Salvation by Grace

By Rev. Joshua Gravett

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923


Grace!" This precious word is one of the least understood of all the great words of our Christian vocabulary. It is not one of the least used, for, on every hand, men lustily sing, "Saved by Grace." Yet, when we press for an illustration of how men are saved, the answers too often reveal a woeful ignorance of God's plan of salvation.

Early in Church History this question was earnestly discussed, and under the direction of the Holy Spirit the truth was established. We find ourselves in a similar conflict in these days. Men on every hand are teaching that works must be added to faith, or Christ crucified, before one can procure salvation. God's Word makes much of works when they are the outcome of gratitude; but it warns constantly against trusting such for salvation from wrath.

Grace Defined

The Apostle Paul lays the axe at the root of this Christ dishonoring doctrine by spying: "I do not make void the grace of God; for if righteousness is through the law then Christ died for naught" (Gal. 2 -21 R. V.).

The law, to which the Apostle referred, was the law given as "a covenant" to the Children of Israel at Sinai (Deut. 5:23). It included the so-called "ceremonial" and "moral" law. Many of the Jewish converts believed that only those who kept the law could be saved. Such sticklers were they that they refused to eat with uncircumcised Gentile believers. Paul saw that such teaching perverted the Gospel. Therefore, when Peter came to Antioch he "withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed" (Gal. 2:11). In refusing to eat with the uncircumcised Christians Peter was guilty of adding works to the gift of grace.

It seemed but a little thing to ask Christianity to incorporate a t'me honored Jewish custom. But it was not the custom which Paul feared, it was the why of the custom. He saw that its addition under their terms entirely changed the principle of God's dealings with men. They said,

"Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1).

But God had already revealed in the Old Testament that salvation was by Grace.

"And if by grace, then it is no more works: o.herwise grace is no more grace" (Rom. 11:6).

Paul points out, by quotations from the Old Testament, the diverse principles of grace and law.

"Now that no man is justified by the law it is evident; for, 'The just shall live by faith.' And the law is not of faith: but, 'The man that doeth them shall live in them' " (Gal. 3:11 12).

It is foolish to attempt uniting what God has divided. Law thunders, "Do and you shall live," whilst grace sings, "Live and you will do." Law offers life to the godly, whilst grace proffers eternal life to the ungodly. The dominant word of the former is "works"; whilst the latter magnifies "faith." At Sinai 3,000 were slain. At Pentecost 3,000 were converted. The Holy Spirit directs us to the covenant with Abraham as illustrating the manner of His dealings with us. The covenant with Abraham (read Rom. 4:9-16; Gal. 3:13-29) was "by faith, that it might be by grace" (Rom. 4:16). It was (a) Unconditional (Rom. 11:29); (b) Christ centered (II Cor. 1:20); (c) Oath-bound (Heb. 7:21); and (d) Perpetual (Jer. 31:35-37). Whilst the Sinaitic covenant was (a) Conditional (Gal. 3:12); (b) Temporary (Heb. 7:12). We are taught to compare our condition to Abraham's and to contrast it with Israel's under law.

Had Paul refrained from contending for the faith "once for all delivered to the saints," we should not now possess the Gospel. He said he gave subjection, "No, not for an hour; that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you" (Gal. 2:5). Thank God for such men as Paul! Had he not resisted, it would, regarding the Gospel, have been like the fable in which the came! after craving protection from the elements pushed the obliging cobbler from his little shop. Jesus said, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees." Truth always needed defenders. Being the truth, it is always the object of Satan's attacks. We are urged in the epistle to the Ephesians to put on the whole armour of God and fight the good fight of faith.

Grace Providing

Let us still further study this FACT OF GRACE: Grace says, "To him that worketh not but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Rom. 4:5).


"Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace" (Rom. 4:16).

The Scriptures affirm that we are

 "justified freely (i. e., without cause) by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:34)

The Greek word rendered "freely" is translated "without a cause" in John 15:25. Jesus was hated "without a cause," for there was no evil in Him to merit hatred. We are justified "without a cause," for there is no goodness in us to merit justification. The atoning blood of Jesus Christ is declared the procuring cause of our salvation. Faith rests upon God's Word about Christ's glorious redemption. I like that old phrase, "recumbent faith." Such faith just reclines upon God's Word about Jesus crucified. It finds rest in such declarations as,

"The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6).

