Graphic Thanks to Holly Garcia, Redeeming Moments
Ephesians 2:8-9: 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.
“Grace” means a gift – freely bestowed by a giver and freely received by a recipient. From Clear Gospel Campaign:
The eternal salvation of mankind is the ultimate gift of God. It is a gift because it cost sinful man nothing. It was not free to God, however, but cost God His only begotten Son.
Most of the false religions that masquerade as Biblical Christianity (such as Lordship “salvation”) have redefined the clear meaning of the word “grace”, to inherently include works, such as turning from sin or commitment to following Christ in discipleship.
To keep the meaning of “grace” clear, remember that grace is free, but discipleship is costly. And, being an eternally secure believer in Christ does not guarantee being a committed disciple. Something that is free (grace) cannot be costly (discipleship). That would be a contradiction, and one of the attributes of God is that He cannot lie, nor contradict himself.
Titus 1:2: In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;
John 8:31-32 is a good passage that makes the point about the distinction between receiving eternal life (grace) and discipleship:
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Note that Jesus said to those which had believed on him (and had eternal life) that if they continued in His word, then they would be His disciples indeed (in deed).
Other passages that make clear that receiving the free gift of eternal life and serving Christ are not one and the same are passages that deal with the Judgment Seat of Christ, such as 1 Corinthians 3:10-15:
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Just to be sure that everyone is clear that grace is free, without cost or obligation to the recipient, the Bible has a lot of clear passages, such as:
But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
One should be particularly attentive to any teaching that implies that a “true believer” WILL have changes in his behavior, WILL automatically do good works, or WILL turn from sin and start manifesting fruits. This teaching is what we refer to as “back-door Lordship Salvation.” If one believes that good works WILL accompany salvation, then logically he would believe that good works MUST accompany salvation. If that were the case, grace would no longer be grace.
Romans 11:6 makes it abundantly clear that one cannot mix grace and works for the hope of eternal life:
And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
We would advise anyone to consider interpretation of scripture in light of the following three clear tenets. If someone’s interpretation of scripture renders an answer of “NO” to any of the following questions, it cannot be true:
1. Is it consistent with eternal life by Grace alone through Faith alone in Christ alone?
2. Is it consistent with eternal security?
3. Is it consistent with assurance of eternal life, based on God’s promises alone (i.e., it is not internally-focused on changes in attitudes, behavior, etc.)?
A good question to ask someone who is confused about grace is:
“If someone believes in Jesus Christ as Savior and never turns from any sin, nor does even one good work, would he get into heaven?”
If the answer is “NO, or “I don’t know”, or “maybe”, or “it seems like any true Christian…” (that is, anything other than a definitive “YES”), then the person with whom you are speaking is not clear on how one receives eternal life. It is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
A Christian SHOULD live for Christ. But, it is not that he MUST (that would be works for salvation). And, it’s not that he WILL (that would be Calvinism).