Whole Counsel Theology

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Grace that Brings Us Faith

A few weeks ago, I was reading through the New Testament (something I recommend doing!) and came across a verse in Titus that I had overlooked for a long time.

Since understanding the TULIP doctrines, I have read the Bible more carefully, seaching for doctrines in it, particularly those relating to God's sovereignty. Since I hadn't read through Titus since before I understood what I now know about the Bible's teaching regarding God's working out our salvation according to His perfect plan (and doing that perfectly), I missed this critical teaching regarding Paul's doctrine of justification.[1]
Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, (6) whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, (7) so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Do you see it? We are justified by His grace, which is the logical conclusion to what Paul was saying in verse five about us not being saved because of works. This is an amazing statement! Our justification is by God's grace and His grace alone!

...but wait! There is an a critical doctrine called Sola Fide that states very clearly that justification is by FAITH alone! In fact, Paul says that justification is by faith over in Romans:
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are justified by faith! Yet, Paul also says we are justified by grace! How can the two both be true?

Everyone agrees that we are the ones who put faith in Christ, and that He doesn't do the believing for us. We are the ones who do the believing. The question is, how do we believe in Him and how do we get the ability to do it since we are totally depraved? Since we cannot do anything pleasing to God apart from His work in us, how can we put faith in Him, since that is surely pleasing to Him?

The answer (as you might have guessed) is that the faith we need to put in Christ is given to us by an act of God's grace in regeneration! Read that Titus passage again, and then move on to the next one from Paul:
Romans 3:23 for all have inned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (25) whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

So then, we see that we are justified by God's grace -- as a gift! Furthermore, we also see that this is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus! For those who will be saved (the elect) the grace of their justification (and therefore the faith they would need in order to believe) was purchased for them by Christ when He died on the cross for sins.

Lastly, there is another Scripture that merges the two together.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (9) not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ah, Paul brings it all together in these two verses! The "this," being a Greek neuter demonstrative seems a bit out of place, since the only antecedents are either feminine (grace and faith) or masculine (the participle "have been saved"). It is common in Greek to use a neuter demonstrative to refer to group of antecedents, whatever their gender, which is exactly what Paul did here. The "being saved" is not of ourselves; it is God's gift. The "grace" is surely not of ourselves; God is gracious to us. The "through faith" also is not of ourselves; as we have seen before, the faith is part of the act of God's grace on His elect.

The Scripture is truly unified in the matter! Praise God for His indescribable gift!

SDG,
DBH


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1. As always, any Scripture quotation I use comes from the English Standard Version of the Bible, and any emphasis in the text is added by me.

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