“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9
Salvation is the free gift of God. It is the work of the triune God alone. In the beginning, in the process and in the end, salvation is by grace alone, and that grace comes to sinners only through Christ, the one and only mediator between God and men. Our works have absolutely nothing to do with the accomplishment, preservation, or consummation of our salvation in Christ. "Salvation is of the Lord!"
Election, God's eternal choice of some to salvation was free and unconditional (Eph. 1:3-4; 2 Thess. 2:13). God did not chose his people because of anything good he foresaw in them, or anything good he foreknew they would do. His choice of his elect was determined by nothing but his own sovereign love and good pleasure.
Redemption, the ransom of God's elect from the curse of the law, was accomplished by Christ alone (Gal. 3:13; Heb. 9:12). Christ did not put us into a redeemable state, or make it possible for us to be redeemed, leaving some aspect of the work to our faith. He redeemed us! Our faith is not the cause of redemption in any way. It is the fruit of redemption.
Regeneration, the spiritual resurrection of dead sinners from death to life in Christ, is the work of God the Holy Spirit (Eph.2:1-4; John 6:63). Faith in Christ does not cause us to live. Faith is the fruit of regeneration. We believe because we have been called. The new birth is not accomplished by the will of the sinner, but by the will of God, the Savior (John 1:12-13).
Preservation, the security of the believer's life in Christ, is the work of God's free grace alone (Jer. 32:38-40; Eccles. 3:14). It is written, "They shall never perish!" If God chose us, redeemed us and called us, knowing that there was nothing good in us, but only sin, knowing that we could never produce anything but sin, it is ludicrous to imagine that he will cast us off because of any evil he finds in us! "The gifts and callings of God are without repentance."
Glorification, the everlasting perfection and bliss of God's saints in heaven, is the gift and work of grace alone, purposed, purchased and prepared for God's elect (Eph. 1:11). Nothing in heaven shall be the reward of our works. All the glory of that blessed, eternal state, shared equally and fully by all God's saints, is the gift of his sovereign grace in Christ.
THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS
If you are not in too big a hurry to go to hell, if you have any concern for your immortal soul, if you are at all interested in the glory of God and the truth of God, I urge you to think about these three questions.
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE GARDEN?
Was man totally ruined by the fall, or just partially handicapped? The Scripture says, "In Adam all died." The sin of Adam brought about the total ruin and spiritual death of our race, so much so that the natural man has neither the desire nor the ability to bring himself back into fellowship with God (John 5:40; 6:44). – The Lord Jesus said, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life…No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
WHAT HAPPENED AT CALVARY?
Did the Lord Jesus Christ, by his substitutionary sacrifice and atonement, make redemption a possibility, or did he actually accomplish the redemption of his people? The Bible says, "Christ hath redeemed us!" He "obtained eternal redemption for" God's elect. He did not just make it possible for sin to be put away, but he actually "put away sin." We do not sing, “Redeemed because I believe it.” Our song of praise is…
“Redeemed! How I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb!
Redeemed through His infinite mercy!
His child and forever I am!”
HOW IS SALVATION ACCOMPLISHED?
Is salvation accomplished by the will of man, or by the will of God? The Scripture says, we are born again "not of the will of man, but of God." It is written, “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy! ”Is salvation the work of man, or of God? The Bible says, "God hath saved us!" Is salvation by grace or by works? The Word of God declares, "By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourself. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast."
Think about these things. Will you? If you care for your soul, refuse to hear any preacher or any doctrine that speaks contrary to the Word of God.
"There are three that bear record in heaven." Bear record of what? That Jesus is the Son of God? No. Heaven needs no evidence of that! These three bear record in heaven that God has given us eternal life, in strict accordance with his just and righteous law, by the merits of Christ's obedience and death as our Substitute. The three Persons of the Holy Trinity bear record in heaven that Christ has accomplished redemption for God's elect by his blood atonement. "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one."
1. GOD THE FATHER BEARS RECORD THAT REDEMPTION IS ACCOMPLISHED BY HIS ACCEPTANCE OF CHRIST AS OUR REPRESENTATIVE AND SURETY (Heb. 1:1-9; 6:19-20; 10:11-14). When the Father raised Christ from the dead and received him back into heaven as our Mediator, he accepted all his elect in Christ and bare record that redemption's work was done (Eph. 1:6; John 17:1-5).
2. GOD THE SON, THE LIVING, ETERNAL WORD OF GOD, THE SECOND PERSON OF THE BLESSED TRINITY, BEARS RECORD OF HIS PEOPLE'S RIGHT TO ETERNAL LIFE BY HIS PERPETUAL ADVOCACY AND INTERCESSION AT THE FATHER'S RIGHT HAND (Rom. 8:34; 1 John 2:1-2; Heb. 7:24-25; Heb. 6:20). The record he bears, which secures the eternal salvation of God's elect, by which we merit heaven and eternal life, is twofold: his righteousness as our Representative and his satisfaction as our Substitute.
3. GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE THIRD PERSON OF THE HOLY TRINITY, BEARS RECORD OF THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF REDEMPTION, BY EFFECTUALLY APPLYING THE BLOOD OF CHRIST TO THE HEARTS OF GOD'S ELECT IN EFFECTUAL CALLING (John 16:14; Heb. 9:13-14). The Spirit of God takes the merit of Christ's blood and righteousness and reveals to God's elect their acceptance with God by the gospel. In effectual calling chosen, redeemed sinners hear the gospel. But they hear more than the bare word of the gospel. They hear the Spirit of God speak in their hearts! Each one hears God speak pardon to his own soul by the gospel of his salvation (Eph. 1:13). "AND THESE THREE ARE ONE." The three Divine Persons are one God. But more, the record of the Father, the record of the Son, and the record of the Spirit are one. What is that record? REDEMPTION IS ACCOMPLISHED BY CHRIST ALONE!
We believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Why? What is the basis of our faith? John tells us: -- "This is he which came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth." Here is the witness of the water, the blood, and the Spirit.
1. We know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God BECAUSE HE CAME BY WATER. What does that mean? Water is an emblem for the written Word of God (John 15:3; Eph. 5:26; Tit. 3:5). We know that Jesus Christ, our Lord, is the Son of God, the anointed One, because he came according to and in fulfilment of all the types, promises, and prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures (Lk. 24:27, 44-47).
2. We know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God BECAUSE HE CAME BY BLOOD. The sinlessness of his life, his obedience to God, and his miraculous powers are not sufficient to prove Christ's Deity. We see his Deity when we see the death which he accomplished as the sinner's Substitute upon the cross (Matt. 27:54). His death was a voluntary act (John 10:17-18), a vicarious atonement (John 11:49-52), and a victorious accomplishment (John 19:30).
3. And we know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, BECAUSE THE SPIRIT BEARS WITNESS TO HIS DEITY. John the Baptist recognized Christ as the Messiah, the Son of God, by the descent of the Spirit upon him at his baptism, in the form of a dove. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit bore witness to Christ's exaltation and enthronement as King, by his descent upon the assembled church. And the Spirit bears witness to Christ's Deity and dominion through the preaching of the gospel, convincing sinners, chosen and redeemed by him, that he has the power as the God-Man Mediator to give them repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:30-32).
Every believer knows, with absolute assurance, that Jesus Christ is God the Son, the Son of God, our sovereign Lord, and our almighty Savior by the witness of the Word, the witness of the Blood, and the witness of the Holy Spirit.
"And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, the Water (the Word), and the blood: and these three agree in one."
Notice how the order is given. The witnesses to Christ's Deity are, first, the Word, then the blood, and then the Spirit. The witnesses to redemption's accomplishment are, first, the Father, then the Son, and then the Spirit. The witnesses to our saving interest in Christ are, first, the Spirit, then the Word, and then the blood.
1. A SAVING KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST BEGINS WITH THE REVELATION OF THE SPIRIT (I Cor. 2:9-10). No one on earth can know and be firmly persuaded that he is one of God's elect, one of those for whom Christ died, but by the special revelation of God the Holy Spirit. No man can, or should, convince another of his salvation in Christ. Only the Spirit of God can convince a sinner of grace and salvation in Christ (John 16:8-14). And if he convinces, you are convinced. He is called the Comforter because he conveys to our hearts the comfort of our election, redemption, salvation, and eternal acceptance with God (Rom. 8:14-17). At the time appointed, he manifests the glory of Christ's Person and the merits of his work, creating faith in the hearts of elect sinners (2 Cor. 4:6; Gal. 1:15; 2 Tim. 1:9-10; Tit. 1:2-3; 2 Pet. 1:18-20).
2. THIS SAVING KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST IS BASED UPON THE RECORD OF THE WRITTEN WORD OF GOD, SYMBOLIZED BY WATER (Tit. 3:5). The Spirit never operates independently of his written Word. He reveals Christ supernaturally in the hearts of men. But he reveals Christ only through the instrumentality of gospel preaching. He takes the record of God in his Word and makes it the voice of God in a man's heart! He declares in our hearts that our redemption is accomplished by Christ's obedience and death as our Substitute (Heb. 9:12-14)
3. THIS SAVING KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST IS NEITHER MORE NOR LESS THAN FAITH IN HIS BLOOD. Faith is the echo of my heart to the voice of God's Spirit speaking to me by the gospel. The warrant of my faith is the Word of God alone. And the warrant of my assurance is faith alone (1 John 5:9-13). Faith fetches full assurance to the believer's heart, not from within, but from without, from the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and the naked Word of God.