FAITH AND THE GRACE OF GOD
PROPOSITION: GOD MAKES SALVATION BY FAITH SO THAT IT MAY BE BY GRACE.
OBJECTIVE: TO LEAD EVERY PERSON TO FAITH IN CHRIST ALONE SO THAT THEY MAY
EXPERIENCE HIS SAVING GRACE.
Is the possibility of salvation just an empty dream? The philosopher, Huxley, bluntly announced, "There is no
such thing as forgiveness." Bernard Shaw, the famous man of literature declared, "Forgiveness is a beggars
refuge, we must pay our debts." These statements which represent the attitude of the world can not be
reconciled with the gospel.
The gospel declares that God has made salvation available for every person. The Creator is the Redeemer.
As the redeemer He offered his Son as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. As the redeemer He has
worked in history to draw men and women to Himself. Every thing He has done as a redeemer is an
expression of His grace. Everything He does as a redeemer in salvation comes to the sinner by faith.
Romans 4 is the great faith chapter of the Roman Letter. In this chapter Abraham is presented as the father
of all who believe. To become a
Christian is to follow in the steps of Abraham. We have already considered from the experience of Abraham
the relationship between faith and the Word of God. Now, we want to consider the relationship between faith
and the grace of God. The two go together. Wherever you find one presented in the scripture, the other will
be presented right along side. In the Ephesians Letter Paul wrote, "For by grace are you saved through
faith." There are some great lessons to be learned from this chapter concerning the vital relationship
between faith and the grace of God.
I. Faith eliminates works as the basis for salvation.
In preparation for His statement about grace the Apostle deals with the question of works. The Apostle sees
faith and works as being mutually exclusive. The idea he is attacking so strongly in the chapter is the idea
that works can be the basis of salvation before God. Or, that human kind can earn their salvation by their
1. Faith eliminates good works and makes salvation available to the ungodly.
Paul opens the chapter with a question concerning Abraham - "What then shall we say that Abraham, our
forefather, discovered in this matter?" "This matter" is a reference to the question about boasting found in
the latter part of the last chapter. What was the experience of Abraham? Did he gain his salvation by works
and find a place of boasting in his own works before God? Absolutely not! "If, in fact, Abraham was justified
by works, he had something to boast about but not before God. What does the scripture say? Abraham
believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness."
This brings us to the strong statement found in verse 4. "Now, when a man works his wages are not credited
to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trust God who justifies the
wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." The word "works" is used in this statement in a general sense
and has a reference to all kinds of good works. It would include works of kindness and generosity. It would
include morality and honor. God did not give Abraham righteousness in response to the works that he saw in
the life of Abraham. Paul rightly asserts that if he had done so, then his righteousness would have been a
matter of "obligation." Rather he received his righteousness as a gift simply because he believed the word of
hope that God gave to him. Since salvation is by faith, this makes it possible for the man who is "wicked,"
"ungodly," to find righteousness before God.
It is of interest that Paul turns to the testimony of David as an example of this truth. He gives us a quotation
from the opening of the beautiful thirty-second Psalm. You will remember the background of this Psalm.
David had been guilty of the shameful sin of adultery with Bathsheba. In an attempt to cover up that sin of
adultery, he planned the death of her husband, Uriah. He was guilty of violating every principle by which a
man should live before God. And yet, God generously forgave him. On what basis? Did David go out and do
some notable deed? Some act of sacrificial service, in order to earn God's forgiveness? Absolutely not!
According to the inspired record the only thing he did was when confronted with his sins he bowed his head
before God and said, "I have sinned."
When David said, "I have sinned," the man of God responded by saying, "Your transgression is forgiven."
David grasped that word with his faith. Based on that word of forgiveness from the prophet of God, he
jubilantly wrote the thirty-second Psalm to celebrate God's forgiveness. He had done nothing to earn that
forgiveness. Yet, he could say that his transgressions were forgiven, his sins were covered, and the Lord
was not going to count his sin against him, instead God had given him the gift of righteousness. Since
salvation and forgiveness comes to us by faith, it can come to a David who has sinned shamefully before
God. Indeed it can come to any man or woman regardless of the type of transgression that they have
2. Faith eliminates religious works and makes available salvation to all
After his discussion of David's experience, Paul comes back to Abraham. "Under what circumstances was it
credited? Was it after he was circumcised or before? It was not after, but before!" This was for the argument
of Paul an important point. If it could be demonstrated that Abraham received this gift of righteousness after
he was circumcised, then the gift of righteousness might be a reward for the religious work of circumcision.
Then, circumcision might be justly seen as an act that had in it special merit. We may become weary of
Paul's extended discussion about the place of circumcision. I can't think of anything that probably has less
excitement in it for us than a discussion of circumcision. But we should see
circumcision as representing all kinds of religious deeds - baptism, observance of the Lord's Supper, faithful
church attendance, a Bible memorization, prayer, participation in church life. The clear truth is that since
salvation comes through faith, all religious works are eliminated as a bases for the salvation. If it comes
through faith then it is a gift and not a reward.
The wonderful lesson that Paul learns here and shares with us is that salvation is available to all kinds of
people since it is by faith. You do not have to have a good religious heritage in order to be a prospect for
God's saving grace. Most of the people who have been circumcised or baptized as infants are able to point
back to a good religious heritage. So much of the world of that day did not have that kind of religious
heritage. So much of the world of our day does not have that kind of religious heritage. If my parents did not
take me to Sunday School when I was a child does that mean that I cannot have God's saving grace? If my
parents did not have me christened in the Church as an infant, does that mean that there is no place in the
covenant for me? The blessed truth is that while those kinds of things can bless and enrich a life, they are
not the bases of salvation. Salvation is a gift of God that is available to all persons regardless of their
religious background. It comes as a gift. It comes as a gift and not as something that one has earned. So, the
first lesson we must learn is that faith eliminates works as the basis for salvation.
