2009/ A System of Grace

OceanSide church of Christ

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Victor M. Eskew


            A system is the compilation of numerous components that operate together in order to bring about a desired result.  Usually, a system or collection of systems carries a common name.  That name, when heard, immediately alerts the hearers to all the components of the system.  It is also understood that a system only works properly when all the components are functioning in harmony with each other.

            An automobile is a collection of systems that enables humans to travel from point to point with comfort and ease.  A car has a fuel system, an electrical system, a transmission system, a steering system, and other components that allow the vehicle to carry one or more people great distances in a short amount of time.  The terms “automobile” or “car” incorporate all of these systems into that one designation.  In order for the automobile to run efficiently and effectively, all systems must be working together.  When a system, or component of a system, fails, the car cannot do what it was designed to do.  How many of us have been stranded due to a bad battery or a faulty alternator.  Even though the rest of the car was in perfect condition, one component caused the whole machine to come to a standstill.

            The human body is also composed of many systems.  It has a circulatory system, a digestive system, a reproductive system, a respiratory system, an immune system, and many other systems that enable human beings to live happy, productive lives.  If a system, or one element of the system fails, we experience difficulty in living.  A kidney stone can confine one to bed for days.  A blood clot can put one in the hospital.  The sting of a mosquito can almost kill if it carries a deadly virus.  The whole “body” needs to be healthy for us to be able to live life to the fullest.

            One many wonder why an article about grace would begin with a discussion about systems.  This author sincerely believes that many are confused about salvation by grace because they fail to see it as a system.  It is certainly true that mankind is saved by grace.  “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)” (Eph. 2:5).  Without God’s grace salvation would not have been possible.  Mankind could not devise his own means of being reconciled to God once he sinned and separated himself from his Creator.  Because grace is the most vital component of the system, one can say that we are saved by grace.  However, to say that one is saved by grace does not mean that he is saved by grace alone or solely by grace.  When one asserts that he is saved by grace, he is referring to the system of grace.  That system refers to all the components that are involved in the salvation of man.

            Grace includes the divine system.  God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit were actively involved in man’s salvation.  None could have been saved without the work of each of these divine Beings.  God purposed to save man before the foundation of the world (I Peter 1:20).  Jesus became the sacrificial Lamb who shed His blood for lost humanity (I Cor. 5:7; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 1:7).  The Holy Spirit revealed this plan to lost humanity.  He revealed the Word of God and instilled it with saving power so man could know how to obtain the salvation that is in Christ (I Cor. 2:9-11; II Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 4:12; Rom. 1:16).  Had any one of these divine members of the Godhead failed in His duty, grace would have never been available to man.

            Another system within grace is the faith system.  This system also has several components.  The Word of God is a vital mechanism.  It is the element that produces faith in man (Rom. 10:17).  But, the Word of God must be taken, preached, and heard before faith will come to fruition (Rom. 10:13-17).  In the gospel of John, we learn that it is faith that gives one the power to become a son of God.  “But as many as receive him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).  Faith alone does not make one a child of God (James 2:24).  Faith gives one “the power to become” a son of God.  Belief in God’s love and His actions on our behalf causes one to respond to God in obedience to His will.

            This leads to a third system found within grace, the system of obedience.  The Hebrew writer affirmed that Jesus is the author of eternal salvation only to those that obey the Christ (Heb. 5:9).  Jesus Himself said:  “Not everyone 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” (Matt. 7:21).  Many of our denominational friends have grave difficulties with this point.  They see obedience to the will of God as being antagonistic to grace.  They declare that when one teaches that one must obey the gospel to be saved that he is teaching salvation by works and not salvation by grace.

            Those who teach this will often go to the Book of Romans to try to prove their contention.  They will quote such passages as Romans 3:20; 3:28 and 4:4-5 as proof-texts.  Isn’t it interesting that Paul did not see obedience as antagonistic to grace.  In Romans 1:5 he wrote about the “obedience to the faith, among all nations.”  In chapter two he stated that those “that worketh good” will receive glory, honour, and peace.  In chapter four he exhorted his readers to “walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham” (4:12).  Romans 6:16-17 also informs one of the need of obedience.  “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.”  In chapter eight, Paul noted that it was “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” that made him free from the law of sin and death (8:2).  Then, in the last chapter, he once again speaks of obedience.  He commends the Romans for their obedience in verse 19 and writes of “the obedience of faith” in verse 26.  Isn’t it amazing that Paul’s masterwork on grace stresses obedience so much?  Paul understood the relationship between the two.  Obedience is part of the system of grace.  (NOTE:  The command to be baptized is part of the obedience aspect of grace, Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27; I Peter 3:21).

            The last component of the system of grace is godly living.  When one becomes a Christian, his salvation is not determined at that moment forever.  One must be faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10).  The child of God cannot forsake the Christ, return to the world, and expect to be saved (II Peter 2:20-22).  He must walk in faith (II Cor. 5:7), produce good works (Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:14; 3:14), and live in hope (Rom. 8:24; Titus 2:13) until death or until the second coming of Christ.

            We have not examined every component of salvation in this article.  We have only attempted to show that grace is a system that saves man.  All components of the system are essential to salvation.  If one component is not there, salvation cannot be obtained.  Is salvation by grace?  Yes.  Is salvation by grace alone?  No.  All mechanisms of the grace system must be in operating order to take man from earth to heaven.