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Misunderstanding the Grace of God

I recently had an article rejected that I had submitted to another article directory, a site
that says it is a Christian article directory. It was a short article entitled "Receiving the
Gospel" which, if you like, you can find on this article directory and read for yourself. It
was deemed to be unfit for a Christian article directory. The editor of the directory made
it clear to me in an e-mail that he believed man was saved by grace without baptism
which in the context of the article submitted meant without obeying Peter's directive on
the Day of Pentecost as found in Acts 2:38.

His position is not unusual. Millions of people have read Paul's statement in Eph. 2:8-9,
"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" (NKJV) and said okay, that is it, no need
for further study.

I would like to say first of all this is a poor approach to God's word to isolate and elevate
part of his word over and above the rest of his word. That approach makes me and you a
judge over the word where we get to make ourselves God and decide what is vital and
what is not. Jesus when tempted by the devil said that "man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." (Matt. 4:4 NKJV) Note the
way he phrased that statement, he said "by every word … of God", not just by the words
of one's choosing.

In the second place it needs to be pointed out that I think every single person that makes
the claim to be a Christian believes salvation is by grace through faith including myself.
Is there a person on the face of the earth who thinks he has always done the right thing
and never ever sinned? I can name many of mine. Some of them have been an
embarrassment to me, all of them of which I am aware have lowered my self esteem,
some have hurt others, all have hurt my relationship with God. I will never be the person
I could have been due to the sin in my life. How about you, if you are honest how about
you? Yes, we are saved by grace for we are undeserving of salvation.

Grace is often defined as unmerited favor, the unmerited favor of God toward man, and
that hits the mark pretty close to dead center. When one knows he is a sinner he knows
that on his own merits he does not deserve salvation. I have often thought I needed to be
punished, could almost wish I could do it myself. There is no thought of deserving
anything other than that.

Grace encompasses all the good things God has done for us in bringing us salvation.
When God sent Jesus into the world was that not an act of grace? When Jesus went to the
cross for us shedding his blood for our salvation was that not God's grace?

When God gave us his word was that not an act of grace? When God confirmed his word
by signs and wonders in the first century allowing us to know for a fact that it was God
giving the word was that not an act of grace?
There is a passage in Rom. 2:4 that bears on the very thing I am trying to get across. It
says, "Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not
knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" (Rom 2:4 NKJV) Is this not
God's grace? Is not his goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering toward us that we might
repent of our sins God's grace?

Peter says, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but
is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to
repentance." (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV) Is this not grace? Just God giving us time to get our
life in order is that not grace? Yes, we are saved by God's grace working in so many
different ways for our salvation without which we could not be saved, none of us.

But, here is my problem with those in the denominational world on the subject of grace.
Their idea is that one is essentially saved by God's grace alone without man being under
any obligation to do anything. They essentially see grace as unconditional dependent
only upon faith.

They reject baptism as essential to salvation. I see it as another part of God's grace to
man and intend to prove it beyond doubt later in this article. If God tells me to do
something in order to have my sins forgiven ("repent, and be baptized every one of you in
the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" - Acts 2:38 KJV) he was under
absolutely no obligation whatsoever to give me that option whereby my sins could be
forgiven. I was shown grace by him telling me what to do and giving me a promise that
upon doing it my sins will be forgiven - that to me is an act of grace on his part.

Denominationalists argue no it is not, that is works. Their idea is that there is nothing
you can do for salvation other than depend on God's grace with the idea being that it is a
kind of a one time packaged deal given you at the point of belief by which you are then
and there saved without any further effort on your part period. Lest anyone
misunderstand I am talking about initial salvation.

That thinking reminds me of Christmas just passed as I write this. I received as a gift a
gift card. To use it I had to get in the car, drive a distance, take up my time and make
effort, find what I wanted, drag it up to checkout, haul it out to the car, drive home, and
unload it. To a denominationalist that is no gift, no grace in such giving, because I had to
do something. Well, if they feel that way about the gift cards they received just send
them my way. I will take them and say you were gracious to give them to me, that you
showed me an act of grace, and I will even be thankful about it just as I am about God's
grace to me even though he would have me do something.

Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of
heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven." (Matt. 7:21 NKJV) When
Peter said, "repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the
remission of sins" (Acts 2:38 KJV), when Ananias told Saul, "Arise and be baptized, and
wash away your sins" (Acts 22:16 NKJV) I wonder was that the will of the Father in
heaven? Was that grace? What do you think? Can you be saved without doing the will
of the Father? Jesus says no, denominationalists say in the case of baptism yes.

But, let me talk a little about salvation by grace through faith versus salvation by works.
Paul talks at length about this in the book of Romans and in Galatians. Under the Law of
Moses a man was required to keep perfectly the law in order to be saved. None could do
so thus obviously none could be saved on that basis.

This was true of the law of Moses but it is just as true of any law that a perfect God might
give to mankind. Paul says, "For if there had been a law given which could have given
life, truly righteousness would have been by the law." (Gal. 3:21b NKJV) John says
much the same to us for in speaking to Christians he says, "If we say that we have no sin,
we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1John 1:8 NKJV) Sin is a transgression
of the law of God, "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the
transgression of the law." (1 John 3:4 KJV)

God has a law today. He has always had a law. Today's law is the law of Christ (Gal.
6:2, 1 Cor. 9:21). But, no matter how much we might desire to do so and despite our best
efforts we cannot keep the law of Christ perfectly anymore than the children of Israel
could keep the law of Moses perfectly thus if there is to be salvation it must be by grace
which it is.

