By Grace Through Faith

by Mike Ratliff

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 ESV)

The more I deal with those who are adamantly against the fact that God’s Word is absolute truth as they claim the correct way to understand the gospel is as if it is some sort of smorgasbord or rotating buffet in which the sound doctrines taught to us from the Bible are simply one of untold numbers of various ways to God, the more amazed I become at the abject spiritual blindness exhibited by them. These same people want an understanding of the Bible that is loose and easy to hedge. Why? It is so they can include every person on planet earth as on “a” path to God regardless of status as a Christian or not. This multi-path concept to God is a perfect seedbed for the apostate authors such as Brian McLaren who wrote A Generous Orthodoxy. McLaren and those like him are rethinking “Christianity” so that it becomes the all-inclusive container for all religions as seen is this fine post by Pastor Ken Silva. This is the fifth post in the series. I highly recommend that you read all five. The end-product of this rethinking of Christianity is not Christianity at all. It is an open-ended, man-made false religion that has as its foundation the philosophies of men, not the Word of God. 

Fortunately, we do have God’s Word and in it we have sound doctrine that teaches us what the real gospel is and what it does.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1 ESV)

1και υμας οντας νεκρους τοις παραπτωμασιν και ταις αμαρτιαις υμων (Ephesians 2:1 WHNU)

All humans since the fall of Adam (Genesis 3) except one were born dead (νεκρους) in trespasses (παραπτωμασιν) and sins (αμαρτιαις). That one was the Lord Jesus Christ. The rest of us were from that moment we were conceived in our mother’s wombs dead (νεκρους) in trespasses (παραπτωμασιν) and sins (αμαρτιαις). What does this mean? This is tied very closely to John 3:3 which I placed at the top of this post. The term “Born Again” in Greek is γεννηθη ανωθεν which should be translated as “born from above” in the context of what our Lord was speaking about. The “from above” part (ανωθεν ) can also mean “again,” as I said, the context of the rest of our Lord’s dialogue in John 3 shows us that the correct emphasis here is on being born from above, that is, born according to heavenly things rather than earthly things. This is, of course, regeneration. Our Lord was saying in John 3:3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is ‘regenerated’ he cannot see the kingdom of God.” We see this clearly in the following passage.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7 ESV)

All truly in Christ and are, therefore, on the ONLY path to God as Christians, are those who according to God’s goodness and loving kindness, our Saviour appeared. He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. God poured out the Holy Spirit on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour so that being justified by His grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. How much more clear can it be said my brethren? No works of righteousness by us preceded the washing of regeneration. The prerequisite for this washing of regeneration is God’s own mercy. This regeneration is the only way for anyone to become saved because all humans since the fall of Adam (Genesis 3) except one were born dead (νεκρους) in trespasses (παραπτωμασιν) and sins (αμαρτιαις). The word νεκρους is used to describe the nature of a corpse. This death is due to our living in trespasses (παραπτωμασιν) and sins (αμαρτιαις). This is a sobering reminder to us all of our total sinfulness and lostness from which we have been redeemed. The word “in” in this phrase is very important for it shows us that we were not dead because of our sinful acts, but because of our sinful nature (cf Matthew 12:35; 15:18, 19). We see this clearly in in vv2-3.

in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:2-3 ESV)

From this passage we see that it is the living this life in the power of our sin nature that makes us by nature children of wrath because in this we are following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. This is, of course, Satan, our enemy.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV)

4ο δε θεος πλουσιος ων εν ελεει δια την πολλην αγαπην αυτου ην ηγαπησεν ημας  5και οντας ημας νεκρους τοις παραπτωμασιν συνεζωοποιησεν τω χριστω χαριτι εστε σεσωσμενοι  6και συνηγειρεν και συνεκαθισεν εν τοις επουρανιοις εν χριστω ιησου  7ινα ενδειξηται εν τοις αιωσιν τοις επερχομενοις το υπερβαλλον πλουτος της χαριτος αυτου εν χρηστοτητι εφ ημας εν χριστω ιησου (Ephesians 2:4-7 WHNU)

