“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”
— Ephesians 2:8
Let us not overlook this little but significant word.
For by grace are ye saved. The conjunction presents the truth expressed as a reason for something else, an explanation of something that has been mentioned in the context. It informs us that this statement does not stand alone, that it is not an isolated truth that one can accept or not accept without much effect for the rest of the content of his faith, a truth that one can either deny or confess as of little or no practical significance and importance.
For by grace are ye saved.
It means that salvation by grace and by grace only is an indispensable condition for something else, a ground, a foundation, without which that something else cannot stand. Denying it is like destroying the foundation of an edifice: you pull down the whole structure. It is like cutting away at the root of a tree: you kill the tree.
That for which this statement is the reason can be read in the immediately preceding verse: “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
God is rich in mercy.
And he saved us. Even when we were dead in sins, he quickened us together with Christ, and raised us up together with him, and made us sit together in heavenly places.
All this in order to show the exceeding riches of his grace. Through our salvation the riches of his grace must be displayed.
But how is this possible unless salvation is by grace?
By grace only.
In grace your salvation has its source.
For the eternal fountainhead whence the whole blessed stream of your salvation gushes forth is sovereign election.
Chosen you are unto salvation before the foundation of the world. And the motive of God’s election of his people is grace—sovereign, absolutely free grace.
Nothing else determined God in predestinating you unto conformity to the image of his Son. There are those who find in man the reason and the determining factor of God’s election. They too would emphasize that salvation is all of grace, not of works. It is grace that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, and grace that you may become partaker of the blessings of salvation in him. They speak too of election unto glory. Only the elect actually become heirs of eternal salvation. But election? According to them, is it also of mere and pure and sovereign grace? Ah, no! It is not of grace, say they, but of works. Yes, of works, though they themselves would use other terms to describe their view of election. Is it not an election of works that teaches that God found or foresaw in the elect a willingness to accept Christ and the terms of his salvation, in distinction from others whom he foreknew as stubborn and unwilling to come to Christ?
Then it is not of grace. Then it was man, his goodness, the foreseen choice of his will to receive Christ that determined God’s choice. Then it is not grace that makes the elect acceptable to and beloved by God in his eternal counsel, but it is some element of goodness in man that induced the Most High to prefer him above others. When God shows forth the riches of his grace in the salvation of the elect, they will always be mixed with this excellence of man.
But God forbid!
For you are saved by grace.
This implies that your salvation is of God from beginning to end, from its eternal source in the counsel of God to its final manifestation in glory in the day of Christ.
Grace ordained you unto salvation. This signifies not that God’s election is arbitrary, but that it has its reason and motive in God alone. Of him are all things. God is gracious. Full of grace is he in himself, apart from any relationship with or attitude toward the creature, for he is good, the sole good, the implication of all infinite perfections. As the supreme and only and infinitely good, he is the perfection of all beauty. He is pleasant and altogether lovely, and there are pleasures at his right hand forevermore. Eternally he is attracted by his own beauty, for he is God triune, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Of the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit, God knows himself, beholds himself, his grace and beauty, and inclines unto himself in eternal and infinite divine favor.
This infinite loveliness and divine pleasure in his own beauty is God’s grace.
By grace you are chosen.
By the knowledge of and attraction to the loveliness of his own perfection, God was divinely urged to ordain his people—a people who would be perfect as he is perfect, lovely as he is lovely, for whom he has foreknown, them he also did predestinate to be conformed according to the image of his Son—a people upon whom he looked with eternal good pleasure, a people in whom he would show forth the infinite riches of his grace, a people who would taste that the Lord is good.
For by grace are you saved.
....to be continued
This is the first part of 'Chapter 19: By Grace' taken from the book All Glory to the Only Good God by Herman Hoeksema, edited by David J. Engelsma.