And That Not Of Yourselves ...
In the book of Ephesians, the great apostle Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). So far on this program we have examined grace, faith, and salvation. Today, we will focus on the expression “and that not of yourselves.” There is a lot in that short phrase -- much more than meets the eye.
When Paul said “and that not of yourselves” he was talking to the Ephesians about their salvation by grace through their faith. It is as if he had said, “you didn’t save yourselves.” “You could not have saved yourselves.” There is a very obvious reason why they could not save themselves. Only divine grace is saving grace. No mere mortal has it within his power to generate such grace. I don’t mean to repeat, but go back with me to a point made on the very first broadcast we made.
Paul wrote to a young evangelist named Titus as follows: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:11-14) The grace of God that “brings salvation” -- that’s the kind of grace we’re concerned with here. Salvation is the product of grace and grace is that unmerited favor only God Almighty can bestow.
Grace that saves is “not of yourselves.” Furthermore, the grace that saves is a teaching grace. How does grace teach us? Paul said it was accomplished by the information from above that calls upon man to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to look anxiously for the coming of our Lord. Ungodliness is that which is unlike God, Ungodliness goes against everything God wants. It is for everything Satan wants.
What is it that teaches all men to deny ungodliness? It is the plain and unadulterated gospel of Christ, the word of the Living God. Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, “For they themselves declare unto us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:9-10). It was the “entry” of the apostle Paul and Silas into Thessalonica that brought the information which caused these people to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and begin looking for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Look at how this harmonizes so beautifully with Titus 2. The teaching grace is equated with the entry of inspired men like Paul and Silas. The denial of ungodliness equates the turning to God from idols. The looking for the glorious appearing of Christ is simply stated again in Paul’s recognition of the Christians in Thessalonica who were waiting for the Son of God from heaven. And finally the redemption that comes to all the saved is mentioned in both texts.
This all emphasizes that grace teaches a man what to do to be saved and what to continue doing to keep saved -- and that not of yourselves. What man could know how to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts all by himself? See if you can find any group of people in any century of history that, without God Almighty, ever accomplished anything even nearly approaching Christianity that is morally correct and true. Find anything that lifted their spirits above the beast of the field. Such a society cannot be found.
Since humans, unaided by divine power, are unable to provide a way of salvation for themselves, the whole creation must turn to a higher power. You may have heard of the humanistic movement -- that it is man’s way of saving himself -- that it is man deifying himself and denying God. As such, humanism is the very opposite of Christianity. Humanism stands on the platform that salvation is of man and Christianity on the platform “and that not of yourselves.” Salvation to the humanist is a very limited salvation -- the reduction of poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, and injustice. And that is all there is for humanism. There is nothing that promises anything of worth beyond death -- absolutely nothing.
Those who accept the instruction of God’s grace and live accordingly, will accomplish all that humanism proposes to address and more -- it is the only thing that has the promise of a good life now and a much better life later. Listen again to Paul. “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Tim. 4:8). It would be wisdom to trash all that humanism offers. You will not lose anything of value to this world. The course of real wisdom is to recognize how frail we really are and lean upon the Almighty and learn His ways. Life is not of ourselves.
Here are some other verses to consider. The Psalmist wrote, “Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am” (Psa. 39:4). Here is another reason why salvation is “not of yourselves?” Saving mankind is accomplished only by power -- much greater power than any group of men could muster. And the power unleashed on the darkest sinner is the gospel of Christ. Paul said he was not ashamed of the gospel, “for it is the power of God unto salvation, to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). Here’s another verse: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5).
Those who devise their own methods of salvation, those ways men proclaim with no biblical basis, do not trust the Lord; they lean on their own understanding. To parrot the expression, “Accept Jesus as your personal Savior,” says nothing at all about obedience to His gospel. What biblical basis does it have? Until someone shows me to the contrary, I say it has none -- absolutely no basis at all from divine information. If by accepting Christ as personal Savior is meant, “just believe in Him and nothing more” you just try to find that in His word. Your eyes will dim with the sunset of life before you find it.
One final verse probably summarizes the whole thought. A great man of the Old Testament spoke to his own people who had been seeking every possible way of extricating themselves from peril after peril, ignoring the one and only way of relief. It was the firm and faithful voice of Jeremiah who said to them, “For the shepherds have become dull-hearted, and have not sought the Lord; therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered. Behold the noise of the report has come, and a great commotion out of the north country, to make the cities of Judah desolate, a den of jackals. O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:21-23).
Jeremiah was the only one in Judah, apparently, who knew that. The Shepherds (the Pastors of Judah) had become dull-hearted and had not sought the Lord. Maybe they were much like the modern day “Pastor” who is more organizer, manager, promoter, and administrator than spiritual leader or Bible teacher. When “Pastors” are experts in organizational skills, but sadly ignorant of divine truths, they invariably lead their flocks to be scattered. But those, like Jeremiah, trusting only in what Jehovah God has revealed, only in what the Lord Jesus Christ authorized, only what His special servants (the apostles) taught, they have surrendered completely to nothing more than the will of God. Their salvation is the only way to be saved -- it is not of themselves.
Every human doctrine, found in all the various creeds, disciplines, and catechisms deny that salvation is of yourselves. Those who produce creedal dictums belie the simple statement that salvation is “not of yourselves.” However, those who commit themselves to be completely obedient to Christ from the heart without any question at all are saved. Theirs is a sure salvation because they have listened carefully to only the gospel of Christ and obeyed it.
Here’s a test case: Someone tells a sinner to accept Christ. The sinner asks simply, “How do I do that?” He is told, “All you have to do is believe right now that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” “You mean, that’s it?” the sinner counters. “Absolutely.” “No obedience at all, nothing to do at all, just believe?” the sinner continues. He is assured that nothing beyond the simple act of faith is essential. Another tells the same sinner, “You must believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and obey Him, obey His commands in order to be saved.”
The sinner asks, “What is involved in this obedience after I believe.” He is then told, “Well, let Jesus tell you. ‘He who believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned’.” He is told that the verse is found in Mark 16:15. If he believes the first answer will he be saved? No, if he is so foolish to believe the first he will be lost. If he believes and obeys the second answer, he will have obeyed the Christ who died for him. His salvation will be beyond question and dispute.
I witnessed a very frightening sight several years ago. Two preachers were discussing this very thought. One of them wrote the following two short statements on a piece of paper. The first was, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” The second was “He who believes and is not baptized shall be saved.” He asked the other preacher to mark through the one he thought was wrong. Do you have any idea what the man did? He marked them both out. In so doing, he actually marked out as wrong the very words of Jesus Christ.
Will you consider that now? Salvation is “not of yourself” -- it is of God and I want to urge you to just think carefully about your own life. Is it right with God? How would you know how to make it right? There is only one sure way and that is to measure it by what you can read in the Bible in language plain enough to fully comprehend. I hope you will do it -- do it today -- and be saved.
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