"BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH"
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of
yourselves: it is the gift of God: "—Ephesians 2:8
I PREFER the rendering in the Revised Version. As slight as the change is, it is of very great moment, as a little reflection will show.
"For by grace HAVE YE BEEN SAVED through faith, and that
not of yourselves; it is the gift of God:"—Ephessians 2:8 .
There is a vast significance in this change of tense. The Ephesian saints were not being saved, nor to be saved, but they were saved. That was the great
message they got in this letter; and if there had been nothing else to give joy to their hearts, that alone should have filled them to overflowing. You see this, I am sure. Suppose you were sailing from one of our eastern seaports, that your destination was the other side of the stormy ocean, and you could be assured upon authority beyond question that your vessel should come into port. What a comfort it would be to you when you encountered the storms! When your ship, tossed here and there and beaten upon by the resistless waves, seemed as if it must surely go to the bottom, you would stay your hearts upon the promise that notwithstanding the storm, you should come safely into port.
The apostle did not say what trials they should pass through, nor from what trials they should be spared; he did not say what tears should come to
their eyes, nor what joy to their hearts, but he said they were saved. These things might rend them asunder at times, might almost overwhelm them, but
they were saved, and, being saved, knew that after the storm of life was over, they were sure to anchor in the port of heaven.
Let us look at the passage itself. We have here, as you see, two wonderful things. First, a wonderful result; secondly, the wonderful means by which that result is accomplished. The wonderful result is salvation.
"By grace have ye been saved."—Ephesians 2:8
My friends, we have grown so familiar with that thought, that all wonder, strangeness and joy have gone out of it. I stand in amazement at my own apathy, at my own lack of emotion, at my own ability to speak in calm and measured words about so great a thing as salvation, accomplished for a
doomed soul. Familiarity has done this for us. We count it a common thing. We are scarcely interested in it. Now and again people wonder why one who
preaches does not choose the deeper things of God, why he is always talking about so familiar a thing as salvation.
Talking some time ago with a bank teller, and asking him how it seemed to him to be handling vast sums of money all of the time. "Why," he said, "I never think of this coin and these notes as money, but only as so many figures upon a
piece of paper." So, familiarity with salvation may make it seem to us as but a plan—words upon a piece of paper.
A friend was telling me, that when visiting the home of a very wealthy man, he saw in one of the most beautiful rooms of the house, displayed among costly things from over the sea—rare pictures and works of art—a common life preserver. "It seems to me," he ventured to say to his host, "a strange fancy of yours to hang up that ordinary life preserver among all these rare and beautiful things." "That," was the reply, "is where you make a mistake. That is not an ordinary life preserver, it is a very extraordinary life preserver; it kept me alive four days at sea." Dear friends, when we think of salvation not as a place, but as that mighty transaction which gave us life, which keeps us alive and is to keep us alive, we shall get back the joy of it, and the wonder of it, and it will never become a common thing to us.
The fact is, that to many of you, salvation never seemed a very wonderful or joyful thing. Your conversion perhaps was a very listless affair; so much so, that it has hardly left a trace in your memory; you do not know just when you were converted. It was a sort of sauntering out of darkness into light, and done in a very listless kind of way. May God send conviction in these days! David said:
"The pains of hell gat hold upon me:"—Psalms II6:3
And we should not wonder, therefore, when David came out of the pains of hell, that he began to talk about the joy of his salvation. Some one has said that the reason Mr. Moody preached the gospel with such power was that God had permitted him to look into hell and up into heaven.
Salvation is not a common thing. Think what it is to be saved. It means deliverance from an awful doom. I do not know how awful, but I know some
things about it because the Bible tells us some things about it. I know it is separation from God. It is separation from the good. I know that the Bible
exhausts the resources of language to pen the horrors and woes, condensed into that little word which we spell with four English letters—lost. It is darkness,
it is death, it is fire, it is the undying worm—and all these for eternity. Now, it is salvation from that. Is that a light thing? Is that a thing to be indifferent about? Is that a thing to get tired of preaching about?
Then, on the positive side of it, it means pardon full and free; everything forgiven, everything forgotten; the slate wiped clean, not one trace of our sins even in the memory of God; not one transgression left, everything blotted out and gone. You know the promise:
" I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions,"
When a thick cloud is blotted out, is there any scar left upon the surface of the sky? Is there any trace showing where the cloud was? No, it is gone completely, and the blue is there just as blue as it ever was, just as clean as it ever was. That is in salvation.
