Now, we are saved, I want to say emphatically, clearly, without stutter, stammer, apology, and fear of contradiction, salvation is by grace alone. (Amen from congregation) Now, listen. Grace is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Our faith is the only faith in the world that has the message of grace. God has cornered the market on grace. You are saved by the grace of God. It is the sheer gift of God. You could no more save yourself by works than this young man could do what I’m going to ask him to do. Greg, come over here just a minute. You’re an athlete. He doesn’t know I’m going to do this. But you’re an athlete. He is. He’s a great athlete, so I want you to do this. I want you to reach down and put your hands underneath your shoes (Laughter from congregation). Just go ahead. You can bend, you bend your knees. Now, lift yourself off the ground. (Laughter from congregation) Impossible. Thank you. All right. He can’t do that. He, You could not save yourself by works anymore that he could lift himself off the ground by putting it, or if a drowning man is drowning could reach up and grab himself by the hair and pull himself out of the water. That is absolutely, totally impossible. You’re not saved by works.
As a matter of fact, we had something called the Protestant Reformation that is based on this entire truth that salvation is by grace. There was a Roman Catholic, monk, a priest, a scholar whose name was Martin Luther. And back in the 1500s Martin Luther was trying to be justified by works. And he was in that great cathedral, in Saint John’s Cathedral in Rome. He was on the stairs they call the Santa Scala, the Holy Stairs, thought to have been the stairs that Jesus ascended in Pilate’s judgment hall. Martin Luther was on his knees, doing penance, trying to pray, trying to be right with God, and praying on every stair as he went up, trying by works to be justified before God. And he had been studying the Book of Romans and the Scripture burst upon his heart and he read to himself again that we are justified by faith, Romans chapter 1, verse 17: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” You’re not saved by works, but you’re saved by the grace of God, and it is faith that brings that grace into your heart and into your life.
Well, is there a contradiction then between James and Paul? Well, no. James and Paul are talking about the same thing but from a different viewpoint. There is no contradiction here, but it is heads and tails of the same thing. So many times we do get confused about these things.
Some years ago, I had the privilege to be with the former President, George Bush. And I was sitting in his library in his home. He was Vice President at that time. And I had in there with me, or we had together, Jerry Falwell, Charles Stanley, Jim Kennedy, and Adrian Rogers, and the Vice President. We’re sitting in his library. So he’s sitting there with the four spiritual laws (Laughter from Congregation). And we’re talking, and the subject of faith came up and salvation. And somebody asked the question, “Tell us about your faith.” He said, “I’ll tell you very clearly.” He said, “I believe that my only hope of heaven is the fact that Jesus died for me on the cross, and I have put my faith in Jesus Christ and I am trusting Him to get me to heaven because He died for me and paid for my sins on the cross.” Well, that sounded very, very wonderful. And Kennedy asked him the diagnostic question. He said, “No disrespect, Mr. Vice President, but if you were to stand before God and He were to say to you, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’ what would you say if you were to suddenly die?” He would say, “I would tell Him, I’ve trusted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, and I would also tell Him that I have endeavored to live by the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.” Well, when he said that, the light went off in Mr. Kennedy’s head and he said, “Now, Mr. Vice President.” He said, “Keeping the Ten Commandments and living by the Sermon on the Mount have nothing to do with it. You’re saved by the grace of God.” George Bush said, “I disagree with you. Do you mean to tell me that a man can say that he believes in God and it doesn’t change his life?” He said, “I believe when a man is saved, when he becomes a Christian, it will show up in his life. You’ll be able to see it. It’s going to change his life.” Mr. Kennedy said, “Well, if you’re talking about that, I’ll have to agree with you. I was just simply saying those things don’t save you.” And the Vice President said, “Well, if you put it that way, then I will agree with you, but I believe that a man’s faith ought to change his life.” And Mr. George Bush was absolutely correct. And I appreciated what he had to say. And I appreciated he knew more than just simply saying, “I believe is what it is that shows a man’s true faith.”