Are We Saved by God’s grace– or by OUR faith in God’s grace?

Rev. Jack Gillim
Calvary Chapel
P.O. 1976
Orem, UT 84059

Dear Rev. Gillim,

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I read with great interest your article in the Daily Hearld, Sunday, July 19, 1997.

I am having difficulty finding a minister who will give me a straight answer. I wonder if you would drop me a line to give me your further thoughts on this matter…I feel this question is very important.

are we saved by God’s grace– or by OUR faith in God’s grace?

This is a critical distinction. And it is one that I cannot ignore. Both positions cannot be equally true. And, depending on the answer, the outcome or consequence is wildly different. Your letter was interesting. You said some good things… Please help me to carry this grace thing to it’s logical conclusion. Most ministers’ say grace is not a “favor” but a “possible” favor… an “offer” to show favor… a favor that is available “IF” you do the right thing. That means “works” to me. Let me explain… Did not God justify the sins and wrong doings of Joseph’s brothers? Did not their evil bring about God’s good? Can not God justify everyone apart from their own personal faith and righteousness? Can’t God justify everyone through the faith of Christ? Joseph had faith for his brothers. Can’t Christ have faith for us? To suggest, as some do, that God cannot overlook sin is to say that Christ’s work on the cross did nothing for sin. That God is not satisfied with Christ’s work. Didn’t Christ die for (on account of) our sin? Wasn’t He raised for (on account of) our justifying? (Rom. 4:25) Isn’t Christ’s death efficacious?

If you say He will save anyone who will trust Him to do so, are you saying they are not saved until they trust? Is salvation missing a key ingredient? Can God save those who do not trust? Most letters I get are definitely “works” oriented. Does God supply the “trust” before one is saved? Or, does God save and then supply the “trust”?  Most Christians say that salvation is an “offer,” a “possibility,” “available.” But that salvation is not a settled matter. To say that grace/salvation is “offered” is to say that we are saved by our doing, our work, our response, our acceptance of this offer. In my searching the scripture I cannot find such a usage of the word “offer” I can find that Christ was “offered up to God” as a sacrifice. But God is not “offering” grace to anyone. Instead it seems to me that God is “operating” in grace. He graciously saves. To offer Grace is to say we save ourselves.

Some ministers suggest “God will not force anyone to receive His Gift.” Force? Are they saying that God does not cause us to be saved. “Cause” or “force” I guess, is a matter of degree. Are you also saying that this God who does not “force” us to receive His gift will eventually “force” us to go to Hell for rejecting said gift?  To say that we are saved by our faith in God’s Grace is essentially saying we are saved by our own works. That is, we are saved by what WE do. Not by what God does or has done. It is also saying that we have a part in the saving process, which, (it would seem) leads to much boasting and pride. And if faith is absolutely essential then God would owe salvation to anyone who has faith? And therefore it would not be by the unmerited favor of GOD. God would be in debt to anyone who had faith. Salvation then would be a payment for wages earned. Or, salvation would be part of a contractual transaction.

And to say that we must have FAITH before we are saved is also to say that the death of Christ is not essential. Certainly, not necessary. For why did Christ die if we could be saved by our own faith? We could have had FAITH in pretty near anything. For it would be our faith that saves us not Christ’s death.

And if we are saved by FAITH, does that mean that no one could be saved by SIGHT? Wasn’t Paul and Thomas saved by SIGHT? They did not have FAITH to save them. They did have sight to save them. And if FAITH is a gift then aren’t we saved first, then given the faith to believe that our salvation is true? Salvation must surely be by GRACE. No transaction. No work. No payment for services rendered. No reward for believing the unbelievable. No co-operative venture. It must surely be the entire work of GOD. No boasting. If we MUST do anything before WE can be saved then, doesn’t that mean that God is incapable of saving us on His own. Doesn’t that mean that God does not accept the death of Christ as complete and that the Work of Christ on the cross is still ineffective? Still lacking capability? If God does not accept Christ’s work… really, what “work” could we do to please God?

But if salvation is entirely by God’s grace we have another problem…

1. Does God save arbitrarily… at random… like the toss of a coin? For surely if salvation is by the undeserved favor of God then there is nothing in us or our actions that demanded salvation. If this random salvation is true then are we saying that God created billions of humans for the specific purpose of tormenting them in hell for all eternity? (Eternal torment seems to be the popular consensus.)

