Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 14, 1963
NUMBER 2, PAGE 1,10b-13

The Bible Doctrine Of Grace

Robert H. Farish

The title implies that there are doctrines (plural) of grace. This is correct; there are many theories of grace. These many theories are contradictory of one another and also of the divine doctrine of grace. No theory which finds its authority in the wisdom of the world is the Bible doctrine of grace. Human theories of grace are "bruised reeds"; they are "broken cisterns which can hold no water." When one is taught the Bible doctrine of grace, he is taught of God.

Some Human Doctrines Of Grace

Atheism: The only grace which an atheist can acknowledge is the grace or favor by those who are physically and mentally superior. The grace of atheism is accidental, partial, temporal, brutish and hopeless. This doctrine is utterly foreign to the doctrine of grace taught in the Bible. For the Bible doctrine of grace is planned, without respect of person, with promise of a life to come upon which glowing hope can be based, which hope elevated man above the brute creation.

Atheism, in addition to the fact that it is unscriptural, also fails to take into account the universal desire in the normal human being to live on. No provision for this desire is found in the grace of atheism. Its adherents must eat and drink for tomorrow they die, without God's grace and consequently without hope. The atheist with his god of "dialectical materialism" can only look to a final return to the dust from whence he came. From inanimate matter he completely came and to inanimate matter he must completely return according to his doctrine. When the physical body begins to slow down and the mind to deteriorate, the only grace which the atheist acknowledges begins to wane. Time relentlessly cuts away at his hopes and ambitions. Hopelessness takes over. All his lifetime he must be in bondage to the fear of death for this is according to his doctrine, the finish of him as a person. He vainly seeks to justify the fact of human existence by pointing to the magnificent accomplishments in the material area, but no one knows better than he that great civilizations have been built in the past only to crumble and be forgotten. His accomplishments and those of his contemporaries will also pass.

Universalism: The Bible doctrine of grace is not the doctrine of grace which is taught by Universalism. Universalism seeks to extend the grace of God unconditionally to all men; whereas the Bible doctrine of grace is by grace "through faith." (Eph. 2:8) The Bible doctrine of grace includes human responsibility. According to the Bible doctrine of grace, man is not the passive recipient of God's grace, but must comply with the conditions of faith which God has ordained in order to enjoy the favor of God.

Calvinism: The doctrine of grace of Calvinism is clearly set forth by William Hendriksen in his commentary on the gospel of John. This commentary was copyrighted in 1953 and thus reflects the current view of grace according to Calvinism. The following quotation is his commentary on John 17:6 and sets forth the view.

"Not to everyone was this name made known; only to those who in the eternal decree of election had been given (hence to those subsequently drawn) to the Son by the Father (see on 6:37, 39, 44, of. 17:9, 24). Out of the world (see on 5:19) they had been chosen by the Father as a gift to the Son. Probably the best commentary is that which is found in the Canons of Dort (First Head of Doctrine, Article 7, my translation):"

Here is the quotation from Dort:

"now election is the immutable purpose of God, whereby before the foundations of the world were laid, he has, according to the most free good-pleasure of his own will, of mere grace, chosen out of the whole human race, fallen by its own fault from its primeval integrity into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons, neither better nor more deserving than others but with them involved in a common misery, unto salvation in Christ; even whom from eternity he had appointed Mediator and head of the elect and the foundation of salvation: and therefore he has decreed to give to him to be saved...."

Note that according to the theory it is "a certain number of persons" that God has chosen.

Hendriksen's further comment on this is: "Jesus continues: Thine they were, and thou gavest them to me. He is thinking of all the elect, but particularly of disciples who are with him in the upper room...." These quotations are from The Gospel of John by William Hendriksen, page 353.

This doctrine of the grace of God which is widely held by various religious groups is at variance with the Bible doctrine of grace. It makes God a respecter of persons where the Bible doctrine is that "there is no respect of persons with God." (Rom. 2:11) The doctrine of grace held by Calvinists eliminates human responsibility, for if God wills that "a certain number of persons" are elected by God unto salvation, it follows that all of the "certain number" must exercise faith. Faith is a human exercise; it is man that must believe and without faith it is impossible to please God, (Heb. 11:6) It follows that if an individual is going to receive the grace of God in spite of himself, he must believe in spite of himself, hence, the individual who is of that "certain number" has no responsibility to put forth conscious effort to believe. Not a single one of the "certain number" could disbelieve! The grace of God is not irresistible; man must believe before he can stand in the grace of God.

