Saved by Grace - Part 1

Scripture: Romans 5:10, Titus 2:11-14, Jeremiah 13:23
The Bible says we are saved by grace through faith. Some believe before the Cross people were saved by works. What does the Bible teach about saving ourselves by our own works? We learn that all, from the beginning of mankind, can only be saved by grace through faith.
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In the early days of the 1849 gold rush in California, an Eastern miner went West seeking his fortune in gold. Soon he "struck it right," and immediately sent for his wife and eight-year-old son. Accordingly, his wife and little boy set sail from New York for San Francisco, which in those days meant sailing around the southern tip of South America. All went well until they neared Cape Horn, when a fearful gale arose. The vessel was unable to weather the storm, and the passengers were ordered to the lifeboats. For some reason the mother and lad were detained below, but came rushing to the deck just as the last lifeboat was to leave. But there was room in that boat for just one person. That mother did not hesitate. Quickly she pressed her boy to her bosom for one parting kiss; and then dropping him into the place of safety said, "My boy, when you see Father, tell him Mother died for you," and she went down with the ship. How wonderful is genuine mother love! And yet how feebly it illustrates God's love and grace for us. For Christ died for us; not when we were His loving Children, but when we were enemies. Romans 5:10.

All who enter the kingdom of Heaven will be there because they were "saved by grace." "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men ... ." Titus 2:11-14. It is the grace of God that brings salvation. Salvation is brought to man by God; it is never the result of man's own doings. And it is brought to all men who will receive it, brought by the grace of God. God has one plan of salvation for the whole human race. John 3:16. Divine love is the same in Old Testament times as in New testament times. Grace is love in action for the salvation of sinful man. There is only one Redeemer for all ages, "for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." Acts 4:12.

Some people think that before Calvary men were saved by keeping the law of God and the law of Moses; and that since Calvary, men are saved by grace. But if that were true, we would have a divided heaven. Some would be praising themselves for their righteousness and obedience which entitled them to heaven, and other would be singing the praises of the Lamb upon the throne. No, my friends, there will be no divided heaven. All in God's kingdom will have but one reason for being there; that reason will be "Saved by Grace!" ... Both patriarch and apostle will join in singing the great Oratorio of victory, the song of Moses and the Lamb. Revelation 15:3.

There never was a time in human history when man could save himself independent of Christ. It was the prophet Jeremiah who wrote in Old Testament times those words: "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil." Jeremiah 13:23. In Jeremiah's day the hope of man was "Christ our righteousness." Jeremiah 23:6.

In Hebrews 2:9 we read that by the grace of God, Christ tasted death for every man. And indeed, how else could man be saved; for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death, and only as Christ has paid that death penalty for us can we find salvation. It is a mistaken idea to assume that the merits of Christ are available to mankind only since Calvary. The Apostle John distinctly states that Jesus is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." And Paul tells us in Romans 5:20 that "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Therefore, as soon as sin appeared grace was there. The Bible clearly reveals that Christ's life and sacrifice were guaranteed to the sinner four thousand years before Calvary, and the men and women who lived before Calvary were saved on the basis of that guarantee. Grace was no after-thought in the plan of God. It was the original provision of heaven to meet the emergency of sin. Let us consider a few of the lives of the Old Testament characters who found salvation through Christ before Calvary.

Immediately after the fall, the hope of eternal life hung on Christ. This is abundantly clear from the scriptural record regarding the sacrifice of Abel. According to Hebrews 11:4, "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain by which he obtained witness that he was righteous ... ." Thus it is clear that Abel was justified by faith. We learn from Genesis 4:4 that Abel sacrificed of the firstlings of his flock. His was a blood sacrifice, a type of the great atonement that would be provided by the Lamb of God. Abel recognized that his life was forfeited because of a life of sin but was spared by grace because of the virtue of the innocent victim that died in his stead, and by that sacrifice he looked forward to Calvary; and the first martyr for the cause of righteousness was a Christian by virtue of his living faith in the promised Lamb of God.

