In a previous article, we discussed how a Christian may so sin as to lose their salvation. The bible teaches us that God is faithful and cannot lie (Titus 1:2). And that He will keep His promises and reward His faithful children with eternal life. This reward is in the age to come (Mark 10:30).
God’s faithfulness, mercy and promises are not being questioned. However, scripture is very plain and definitive regarding who will receive His blessings. They are promised to those who have been born again and who remain faithful. Jesus told Nicodemus “do not marvel that I said to you that you must be born again” (John 3:7). This rebirth occurs when one is baptized into Christ for the remission of sins, (Romans 6:3-4, Acts 2:38 and Titus 3:4-5).
Peter told his audience in 1 Peter 1:23, being born again came by the word of God. In verse 22 of that chapter, he had just told them that they had “purified their souls in obeying the truth.”
Obeying the truth, the commands of God and Christ, does not mean we claim salvation through works of merit. When one obeys the gospel because of their trust and faith in Lord, then He saves us from our sins. We don’t deserve it. It is only by God’s grace and mercy that we can be saved, (Ephesians 2:7-9). This leads us to the main thrust of this study. Please take your bible out and read the following passages, so you the reader can verify what is about to be discussed.
Paul certainly did tell us that we are saved by grace through faith in Ephesians 2:8. I believe this and so should you, because it’s the truth. In verse 9, Paul says that this salvation is not of works; if it were based on works, then you and I could boast in our works.
God would owe us our salvation, but I do not believe in salvation by works of merit. Scripture denies salvation based upon such works. I do not believe in works of which I can boast and that would earn my salvation. You should not believe in them either. Read Ephesians 2:7-9 again; in so doing, we are now confronted with a perplexing question. How were the Ephesians saved? Did they DO ANYTHING to be saved? And if they did do anything, does it contradict what Paul just said about salvation in Ephesians 2:7-9?
How shall we answer this dilemma? Let’s answer it by letting scripture explain scripture, by comparing spiritual things with spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:13b). How then were the Ephesians saved? We have to go back to Paul’s visit to the city of Ephesus. This is in Acts 19, which was on his second missionary journey, traveling through the upper regions, he comes to Ephesus. Paul found disciples there, 12 in all; he questioned them as to whether they had received the Holy Spirit, since they’d believed. They admitted to him that they had not even heard of the Holy Spirit.
This let Paul know that they could not have been baptized into Christ as the Lord instructed his disciples to do back in Mathew 28:18-20. For to do so, would mean baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Scriptural baptism is by the authority of all 3 members of the Godhead. Paul asked the 12, “into what were you baptized? (Acts 19:3). They said to him “into John’s baptism.” Paul explains to them that John’s baptism was temporary in that John taught that people would have to believe in the One who would come after him, that is Jesus Christ (verse 4). If we gather the facts from the rest of this chapter and those from the letter to the Ephesians, we can fully understand what the Ephesians did in order to be saved by grace through faith. And whatever we find, they had to do, we too must do the same thing.
Please note these key points, by jotting them down or underlining them as we list them. Bback in Ephesians 2:8-9, we can with certainty say, they were saved by God’s grace through faith. In Acts 19:5, we read that they were baptized in the name of the Lord. Baptism “in the name of the Lord” is explicitly described in Acts 2:38 as being “for the remission of sins”. Further, in Acts 19:18-19 we read where those who lived in Ephesus became believers, confessing and telling their deeds. They brought their books of magic and burned them, a demonstration of repentance.
Now look at how Paul describes the Ephesians in Ephesians 1:13. He says they believed and trusted in Him (Christ in the context) after they heard the word of truth. The Ephesians were people who heard the gospel, believed and obeyed it; they did something. They believed and obeyed. This is how a person is saved by grace through faith. It does not mean they did works to earn their salvation. It means they were saved by grace through faith.
While you are pondering the facts we have listed here, please ponder this also. Jesus said in John 14:15, “if you love me keep my commandments.” How can a person suggest all you have to do is believe when Jesus and His apostles have listed several things, we must do to be saved? How can the person who does not obey say, he loves Jesus? And by the way, did the Israelites earn the city of Jericho in Joshua 6? Did God owe it to them? I know He did not owe Israel anything, but scripture says God gave them Jericho in Joshua 6:2. Israel did something also in chapter 6. They marched around the city a total of 13 times in all. Hebrews 11:30 says the walls fell by faith.
Can’t we see and understand that grace, faith, and obedience do not contradict the Almighty’s promises and plans for His people?
Robert Knowles is a member of the McArthur Heights Church of Christ and can be reached at Rknowles5@juno.com.