I was in a conversation with a Christian, a member of the body of Christ. The conversation turned to God’s plan of salvation. The man said, “I do not believe that my grandparents will be lost. They were good people.” Note: I did not bring up his grandparents. He did. However, I believe that his words revealed a flaw in his thinking.
Is a person’s goodness the basis or the means of salvation? (1) Humanity has a sin problem. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). (2) Salvation is by God’s grace. It is a gift of God. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). (3) Man does not merit salvation by his own good work. “It is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy…” (Titus 3:5). Paul wrote, “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law (lit. law – B.H.) then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21). Again, he wrote, “not having my own righteousness, which is from the law (lit. law – B.H.), but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).
God has located grace “in Christ” for man living today. Grace is found in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1). Eternal life is found in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23; 1 John 5:11). Every spiritual blessing, redemption, and inheritance is found in Christ (Ephesians 1:3, 7, 11). One gets into Christ by baptism (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:26-28). Consider Tom Wacaster’s comments on Romans 6:3, “There is a change of state, locale, or position that has taken place… If it is the case that one is baptized into Christ Jesus, what can be said of that person who has never been baptized? Is he actually “IN” Christ…?” (Tom Wacaster, Studies in Romans, p. 226).
It is man’s responsibility to access this grace by faith, trusting in God’s plan for righteousness. “We have access by faith (lit. the faith – B.H.) into this grace” (Romans 5:1). “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace” (Romans 4:16). Tom Wacaster comments on this verse, “Had justification been based upon man’s success in keeping some law system then it could have in no way be ‘according to grace.’ In addition, if God has placed justification in the realm of law, no man could ever hope to be saved since no man has been able to keep any law (perfectly –B.H.) under which he lived. This inability to keep the law properly drives one to find refuge in that system wherein justification is granted by grace” (Tom Wacaster, Studies in Romans, p. 167).
Theoretically, there are two ways by which a man may be justified. (1) He may perfectly, flawlessly keep the standards of God (law), and thereby be regarded as justified. He would need no grace (Romans 4:4). However, there has only been one such perfect man (Hebrews 4:15; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22). This is not how we are justified. “Therefore by the deeds of the law (lit. law – B.H.) no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law (lit. law – B.H.) is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). Neither Abraham (under Patriarchal law), nor David (under Mosaic law) were justified by flawless law keeping (Romans 4:1-8). (2) He may be justified by faith. That is, he may be saved by accepting God’s gracious plan for man’s justification.
This requires humility. One must be humble enough to admit that he is in need of salvation, and a Savior. Moreover, one must be humble enough to submit to God’s conditions for the grace that is offered. Naaman had to dip seven times in the Jordan to be cured of leprosy (2 Kings 5:10-14). A blind man had to wash in the pool of Siloam to receive sight (John 9:1-7). Today, man needs to accept God’s instructions for the remission of sins (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38), and continued fellowship with Him (1 John 1:7-10; Acts 8:22).
Man will not be saved by his own goodness. Any who are saved will be saved by the grace of God.
God has offered His grace on conditions set forth in His word. Let all humbly accept His conditions for pardon. Some believe that God may extend grace to some beyond this. However, such is not revealed in His word, and goes beyond what is written.