2. If God does not save by random chance, and God does save entirely by grace, and if God is not partial (“God is no respecter of persons”) then, could it be that God will eventually save everyone? Because no one deserved salvation…. And no one could do anything to earn His favor… And if FAITH is GIVEN to those who are saved… we could ask why not save all? Why not give FAITH to all? Why not display this undeserved favor to ALL? I suppose the real question is… Are we saved by Christ’s death and resurrection? Or, are we saved by belief in His death and resurrection?

If we are not saved by His death and resurrection then why have Christ die at all? If we could have been saved by FAITH, OBEDIENCE, TRUST, GOOD WORKS etc. then Christ death is not essential. And it has not paid for our sins. If Christ’s death has paid for our sins… and God demands the unbelieving sinner, to whom God has not GIVEN faith, to pay for his own sins in hell, then, isn’t that called “Double Jeopardy”?  Isn’t that illegal?

I cannot accept the poor analogy of a gift-wrapped present which one must open and “accept” to be enjoyed. A closer, more Biblical analogy  is one my wife told me of…A Bridge operator, whose little son was playing on the bridge, (when suddenly a cruise (party) ship appeared) had to decide between opening the bridge and killing his son… or not and destroying the ship and those aboard. He opened the bridge. The Ship passed under. Those partying continued to party. Someone gave their life that they might live. Did they know? Had they heard? Did they believe? No, no, no. Yet their salvation from death and disaster was assured, guaranteed.

Can’t we say that the DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST GUARANTEES OUR SALVATION? Or, perhaps this analogy is better… Suppose a wealthy man came through your town and paid everyone’s mortgage debt off FREELY. That would be good news. Perhaps not everyone will hear… perhaps those who hear will not believe… but no one will come and kick them out of their homes for the debt has been paid. No one will demand a repayment. Surely one should rejoice in such good news. Unless one wanted to pay his own debt in his own pride.

Do you believe that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — or just to make salvation possible?

Please understand how crucial this question is to everything we live, teach, believe and do. I can no longer go to most churches because they teach that Christ came into the world to make salvation possible but not to actually save sinners. Again, by making salvation possible, it could be said that we save ourselves by taking advantage of that possibility. Which would lead to pride. A “possible” salvation is uncertain, conditional, contingent, and perhaps even changeable and revocable.  Is God’s love conditional? Contingent? Changeable? Revocable? Uncertain?  Or are you like the ministers who tell us of the conditions we must meet in order to enjoy God’s unconditional/conditional love?   Many preachers try to disguise their teaching in saying that we are saved by a combination of God’s grace and our response. But that kind of “grace” is nothing more than a meritorious reward. In other words, we must somehow “qualify” for God’s grace. (Again if we qualify then God would owe salvation to us.) How can we earn His grace? If we could earn His grace it wouldn’t really be grace. It would be deserved. It would be strictly what is due. It would be work.

I hope you care for the truth enough to settle the answer clearly in your mind. There is much torture in never being sure of the work of God. “Am I truly save?” “Have I sinned too much?”  “Do I have the right kind of faith?”  Is this true… we are saved entirely by His GRACE, not by our effort both before we believe and after we believe…? and that Christ came into the world to SAVE and that it is His work not ours? And if we truly understood the import of this teaching, our hearts would exult in God and our FAITH in His work could truly grow.

Instead I hear too many ministers say essentially that we must have FAITH in our faith. Not in the work Christ did on the cross. For that, they say, merely makes salvation possible, not actual. Faith, they say, is that which saves you. Therefore you must trust in your trust, believe in your belief and have faith in your faith. This I cannot easily do. I trust God. I do not trust my faith. It is weak and filled with doubt. I have faith in God. But no faith in my faith. I have been wrong too many times. I believe in God. But not my belief. For my belief is always struggling for sight, for more facts, for proof.