Archibald Brown said, "Put your faith where God put your sins." That was saving advice.

Paul, the Apostle, teaches that the law of works — any work before or after regeneration — has noth'ng whatever to do with salvation from wrath. He often omits the definite article before law, thus excluding all works (Gal. 2:16, 21; 3:11). Works, I repeat, — before or after regeneration, — are excluded. But a "law of faith" remains (Rom. 3:27, 28). Being under the "law of faith" we are constrained to put faith in Christ or be condemned because of frustrating grace. Because Christ has died and salvation is freely offered, if I do not believe I am lost. The whole world is under the law of faith.

"He that believeth on Him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).

"If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall d'e in your sins" (John 8:2.- ).

"This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent" (John 6:29).

Jesus used the word "work" in this last passage, to make plain that God demands but one thing from the sinner. Faith, the thing demanded, is instrumental, not procreative. Grace provides salvation, faith appropriates it (Rom. 6:23). Dr. A. T. Pierson says, "Believing is the most simple act of which we are capable. It is simple reception * * * and reception is so simple that it can scarcely be defined; it would lose its simplicity in definition."

Grace Defined

Whilst we must believe, no merit can be attached to belief. "And if by grace, then no more of works, otherwise is no more grace" (Rom. 11:16). Is there any merit in my permitting, if I am a pauper, a kind benefactor pouring abundant treasure into my bosom? Do I earn my host's dinner by eating it? Or, to use another figure, is there any merit in a liar's believing the good word of one who cannot lie?

Grace is unmerited favor; or, as John Currie puts it, "God's gift to paupers." It is even greater than a gift to a pauper: it is a gracious pardon to an enemy.

Let me further illustrate this principle of grace. A jeweler offers a $20,000 jewel at the ridiculously small price of twenty-five cents. If I do not possess the quarter I cannot obtain the jewel; but, if I do and offer it to the jeweler, I become a purchaser of the gem. I grant you that I would secure a bargain. But God is not selling bargains; He is offering unspeakable gifts, gifts purchased in the open market at full cost by our precious Redeemer.

A little girl, whose mother was sick with fever, came to the gardener of a king with her small store of pennies. She asked him to sell her some of the luscious grapes for the parched lips of her mother. He said he could not. A little princess heard the request and refusal, and immediately ran to her papa asking permission to give the little girl some grapes. He granted her the petition and soon the gardener, under the little princess' direction, was filling a basket with rich grapes. Upon receiving the grapes, the poor child offered her few pennies to the king's daughter, as a price for the grapes. The princess quickly repelled the little girl, saying, "My papa is a king, he doesn't sell grapes, he gives grapes." Friend, God is the glorious Giver. Do not frustrate His grace by offering your imperfect works as the price for your salvation.

Grace Needed

I fancy that I can hear some one say, "Why does God save by grace alone? I believe the question is plainly answered by Paul when he says,

"All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3 123).

Our condition is such that we cannot give God the necessary obedience. Being born in sin, we are sinners by nature and act. We may consent to God's demands that they are good, but we cannot meet them. The giving of the law made the offense to abound. The law more clearly reveals our sinful nature than does the darkened conscience; but it cannot remove the stain or remit the penalty.

The work of law (either conscience, Sinaitic or the Sermon on the Mount) is to condemn; Paul says it ministers death (II Cor. 3:7). Law can know no mercy. It must judge impartially. The blindfolded goddess fitly illustrates its attitude toward all.

Friend, God's answer to your question is your inability, proven by your disobedience to His revealed will. Our conditon is such that God must deal with us purely in grace if He would save us. We are born in sin, so that out of our hearts proceed corrupt thoughts, adulteries, thefts. Jesus said,

"All these things come from within and defile the man" (Mark 7:23).

We sin because we are sinful by nature. The ball receives its curve in the hand of the pitcher. We receive our sin in the bodies of our parents. David cast no reflection on his mother as a wife when he said,

"In sin did my mother conceive me" (Psa. 51:5).

He briefly states what Jesus described in Mark 7:21-23.

If I saw two rattlesnakes approach my child, one of which had bitten a number of people, whilst the other had never bitten a person, I would warn my child to flee from both because of their natures. I would not warn it merely to be afraid of the one with a bad record. So man is declared a sinner because of his natural condition.

"Sin is lawlessness" (I John 3:4, R. V.)

