilled their responsibilities the "wall fell flat, so that the people went up into the city" (Jos. 6:20). We would remind this man of the man born blind in John 9 whose eyes the Lord opened (vss. 14,17,21,26,30) when he did what the Lord commanded. Our first man should be able to see that: (1) God's grace does not rule out instructions (law); (2) God's grace does not rule out obedience and (3) God's grace does not rule out strict obedience.
"We would remind the second man that good works without God's grace can never save. We would begin with the message of Ephesians. Paul in Ephesians did indeed give instructions - practical instructions, instructions that must be obeyed, concerning morals, duties of wives, husbands, children, parents, servants, masters - but not until he firmly established God's grace as the basis of salvation (chs. 1-3) and as the motivation for obedience to God's instructions (observe the word "therefore" in 4:1). We would remind this man of the danger of being like the Pharisees who "trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others" (Lk. 18:9-14). We would remind him that when one sins he has "nothing to pay" and therefore must approach God as one who is poor in spirit, mournigh, meek and hungering and thirsting after righteousness (Lk. 7:41,42;Matt. 5:3-6).
"We would not dare to say which of these teachers is the more dangerous, for they both err regarding grace. We find ourselves naturally recoiling at the teaching of the first man and greatly fearing the consequences of his teaching, but we never want to be guilty of the error of the second. We cannot preach grace without preaching responsibility, but we must not be guilty of preaching responsibility without preaching grace."
(This article had been published in Words of Life, Vol. 8, No. 2, Apr-June 2000).