Grace and Works

Saved by Grace


Intro:  How can we be saved? Do you know the answer to this question?  Surely we must, since we are the saved. Sadly, many Christians cannot biblically explain how they are saved.  They labor with misconceptions and false ideas concerning God’s work in saving the sinner.

  • There is no more applicable verses in all of the NT on our question, than  Ephesians 2:8-10  – 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
  • We can easily see that Paul’s words do give us answer:  “you have been saved by grace, through faith…”
  • Note: I strive to teach the truth in an understandable way. I do want to be misunderstood. But at times it may happen. Nothing I am going to teach about grace is intended to diminish the clear Bible teaching on the conditional nature of our salvation or the necessity of obedience to all of God’s commands.


  1. I.  “By  Grace…”   What does this mean?

A.  The word “grace” – The words in the O.T.  that denote grace all flow from the same root. These Hebrew words were often used to mean graciousness, or the extension of a favor, and seldom were used in reference to salvation. But the concept of God’s grace as the avenue of our salvation runs throughout the N.T.  The Greek word (Charis) is found 155 times in the N.T., Paul uses the word 100 times. It appears 24 times in Romans alone, and even in the short epistle to the Ephesians he uses it a dozen times.  It denotes the giving of a good gift apart from merit.  Literally grace is getting more good than we deserve.

  • Two popular ways to describe grace: “unmerited favor“; it is “favor bestowed when wrath is owed.”!

B.  Grace in the N.T. describes more than just the attitude of God toward us. It describes the way in which God saves us – the method or system by which God bestows salvation on us.  This is the focus of our study today.


  1. II.  Grace and Law:  The best way to understand grace as a way of salvation is to explain it in contrast with its only alternative, which is law.  Paul announced to Christians… “You are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:14).
    1. In this statement Paul is referencing two distinct and competing systems of salvation.  These are the only two choices.  The difference between the two is summed up in Rom 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
    2. The key words here wages and gift. Those relating to God in terms of wages will eventually get what they have earned or deserved by their works during this earthly life. This is the law system, and it operates according to the strict dictates of the holiness of God.
      1. Those who choose the alternative way of relating to God will receive their  reward as a free gift, or by grace.  In fact, their reward will actually be contrary to what deserve.
      2. Romans 3:27 – 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faithHere Paul calls these two competing systems the law of works and the law of faith. In this verse the word “law(nomos) is used in an unusual, very general sense. The NIV acceptably translates it as “principle.”  It denotes a system or arrangement of salvation.

1)  So the law of works is a system  of salvation that works on the principle of works, or wages.

2)  The law of faith is a system of salvation that works on the principle of faith, whereby we trust in the efforts of another, or as a gift.  “Works” and “faith” here are thus parallel to “wages” and “gift” in Rom 6:23 and parallel to “law” and grace” in Rom 6:14.

  1. These two opposing systems of salvation are two ways of relating to God or being acceptable to Him.  Two distinct principles of judgment – ways into heaven.   Illustrated by two gates into a walled city – the grace gate & the law gate. They are distinct, and theoretically it is possible to enter heaven through either gate.


  1. III.  Law as the Gate to Judgment:  How does the law system work?  This system operates under the strict holiness of God alone.  The holy God gives us what we deserve, or the wages we have earned by our works of obedience to his commands.  Romans 10:55 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.”
    1. The impotence of the Law System:  It is theoretically possible to enter heaven through the Law gate; by law-keeping. The ground rules for a law system are “Keep the commandments; escape the penalty;  break the commandments, suffer the penalty.”
    2. 1.   All you have to do to get to heaven under the law system is to keep the commandments. But here is an important qualification:  one must keep all the commands all his life, and keep them perfectly. Only perfect obedience-absolute righteousness-will earn heaven. There will be no balance-scale judgment, with 51% obedience being sufficient for entering heaven; it must be 100%.  James 2:1010 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.  Galatians 3:10 –  10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”
    3. Though it is theoretically possible to enter by law, in reality no one will do so, because no one has kept all the commandments.  So Paul says..  Rom 3:19-20 – 19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
      1. a.  Rather, under the law system everyone gets the wages he deserves, so everyone who has sinned is destined for eternal death in the lake of fire.  This is Paul’s conclusion in Romans 1-3 – Because of the universality of sin, no one will be saved by the system of law or law-keeping, the system of works, the system of “being good enough.” The law-gate into heaven is closed and sealed shut by the sins of mankind.


  1. IV.  Grace as the Only Gate to Heaven:  After sin shut the law gate, the appearance of Christ has opened up a new way to God.  The way of grace.  This is the good news of the gospel.  How does Grace work?
    1. A.   As noted earlier the ground rules for law are these: “Keep the commandments; escape the penalty. Break the commandments; suffer the penalty.”  But here are the rules according to which grace operates: “Keep the commandments, but suffer the penalty. Break the commandments, but escape the penalty.”  This does seem right to us. We instinctively judge things by fairness, and  want to stand up for justice.   It simply is not fair for an innocent person to be punished, and for a commandment-breaker to escape the penalty deserved by his sin.   Lawbreakers and criminals should get justice, so on the judgment day we would expect justice.  But here is a question that everyone should seriously ask himself: “Do I really want God to be fair with me on the day of judgment?” The  only fair (just, deserved) treatment for sinners is hell, the wages of sin is death (separation from God)
    2. So grace is not fair.  “Break the commandments, but escape the penalty.” It is in fact the exact opposite of fairness;  Such grace is not just “unmerited favor”; it is “favor bestowed when wrath is owed.”!
      1. But what about the second half of the ground rules of grace: “Break the commandments, but escape the penalty. Keep the commandments, but suffer the penalty.”
      2. This too is unfair in every way. This also seems irrelevant sense no one has kept the commandments. Everyone, except One.
      3. One person has lived a perfect, sinless life. This same person has suffered the penalty for everyone else.   Jesus Christ!   This was God’s plan from the beginning.  Without this part, there is no basis for the other.  The fact that the sinless Christ has suffered the penalty is the only reason God can say to sinners, “Even though you have broken my commandments, you may still escape the penalty you deserve.”
        1. God has provided a way for us to be righteous before Him..  Rom 3:21-26 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22  even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
        2. The essence of the grace system is summed up in 2 Corinthians 5:21 – 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us,
  • “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us“-Jesus kept the commandments but suffered the penalty
  • that we (the sinners) might become the righteousness of God in Him.   we have broken the commandments but still can escape the penalty.


Conclusion:  There is so much more to say about God’s grace. It is the only way to heaven.  But do not misinterpret this good news. The grace of God is undeserved, but not unconditional. We are saved by grace through faith. This saving faith always calls men to obedience.  In a lesson to follow we will consider the place of faith  (and obedience)in the working of grace.

  • When the good news of salvation by grace was preached by the apostles it was a call for specific obedience to God’s commands of belief, repentance, and baptism.
  • Mark 16:15-1615 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
  • Acts 2:3838 Then Peter said to them,”Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.



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