The Bible doctrine of grace is that "the grace of God bath appeared bringing salvation to all men." (Titus 2:11) It is all men and not just a certain number for whom God has provided salvation. God does not wish that "any should perish but that ALL should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9); "he would have ALL men to be saved." (1 Timothy 2:4)

Salvation which is the gift of God's grace is "by grace through faith." (Ephesians 2:8) Grace is the divine part in salvation and faith is the human exercise involved. The Bible doctrine of grace recognizes the responsibility of all men to believe. ALL men, who are responsible to God, and not just a certain number, are capable of believing and all men are required to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, in order to enjoy provisions of God's grace.

Judaism: Judaism conceives of the grace of God as limited to certain fleshly qualified ones. The fleshly descendants of Abraham and Jacob along with the few proselytes to fleshly Israel are favored of God according to this view.

This view of the grace of God is contrary to the Bible doctrine of the grace of God. The Bible teaching of the grace of the "God of all grace" is that he is the God of all men "...or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles also? Yea of the Gentiles also; if so he that God is one, and he shall justify the circumcision by faith and the uncircumcision through faith." (Romans 3:29,30) God is the God of all men and God of all grace and cannot be properly thought of as favoring any nation, rather "in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him." (Acts 10:35)

The early contention, "except ye (Gentile Christians) be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved" (Acts 15:11) and "it is needful to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the law of Moses" (Acts 15:10) is utterly false and is labeled by the Holy Spirit as trying God — "now why make ye trial of God, that ye should put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" (Acts 15:10) The Bible doctrine of grace is that "we (Jews) shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in like manner as they (Gentiles." (Acts 15:11)

Many people who are not physical Jews have never learned that the "grace that should come unto you" was not announced by Moses and the Old Testament prophets through the Old Testament scriptures but rather is exclusively announced as a fact "through them that preached the gospel unto you by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven." (1 Peter 1:10,12) The Old Testament law "was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17) The grace of God cannot be received through the Old Testament law, neither by mingling of the old and the new.

"Good Moral Man": Another human view of grace is that of salvation based upon morality alone. Many hold this idea that just so a man is a "good moral man" i.e., a man who is generous toward the unfortunate a good husband and father, and citizen, one who pays his debts, and is free from such had habits as drinking, lasciviousness, dishonest practices, etc., he will be saved by the grace of God.

This is another doctrine of grace which has no basis in the Bible. The Bible doctrine of grace extends no comfort to this view. While a clean, noble life is absolutely essential to the enjoyment of the favor of God, yet the Bible teaching of grace requires more than simply being a "good moral man." Cornelius was a "devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always" (Acts 10:1, 2), yet it was necessary that even he "fetch Simon whose surname is Peter; who shall speak unto thee words whereby thou shalt be saved, thou and all thy house." (Acts 11:13,14)

Surely no present day "good moral man" can claim a higher level of conduct than is by the Holy Spirit claimed for Cornelius! If Cornelius' morality, as high as it was, was insufficient, how can anyone think so highly of himself as to hold a view that God will respect his person to the point of exempting him from that which was required of Cornelius and through his grace save him on the basis of his morality, a thing which he would not do for Cornelius? The "good moral man" must "be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in like manner as (he)." (Acts 15:11)

Faith Alone: Another popular human system of grace is the "faith alone" doctrine. This theory in reality makes salvation not only free but unconditional. It is not salvation by faith, but salvation by faith alone, for which the advocates of this doctrine contend. This is in contradiction to the divine doctrine of "by grace have ye been saved through...." (Ephesians 2:8)

The Bible doctrine of grace is "by grace are ye saved through faith." (Eph. 2:8) Salvation is not by grace alone per universalism nor by faith alone per denominationalism, but by grace through faith. The grace of God must be complemented by the faith of man before salvation, the gift of God, is received. Grace in this place includes all the rich provisions which God has made for man's salvation; faith includes all the actions which God has required of man.

Summing up: the Bible doctrine of grace is not the teaching of evolution, that those, who by sheer accident are physically and mentally the most fit, are the recipients of favor and that solely because of superior accidental endowment; neither is it the doctrine of Universalism which rules out all considerations of the justice of God; nor the human doctrine of Calvinism which disregards the impartial character of God. Neither is the doctrine of hereditary grace of Judaism the doctrine of grace taught in the scriptures. The "good moral man" delusion is eliminated as being the Bible doctrine of grace by many scriptural considerations, not the least being that Christ "himself is the savior of the body (church)" (Eph. 5:23) and the good moral man is not in the church on morality alone. The doctrine of "salvation by faith alone" is ruled out by the Lord when he made salvation conditioned upon man's obedience to the gospel. (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, etc.)

Grace Defined

According to Hastings Bible Dictionary, our English word "grace" comes from a word which expresses the idea of "favor" or 'good will." Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, defines "grace" as sometimes used in the New Testament for the "friendly disposition from which the kindly act proceeds." This is the idea in Ephesians 2:5 where it is stated that "by grace have ye been saved." It is by the favor, loving kindness or good will of God that we are saved.

In other places grace is used to describe the spiritual state or relationship into which one by faith enters. An example of this use is Rom. 5:2. ....through whom also we have had our access by faith into this grace wherein we stand; and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God."

Closely related to this sense is the use made of the word grace in 1 Peter 1:9, 10 where the apostle writes; ".... receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you." Here "the grace that should come unto you" is the "salvation of your souls." The salvation of the soul is the gift of God's favor or grace. The gift itself is called "the grace that should come unto you."

The two main uses of the word, grace, with which we are here concerned are: (1) In the sense of God's disposition toward men. (2) The gift which God's good will provides.

By Grace Through Faith

"Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom also we have had our access by faith into this grace wherein we stand; and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Rom. 5:1,2)

Access into the favor of God is not gained through any humanly devised means. No combination of mere human power is sufficient to force entrance into this state nor produce such attractiveness in a person as to gain for that person this gift. One stands in the favor of God when that one avails himself of the means which God has decreed. One will stand in the favor of God in God's way or not at all.

Peace with God and the hope of sharing in the glory of God are enjoyed by those who have had their access by faith into grace. The inheritance is for those who have entered into the favor of God by faith.

"For by grace have ye been saved through faith" (Eph. 2:8) expresses the divine part and the human part of salvation by the words "grace" and "faith" respectively. The grace or favor involved in salvation is of course divine favor; while faith in a human exercise. Neither the divine part nor the human part can be successfully dispensed with; both are necessary. If it were not for the grace of God no one could be saved and it is equally true that if a man does not exercise faith, he cannot be saved, for "without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him." (Heb. 11:6)

The Conversion Of The Ephesians

The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians and among other things said, "by grace have ye been saved through faith." (Eph. 2:8) This same apostle had been the first "to testify the gospel of the grace of God" to these people. Before their conversion to Christ they were "separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, having no hope and without God in the world." (Eph. 2:12) This however, is not the description of their condition at the time Paul wrote the letter to them for he wrote, "but now in Christ Jesus ye that were once far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ." (Eph. 2:13) What happened to change the picture from one of dismal hopeless despair to one of glorious hope and sublime relationships? They had been saved by grace through faith.

But what is it to be saved by grace through faith? What are the specifics of this comprehensive statement of how they were saved? What does the phrase "through faith" embrace?

The answers to these questions are found in the Bible. The book of Acts is filled with examples of conversion; among these cases is the case of the conversion of the Ephesians. This case illustrates what it is to be saved by grace through faith. No question can be entertained with reference to these people being saved by grace through faith, for the Holy Spirit expressly states that they were saved by grace through faith. (Eph. 2:8) The account of the conversion of the early members of the church at Ephesus is found in the 19th chapter of Acts. Read this account carefully: "Paul, having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples: and he said unto them, did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? And they said unto him, nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was given. And he said, into what then were ye baptized? And they said, into John's baptism. And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him that should come after, that is, on Jesus. And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 19:1-5)

Particular attention should be given to the terms used by the Holy Spirit in this account. Notice the point of inquiry which the apostle selected was, "when ye believed" (A.M.V.), "since ye believed." (K.J.V.) His inquiry was, "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed"? Next comes the response of these people at Ephesus which indicates their ignorance of the Holy Spirit: "Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was given." To this, Paul responded by saying, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him that should come after him, that is, on Jesus." Note what is here required. This language requires that they believe on Jesus. Whatever these people did in obedience to the command to believe on Jesus is the human action or actions required in salvation by grace through faith. Remember that at a later date this same apostle guided by the same Holy Spirit wrote, to the people, "for by grace have ye been saved through faith." Now to learn the action taken by these people when they heard that they must believe on Jesus, read verse 5. "And when they heard this," heard what? Answer, "that they should believe" on Jesus. When they heard that they should believe on Jesus, "they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus." To believe on Jesus involves being baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. The Bible doctrine of grace requires obedience of faith before one stands in the grace of God.

