For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:…
These two, grace and faith, are the sheet anchors of the Pauline gospel. The former was preserved in the Augustinian theology, and the latter restored to the Church by the Reformation. In his earlier Epistles, St. Paul establishes their claims by argument. Now, he considers those claims to be settled, and appeals to the doctrines of faith and grace as axioms, quoting the phrase, "By grace have ye been saved," as a sort of proverb. It is plain that the apostle regarded the truths as practically self-evident, though it was not long since they were the mysteries of a new revelation and the conclusions of an original argument. There is no paradox in its changed position, for it is the function of revelation so to open our eyes that we may see for ourselves what was before hidden. Then, having once thus beheld the truth, we may retain it on its own account. So that revelation is most successful when it teaches us how to dispense with itself. But this is only possible on the condition that there is an inherent fitness and reasonableness in the truths it declares. If, therefore, we are to see the axiomatic truth of the doctrines of grace and faith, they must not be an arbitrary association of ideas; they must be truths of inherent reasonableness. In other words, the relation of salvation to grace and faith must not be treated as accidental, and fixed only by the sovereign will of God, but as natural and necessary.
I. SALVATION IS GIVEN BY GRACE. To see the natural reasonableness of this axiom, we must first understand in what salvation consists. In the Bible the word "salvation" is not a technical theological term. It means deliverance generally. Any special import in a particular passage must depend on the context. In the present instance the context clearly shows what kind of salvation St. Paul is thinking of. This is not rescue from earthly poverty and pain - the lower old Jewish salvation, nor escape from future torment - the lower Christian salvation. It is deliverance from a present spiritual death (vers. 4, 5). The soul is saved from itself. Such a salvation must be by grace, because we cannot escape from ourselves; because the evil of spiritual death involves the loss of power in spiritual things; because God only can create life; and because the death results from sin, and therefore implies an ill desert that can only appeal to the mercy of God. The facts of the work of Christ and the recovery of dead souls to life by the gospel prove that this salvation exists and is accomplished by grace.
II. GRACE WORKS THROUGH FAITH. This principle, if axiomatic, must be also natural and reasonable. We must not think of faith as a mere assent to the doctrine of grace. Faith is the soul opening out to God. As the flower cannot be quickened into fertility while the bud is closed, the soul' that is self-contained can by no means receive the grace of God. The door is barred, and. Christ will not force an entrance. Faith is a capitulation of the proud soul. It means flinging wide the gates in submissive receptivity, and yielding to the voice of Divine love in obedient activity. When the soul has faith in God, the grace of God streams in with life and healing. As distrust severs souls, faith unites them. Thus faith is like the wire joining earth to heaven, while grace is like the electric current which waits, but only waits, such a connection to hasten to us with light and fire and life.
III. FAITH COMES FROM GRACE. Even faith itself is "the gift of God." Faith is a spiritual act and habit, and. therefore it would be impossible in a soul quite dead spiritually. But he who provides the salvation provides the means wherewith to enjoy it. If faith be ever so feeble we may cry, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief," with the assurance that there is no prayer more certain of an answer. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: