Part 14 of 22
God’s Grace Working to Bringing One to Salvation
Acts 16:31 (AMP) …BELIEVE IN (pisteou, trust in) THE LORD JESUS CHRIST [give yourself up to Him, take yourself out of your own keeping and ENTRUST YOURSELF INTO HIS KEEPING] AND YOU WILL BE SAVED, [and this applies both to] you and your household as well.
The word “believe” here has become corrupted in our modern English language. “Believe,” from the Greek, “pisteuo,” means to “entrust.” The term, “believe in Christ,” as seen in the Greek New Testament, would mean “to trust in, cling to, and rely upon Christ alone as the basis of salvation.” A person must “trust in,” Christ to be saved “by faith.” Most consider “believe” to mean a mere mental ascent or acceptance that Jesus of Nazareth, the man, existed – this is not sufficient for “saving faith.” After all, the Devil believes in the existence Jesus of Nazareth in that way. “Believe in” is again clearly as “trust in” again in this verse.
John 3:16 (AMP) God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that WHOEVER BELIEVES IN (pisteou, TRUSTS IN, CLINGS TO, RELIES ON) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal life.
But how does one arrive at such a faith and trust. It is by God’s grace that brings us to faith. In the Bible, the grace of God is seen as His loving unconditional favor toward fallen man. God made a way to extend His self to man while man is yet a sinner and hateful of God, through Christ. Romans 5:6 (KJV) For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
The Apostle Paul has more to say about “grace” than any other Bible writer. He opens every one of his epistles with; “Grace be unto you…” I would suppose this is owing to the fact that Paul himself was God’s greatest demonstration of salvation by grace. “[I Paul] was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy... and THE GRACE OF OUR LORD WAS EXCEEDING ABUNDANT....” (1Tim. 1:13-14)
Paul served Christ and suffered for Christ, declaring; “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify THE GOSPEL [GOOD NEWS] OF THE GRACE OF GOD” (Acts 20:24).
Salvation comes to men 100% by God’s grace, not partly by man’s works “...if [it be] by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.” (Rom. 11:6.) In
4:4-5 Paul writes; “...to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that WORKETH NOT, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Thus, salvation is “not of works” but it is “unto good works” (Eph. 2:8-10). Good works is the fruit, not the root. “All have sinned,” says Rom. 3:23 but, thank God, all may be “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). Rom.
It is God’s purpose “that in the ages to come He might show THE EXCEEDING RICHES OF HIS GRACE in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7).
God has already made the way for us and yet there generally is a process for one to come to what we might call “saving faith.” There is a moment when we believe, saying “yes” as it were, and we are immediately 100% saved from perdition, but most of us come to that point through a process that leads us to say “yes.” Most often, for one to be saved by faith, they have been prepared by God to “believe” in Christ. This is what we might call a “prevalent” work of the grace God by His Spirit. By “prevalent” I mean it is God’s work accomplished in us beforehand, to prepare us or bring us to Him. Jesus said; “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him…” (John 6:44).
He speaks to us through inspiration, as well as the circumstances and situations of our lives, to turn our hearts to Him long before we actually come to believe. Some may call it coincidence, but I call happenings like these God-incidences. Here’s an example of God’s prevalent grace working in my own life, preparing me to trust in Christ. One Saturday afternoon in 1968 Linda and I were sitting in our den, me on the floor and she on the couch. I was flipping channels on the TV and came across a man (now I know him to be Billy Graham) who was preaching and saying “Christ is coming back, are you ready.” I spontaneously said aloud, “No,” then turning to Linda I said “are you,” she said “no.” We didn’t discuss it or go any further at that time. Being raised a Catholic I had never seen a Bible and was ignorant of what Billy was speaking of. It was only a few months later that a neighbor invited Linda to visit her Conservative Baptist church – I at that time had no interest except to make money, fix up the house and be comfortable. Without all the further details I’ll just say, after we had heard the gospel preached for a few Sunday’s, we were both saved and we knew it. In retrospect, I can see now that I had already come to the point of realizing there had to be “more to life than this.” Such realizations come only by the grace and inspiration of the Lord in His prevalent work. God was building His case for me … leading me to that day that I said “yes” to receive Christ’s salvation.
We can freely choose to cooperate with the inspiration of God to say yes or no. If we don’t cooperate, then perhaps God tries again a little while later. If we deny this prompting we miss out on God’s will and what He is offering me through this prompting, at least for a time. Though I may fail to respond He still will never abandon me because He remains faithful even when we are not faithful; 2Timothy 2:13 If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful…). (See also the author’s article “God’s Unspoken Yes.”)
No person arrives at the point of genuine “saving faith” by or of their own self. It is the result of God’s work of God in our life. God’s Spirit works by witnessing to us in our human spirit, often via our spirit’s conscience and/or intuition. As I noted earlier by my own testimony, He speaks to us through inspiration and the circumstances and situations of our lives, to turn our hearts to Him before we actually come to believe.
In our lifetime we may receive a glimpse or snippets of the reality of the truth of God, perhaps via a serious life-event or time, such as the death of a loved one, or simply by viewing the awesomeness of the ocean, the heavens, or the desert, or the design and working of the physical body, human cells, or the universe, etc. Paul says the things of God may be seen by the creation. Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
God’s grace is at work to “prepare” unbelievers, to bring them to “saving faith.” Salvation comes to us by divine providence. Salvation comes to us includes by these elements.
1. We must come to a recognition or awareness of our need of salvation.
2. We must become conscious of our estrangement from God, and of our hopeless and helpless condition apart from God (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10, 11, 18, 23; Ephesians 2:12).
3. We must also have had presented to us information, the message of God’s love and the hope that may be found in the substitutionary death of Christ, His resurrection, and the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice in dealing with our sins. (1Cor 15:1-4).
Romans 10:14-15 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
Salvation “by grace through faith” requires God’s enablement – “it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:9). An unsaved man cannot pump this up genuine faith because he is spiritually dead (Eph 2:1). Each of us therefore must be enabled by the Spirit of God to believe. This involves the convicting work of the Spirit of God, then enabling us to see the following items with spiritual eyes.
· To See our neediness. Ephesians 2:12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
· To See our present lost and blinded condition of unbelief. 2Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
· To See our own sinfulness. Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.
· To See the fact that Christ died for our sins to reconcile us to God, to make us right with God. John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth (trust) in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. God’s great prevailing work for us is found in the cross, upon which our salvation stands. 2 Corinthians 5:21 For he (God) hath made him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
· To See the availability of Christ’s righteousness, this is available to be bestowed upon us. “Nevertheless I (Jesus) tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter (The Holy Spirit) will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove (Gk. elencho, convict) the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.” (John 16:7-11)
The unsaved person must be enabled by the Spirit of God in order to see the truth and believe with a “saving faith” in order to become a rebirthed child of God.
Ephesians 2:8-10 “For BY GRACE ARE YE SAVED THROUGH FAITH, AND THAT NOT OF YOURSELVES, IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD, NOT OF WORKS lest any man should boast.”
John 1:12 But AS MANY AS RECEIVED HIM, TO THEM GAVE HE POWER TO BECOME THE SONS OF GOD, even to them that believe on his name: