What does it mean to be saved by grace?

by Matt Slick

To be saved by grace means to be delivered from the righteous judgment of God through no act of your own but by His unmerited favor. God gave us the law (Exodus 20:1-17). The law is comprised of what we should and should not do regarding loving God and loving man (Matthew 22:37-40). However, to break the law of God is to sin (1 John 3:4). Unfortunately, we have all sinned against God (Romans 3:23), so we all deserve to be judged by God according to the Law. The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and separation from him (Isaiah 59:2). So, we are all under the righteous judgment of God. Because we are sinners, we are by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).

Grace, on the other hand, is unmerited favor. Let me illustrate with three scenarios.

  • First, let's say that I go over to your house and I steal your bike. You catch me and I go to jail. That is justice. I got what I deserved. 
  • Second, I go to your house and steal your bike. You catch me but set me free. That is mercy. I did not get what I deserved.
  • Third, I go to your house and steal your bike. You catch me, but you not only set me free, you give me the bike. I got what I did not deserve. So, in justice, we get what we deserve. In mercy, we don't get what we deserve. In grace, we get what we do not deserve.

Grace is getting what we do not deserve from God. We do not deserve forgiveness of our sins, but he gives it to us through Jesus. We do not deserve to go to heaven, but we are able to do that through Jesus.

So, to be saved by grace means that the judgment due to us because of our sin against God, i.e. lying, stealing, adultery, fornication, coveting, lust, etc., will not befall us; that is forgiveness. But in addition, we get what we do not deserve, being in the presence of God.

Finally, the only way to be saved by grace is by putting your trust in what Jesus did on the cross. He never sinned (1 Peter 2:22) and he bore our sin in his body (1 Peter 2:24). He paid the price. He satisfied the penalty of the law by dying on the cross (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Because our righteous deeds are filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6), then we have nothing that is pure to offer God (Deuteronomy 17:1; Romans 3:10-12). Therefore, the only thing left for us to do is to trust what Christ has done on the cross, by faith. That is why the Bible tells us that we are made right before God by faith (Romans 5:1). Therefore, to be saved by grace means to be safe from the righteous judgment of God by the unmerited favor found only in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.