In Genesis 6:8 we read, "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Truly it is a wonderful thing to know that back in the antediluvian world the grace of God appeared to man. Noah found grace and understood the doctrine of righteousness by faith and preached it to others, for in Hebrews 11:7 we learn that Noah "became heir of the righteousness which is by faith."

After the flood the same plan of salvation was in operation, proving again that God has only one plan of salvation for the whole human race. Of Abraham it is written, "Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness Paul distinctly states that God revealed the gospel unto Abraham. Galatians 3:6-9 and Genesis 15:6. Now it is true that Abraham kept the commandments of God, for we read in Genesis 26:5 what God himself said about Abraham's obedience. "Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws." But Abraham was not justified because he kept the commandments; he was justified by faith. But the attitude towards God's commandments of all who are truly justified by faith in Jesus Christ is that of obedience. See also Hebrews 11:8. Thus the Christian experience of Abraham may be described by that scriptural phrase, "the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." He is declared to be the father of the faithful, and all who are Christ's are justified by faith even as he was, and by the grace of God they keep the commandments of God.

After the great sin of Israel in turning from the living God and worshiping the golden calf and thus breaking the commandments of God, we find Moses pleading with the Lord for the salvation of Israel. What was the basis of Moses' plea? Did he contend that on the basis of human merit and obedience to the commands of God that God was obliged to redeem Israel? Oh no! Moses' plea was a plea for Grace. You may read this thrilling story in Exodus 33:12-17. Notice how he plead for God's presence to go with them on the basis of the promise of God that Israel had found grace in God's sight. Four times in this one plea Moses argues on the basis of grace and that God would make it known that he and his people had found grace in the sight of the Lord. And what was the Lord's response to Moses' earnest plea? "And the Lord said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken; for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name." Exodus 33:17.

It is evident that Moses understood the doctrine of grace and that he knew that his only plea for salvation was on the basis of grace. Moreover, it is also clear that Moses and any in Israel who were saved, were saved by grace, for God Himself distinctly said to Moses, "thou hast found grace in My sight;" and I prefer to believe that God told the truth. And when the Lord proclaimed His name before Moses at the time when He rewrote the ten commandments with His own finger, He declared Himself to be a God of grace. Exodus 34:4-9. Thus God declared the giving of the law. The fact that the law had been broken did not abolish grace. Law and grace are not enemies. Grace provided the only means by which sinful man could be made obedient to the wondrous principles of righteousness. Three times the Lord declared to Moses that He was a God of grace, and God proclaims His grace anew today to you and to me when He writes the principles of His Holy Law upon the fleshly tables of our hearts. II Corinthians 3:3. No one can read Exodus 33, 34 without recognizing that it was the grace of God that provided salvation in those days before Calvary.

So often we hear it said that the Jewish people of old were saved by keeping the commandments of God while the Gentiles since Calvary are saved by grace. But God Himself has stated the contrary.

"Thus saith the Lord, the people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest." Jeremiah 31:2. My friend, Israel was not saved by keeping the law. It is true that God asked them to keep His commandments, but they were not to do this to earn heaven, for that was impossible. But by the grace of God they were to obey as proof of the fact that they had been saved by grace. Dear friends, let us never forget this "thus saith the Lord" which reads that Israel "found grace in the wilderness." In fact, the very formula for blessing the children of Israel which God told Moses to have Aaron the priest use has in it a statement regarding the grace of God. "The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee, and keep thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace." Numbers 6:24-26.

In David's day men and women understood the doctrine of salvation by faith. Listen to these words of Paul in Romans 4:6-8. "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquites are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." From the characters already considered, it is evident that the Old Testament believers were justified by faith. The reason and ground for their justification was not the keeping of the law nor their own personal righteousness any more than it is today, but in every case we discover that in the lives of these men and women who were justified by faith there was an attitude of obedience to the commands of the Eternal. All the prophets of old understood this great truth, and in making their most touching appeals to the people they called the attention of sinners to the grace of God. Listen to Isaiah's appeal: "He will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee." Isaiah 30:19. Numerous other references might be used to show that salvation by grace was a doctrine eloquently expounded by the prophets of Old Testament times.

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