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How Does Grace Save?

By C. D. Cole (1885-1968)


Practically all professing Christians profess to believe that salvation is by grace. You can hardly find a church member of any denomination who will out and out deny that salvation is by the grace of God. The Bible so oft en declares that salvation is by grace that few men will boldly deny it. But the trouble is that many think and speak of grace in such a way as to frustrate it. The grace they think and speak of is not grace at all. It is so mixed with human works and merit that it is (as Paul says) "no more grace."

There are some things of earth that no human pen or brush can do justice to--- such things as storms, rainbows, cataracts, sunsets, icebergs, snowflakes, dewdrops, etc. Because God made them, no man can properly describe them or paint them. And grace is something in God that no human tongue can do justice to; no man can give an adequate treatment of it. But, by grace, we can keep from frustrating grace in our own thinking and speaking and living. And none except the children of grace will honor grace in thought and word and deed.

It was only after Saul of Tarsus had been saved by grace that he said, "By the grace of God I am what I am." Paul thus gave grace the credit for his conversion. A great change had taken place in his thoughts and affections and ambitions, and he attributes this change to the grace of God. He once believed in salvation by works and profited in the Jewish religion above many men of his age, but it pleased God to call him by His grace, and reveal His Son Jesus in him (Gal. 1:14). He once knew Christ after the flesh and hated Him---he once had a carnal or fleshly conception of Christ and looked upon Him as an imposter and boasted that he would be separated from Him; but since grace wrought in his heart, he delights to say, "For to me, to live is Christ." He was once ambitious for worldly honors and human praise, but since grace wrought his conversion he was ambitious to be well-pleasing to Christ.


Grace has been defined as the unmerited favor of God, but this is weak and inadequate. It has also been defined as the favor of God to the ill-deserving. This is better but still not strong enough. Grace is the salvation of the Hell-deserving. Grace is an attribute in God; it is a principle in His character that causes Him to give sinners the very opposite of what they deserve. The sinner deserves condemnation, for he has sinned; but grace gives justification. We read in Romans 3:24, "being justified freely (without cause) by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." The sinner deserves eternal woe; grace gives eternal joy. The sinner deserves damnation; grace brings salvation. The sinner deserves death, even the second death; grace provided a substitute; even the only begotten Son of God. The sinner deserves Hell; grace gives Heaven. God is called the God of all grace. We are saved by His grace and not by our graces. All the graces in men are the gift of the Grace of God.


Before answering this question we shall lay down some principles by which to reason:

1. Salvation by grace destroys all room for human boasting. No man is sound on grace who boasts of anything HE has ever done. If your idea of salvation leaves any room for boasting you can be sure it is wrong. No man can even boast of his repentance and faith for they are gifts of His grace. All our graces are fruit of the Spirit, originated in the grace of God.

2. Salvation by grace means that God is to have all the praise for providing the Saviour; The Son is to have all the praise for performing the work of salvation; and the Holy Spirit is to have all the praise for causing us to trust the Saviour and appreciate His salvation.

3. Salvation by grace does not give license to sin. He, who justifies his sinning on the ground that salvation is by grace, does not have the grace of God in him. The child of grace, you may be sure, hates sin, strives against it, and when he falls into sin he forsakes and confesses it. . .

But back to our question: HOW DOES GRACE SAVE?. . .

1. Grace does NOT save by enabling us to perfectly keep the law of God. By nature, and of ourselves, we cannot keep the law. Sin is natural to the natural man. Now if God should put within us supernatural and spiritual power, and eradicate every vestige of our sinful nature, causing us to keep the law, that would be grace indeed. It would be grace because it would be giving us that which we do not deserve. But this is NOT the way that grace saves.

(A) That would not satisfy justice for the sins already committed. God is just as well as gracious and grace never acts contrary to justice. If the sinner could quit sinning after his first sin, and never sin again, justice would condemn him for that one sin.

(B) That would rob Christ of any part of our salvation. If grace saves us by making us sinless in nature and conduct then salvation would be by grace, and apart from Jesus Christ. It is absurd to suppose that grace saves apart from Christ.

