Category Archives: Judgement

That’s Really Frustrating

“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:21).

One of the favorite doctrines of the denominational world is salvation by grace alone. Hiscox’s Standard Baptist Manual states, “We believe the Scriptures teach that the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace” (1903, p. 61). Many in the religious world argue that we are saved by grace to the exclusion of any works on our part, especially baptism, since, they say, it is something we do. One of the passages often advanced to prove this point is Ephesians 2:8,9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Does this passage, or any other, teach we are saved by grace alone?

First, it should be mentioned that the same volume mentioned above also states, just one page later, that the “gift of eternal life . . . is bestowed, not in consideration of any works of righteousness which we have done, but solely through faith in Christ” (p. 62). These two concepts, “wholly of grace” and “solely through faith” are logically mutually exclusive. Both cannot be true, in the same way and same sense. Now, it may be partly through grace and partly through faith, but not both.

Second, the passage in Ephesians comes with a context. In the first verse of the second chapter, Paul contrasts two periods of time and two lifestyles. At one time the brethren in Ephesus were dead in sins, but now they are alive. To be dead in sin is to be living in sin and thus spiritually dead to God. Sin separates us from God (Is. 59:2). But sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4). So when they were living in sin they were acting in a way contrary to God’s law or His will. Now, he says, they are not dead in sin, but alive to God, meaning they are acting in a way that is in harmony with or obedience to God’s will. This language plainly speaks of works, of things done in one’s life.

In verses two and three he continues to describe the distinction between these two times and lifestyles. The former time and lifestyle were lived in the world. John tells us that this is the moral sphere of human conduct satisfying the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye and the pride of life (I John 2:15-17). In verse three Paul says that these Ephesian brethren had previously fulfilled the lusts of the flesh and of mind, but now they are not. Fulfilling these desires requires activity or works. Paul, in fact, describes them as “works” of the flesh (Gal. 5:19,20).

Furthermore, Paul said that they were the children of disobedience (2:2) and deserving of wrath (2:3). Paul elsewhere said that wrath is deserved by those who “are contentious and do not obey the truth” (Rom. 2:28). If, in their former life, they were disobedient, but now they are no longer so, that means they now must be obedient. That is, they are doing acts that God had commanded. This is works! Paul is describing how at one point in time they were disobedient, but now are obeying God.

Paul describes exactly when this time was. Paul said they were quickened and raised up together (2:5,6). When does this quickening and raising up occur? Paul wrote to the Colossian brethren, an epistle written at about the same time as the Ephesian epistle, that they were “buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). They were buried and raised with him in the act of baptism.

Again, Paul wrote “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). Just as Christ was raised from the dead, they were (and we are) raised from the watery grave of baptism to walk in newness of life. That new life came at the point in time when they were raised from the waters of baptism. That is when and where the change occurred, for them and also for us.

Furthermore, Paul says we are raised to sit in heavenly places in Christ (6). It is in Christ “in heavenly places” where all spiritual blessings are, including salvation (Eph. 1:3; II Tim. 2:10). How do we get in Christ? We get into Christ by baptism Rom. 6:1-4; Gal. 3:26,27). Thus, the point at which the change occurred was in the act of baptism, when baptism is preceded by the appropriate moral conditions.

This is borne out in the historical account of the establishment of the church at Ephesus. Paul stated of the Ephesians that they trusted in Christ after they heard the word and were sealed with the Holy Spirit after they believed (Eph. 1:13). When did this occur? In Luke’s account in Acts the people of Ephesus heard the word which Paul preached to them and were baptized in the name of the Lord (Acts 19:4,5). After this Paul laid his hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit, and thus were sealed (Acts 19:6; Eph. 1:13). Thus, the point at which they were quickened and raised was when they were baptized for the remission of sins.

Paul further points out in the Ephesian letter’s context that God loved us even when we sinners (2:4). Paul said even while we were dead in sins God quickened us (2:5). What is being spoken of here? Paul tells us that even when we were sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-10). There is the manifestation of God’s grace! We, though undeserving, were the recipients of God’s favor through Jesus Christ’s death. Paul states that in our being saved it shows “the exceeding riches of his grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7).

If grace alone could save, then all would be saved for God’s grace has appeared to all (Tit. 2:11). But there is a hell and it is prepared for and will be populated by those whose works did not qualify them to be recorded in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 20:11-15). We are not saved by grace alone, or faith alone or works alone, but by all three (Rom. 1:5).

