“by grace you have been saved”

Posted: October 12, 2011 by doulos tou Theou in Christian Theology, Christianity, Reformed Theology

“Let all the ‘free-will’ in the world do all it can with all its strength; it will never give rise to a single instance of ability to avoid being hardened if God does not give the Spirit, or of meriting mercy if it is left to its own strength.” – Martin Luther

  1. Peter Black says:

    I don’t mean to be a nit-picker but the title might lead one to think that salvation is a matter of graciousness on the part of God. I am sure that you join all Reformed Christian persons in affirming that salvation is “by grace, through faith, on account of Jesus Christ.” It is a bit too “Evangelical” to talk of salvation solely in terms of grace. That, I regret to say, is how my Evangelical friends think of salvation: that it is a free gift which God is eager to give to anyone who will accept His Son as their Savior. Grace, in that sense, is the belief that salvation is a display of generosity on the part of God, who saves sinners by grace (i.e. without any requirement other than that they take the gift He offers one and all). Let us emphasize the instrumentality of faith as the manner in which salvation, like all of God’s benefits, is afforded to those who trust Him through faith: that [faith] itself being God’s gift.

  2. Salvation is all grace. Salvation is the generosity of God, given to sinners. You did nothing to deserve grace.

  3. Peter Black says:

    “I did nothing to deserve grace.” That is certainly so. But it is not true that God’s grace is a pure manifestation of His infinite generosity. God does not forgive sinners (like me) as a “gracious” act. He does so on the just grounds of the ransom paid on my behalf. The perfect Justice of God is involved in salvation, so that it is wise to avoid the implication that salvation is solely a matter of God’s grace.

  4. limabean03 says:


    Why the sudden interest in theological precision?

  5. Peter Black says:

    Why theological precision? Because in this instance it involves the doctrine of soteriology, which obviously concerns everyone. Further, we in America reside in the tradition begun and perpetuated by Charles G. Finney, Billy Sunday, D.L. Moody, and Billy Graham. That is, as you already know, the tradition of populist Evangelicalism. If this blog welcomes that doctrinal tradition, I am clearly in the wrong place, since I affirm the truths of the Protestant Reformation; not the errors of Evangelicalism.

  6. limabean03 says:


    Please forgive me for the question. I asked because your comments a few posts ago seemed to indicate that you were not terribly interested in theology, since “no poor sinner was ever saved by it.” I obviously made the wrong assumption, my apologies.

    I’m glad to hear that you are interested in theological precision! Since we’re (together) pursuing theological precision, it might be helpful to point out that “the truths of the Protestant Reformation” are historically “evangelical.” Indeed, all of the Reformers were self identified “Evangelicals” as their writings make abundantly clear. It would be historically inaccurate to identify evangelicalism as emerging in the 1900’s with Finney, Sunday, Moody and Graham when the term itself was regularly employed by the Reformers.

    Regarding your comments above, I would say that God’s mercy and justice are essential attributes which both play a role in salvation. However, the majority report from the Reformation is that God’s mercy is principally responsible for salvation. God’s mercy plays the active role in salvation while God’s justice in salvation is passive. God’s mercy offers the ransom. God’s justice receives the ransom. Thus I would feel comfortable saying we are saved by God’s grace or mercy since it plays the active role in salvation.

    Finally you are quite right to point out that faith is the means by which God’s grace is applied to the sinner, but as the Apostle Paul points out “this is not from yourselves but is a gift from God” (Eph 2.8-9). Though I didn’t title this particular post, I find little fault with it in light that faith is a free gift (grace) from God.

    And finally, you may be in the wrong place. Although I hope not! The principal aim of this blog is devotional in nature, seeking to edify readers with the truths of the Gospel as interpreted principally through the lens of the Reformed tradition. If you’re comfortable with that goal then I think you’ll be quite happy on the blog.

  7. doulos tou Theou says:

    @ Peter

    Thanks Peter for your engagement in this post.

    Sorry for this late response to your first comment.
    When I find some of these quotes they often bring to mind scripture and that’s how I ended up with the title.

    The quote engages a thought of salvation (freewill to determine eternal state) which is opposite of what Paul is teaching in the epistle to the Ephesians that the title is quoted from, which I’m sure your familiar with. The intent of this post if it was engaged in discussion of anything would be to the thought Luther had when making this statement against “freewill” not to the title. If the title gathered your attention like it did, then it accomplished its goal, which is to get readers to engage with the thoughts of the post . To engage their hearts and minds with the thoughts of Luther in the total sovereignty of God’s mercy.

    Thanks again for your time in stopping by to read and comment.

  8. Peter Black says:

    To doulos and to limabean:
    Thanks very much for your patience and your responses. I confess that my earlier comment to the effect that no poor sinner was ever saved by theology was intended to stimulate discussion. Jesus, for example, was no friend to the professional theologians of His day, and pointed out the hypocrisy of pretending to be as pure as white paint when they were actually as filled with the corruption of sin as was anyone else. I am convinced that there will be a good many professional theologians in Hell; it is quite easily possible to know a great deal about historic Christianity without knowing the Author, obviously. As to whether I am out of place on this blog, in spite of your gracious words I see that I am. Farewell,

  9. Adam says:

    Gotta watch out for those gnats…

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