The mystery of lawlessness, which Paul tells us now works (2 Thessalonians 2:7), has sown many errors into the Church, just as he did to Israel; by bringing misinterpretations of the Word of God, so that the scriptures are made to mean what they plainly don’t mean, when the whole counsel of God’s Word is taken into consideration. The first thing that happens to new Christians on conversion is that they are inducted into these doctrines of men, based upon selected scriptures, and urged to believe them and hang onto them; this, they are told, is the Christian life, to embrace God’s promises and walk in them. Let us take just two examples:-
“….for it is God who works in you, both to wish and to work in behalf of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). This is taken to mean that it is all God’s business, not ours; He is going to finish the job, even if we resist. This is not so. God will not force us to obey; to do so would rob us of our free will and make us less than creatures made in His image and likeness. Holiness, without which no-one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14), is the outcome of a life of absolute surrender in the same manner that Jesus surrendered His will to that of the Father; “Thy wish be done” He said, meaning the Father’s, not His own.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). This, too, encourages a passive faith, but the problem lies in the fact that what we accept today as “faith” and “grace” are completely out of whack with what Paul would say. “Faith” has come to mean belief; in fact the Greek verb pisteuo is translated as faith, trust or belief interchangeably; in reality though, Biblical faith includes all of those qualities. However, the consequence of latter day teaching on faith is that Christians learn to have faith in faith; thus, God is disregarded and we earn salvation by having faith in faith. Whereas if our faith is in God doing what He has promised, it might induce some fear of the Lord, which is noticeably lacking in modern Christianity.
The great object of faith is to teach us to trust and rely upon Jesus Christ, instead of upon ourselves; that is the faith that leads to sanctification and salvation. We are sanctified by that faith because we are putting to death the old man; if he is dead we can’t rely upon him; the only one alive is Christ. That is the faith that sanctifies and saves. The faith that is nothing more than belief, is not saving faith.
Moreover, we cannot get grace from man; grace can only come from Jesus Christ, the Lord of all Grace, by way of the Holy Spirit; we cannot receive grace from another man. Grace is to come to know some truth by way of revelation from Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. Grace is the God given ability to understand a word of truth in the spirit, not in the mind; to receive it into our own heart by the Holy Spirit; it is a divine gift of God.
Thus, as Paul said, we are saved by grace through faith and this, the whole package, is the gift of God.