This is the divine pattern of salvation by grace through faith. It is in accord with the commandment of our Lord to his apostles to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, with the promise that the ones who believed, repented and were baptized would be saved. (Matt. 28:19,20; Mark 16:15, 16; and Luke 24:46, 47) It also harmonizes with the requirements expressed in the first sermon preached by the apostles in obedience to the commandment "repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38) And not only so, but, it is in harmony with every case of conversion recorded in the book of Acts.

To be saved by grace through faith is to obey the Lord Jesus in every detail. The obedience of faith of the Ephesians was not a performance of "works" whereof they could boast. Their obedience was "obedience of faith." They were not like those of whom the apostle wrote, "for being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God." (Rom. 10:3) That submitting to the righteousness of God is simply obeying God is seen by comparing this statement in verse 3 with the statement in verse 21 — "All the day long did I spread forth my hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people." Failure to submit to the righteousness of God is disobedience. Have you submitted to the righteousness of God by being "baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus"?

Salvation — The Gift Of God

For by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God...." (Eph. 2:8)

"And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." (1 John 5:11)

These two passages along with others teach that salvation of the soul or eternal life is the gift of God. Salvation cannot be earned; it is not possible for any man to perform such works as will merit salvation. It is not gained by works whereof man can glory. If one could so work as to earn salvation, the reward would not be "reckoned as of grace, but as of debt." (Rom. 4:4) Some have changed the Bible doctrine of grace and have contended that a gift can have no conditions with which men must comply; if conditional it would not be a gift. This is a false contention which has deceived many and encouraged them to fail to obey.

Jericho was a gift of God. "See I have given into thy hands Jericho..." (Joshua 6:2) Jericho was a gift; God said, "I have given," yet there were conditions for Israel to comply with before the gift of the city was theirs to enjoy. All the men of war had to march around the city for seven days, seven priests had to bear seven trumpets before the ark, the seventh day they were to march around the city seven times and the priests were to make a long blast on the trumpets and the people were to shout with a great shout. All these conditions were to be complied with by the people before they received the gift. All these human actions are included in the faith by which the wall of Jericho fell down. The New Testament tells us faith by which the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been compassed about for seven days." (Heb. 11:30) The grace of God threw the walls down after the faith of man performed. Just so with salvation by grace through faith, when any man's faith is exercised in doing the will of God, the gift of the grace of God is gained.

Our daily bread is a gift from God. "Give us this day our daily bread." (Matt. 6:11) is a petition which Christ taught his disciples to pray. The food which we eat is considered in the Bible as a gift of God. But the Bible also takes note of the fact that receiving this gift is conditioned upon certain thing s. Paul instructs the brethren at Thessalonica, "if any will not work, neither let him eat." (2 bread," identifies our food as a gift Thess. 3:10) It is readily seen that the language, "give us this day our daily of God and furthermore that the passage in Thessalonians teaches that the gift is not properly gained except through complying with the conditions in the case.

Other cases could be cited but these suffice to show that a gift does not become a matter of debt simply because there are conditions attached to it. Salvation is a gift of God; that is grace, while obedience to God is the faith of man. Both grace and faith must be exercised before a man can enjoy the gift.

"Take Heed Lest He Fall"

"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." (1 Cor. 10:12)

"Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace." (Gal. 5:4)

"My brethren, if any among you err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins." (Jas. 5:19, 20.)

"Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble (fall) (KJV), for thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Pet, 1:10,11)

"I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected." (1 Cor. 9:27)

From these passages it is learned that the Bible doctrine of grace is opposed to the human doctrine of grace which teaches that it is impossible for a child of God to so sin as to be lost. The child of God is warned to take heed lest he fall; those Christians in Galatia who sought to be justified by the law were fallen from grace; one who converts an erring Christian from his sin saves a soul from death; falling from grace can be prevented by doing the things which the apostle outlined and even an apostle of the Lord must buffet his body to avoid being rejected by the Lord. Note that the body must be restrained and regulated by the inner man, the "I," in order that the inner man, the "I," should not be rejected.

Every warning passage addressed to children of God deals a death blow to the human theory of "once in grace, always in grace."

"The grace of God hath appeared unto all men" — that includes you — "instructing us to the intent that denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world." (Titus 2:12)

— 413 E. Groesbeck, Lufkin, Tex.