Grace provided unconditionally for our pardon “while we were yet sinners.” But our personal reception of the gift of pardon is conditional. Grace comes by Jesus Christ, but it’s up to us to obey God’s conditions in order to receive it. Obedience to the gospel of Christ is God’s condition for his amazing grace. However, God does not and will not force anyone to obey him in order to be saved.
We read of other gifts received conditionally. God offered Abraham a land, but to receive it he was called upon to leave his native country. “By faith Abraham …obeyed” (Gen. 12:1 f; Heb. 11:8). The generation of Jews which approached the land in Numbers 13-14 did not obtain it because they disobeyed God. The Lord told Joshua, “I have given into your hand Jericho,” but obedience to special instructions was required in order for him to possess what God gave (Josh.6). Naaman was cleansed of leprosy when he dipped in the Jordan River seven times. This gift was available the moment Elisha spoke, but could not be received until Naaman met the condition of obedient faith (2 Kgs. 5). So it is with our pardon from sin.
How do we personally receive God’s amazing grace in the forgiveness of our sins? Jesus said that when men hear the gospel of God’s grace, they must believe it and be baptized in order to be saved by God’s grace (Mk. 16:15-16). Through Peter, the Spirit of God told sinners how to be saved by grace: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). In Acts 19:5, sinners at Ephesus, “were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Concerning these very people at Ephesus, the Holy Spirit later said, “For by grace are you saved by grace through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
When and how were they saved by grace through faith? When they were baptized! Baptism for the remission of sins is salvation by grace through faith!
After we receive God’s grace in the pardon of our past sins, we must continue in His grace. Christ teaches us how to live each day, always putting off the old man and putting on the new (Eph. 4:17-32). He is our Savior and our head in this new relationship of God’s grace (Eph 1:22-23 cf; 5:23). We have privileges and duties in the local church (Acts 2:42 cf; 14:23; 20:7). If the child of God stumbles and falls into sin, God’s amazing grace reaches out still and we receive it as we repent of error, confess wrong, and pray to be forgiven (Acts 8:13-24 cf; 19:17-20 f; 1 Jn. 1:5-2:2). We can despise “the Spirit of grace” by hardening our hearts, refusing to repent, and so departing in unbelief forever (Heb. 3:12 cf; 6:4-6; 10:28-29).
Grace throws a rope to the man drowning in sin. He does not deserve that grace and can never earn it. Unable to reach safety by swimming to it, he must take hold and continue to hold on to the rope in order to be saved by grace.