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REACHING THE WORLD FOR JESUS

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

“BY GRACE ARE YOU SAVED THROUGH FAITH”


“BY GRACE ARE YOU SAVED THROUGH FAITH”
(The thoughts and words of this message are paraphrased from two messages preached by John Wesley.  “Salvation by Faith” and “The Scripture Way of Salvation”)
“For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8-9)
It was the free grace that “the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7).  Neither your faith, nor your salvation comes from you.  It is the free and undeserved gift of God.  The faith through which you are saved as well as the salvation which He of His own good pleasure and favor gives to you.  Faith and salvation include the substance of the whole Bible, so it is very important that we form a true and accurate picture concerning both of them.
The first question we need to answer is: “What is salvation?”  The salvation which is in our text is frequently understood as “going to Heaven” and having “eternal happiness”.  This scripture might be extended to the entire work of God, from the first dawning of grace in the soul until it is consummated in glory.  But in this verse the Apostle Paul is saying: “You are saved”.  It is not just a blessing which lies on the other side of death, but it is implied you are now “pardoned and forgiven”.  The immediate effects of our salvation are that “the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7), and  “whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:2)…”you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).  So we can know we have this salvation when we have peace and joy about our present relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ also came to save us from the guilt and the power of sin.  “And she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.”  (Matthew 1:21).  He will save them from all their sins both original and actual, past and present sins of the flesh and of the spirit. “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the impurity of your flesh, He has made you alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14).  You do not have to live a sinful life.  You now are saved from the power of it.
The second point to consider is since we are “saved” by faith, what is “faith?  The Bible defines it this way: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1).  Faith is a divine evidence and conviction of things not seen or visible; things that are not perceivable either by sight or by any other of the external senses.  It implies both a supernatural “evidence” of God and of the things of God, a kind of spiritual light given to the soul. “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6).  Our Lord and Savior said of Himself:  "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." (John 8:12).
When we receive Christ and are “born again”, the eyes of our soul are both opened and enlightened so that we see the things which the natural eye cannot see. “But as it is written: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him." (1 Corinthians 2:9). 
This faith of assurance is the divine evidence that God loves us.  "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20).  He that believes with the true living faith that is given by God has the evidence and conviction within himself that he is a child of God.  No one has to prove it to him, nor can they take away that conviction.  “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”.  (Romans 8:16).  This is the faith by which we are given our salvation.
The third consideration is if we are saved by faith and not by works, what part do works play in our Christian life.  In coming to Christ God has commanded us to repent or “cease” from doing evil and learn to do good. "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow. "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land;” (Isaiah 1:16-19).
Therefore repentance and good works are in some sense related.  But works or fruits are only necessary if there be time and opportunity for them. A person may receive Christ on their death bed like the thief on the cross.  Everyone that believes is saved and no man is saved until he believes. “For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." (Romans 10:13).  Our gift of salvation is called being “justified”.  But everyone who is saved desires to please God and be used of Him.  This is called being “sanctified”.    Both repentance as well as the practice of all good works are necessary to be “sanctified” or to be used of God in His service.  These works include prayer, searching the Scriptures, being baptized and receiving the Lord’s Supper, works of mercy toward others such as feeding the hungry and visiting the sick, and contributing in any manner to saving of souls though their hearing the Gospel message.  This is part of the conviction and assurance we have that we have “been saved by grace, through faith”.

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