II. Faith establishes grace as the means of salvation.
This is the great truth that springs out of this text. If salvation is by faith, then it is also by grace. If it is by
grace, then it is also by faith. Faith and grace establish each other.
1. Grace promises - faith trusts.
If we will look carefully in our text, we will see grace and faith relating to each other. It is the grace of God that
is demonstrated in His promise. "It was not through the law that Abraham and his off-spring received the
promise that he would be the heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith."
"Therefore the promise comes by faith so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's
off-spring - not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the
father of us all." What moved God to give to Abraham such a great promise? Was the promise a response
on God's part to something He saw in Abraham? Obviously not! The promise was an expression of
something that was in God. God is a God who makes promises. It is His nature to reach out to man in his
need with a promise.
But, when grace extends the promise, faith responds. Faith grabs hold of the promise and receives the
promise which grace has promised. Faith takes God at His word and trusts the promise.
2. Grace gives - faith receives. In the quotation from the Psalm of David
this is made clear
"Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin
the Lord will never count against him." You will notice that in each of these three statements God is the one
that acts. It is God that forgives. It is God who covers the sin. It is the Lord who will not count our sins against
us. That is grace. Grace forgives. Grace covers our sin. Grace does not count our iniquities against us.
Grace gives righteousness so one can have standing before God.
But faith receives what grace gives. Faith receives the forgiveness. Faith receives the covering. Faith
receives the righteousness. We will not appreciate the relationship between faith and grace until we
understand that grace gives and faith receives.
3. Grace guarantees - faith rejoices.
Listen to this statement of Paul again. "Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and
may be guaranteed to all Abraham's off-spring." The word "guaranteed" is an interesting word. The word
means to makes something valuable, to make it firm, to make it reliable or certain. The translators have
chosen the word, "guaranteed" to translate the word. It is a good word. It makes clear to us what the grace of
You do understand that nothing about salvation can be guaranteed if it depends on the works of man. If
God's saving work is His response to our works, then who can ever be for sure we have enough works? And
suppose you were to live most of a lifetime in faithfulness, but in the last months of your life you fell into open
sin, then all hope of salvation is lost. But grace makes firm, makes reliable, guarantees the finality and the
fullness of your salvation.
When grace guarantees, then faith can rejoice. In Paul's description of Abraham's response to the grace of
God as manifest in the promise, he writes, "Yet he did not waiver through unbelief regarding the promise of
God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to
do what He had promised." That is the way of faith. Grace guarantees and faith rejoices in the guarantee.
This means so much to know that we have underneath the safety net of God's grace. LLoyd Ogilvie tells of a
friend of his who had been a high flyer in the circus in the days of his youth. He shared with Pastor Ogilvie
that the secret of becoming a successful trapeze artist is an overcoming of the fear of falling.
"Once you know that the net below will catch you, you stop worrying about falling," he says. "You actually
learn to fall successfully! What I mean is, you can concentrate on catching the trapeze swinging toward you
and not on falling because repeated falls in the past have convinced you that the net is strong and reliable
when you do fall. The rope in the net hurts only if you stiffen up and resist it. The result of falling and being
caught by the net is a mysterious confidence and daring on the trapeze. You fall less. Each fall makes you
able to risk more!" There is a lesson in this for us. When we realize that our salvation is made secure by
grace, then in faith we can rejoice and risk. We do not have to spend our time worrying about falling, or
failing, but rather we can focus our attention upon serving.
4. Grace works, faith submits.
"As it is written, I have made you a father of many nations. He is our father in the sight of God in whom He
believed - the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were." The promise
was that Abraham would be a father of many nations. With the promise there came the commitment of God to
make Abraham what God said he would be. It was grace that quickened the dead body of Sarah and of
Abraham and made conception possible. It was grace that took timid Isaac and from that one son made many
nations. But it was faith that submitted to that grace. Abraham's part was faith. God said, "I will" and Abraham
replied, "Here I am, Lord. Do with me as it pleases you." That's the way it is. Grace works and faith submits to
the work of God.
This word about faith and the grace of God makes the gospel a message of hope. Dr. James Stewart used
an illustration which helped me appreciate this. He wrote, "Faust in the old story, gambled with his soul: and
an artist has painted a picture - a game of chess, Faust at one side, Satan at the other. The game in the
picture is almost over, and Faust has only a few pieces left, a king, a knight, one or two pawns; and on his
face there is a look of blank despair while at the other side of the board, the devil leers in anticipation of his
coming triumph. Many a chess player has looked at the picture and agreed that the position is hopeless; it is
check mate. But one day in the picture gallery a great master of the game stood gazing at the picture. He
was fascinated by the look of terrible despair on the face of Faust. Then his gaze went to the pieces on the
board. He stared at them, absorbed. Other visitors in the gallery came and went, and still he studied the
board, lost in contemplation. Then suddenly the gallery was startled by a ringing shout, "It is a lie! The king
and knight have another move!" The despair of Faust was without basis. There was a way to victory.
This we know to be true in the human struggle. We know that the King of Kings has another move. Grace
can transform defeat into victory. Grace removes hopelessness from the human language. But it is faith that
receives what grace offers. Faith establishes grace as the means of salvation.
Since salvation is by grace through faith no human life is hopeless!