(C) If grace saves us by enabling us to keep the law, then the Holy Spirit would be the Saviour rather than Christ. If a spirit of perfect obedience were given us that would be the work of the Holy Spirit.

2. Grace does not save us by overlooking our sins! That would be grace if God took no account of our sins. Our sins deserve punishment but if God overlooked them and did not inflict punishment for them, that certainly would be grace---that would be unmerited favor of God---that would be salvation for the Hell-deserving; but this is not the way that grace saves.

(A) Because it would be at the expense of Justice. God said that the wages of sin is death. He has declared that sin must be punished, and if He overlooked sin and did not punish it; such would be grace, but grace at the expense of Justice.

(B) There would have been no need of Christ's coming to earth and dying for sinners. His death would be in vain---it would not be needed---if grace could save by overlooking sin.

(C) It would cause us to admire one attribute and despise another. If grace saves apart from the satisfaction of Justice the sinner might admire the grace of God, but he would despise His Justice. We would not think much of a human judge that would overlook the crimes of men and let them all go free. Such a judge would be despised. Such procedure would be an invitation for everybody to commit whatever crimes he pleased, knowing they would be overlooked. . .How would you like to live in such a community?

3. Grace does not save by giving us ordinances to believe! The ordinances or ceremonies of Christ are for those already saved. Nobody but the saved are to be baptized and come to the Lord's table. The most terrible and soul-destroying heresies have come from a false conception of the ordinances.


1. Grace saves us from the guilt and penalty of our sins by putting our sins upon Christ, and having Him bear them in His own body on the tree. Grace saves by punishing Christ instead of the sinner. Christ put away our sin by the sacrifice of Himself. This way of salvation conserves the truth in all things.

(A) It conserves the truth of God's Justice. Justice says my sins must be punished, and they have been punished. Grace did not war against Justice. Grace met the demands of Justice by putting my sins on Christ and there Justice found them and punished them. Let me illustrate:

The son of a poor man commits an offense. The court fines him $50.00. The boy has not a cent with which to pay the fine. The son of the trial judge steps forward and hands the clerk the $50.00. Justice is satisfied and the poor boy goes free. Grace led the Judge's son to pay the fine. The boy did absolutely nothing to merit it. Yet his fine is paid and Justice is satisfied.

(B) Grace gives all the honour to Christ. When we think of the liquidation of our sin debt, nobody is to have any credit but Christ. We can glory in nothing but His cross. "Grace," cried Spurgeon, "is everything for nothing; Christ free, pardon free, Heaven free."

(C) Grace saves by making Christ and His atoning death precious to our hearts. The death of Christ does not benefit a man who lives and dies without ever hoping in Christ. And every man of us would so live and die were it not for the converting grace of God. By nature Saul of Tarsus was a proud, self-righteous Pharisee and a persecutor of the Church and Christ, but grace wrought in him the graces of repentance and faith. It was grace that made him sick of self and fond of Christ.

Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit, and His work is as much the work of grace as was the work of Christ on the cross.

"How helpless guilty nature lies,

Unconscious of its load!

The heart, unchanged, can never rise

To happiness and God.

Can aught beneath a power divine

The stubborn will subdue?

'Tis thine, eternal Spirit, Thine

To form the heart anew.


(Half of a poem of Anne Steele, 1760).


To sum up, the grace of God the Father is seen in the gift of His Son to us and the gift of us to His Son; the grace of God the Son is seen in His dying to redeem us from the curse of the law; and the grace of God the Holy Spirit is experienced by us in regeneration and sanctification. The grace of God the Father is eternal; the grace of God the Son is external; the grace of God the Holy Spirit is internal.


The Father PURPOSED our salvation!

The Son PURCHASED our salvation!

The Spirit PROMOTED our salvation!

The Father PRESCRIBED the remedy for our guilt!

The Son PROVIDED the remedy for our guilt!

The Holy Spirit APPLIED the remedy!


Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726

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