Without grace, salvation is impossible (cf. Lk. 17: 10). However, I submit that one does not read in the scriptures of "grace alone," "grace only," or "salvation wholly of grace." Grace is from the Greek charis and suggests favor. In the absence of the provision of grace, man would be facing attempting to achieve justification simply by works of flawless law keeping and such is not feasible (Eph. 2: 8-10, Tit. 3: 5). Grace is a most powerful word and concept that introduces man to the goodness of God.The New Testament is replete with teaching relative to grace. The gospel (good news) is a result of God's grace (Gal. 1: 6-9). Grace is presented as sufficient and Christians are called by grace (2 Cor. 12: 7-10, Gal. 1: 15). Man is saved by grace, the heart is established by grace, and we are justified by grace (Eph. 2: 5, 8, Heb. 13: 9, Tit. 3: 7). Moreover, we render acceptable service by grace and grace imparts everlasting consolation (Heb. 12: 28, 29, 2 Thes. 2: 16). God's grace also makes us better people and helps us in time of need (I Cor. 15: 9, 10, Heb. 4: 16).
Having noticed the fact of grace, let us now turn our attention to the abuse of grace. It seems that even the holy and wonderful subject of grace, the means of man's salvation, has been distorted by man, from the first century down to the present. Some so perverted grace as to use it to sanction and encourage the commission of sin (Rom. 6: 1). A popular doctrine today that distorts and defeats God's grace is the teaching that salvation is by "grace alone." This doctrine essentially eliminates man as a participant in his salvation. Moreover, grace alone or grace only is in effect a disabling doctrine that results in man's spiritual stagnation. Salvation by grace alone was popularized by the reformers in their cry, "Salvation is by Christ alone, faith alone, and grace alone." Consider some contemporary statements regarding grace only or grace alone:
"The plan of salvation then is seen as an all-embracing divine plan which gives the credit for man's salvation to God alone. No glory, not even a reflected glory, may accrue to man in the matter of salvation. He brings nothing, not even the will to be saved, to God" - Jay Green (Five Points of Calvinism, pgs. 2, pg. 28).
"Salvation is a free gift from God to certain individuals. We exercise faith in order to be saved, but even our faith is also a gift of God. Faith is the result of regeneration. Unless the Holy Spirit energizes the sinner, that sinner cannot exercise saving faith. Unregenerate man is not capable of turning to God" - William Cox (Amillennialism Today, pg. 33).
"We believe that the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace Justification, the pardon of sin, and the promise of eternal life are solely though faith" - Baptist Church Manual, Art. 4, pg. 47, Art. 5, pg. 48).
I have suggested to you that the doctrine of "grace alone" is patently false. Stated very simply and succinctly, grace alone is false because it excuses man from any real spiritual responsibility (Heb. 5: 8, 9). When consistently applied, grace alone results in universalism or the doctrine that all men will be unconditionally and universally saved. I shall now illustrate the falsity of grace alone by sharing with you the fact of the disabling effect of grace alone.
The sinner's prayer offers no incentive to obey. First, the scriptures know nothing of "The Sinner's Prayer." When Saul was praying, he was told by the preacher, "And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22: 16). You never read of a non-Christian being told to be saved by simply praying. Cornelius was a praying man, however, he was lost (Acts 10: 2, 11: 14). There are many man-made versions of the so-called "Sinner's Prayer."
"I know that you have forgiven and pardoned me due only to your grace alone and to the completed work of your Son on the cross .I thank you that through your grace only I have been forgiven and that your Son did it all for me and that through his righteousness, I am saved ."
Such a concept of grace only results in the lost sinner having no incentive to obey. When the people in Acts 2 realized that they were sinners in need of salvation, they cried out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2: 37, see 23). Peter did not rebuke them by telling them, "Shame on you, God has done it all for you and you are saved by grace alone," as many modern day grace only preachers would have told them. In fact, Peter told them what they had to do to be saved (Acts 2: 40, 38, 42-47).
The teaching of grace alone even denies the will of man. Notice again the statement by popular author Jay Green, "He brings nothing, not even the will to be saved, to God" (Five Points of Calvinism, pgs. 2, pg. 28). Notwithstanding, the scriptures emphasize the will of man being active in man's salvation (Jn. 7: 17, Rev. 22: 17).
Grace alone robs man of developing saving faith. The scriptures teach that, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10: 17). Jesus' miracles are recorded to produce faith in the reader and hearer (Jn. 20: 30, 31). However, in order to have the true grace alone circumstance, man must not even be allowed to develop faith. Hear again author William Cox:
"We exercise faith in order to be saved, but even our faith is also a gift of God. Faith is the result of regeneration. Unless the Holy Spirit energizes the sinner, that sinner cannot exercise saving faith. Unregenerate man is not capable of turning to God" (Amillennialism Today, pg. 33).
Hence, the person taught and influenced by salvation by grace alone is not interested in developing and exercising saving faith, but he is passively waiting for God to miraculously impart such faith (cp. Jas. 2: 19-24).
The teaching of grace alone offers no provision for personal growth. The scriptures abound with teaching regarding how the Christian is not to remain a babe in Christ, but, rather, is to spiritually grow (Col. 1: 10, 2 Pet. 3: 18). In fact, it is a sin to fail to grow (cp. I Cor. 3: 1-3). Notice, also, how the scriptures point out that growth involves the will and participation of the Christian (Heb. 5: 11-14).
The doctrine of grace alone places all emphasis on God to the point of excluding man. Hence, there is no enjoined responsibility for man to do anything, including spiritually developing in Christ (2 Pet. 1: 5-11).
De-emphasizes teaching the lost. If salvation is by grace alone, then what need is there to teach the lost the gospel of Christ? Yet, the gospel is presented as God's power unto salvation (Rom. 1: 16). Throughout the book of Acts, people were taught the gospel in order that they might believe (cp. Acts 16: 30-34). If salvation is the product of grace alone, then man does not need the gospel. I say this because to suggest as Paul did that man must "obey the gospel," means man has responsibility in his salvation and that salvation is not wholly of grace (Rom. 10: 9-18).
The concept of grace alone plays down the need to restore the fallen. One can fall from grace, says Paul (Gal. 5: 4). In fact, one must take heed lest one fall (I Cor. 10: 12). Consider the teaching of the Spirit led James:
"Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins" (Jas. 5: 19, 20).
Again, if salvation is by grace alone, how can James' teaching be explained and what duty would others have to attempt to restore the fallen?
Make no mistake, this author believes in salvation by grace. I marvel at how God could even love man as he does and extend to man the necessary help (grace). As seen, just left to our own obedience, we are in trouble (Lk. 17: 10). However, our implicit obedience coupled with God's grace to address any shortcomings is the message of salvation (Eph. 2: 8-10). I emphasize grace in my teaching and preaching. Nonetheless, if in attempting to accent God's grace we use the expression, "grace alone," we have conveyed an anti-biblical concept. The essential nature of grace must be understood. For instance, grace itself teaches the Christian how to live (Tit. 2: 11-14).
In closing, let us realize that God's grace can be "received in vain" (2 Cor. 6: 1). Hence, man does have responsibility in the matter of receiving and treating grace. (To read material on God's grace, click on "God's Grace," and, "Save Yourselves")