But salvation is more than that. The great thing in salvation is, after all, that it brings us into harmony with God; it sets us right with Him. Did you ever think of it? It is not pardon which saves. The pardon removes penalty and makes salvation possible. It would not be a kindness to set free all the convicts in the penitentiary today. It would merely be giving them an opportunity to commit new crimes, to load their souls with new guilt. But if one should go down to that sad place proclaiming pardon, and then put within each who accepted it a new heart, a heart that naturally and spontaneously of itself and without effort, loved honesty, virtue and right dealing, it would be a grand thing to turn all the convicts
out of the penitentiary. That is precisely what salvation does.
Skeptics ask why God does not save them if He wishes to. If God were to bring all unbelievers into heaven at their death, they would not be happy there;
they would simply spoil heaven, and make it what this earth is. Salvation is reconciliation to God, loving what God loves, hating what God hates, and desiring, even against one’s self, that God’s will may be done. This is the larger part of salvation.
I read a story about two excursions that went out of the harbor of Buffalo, New York. One carried a crowd of men going to a prize fight; the other carried
a Sunday School picnic. It happened that one out of each of these crowds got on the wrong boat. A prize fighter got on the boat that carried the Sunday School children, and a deacon got on the boat that carried the prize fighters; and probably the two unhappiest men on Lake Erie that day were those two men, simply because they were out of their right environment. The prize fighter was utterly miserable; and the deacon—you may imagine his feelings as he journeyed over the waters of Lake Erie with that swearing, hoodlum set.
Salvation is not a question of locality; it is not a question of surroundings; it is a question of being made right with God. That salvation does, and that is the larger part of salvation. Think of it,
"By grace have ye been saved"—Ephesians 2:8
made right with God, got a new heart. Salvation means becoming a child of God, coming into the family of God, sitting down at the table of God, as an heir of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ. And it means eternal rest and peace and joy; and the eternal begins now.
We have the wonderful means of salvation set forth in this text and that in two words, "grace" and "faith." Let us look at these words.
"By grace have ye been saved through faith;"
Not by faith through grace. Faith does not save; grace saves through faith. Grace the divine side, faith the human side. These two things must come
together to produce salvation. Faith here, grace there. When faith and grace meet the man is saved. He is not being saved, nor to be saved, but he is
saved. When his faith meets God’s grace, the deed is done.
"Grace"—what is grace? There have been a great many definitions of grace—some have been helpful, some not. There is a story of a little girl who said, when asked what grace was: "Please, sir, it is getting everything for nothing." That is very good, but grace is more than that. If the little girl had said: "It is one who deserves everything bad, getting everything good for nothing," it would have been nearer a definition of grace.
Grace is more than mercy; grace is more than love; grace is the largest word in the Bible. It is the greatest word, the most inclusive word, and holds
in its contents more than any other word of human speech. Imagine a criminal guilty of having robbed his best friend. And will you just let me say, dear friends, that the most moral and respectable and decent man and woman in this audience has done that. No unbeliever here or anywhere else ever had so good a friend as God—never. For whatever we may have done or left undone, we have simply lived upon His grace up to this day—we have breathed it, eaten it, slept on it. We would not have been here but for His grace; and it is He whom we have robbed of the affection that is His right due; robbed of the service that belongs to Him; robbed of fellowship; robbed of all that might give Him joy and requite His kindness. Imagine, I say, a criminal who had robbed his best friend and now stood before his judge. If the friend whom he had injured were to plead with the judge to have mercy on him, that would be wonderful, would it not? That would be marvelous kindness. If the wronged one were to come and plead with the judge for the ingrate standing there in his guilt, that would be wonderful. But grace does more than that. And if the wronged one were to love the wretch who had wronged him, really love him, that would be even more wonderful. But grace is more than that. To get a true illustration of grace, you must have the wronged one coming to the judge and saying, "Let the sentence fall on me; I do not ask that this righteous law shall be set at naught, and treated as a thing to be set at naught; the law is right. But let it sheathe its word in my breast, and let him go free." That is grace, dear friends, that is grace.
"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the
tree"—I Peter 2:24
All the waves and billows of God’s wrath went over Him whom we have wronged.