Some versions of the Bible say we are saved by the faith of Christ, yet others say it is by faith in Christ. (Gal 3:22, Rom 3:22) If, when every knee bows and every tongue confesses, all are not saved… what do these words mean? Is is a forced bowing? Ministers say God does not force us to do things??? Is there any example of the word BOW in scripture used in a forced way? Does not the scripture say that no man can say Jesus is Lord except by Holy Spirit? From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh, says one passage from the Bible. If they confess, their hearts must also be changed, right? And this bowing and confessing is directly tied to the death of Christ in this passage. Does this view then not belittle Christ’s humiliation by saying that it accomplishes a forced bowing which has no effect on the sinner and is in reality a mockery, for the sinner is bound to hell and he is merely bowing out of compulsion?….If God does not force the sinner to accept Christ.. why would God force the sinner to go to hell? Both are acts of compulsion according to Christian language. Why would Christians say that the sinner is bound by sin yet FREE to do good works? This “possible” salvation is sad really. No one would rejoice in a “possible” life guard… Who gave a drowning man a “chance” to be saved, but did not save him.

I Tim. 4:10 says that God is the Saviour of All mankind especially of Believers. I have heard more than 4,500 sermons in evangelical churches. Yet, I have never heard a sermon on this verse. Even though I Tim 4:11 says “teach this”. Could we conclude from this verse that believers get a special salvation? It does not say exclusively of believers, but especially of believers. Could it be that this special salvation that the believers get is a foretaste, or forerunner to the general salvation for the ALL MANKIND? Can God be the saviour of those He does not save? According to popular ministers God is the POSSIBLE SAVIOUR OF ALL MANKIND, AND POSSIBLY OF BELIEVERS.

And what of “eternal torment?”  I have discovered that there is no word in the entire book of God that is the exact equivalent of our English word “ETERNAL“. The word translated eternal is also translated AGE or WORLD in ALL of the passages where the passage defines the meaning of this word by its usage. (EXAMPLE: The end of the “AION”, the AION to come, etc.) It is only when the passage does not define the meaning of this word (AION, AIONIOS) that the popular translations and theologians take the liberty to push “eternal” as a “possible meaning”. But it would be silly to say “THE END OF THE ETERNAL.” That would reveal their deception. God speaks of the ages. God promises age-lasting life to the believer. God promises age-lasting chastening to the unbeliever. God has a “purpose of the ages” (Eph. 3:11). When the ages are done, concluded, finished (Heb 9:26 & I Cor 10:11) then and then only can eternity begin. Then and then only will God be ALL IN ALL. (I COR 15:28) Then and then only will death, the wages of sin, be abolished (I Cor 15:26) (Am I to assume that you believe God is able to destroy the first death but unable to destroy the second death?)

There are five English versions of the Bible which have this mistake corrected. Young’s Literal Translation and The Concordant Literal New Testament are among these which consistently translate AION, AIONIOS by “AGE” “AGE-DURING” or “EON” “EONIAN”.

Isn’t creation God’s objective work? Isn’t salvation also God’s objective work. I am ashamed of Christian teaching. Christians somehow suggest that salvation is God’s work but it is also man’s work. That makes salvation a “subjective” work.  Man according to popular teaching must “believe/repent/obey” to experience God’s loving kindness. According to popular teaching salvation is subjective, and one must “believe” before it becomes real. I must then ask, is the work of Adam also subjective? Do you have to believe in Adam to be a sinner and be condemned and die? Romans 5:18,19 & I Corinthians 15:22 plainly say that our experience of life or death in ADAM and in CHRIST are objective facts and not dependent upon our belief in either to be true. AS IN ADAM ALL DIE, SO IN CHRIST SHALL ALL BE MADE ALIVE…(it is not all who believe in Adam will die, and all who believe in Christ will be made alive.)



(being condemned in Adam does not require belief in ADAM so being righteous in Christ does not necessarily require belief in CHRIST.)

Christians say, a man can only blame himself if he goes to hell. If that be true then- a man can only praise himself for going to heaven. For praise and blame must come from the same source. God, according to popular teaching, did nothing for the Christian that He did not also do for the sinner. But the sinner will not be saved unless….  This is a definite “works” construction. God must supply the FAITH/REPENTANCE/OBEDIENCE because we all depend on His CAUSALITY. We cannot invent these things out of thin air. He is the author and finisher of our faith. We are His workmanship. He receives all praise/blame honor/dishonor glory/infamy for the final outcome of His creative ability. Redemption must be part of creation. For, it seems to me that creation will not be complete until all are redeemed.

I’m sorry to unload all of this on you. Please don’t feel like you have to answer everything I have discussed in this letter. But if you have have any comments I would be grateful for your insights. Please respond.


Linwood Austin


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