Paul’s presentation of the gospel here is masterful. He gives us the bleak portrait of the human situation then gives us ο δε θεος (But the God!). This is because our salvation is totally in His hands. We cannot do one thing to save our selves. But God is rich in mercy and through His great love, which He loved us, and we being dead in our transgressions, are made alive together in the Christ (by favor we are being delivered) and raised up together, and seated together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, that He should demonstrate in the coming ages the exceeding riches of His favor, in graciousness upon us in Christ Jesus. The ground of our salvation is God’s love and mercy, and its goal is the promotion of His grace and kindness.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

8τη γαρ χαριτι εστε σεσωσμενοι δια πιστεως και τουτο ουκ εξ υμων θεου το δωρον 9ουκ εξ εργων ινα μη τις καυχησηται (Ephesians 2:8-9WHNU)

These two verses are a great parallel toTitus 3:4-7 (above). It is by what that all truly in Christ have been saved? It is by grace (χαριτι) through (δια) faith (πιστεως). We are saved by God’s underserved favor through faith. This is important. The word δια translated here as ‘through’ refers to a channel or conduit, which in this case is faith, which is a reliance on Christ alone for salvation. This reliance is the conduit through which God’s grace saves us. The next phrase, ‘And this is not your own doing; it is the gift (δωρον) of God’ refers to the entire previous statement of salvation, not only the grace but also the faith. Although people are required to believe for salvation, even that faith is part of the gift (δωρον) of God which saves and cannot be exercised by one’s own power. God’s grace is preeminent in every aspect of salvation (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16).

Soli Deo Gloria!

9 thoughts on “By Grace Through Faith

  1. In speaking of the Emergents and the like, you state, “These same people want an understanding of the Bible that is loose and easy to hedge. Why? It is so they can include every person on planet earth as on ‘a’ path to God regardless of status as a Christian or not.”

    And why is that? From what I’ve seen in conversing with these people, there are four things:

    One, if the requirements for salvation are so loose and weak, then these people make it easy for themselves to be saved. Their conscience is eased and they feel comfortable knowing that they’re on the right path simply by believing in a christ-figure. It’s easy.

    Two, following on the heals of the first point, if gaining salvation is easy, then living in salvation is easy. You can do pretty much whatever you want because as long as you believe in a christ-figure, you’re saved. They want the best of both worlds: be spiritual, but live fleshly lives.

    Three, if the gospel is watered down, if salvation is so wide open, then more people will sign up. Thus, the preacher (or, recruiter, more appropriately) gets to pat himself on the back for converting so many people. Oh, and, of course, there’s money to be had for the most enterprising among them.

    Four, it’s all about presenting oneself as better than another. Whether it be through their mystical philosophizing that makes them sound so intellectual, or through their good works of making the planet a better place, or through their incredible love for others by declaring that they can see the good in all people, they come out looking like wise, caring, and loving people.

    If God makes the rules, they would have to admit they are weak and can do nothing. If they make the rules, they can come out on top and live how they please. And all along the way, they recruit more people into their cult of fleshly desires with Satan as their master and guide.

  2. Mike, may I add that it is my experience that this all stems from two things: One, these people would dare to ask, “Did God really say…?”, and, two, they cling to their idol of free will.

    I consistently find that even those who seem to sincerely hold to Biblical truth cannot seem to give up their idea that all men are created with free will as a gift from God. It’s not 100% across the board, but it seems that most of the people I talk to believe that God would not be loving if He didn’t give all of His creatures free will.

    From there, we get all flavors of errant teachings and behaviors. (Yes, I know Emergents like Mark Driscoll and Rick McKinley claim to be Reformed, but they are clearly in the minority.)

    I have become weary of the argument that one cannot truly love God unless they are perfectly free to love Him or reject Him. No matter how many scriptures are presented, like the excellent teaching you’ve given here, they just will not listen.

    But I have become even more weary of those who should know better who are looking past these false teachings and embracing, or at least tolerating, those who would diminish the glory of God. Who is standing up for truth anymore? We don’t have to be harsh in our words, but we do have to speak up. Let’s call it like it is instead of dancing around the obvious. With the Holy Spirit in us, we have discernment. Let’s use it.

  3. Hi Mike, May I respond to Carol?

    Thank you Carol for your insight and heart in all you have written :-D It is both a delight and a joy to hear the Lord in you. Praise Him.
    Bless you

  4. “Fortunately, we do have God’s Word and in it we have sound doctrine that teaches us what the real gospel is and what it does.”

    AMEN

    Blessings to you, dear Brother.

    In Christ,

    Karen

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