"By grace have ye been saved through faith;"
What is faith? Grace reaches the sinner through faith; it is the channel. So much is evident on the very surface of it. It is not saving in itself, but only
instrumentally. Some people have tried to make out that there is such a thing in Scripture as a faith character, that God so approves of the faith principle, that
for the sake of the rightness of a heart which is exercising faith, He pardons. The Bible knows nothing of that. The Bible is not a book of dreams. It is not a book of indefinite theologies. The Bible is a plain straightforward book, one that any wayfaring man may read and know; and it never speaks of faith character, or any other character as the ground of salvation. Faith is the channel through which
grace comes. But what is faith? A skeptical physician asked that question of a Christian patient. He said: "I could never understand saving faith. I believe in God and I suppose I believe in Jesus Christ—I am not conscious of any doubts. I
believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and I believe in the Bible, yet I am not saved. What is the matter with me?" "Well," said the patient, "a day or two ago I believed in you, I believed in you as a very skillful physician: I believed
that you would be able to heal me if I should get sick. Then I realized that I was sick, and I sent for you and put myself in your hands to be healed. In other
words I trusted you. For two days now I have been taking some mysterious stuff out of a bottle. I don’t know what it is, I don’t understand it, but I am trusting you." Now, whenever you turn to the Lord Jesus Christ and say, " Lord Jesus, Christianity seems to me to be full of mysteries. I do not understand them, but I believe Thou art trustworthy and I trust Thee; I commit myself to Thee." That is
faith. A very simple thing, is it not? The faith of the patient did not heal him; it was the remedy that healed him; but the faith took the remedy. Saving faith is the faith that takes Christ to save.
But does not the text say:
"not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:"—Ephesians 2:8
and are you asking, What is it, this "gift of God?" There are three things, grace, faith, salvation, and these are all the gift of God. But here is the significant fact, dear friends, here begins your responsibility: of this wonderful trio—grace, faith, salvation—you have already received the gift of faith. Now you are saying: "If I have faith, if already God has given me faith, why am I not saved?" Because
you have not used it rightly—that is all.
Faith! Why, you do not go an hour of the day without faith; you could not live tomorrow without faith. You have faith in the banks; you have faith in the railroads; faith in your fellow man; faith in the family tie; faith in the honor of your husband or your wife; faith all around; faith in every thing but the Christ who alone is worthy to be trusted. We trust everything that changes, everything that disappoints, everything that fails, and refuse to trust Him who never fails and never disappoints. But we can not stand up before Him and say we have not
the power to do it, because we are exercising faith in all kinds of inferior things every day of our lives, and because we have but to take that same faith and
lift it up till it is fixed upon Him, and we have formed the bridge over which that marvelous grace comes, and grace brings salvation.
"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared
to all men,"—Titus 2:I I
says Paul, and it comes over the bridge of faith.
remember some years ago when the Southern Hotel in St. Louis was destroyed by fire, there was an inquiry made by the authorities into the cause of
the disaster. Some of the servants of the hotel who had been rescued from the topmost story, right under the roof, by the heroism of an Irish fireman, were
giving their testimony, and a question was asked of one of these servant girls: "How were you saved from this fire?" "Why," she said, "Mr. O’Toole, the fireman, broke into the room and said: ‘Maggie, let me take you down the ladder,’ and I let him. That is the way I was saved."
Dear friends, do not make difficulties about these things where there are no difficulties. Faith is a gift and you have it. Grace is a gift and you may have it; and when you get it you will get salvation with it. That is the simplicity that is in Christ; that is the blessed gospel of God’s free grace. But it is all a gift; it is not for sale. God is not trading in this matter of salvation; He is not giving a little
salvation for a little goodness, and a little more salvation for a little more goodness. There is no trading; it is a free gift.
There was a poor woman whose little child was sick. She lived near Windsor Castle and could look Over into the palace gardens and see the grapes growing there. She thought how good it would be if she could have a few of those grapes for her little fevered child. So she took a shilling and went into the
Queen’s garden and said to the gardener: "I want to buy a shilling’s worth of those grapes." "Do you know," he replied, "those grapes belong to the Queen
and the Queen does not sell grapes?" It happened that just then one of the Queen’s children was standing by, and he said, "My good woman, my mother
does not sell grapes, but she will give you just as many as you need."
Well, God is not selling salvation. It is a gift or nothing, and it is for you today. What are you going to do with it? In His name, I ask you what are
you going to do about it? What are you going to do with the grace of God before the close of this serrnon, and it is nearly done? I have no warrant from my Master to give you one hour. You do not need a minute. People talk about "thinking it over;" you have thought it over all your lives. You need to act.
Will you trust Him, this Jesus who offers you eternal salvation through grace?
"Not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your
heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."