Monday, May 17, 2010
True Grace and True Faith by MacArthur
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
Salvation is solely by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). That truth is the biblical watershed for all we teach. But it means nothing if we begin with a misunderstanding of grace or a faulty definition of faith.
God's grace is not a static attribute whereby He passively accepts hardened, unrepentant sinners. Grace does not change a person's standing before God yet leave His character untouched. Real grace does not include, as Chafer claimed, "the Christian's liberty to do precisely as he chooses." True grace, according to Scripture, teaches us "to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:12). Grace is the power of God to fulfill our New Covenant duties (cf. 1 Cor. 7:19), however inconsistently we obey at times. Clearly, grace does not grant permission to live in the flesh; it supplies power to live in the Spirit (cf. Rom. 6:1-2).
Faith, like grace, is not static. Saving faith is more than just understanding the facts and mentally acquiescing. It is inseparable from repentance, surrender, and a supernatural longing to obey. None of those responses can be classified exclusively as a human work, any more than believing itself is solely a human effort.
Salvation is a gift, but it is appropriated through a faith that goes beyond merely understanding and assenting to the truth. Demons have that kind of "faith" (James 2:19). True believers are characterized by faith that is as repulsed by the life of sin as it is attracted to the mercy of the Savior. Drawn to Christ, they are drawn away from everything else. Jesus described genuine believers as "poor in spirit" (Matt. 5:3). They are like the repentant tax-gatherer, so broken he could not even look heavenward. He could only beat his breast and plead, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" (Luke 18:13).
Faith and works are not incompatible. Jesus even calls the act of believing a work (John 6:29)--not merely a human work, but a gracious work of God in us. He brings us to faith, then enables and empowers us to believe unto obedience (cf. Rom. 16:26).
We must remember above all that salvation is a sovereign work of God. Biblically it is defined by what it produces, not by what one does to get it. Works are not necessary to earn salvation. But true salvation wrought by God will not fail to produce the good works that are its fruit (cf. Matt. 7:17). No aspect of salvation is merited by human works, but it is all the work of God (Titus 3:5-7).