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Salvation by Grace Apart from Faith?

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I was reading a theologian who said that salvation was by grace.

Which was good.

He said the gospel was not another form of law as if salvation depended upon our works.

That was also good.

He said that God loved us unconditionally.

I believe that (though not everyone does).

He claimed that salvation is given by grace, apart from repentance, works, or trying to put your life together.

Amen, amen, and amen.

But then he added something that ruined it all: salvation by grace meant it was also given apart from faith.

No, no, no!

I’ve omitted the theologian’s name in case I misunderstood him. But since it was not the first time I’d heard that claim, let me clarify something about salvation by grace through faith.

There are two sides to this equation, and the sides are not equal, but they’re there: God provides salvation by grace, but you appropriate His provision by faith. You need both. Without faith, grace is like a signal without a receiver.

Without faith, you can fail to get what the Lord has already provided. Think of the example of Israel’s failure to enter the Promised Land:

For who heard and rebelled? Wasn’t it all who came out of Egypt under Moses? With whom was God angry for forty years? Wasn’t it with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief (Heb 3:16-18, emphasis added).

God fought for Israel and rescued them from Egypt. He provided the land and wanted to give them rest. And yet, why didn’t they enter? Not because of any unwillingness or lack of provision on God’s part. Instead, they didn’t enjoy God’s provision “because of unbelief.” God had provided, but they did not receive it.

To give another example, when Jesus ministered in Israel, He healed everyone who came to Him. He never passed anyone over, denied anyone healing, or turned anyone away. There were no limits on who or what He would heal. People only had to believe. If they did, they were healed. As Jesus said to one woman, “Daughter, your faith has healed you” (Mark 5:34), a phrase the Lord often repeated (cf. Matt 9:2, 22; 15:28; Luke 7:50; 8:48; 17:19; 18:42).

The only time Jesus didn’t heal was when unbelief prevented it (Mark 6:5-6). Once again, it wasn’t for lack of grace but for lack of faith. God provided (i.e., Jesus was there with healing power), but they did not receive His provision.

Returning to the issue of salvation—why aren’t people saved today?

It’s not because God is unwilling for them to be saved—He is willing (1 Tim 2:4). It’s not because He hasn’t provided everything they need—He has (Rom 8:32). And it’s not because it’s not entirely by grace—it is (Acts 15:11; Eph 2:5, 8-9). So why aren’t people saved?

The only reason is unbelief. If you believe in Jesus, you have eternal life. If you don’t, you’re condemned already.

Faith receives what grace provides. That’s why salvation is not simply by grace but by grace through faith.

Send your questions or comments to Shawn.


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