It is in this context that we are to read Eph. 2:8,9. We are saved by God’s grace, by His kindness shown toward us in the sacrifice of His Son. That part is God’s part for we could not save ourselves. We certainly are not saved by works of merit or works of the law of Moses, but we are saved by works of obedience (Rom. 16:26; I Thess. 1:3; Heb. 5:8,9). If we try to be saved by our own merit, or by the works of the law of Moses, then we frustrate (atheteo) the grace of God (Gal. 2:20). But we violate or frustrate (atheteo) God’s command if we suggest we can be saved by grace alone (Mark 7:9; Rom. 6:1). Either of these two views is really frustrating to salvation.

“What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:15-18).

Eric L. Padgett

Do You Know This Jesus?

Many people know of Jesus’ kindness and love. We read of His cradling a little child in His bosom (Matt. 17:3), touching the untouchable leper (Matt. 8:2,3) and protecting the harlot from being stoned (John 8:10), of His speaking to the shunned Samaritan woman (John 4), and His dining among publicans (Luke 5:29). We read of His unparalleled teaching, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek, turn the other cheek, bless those which curse you, do good to those that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you,” etc. The world in general and the religious world in particular knows and generally admires these qualities of Jesus.

Yet, while these things present a picture of Christ that is not untrue, it is also not complete. There was and is another side to Jesus. Jesus also overthrew the moneychangers tables and scourged those who made merchandise of the house of God (Matt. 21:12,13), He condemned the Pharisees and scribes as hypocrites (Matt. 23:27), He scolded Jerusalem and said He would return in judgement (Matt. 23:34-24:2) and told people bluntly that they were in error (Matt. 22:29). Another passage we want to examine is found in Matthew 7:21-23:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. [22] Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? [23] And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Several lessons can be learned from this passage:

First, Jesus clearly taught that not everyone will be saved. However, there are some in the religious world who do not believe this. The Universalist, for instance, believes “that all people, no matter how evil they may be, are created by God; and that God…will eventually bring all people back to Himself and into Heaven, by means which we cannot know or understand” ( In contrast to this, Jesus unmistakably said some “shall go away into eternal damnation” (Matt. 25:41).

It is not that God is not able to save. The Bible teaches He is able to save them to the “uttermost” who come unto Him by Jesus Christ (Heb. 7:25). No, God’s arm is not shortened that it cannot save (Isaiah 59:1). It’s not that salvation is limited, either. Contrary to what some teach, God has not chosen just a few for salvation. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (I Tim. 2:4). But God never has saved all people, though He wants to do so. In Moses’ day, for instance, the majority were lost and only eight souls were saved (I Pet. 3:20). Of the millions who came out of Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb were able to visit the promised land (Deut. 1:35-38).

Second, it is clear from Jesus’ teaching that only those who obey God’s will can be saved. Obedience is absolutely essential to salvation. Paul stated that obedience must be rendered to the faith (Rom. 1:5). He said there will be tribulation on every soul that does not obey (Rom. 2:8,9). In fact, it is through disobedience that sin came into the world (Rom. 5:19). We must be doers of the word and not hearers only, says James (1:22-25). On and on the list could go. But it is clear that salvation only comes through obedience to God’s word. That is why the view of “faith only” is manifestly false (James 2:10-26).

Finally, and sadly, many are mistaken about God’s will. Jesus said many will claim that they have done many good things in His name, yet He will say “I never knew you. Depart from Me.” Cornelius is a good example of one did many good things, he believed, for God, and yet needed salvation (Acts 10:1-6; 11:14). Apollos, was another good man that needed to be taught correctly (Acts 18:24-26). I know a lot of decent people, but they sadly close their ears to the truth. Some in the Bible, like the Athenians, heard the truth but rejected it (Acts 7:32). Festus and Agrippa are two good examples, as well, of those who were almost Christians (Acts 26:24-29). It is not that God’s word cannot be understood, but that some men will not submit themselves to it.

It is true, God is love (I John 4:8,16). It is also true the He loved us so much He gave His Son to die in our stead (John 3:16). It is equally true that Jesus gave us a commandment to love one another. But there is another side to Jesus. His character demands that justice also be meted out. He will deny us if we deny Him (Matt. 10:32). It is one thing to profess to know God, it is quite another to have God know you. May we never, ever hear Christ speak to us those dreadful, terrifying words, “Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity, I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23).

Eric L. Padgett