Survey in Basic Christianity
Lesson 10
Salvation by Grace

O.J. Gibson

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Grace is God’s kindness and favor shown to those who deserve His judgment. There is nothing in man that requires God to show him grace, But God saves a person from judgment based on His grace. Salvation is a gift, which means that it cannot be bought or earned.

An illustration from a courtroom setting may help. If a man murdered your child and you pursued that person to kill him, that would be vengeance. If you left the outcome of the crime to the police and the courts to arrest, convict, and execute him, that would be justice. If you forgave and pardoned the criminal, adopted him as your son, and welcomed him into your home, that would be grace.

If a person breaks God’s law, the punishment for that crime is death and eternal torment in the lake of fire. If God immediately hunted you down and killed you, that would be vengeance (Hebrews 10:30-31). If God summons sinners into His courtroom and sentences all men to death, that would be justice (Romans 3:19, 23; Revelation 20:14-15).

What if God sent His Son to die as your substitute, to pay the death penalty for your sins (crimes)? And what if God offered you the gift of salvation if you simply believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as your substitute, your sin-bearer, the One who died and rose again for your sins? And suppose God provided that gift of salvation to you freely so that you neither had to work for it nor earn it in any way? Imagine if God pardoned you for your sin, offered to make you His child, and provided you with a home in heaven to live with Him for all eternity! What would you call that? That would be God’s amazing grace.

John Newton, a very sinful man, was saved by God’s grace, and he wrote the words to a song expressing what the Lord did for Him. The world-famous song is Amazing Grace.

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

This doctrine of grace is difficult for religious people to accept because God’s grace is not for people who consider themselves good, moral, religious, and upright. God’s grace is not for people who attempt to earn their salvation by their good works, for that denies the truth of grace. God’s grace is for ungodly sinners, the helpless, the hopeless, and the lost. Those eligible for God’s grace are miserable wretches, enemies, and those who richly deserve hell who say, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).

The Old Testament word for grace means “to stoop in kindness to an inferior.” This definition perfectly describes God’s action toward us. The New Testament word means “favor, free generosity, kindness to someone, or a gift.” This indicates that salvation is not earned, deserved, or bought, either in whole or in part. Salvation in Jesus Christ is “the gift of God.” A gift is not a gift if one must earn it or pay for it.

Questions About Grace

It is difficult for people to grasp the truth that no amount of good works will ever help them gain merit for salvation before God. Consider the Bible’s answers to the following questions:

1. Can I earn God’s favor by doing good works?
No. Grace is a gift and cannot be earned by doing good works or trying to live a good life. “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works” (Romans 11:6). The Bible says, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). Even our good works are tainted with sin since “we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). The Bible says salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5). We have no righteousness of our own. We need God’s righteousness to enter heaven, and it is graciously granted “to him who does not work” (Romans 4:5). The one who tries to earn favor for salvation through good works seeks to make God his debtor (Romans 4:4).

2. Can I earn God’s favor by keeping the Ten Commandments?
No. Most people can only name a few of the commandments at best. How can one earn God’s favor by keeping that which he does not know? The Ten Commandments are the standard of God’s righteousness that no one can observe with 100% perfection. The law exposes our sin. “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). The law is unforgiving, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). The law cannot save anyone. All it can do is condemn. Many people think that if they obey the law, they will be justified or declared righteous by God. That is simply not true. “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28). “For by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Galatians 2:16). But we are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). Salvation is not by works, not by law-keeping, not by religious ceremonies, and not by seeking to make God our debtor. Salvation is by grace alone. There is nothing you can add to Jesus’ finished work on the cross.

Does God Simply Overlook Our Sin?

No! Every person has earned wages for their sin, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Those wages must be paid, and death is the payment. The law demands that we receive our wages, which means eternal death, the second death, eternal separation from God. But God, in His grace, sent Jesus Christ to the cross as our substitute. Jesus received the wages of our sin. He died in our place (Isaiah 53:4-5).

God cannot simply overlook our sin, excuse it, or act as if it never happened. A person must be punished for every wrong he has ever committed. “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). To be just, God must carry out His law. If a person must pay the penalty for his own sin, he will perish forever (2 Peter 3:9). But, in His grace, God provided a substitute – someone to take your place (1 Peter 3:18).

The Substitute

  • He must be a human to be equal to our humanity. Jesus Christ was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:23) and is a man (1 Timothy 2:5).
  • He must be a perfect, sinless man, or He would have to die for His own sins. The Bible says of Jesus, He “committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22), He “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21), “and in Him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5).
  • He must be God since only an infinite person could be a substitute for numberless sins. The value of the life of the one dying must be great enough to pay for every sin of every human being who has ever lived or will ever live on the earth. Jesus Christ is God, “Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3).
  • He must shed His blood because the law demanded blood as necessary for the forgiveness of sins. “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission [forgiveness of sins]” (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus shed His precious blood as the spotless Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
  • He must be willing to die in place of sinners, which demonstrates His great love for us (John 15:13). It was His delight to do the Father’s will. He looked beyond the suffering to the joy that would come from seeing sinners saved from their sins (Psalm 40:8; Hebrews 12:2).
  • He must rise from the dead. Otherwise, sin and death have conquered Him. “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Corinthians 15:17). “But now Christ is risen from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Jesus said, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (Revelation 1:18).

Why Is Grace Necessary?

1. The Moral Condition of Man
Man is a sinner (Romans 3:9), ungodly (Romans 5:6), dead in sins (Ephesians 2:1), and an enemy of God (Colossians 1:21). These are the things that qualify people to be recipients of God’s grace. Grace is not shown to people who think they are good enough to get to heaven, religious people who have never been born again, or to those who believe that their good works will offset their sins. The Apostle Paul testifies that God showed him grace, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). If you are a sinner, Christ’s grace, His undeserved favor, is available for you.

2. The Absolute Holiness of God
Man can never reach God by his own efforts. God’s absolute holiness is beyond even the best of men (Isaiah 6:3-5). Trying to obey God’s laws will end in utter failure. We know that “the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12). The law of God condemns all people. “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19). God stoops to man in grace to save him (Psalm 113:5-7; Philippians 2:7-8).

What Are the Effects of Grace?

1. We Are Saved by Grace
The only way of salvation is by grace (Romans 3:24; 4:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).

2. We Are Kept by Grace
He holds us in His hand and keeps us by His power (John 10:28-29; 1 Peter 1:5; 5:10). We are not kept through the law (Galatians 3:2-3) or by other works. We are under grace, not law (Romans 6:14).

3. We Stand in Grace
Our standing refers to our position of favor before God that is perfect and permanent (Romans 5:2; 1 Peter 5:12; Jude 24).

4. We Live by Grace
It is God who works in us to empower Christian living (Philippians 2:13; Hebrews 13:21).

Warnings About Grace

God’s grace to us does not grant us a license to sin or undermine our calling to live a godly life.

1. We Must Not Sin That Grace May Abound
God offers salvation by His grace. We should not presume upon His grace by continuing to live in sin (Romans 6:1-2).

2. We Must Not Turn the Grace of God Into an Excuse for Impurity
Liberty is not an occasion for wickedness but rather for loving sacrifice (Galatians 5:13; Jude 4).

3. We Are Saved For Good Works
We are not saved by good works, but we are saved for good works (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 3:8). We must not practice sin (1 John 3:9). We are to keep God’s word (1 John 2:3-5). Good works are the fruit of salvation and not the root of salvation. Good works do not earn God’s favor. We live for God because we love the Lord Jesus (John 14:15, 21).

The unique Christian message is the gospel of grace (Acts 14:3; 20:24, 32). This gospel proceeds from the God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10), who receives us at the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). Grace is an abiding principle of God’s character and is how He deals with us. We should always humbly approach the Lord, knowing He desires to respond to us in grace.

Respond to God’s Grace

The first use of the word grace in the Bible is in Genesis 6:8, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” The backstory is that “the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Sin was rampant on the earth. God’s justice would not allow sin to go unchecked. “So the LORD said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them’” (Genesis 6:7). Then we read, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8). Noah was a sinner, but God showed him grace and saved him in the ark during the worldwide flood. There was only one way of salvation, and it was God who provided it. The grace of God saved Noah.

World conditions today are similar to the way they were in Noah’s day. “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man” (Luke 17:26). In those days, “the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:27).

Jesus is coming again, and He will judge the world by fire. His justice will replace His grace, and He will come “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).

Today, we live in the Age of Grace. Jesus is the only way of salvation (John 14:6), and God has provided Him for us by His grace. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Will you respond to His grace today and trust in Him alone for your salvation?

SBC Lesson 10 Study Guide
Salvation by Grace

The Christian faith is unique in emphasizing the truth of salvation by grace. Other systems of approach to God deny this truth in whole or in part. Be sure that you understand this doctrine by answering these questions.

  1. Grace is God (select one)
    1. reaching those undeserving of His favor
    2. reaching those deserving of His favor
    3. reaching those deserving of His judgment
  2. Explain the difference between vengeance, justice, and grace.
  3. According to Scripture, all men are (select one)
    1. basically good
    2. seeking God
    3. corrupt
    4. well-meaning, but weak
  4. Observing the Ten Commandments (select one)
    1. is essential for a Christian’s salvation
    2. is to be joined together with Christ’s work on the cross
    3. can now be disregarded
    4. is the perfect standard required for attaining God’s righteousness
    5. is none of the above
  5. God can save sinners by grace and still be holy because (select one)
    1. Christ took the sinner’s place and suffered for us
    2. God can do whatever He pleases, even if inconsistent
    3. sin is not all that serious
    4. that is His duty to His creatures
  6. Paraphrase (rewrite in your own words) Ephesians 2:8-9.
  7. What are the seven qualifications that The Substitute must have?
  8. Why is grace necessary for our salvation?
  9. Which of these Bible statements reflects grace?
    1. “Do this and you will live” (Luke 10:28)
    2. “You shall love the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
    3. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19)
    4. “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20)
  10. How do the following verses correct a false idea about grace?
    1. Romans 6:1-2
    2. Galatians 5:13
    3. Ephesians 2:8-10
  11. What do you say? State in your own words what your response is to the grace of God.
  12. We want to encourage you to memorize God’s word. The suggested memory verse for this lesson is:

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”