DOES THE BIBLE TEACH THAT SALVATION IS BY GRACE ONLY?

The Bible clearly teaches that we are saved by God’s grace. God is called “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10), and the gospel is called “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

It was by God’s grace that Jesus tasted death for every person (Hebrews 2:9). The Bible declares that the grace of God which brings salvation has appeared to all people (Titus 2:11). In Ephesians 2:8, it is written, “For by grace you have been saved . . .” We are thankful that God’s great grace saves sorry sinners!

We need to have a proper perspective on salvation “by grace.” Suppose we say, “Only by God’s grace are we saved.” If our meaning is, “If it were not for God’s grace, we would not and could not be saved,” that is a proper concept. However, if we say, “We are saved by grace only/alone,” that is a false message if we mean that God gives us salvation without any conditions or actions on our part. Such a concept of “grace alone” or “grace only” is nowhere taught in the New Testament.

Be clear about this: (1) “Saved by grace” and (2) “saved by grace only” are two very different concepts. If we say that we are saved by something alone or by something only,” then “alone” or “only” means 100% by that one thing. If it is 100% by something, then all other things would be ruled out/eliminated — that is what “only” indicates.

Through the years, various denominational groups have stated in their creeds, manuals, and public presentations that salvation is “wholly of grace.” In his memorable debate with brother N.B. Hardeman, Mr. Ben Bogard, the most-highly esteemed debater of the Missionary Baptist Church in the 20th century, though he did not directly say that salvation is by grace alone, made this revealing statement: “I am going to maintain that there is no act at all that any man in the Old Testament time or the New ever had to perform in order to be saved. Salvation is received by faith, and faith is the only thing you can do without doing anything. Faith submits to the Lord and doesn’t pretend to do; as long as you attempt to do, you are working it yourself and not depending upon the Lord” [Hardeman-Bogard Debate, p. 93; emphasis is Mr. Bogard’s; taken on 24 July 2020 from http://icotb.org/resources/Hardeman_Bogard1.pdf].

“Faith is the only thing you can do without doing anything.” Seriously, Mr. Bogard? How can faith count as “doing something” and “not doing anything” at the same time?! Someone might say, “Well, faith cannot do anything because, if faith acted, that would make it a work.” Our Lord was asked, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus’ response was, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29). Thus, in the words of Jesus, believing in Him is a work.

“But the Bible says that salvation/eternal life is a gift (Romans 6:23). If God gives it to a person, then salvation is by grace alone.” While some of God’s blessings/gifts, such as sunshine and rain (Matthew 5:45), are unconditional, other blessings/gifts from Him are conditional, being given to humans only when they comply with His instructions. One example of such would be the city of Jericho — it was a gift from God to the Israelites (Joshua 6:1,2). When did God’s power and kindness grant that gift to Israel? After they encircled the city for seven days in compliance with His commands (Hebrews 11:30). By the Lord’s grace, a crown of life is promised to those who love Him (James 1:12). Must we demonstrate our love? Yes. How? By obeying Him (1 John 5:3).

The Bible does not teach that grace eliminates the need for humans to submit to the Lord. The truth is, God’s grace provides salvation, but man must have a proper response to God’s kind offer to save us. The proper response is faith: accept the truth, trust in the Lord, and submit to Him.

By the grace of God, all spiritual blessings, including forgiveness, are available in Jesus (Ephesians 1:3,7). In order to obtain those blessings, one must get into the Christ. How does that happen? Man must respond to God’ gracious offer of salvation by being baptized into Jesus (Romans 6:3,4). If a lost person must take that action, then it is false to declare that salvation is by grace alone. Salvation “by grace” is biblical. Salvation “by grace only” is a falsehood.

— Roger D. Campbell

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