How can the clean thing holiness come from an unclean heart? Do not charge too much to Satan. When" he is bound for a thousand years, men will still sin.

I cannot plane a board smooth with a jagged plane-iron. I say it reverently, — God was limited to grace, for even He, the Master-workman, could not through fallen man work out a perfect holiness. This was proven under law, for He dwelt by His Spirit among the Children of Israel to help them keep His Word.

Grace Exalted


He is not improving man, but is now doing a new work.

"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation" (II Cor. 5:17).

"We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto (not because of) good works" (Eph. 2;ioK

We are not placed back where Adam stood, but we stand complete in the glorified Christ. We are made partakers of the "divine nature" (II Peter 1:4).

"Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Rom. 5:20).

What a wonderful salvation!

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2).

When speaking on "assurance" in a certain place, a brother said, "Brother Gravett, if salvation is a gift, can I not return it to God, even if others cannot take it from me?" I quickly answered him by asking him the question, "Can you give your life back to your parents?" He rejoiced in the new light. Let us rejoice that we are "born not of the will of the flesh * * * but of God."

Grace Disciplining

Some Christians are troubled about their sins, fearing that sin will cause them to be lost. Before faith God deals with us as subjects, but after faith as sons. God will punish believers in this life for their sins. After God's covenant of grace with Abraham he twice lied regarding his wife. Jacob after the covenant at Bethel cheated his father-in-law again and again. David after the covenant recorded in II Sam. 7:8-17 committed adultery and murder. These sins were doubly hated by God because they were wrought by His children, and each is punished. Read Nathan's rebuke and judgment against David. God could chastise David but His covenant of grace could not change. He had said:

"If they break my statutes and keep not my commandments, then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that has gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David" (Psa. 89:31-35).

Paul referred to these "sure mercies" when he said,

"I will give you the sure mercies of David" (Acts 13:34)

We are sure of both salvation and chastisement if we trust the crucified and risen Lord. It could not be sure if it depended upon our faithfulness. But we are trusting His faithfulness Who hath promised. God covenants with the believer that He will save him. Concerning the purposes of His grace God never says "if" to the subject of His grace. Remember that God swears by Himself that He will save. He has not made it to depend upon a second person's faithfulness. He says, "Surely, blessing I will bless."

"This is the will (covenant) of Him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:40). But He has said "if" concerning the believer's walk.

"When we are judged we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (I Cor. 11:32).

We may lose our rewards, but we cannot lose our life.

"Your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3).

A few years ago in this city, a woman sought to recover a piano from her disobedient daughter. The judge quickly dismissed the case when she said she had given the piano to her child.

Friend, I urge you to thank God immediately for grace, and trust, as a needy sinner, in His glorious provision for all who obey His Word about the blood.

"How calm the judgment hour shall pass

     To all who do obey

The Word of God about the blood

     And make that Word their stay."

Do not despise God's grace by neglect, or by substituting your work for Christ's sacrifice. He bore the wrath of God for sinners. Christ honored God's law by fulfilling every "jot and tittle" of its demands, and by bearing the penalty of our disobedience. But all will be in vain unless you trust in God's mercy. Cast yourself as a grateful sinner upon His grace.

"The wrath of God that was our due

     Upon the Lamb was laid;

And by the shedding of His blood

     The debt for us was paid."

This latter principle of substitution is well illustrated by an incident in the life of Judge Lowrey of Mississippi: "A boy, the son of a worthless father, was brought before the judge charged with a certain offense. He was found guilty and fined. The mother pleaded with the judge that he remit the fine; she said that she would have to earn the money to pay the fine: but her prayer was not granted. The judge, whilst waiting at New Albany, wrote a letter to the mother, an old friend of the Lowreys, saying, 'As Judge Lowrey I was compelled to execute the law; but as your friend, I send you my personal check to pay the fine'."

As Judge, Jesus passed the sentence of death upon the sinner; but, as a Friend "Who sticketh closer than a brother," He gave His life a ransom for sin. He is in very deed a "just God and a Saviour" (Isa. 45:21).

The mother could reject the loving provision of a friend, and we may reject God's loving provision for our redemption. With heartfelt thanks accept His grace and manifest your gratitude by a life devoted to publishing this good news to all mankind.

"Grace there is my every debt to pay,

     Blood to wash my every sin away,

Power to keep me spotless day by day,

     In Christ for me."