Salvation - "By Grace, Through Faith"
|Not By||But By|
|works||Ephs. 2:8, 9||grace through faith|
|faith only||Jas. 2:24||works|
|works in righteousness||Titus 3:5||washing of regeneration|
One can quote the word of truth without teaching the truth. Satan did. (Matt. 4:5-8) Jesus' reply to the second temptation begins, Again it is written...." (verse 7) Satan had lifted one text from the Bible and used It for his purposes without regard to the relation of this text to other Bible truths. Thus, Jesus would tell him, "That is not all the Bible says on that subject."
The following important principle of interpretation springs from Jesus' words: The Bible explains itself; any one verse must be viewed in the light of all the passages in the Bible which have a bearing on the same subject. This rule is vital to a correct view of nearly any Bible subject.
Notwithstanding its relevance and importance in Bible study, this rule has been largely ignored by Protestant preachers. Nearly all of them deal with the Bible in exactly the same way as did the devil.
The use of such passages as Eph. 2:8,9 to substantiate the unscriptural position of salvation by faith without further acts of obedience is a case in point. Let us get the passage before us that we may examine it and see what bearing it has on the subject of whether baptism is necessary to salvation from alien sins: ....For by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory."
Protestant preachers argue: (1) Salvation is by grace through faith. Baptism is not mentioned. Therefore, it is not necessary. (2) Salvation is not of works. Baptism is a work. Therefore, salvation is not by baptism.
I invite your attention to an examination of these positions. Actually three passages in the New Testament speak of salvation as being not by certain means, and as being by certain other and different means. These three passages are illustrated in the diagram at the beginning of this article. Eph. 2:8, 9 is the only one of these passages which is generally noticed by Protestant preachers. The other two, Jas. 2:24 and Titus 3:5 are ignored. But let us read all three of the passages and accept all the Bible says on this subject. Then we shall have the truth.
Eph. 2:8, 9 lets us know that we are saved by grace through faith, not by works. So let us just accept this for what it says. But let us not press more into it than is actually there. Let us not assign an arbitrary definition to any of these terms which would be out of harmony with other plain statements of the scripture. Whatever these verses mean, they must be considered in the light of the other two related verses.
Now to the second one: "Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith." (Jas. 2:24) Thus, James tells us that we are justified by works and not by faith only. Notice that we now have works on both sides of the chart. We are saved by works; we are not saved by works. It is obvious that "works" in Eph. 2 is to be understood in a limited sense, or else we shall have a contradiction between Paul and James. "Works" in Eph 2 does not include just any and every kind of works that could be named.
Observe also that James denies that the faith by which we are justified (that on the right side of the chart) is of the nature described by him at verse 14, faith without works, or faith alone.
The third passage is another from Paul: "But when the kindness of God our Saviour, and his love toward man, appeared, not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that, being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:4-7)
God saved us not by works in righteousness which we did ourselves, but he did save us through the washing of regeneration. Observe that the "washing of regeneration" is clearly distinguished from the works in righteousness. Whatever the "washing of regeneration" is, it is and must be on the right side of our chart, grouped with other things to which our salvation is ascribed. Certainly it is not included in the "works" on the left side which are excluded. That the expression refers to baptism is proved by everything else the Bible says which has any bearing on the subject:
(1) In the only other occurrence of loutron (washing) in the New Testament, Eph. 5:18, we have "the washing of water."
(2) Paul is told, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins." (Acts 22:18)
(3) The word paliggensia (regeneration) means new birth (Thayer, p. 474), and the new birth involves water. (John 3:5)
(4) Rom. 6:4 shows that "newness of life" follows baptism.
(5) Peter shows that baptism in water is not a mere cleansing of the flesh. (1 Peter 3:20, 21) This shows that baptism contains the suggestion of some sort of washing.
If we let the Bible explain itself we cannot doubt that the "washing of regeneration" is baptism.
It remains now to consider one last passage and the argument is complete: "For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ." (Gal. 3:28, 27)
"For" at the beginning of verse 27 is translated from the Greek conjunction gar. Thayer describes the function of this conjunction as follows: "It adduces the Cause or gives the Reason of a preceding statement or opinion." (p. 109)
Now notice the force of gar' in Gal. 3:27. Paul has said: You are sons of God, through faith, in Christ. On "adduces the Cause or gives the Reason" for this: "as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ." The reason is: You were baptized into Christ and put on Christ. This passage demonstrates conclusively that the faith which made them sons of God included baptism. Thus, Paul's statement that we are saved by grace through faith does not rule out baptism, for baptism is involved in this faith.