Does this then mean that man can ignore Jesus' commands and disbelieve the things he
said whether directly or indirectly (through the inspired writers of the New Testament)?
If grace comes through faith what kind of faith is it that will not believe that which has
been spoken or written? If the Lord speaks and I claim to be a man of faith will I not
believe his words? Grace comes through faith (Eph. 2:8) but does it come through a faith
that disbelieves those things plainly written? The language the inspired writers used with
regards to baptism are too clear for misunderstanding as to its purpose.

Let us take a closer look at Paul who wrote a great deal about salvation by grace and
faith. (We act as though that is all he wrote on the subject of salvation.) The very same
man that wrote Eph. 2:8 ("for by grace you have been saved through faith") also wrote
Gal. 3:26-27, "26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as
many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (NKJV) A
denominationalist, taking the smorgasbord approach, will take verse 26 and leave off
verse 27. That cannot be done by a man of genuine faith. The man of faith believes all
God has said on a subject. The denominationalist says you put on Christ at the point of
faith. Paul says not so. Paul says by grace I have been saved through faith and then tells
me I put on Christ in baptism, not before baptism. Will I believe all Paul said or just
what I want?

But, here is the clincher that destroys all arguments that attempt to separate baptism from
grace. Paul, who remember said "by grace you have been saved" (Eph. 2:8 NKJV),
writes in 2 Tim. 2:1, "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ
Jesus." (NKJV) Where is saving grace found? In Christ Jesus. Okay, how does Paul say
we get into Christ Jesus? He says, "do you not know that as many of us as were baptized
into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?" (Rom 6:3 NKJV) And he makes the
same statement in Gal. 3:27 when he says, "as many of you as were baptized into Christ."
(NKJV) Anyone who can put two and two together can add the same here.

Paul said the same thing earlier in the book of Romans when he said that we are "justified
freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (Rom 3:24 NKJV) A
person thus seeking to be saved by the grace of God ought to get into Christ Jesus where
redemption is found, there and there only will he find grace and salvation. The New
Testament tells us too clearly to misunderstand how to get into Christ.

In Christ there is salvation (2 Tim. 2:10), eternal life (Rom. 6:23), a new creation (2 Cor.
5:17), every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3), forgiveness (Eph. 4:32), the promise of life (2
Tim. 1:1), redemption (Rom. 3:24), being alive to God (Rom 6:11), and grace (2 Tim.
2:1). When we are baptized we are baptized into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). One
who has not been baptized is outside the body of Christ and thus outside all of the
blessings that are found only in Christ. All good things are found in Christ, not out of
him. That includes grace as clearly shown for all who will accept 2 Timothy 2:1.

Bible faith by which God's grace comes is a faith that believes what God has said so
strongly that he does not question it but if God has said it the matter with him is settled.
The true man of faith does not need to hear a passage on baptism but once and whatever
is said on that topic he immediately believes and is ready to obey if he has not already
done so.

Yes, it may take some study to see how all of the things by which God has said we are
saved work together in a harmonious whole (see my article on this directory entitled
"Bible Contradictions - True or False") but if it is said by God or one of his inspired
messengers that we are saved by baptism (1 Peter 3:31), or receive forgiveness of sins in
baptism (Acts 2:38), or put on Christ in baptism (Gal. 3:27) then a genuine man of faith
says immediately "it is so". They do not argue about how it is not so.

Paul himself was saved by grace as we all are yet he was not saved before baptism by
grace alone. Hear his own personal story. On his way to Damascus to persecute
Christians, as one who did not believe, the Lord confronted him and he was made a true
believer and repented of his sins. Luke tells us when confronted by the Lord Saul (Paul)
trembled and was astonished. (Acts 9:6) He was told by the Lord himself to "go into the
city, and you will be told what you must do." (Acts 9:6 NKJV)

Denominational doctrine almost across the board, meaning no matter what group you are
talking about, has him now saved. He believes and has repented and "by grace are ye
saved through faith" (Eph. 2:8 KJV) so they see him as saved. The trouble of it is, is that
Jesus told him he had to go into the city where it would be told him "what you must do."
(Acts 9:6) So, whatever he must do has not yet been told him at the point of faith and
repentance.
Then we see that for the next 3 days this saved man is living in misery rather than
rejoicing in his salvation. Luke says, he "neither ate nor drank" (Acts 9:9 NKJV) during
that whole time. And, why not? Is it not because he does not yet know what it is he
"must do?" (Acts 9:6)

Now he knew what the future held for him for in Acts 26:16-18 he says Jesus told him
when he appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He knew he would be God's servant
and sent to the Gentiles to preach even before entering the city of Damascus. (Acts 26:16-
18) That is not the thing he was told he must do when he entered the city of Damascus
for that he already knew.

What was it he was told he must do? Ananias told him, "And now why are you waiting?
Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts
22:16 NKJV) He was told to be baptized to wash away his sins. That was what he must
do. So here we have a man saved by grace and we know exactly how he was saved. He
had faith, he had repented of his sins, and he was baptized to wash away his sins.

Was he saved by grace? Yes! When he obeyed he was saved by God's grace for he was
then in Christ where salvation is found. His sins had been washed away by the grace of
God for he had believed and obeyed God.

Do you want to be saved by grace? You can try it the denominational way if you so
desire but my own personal advice to you would be that I would try it the Bible way by
doing what Paul did. You can not go wrong doing that.