Saved By Grace Through Faith

book-160876_1280William J. Stewart | Is That Really What It Means?

Every serious Bible student understands that grace and faith are essential components in any discussion about salvation. The Bible is emphatic, using the word grace 128 times in the New Testament and words like faith and believe (from the same Greek word) in excess of 300 times.

Hear what Paul wrote to the Ephesians:

…by grace you have been saved…
…by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:5, 8-9)

Several years ago, I participated in a written debate with a Free Methodist on the topic of salvation by faith alone. As he drew his first article to a close, he made the following declaration:

…salvation is gained by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone!1

He’s not alone in his conclusion. In fact, this may be one of the most popular doctrines in Christendom. But, is that really what Paul was saying in Ephesians 2? Did Paul teach that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone?

Let’s address the fallacy of the statement.  Words have meaning, and for communication to work, we need to use words correctly. The word alone is defined as:

…without anyone or anything else : not involving or including anyone or anything else : separate from other people or things. (

By definition, something or someone cannot be alone if other things or people are present. If grace, faith and Jesus Christ are all involved in salvation (and they all are), then salvation is not by any of them alone. And it is nothing short of foolishness to say salvation is by grace alone and faith alone and Jesus Christ alone. That’s not alone! In the debate mentioned earlier, my  response to my opponent’s statement was like this:

…he doesn’t even believe this doctrine of salvation by “faith alone,” for he sums up by saying there are at least three essentials to our salvation. He believes that these three elements alone, together, account for our salvation. If he is willing to go this far, what is keeping him from accepting the rest of Scripture?1

If more than one thing is linked with our salvation, then salvation is not by a single thing (or three single things, as the case may be) alone. And even simpler than this, take a look at Ephesians 2:8 again and notice how many times the word “alone” appears in the text? If your count is the same as mine, it is a grand total of 0. And yet this is the text used to teach that salvation is by faith alone, or in the words of my friend, “by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.”

In defense of a doctrinal position, some have let zeal for their teaching keep them from seeking the whole truth. Certainly the Bible teaches the necessity of grace and faith, but it is not grace and faith alone. The Bible identifies several things that are essential for salvation. Consider:

  • Jesus (Matthew 1:21)
  • Jesus’ name (Acts 4:12)
  • Jesus’ death (Romans 5:9)
  • Jesus’ life (Romans 5:10)
  • God’s longsuffering (2 Peter 3:15)
  • God’s mercy (Titus 3:5)
  • God’s grace (Ephesians 2:5, 8)
  • God’s word (James 1:21)
  • The gospel (Romans 1:16)
  • Knowledge of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:15)
  • Power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18)
  • Doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16)
  • Faith (1 Peter 1:5, 9)
  • Loving the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10)
  • Confession of Christ (Romans 10:9-10)
  • Godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10)
  • Forgiveness of sin (Luke 1:77)
  • Calling on the Lord (Romans 10:13)
  • Denying self (Matthew 16:25)
  • Faith and works (James 2:14)
  • Obedience (Hebrews 5:9)
  • Sanctification (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
  • Baptism (1 Peter 3:20-21)
  • Endurance (Matthew 10:22)
  • Works (Philippians 2:12)
  • And more…

When we study the Bible, we need to take into account all it says on a subject. Are we saved by works? No, for Ephesians 2:9 says “not of works,” and yet one verse later, Paul states that we are saved unto good works. It is not a matter of meritorious works—we cannot earn heaven. And yet we must obey the commandments of God, and if we do not, we cannot have the hope of heaven (James 2; Romans 6:17).

Salvation by faith is a bible doctrine; salvation by faith alone is not.


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