It is a popular idea that we are saved by grace alone. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). This passage in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is used to support that teaching. What it doesn’t say is that they were saved by grace alone. Further looking into the context reveals a more detailed picture. We can determine from Scripture how they were saved and what was involved in their salvation. By examining the Ephesians, we can understand how people are saved by grace.
Looking at the context of the letter, we see that they heard the word of truth. “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed” (Eph. 1:13). They heard the message that has the power to save (Rom. 1:16). If one is to be saved by grace, he must hear and learn the gospel in order to know God’s will. This same passage clearly states that they also believed the truth, “having also believed.” They had to hear in order to believe (Rom. 10:17). Believing the truth is essential to salvation (John 8:24; Heb. 11:6; Mark 16:16).
When we look into the context of the New Testament, specifically Acts and the story of their conversion, we learn more details about the Ephesians. “This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So, the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing” (Acts 19:17-20). Repentance is “to change one’s mind or purpose” always in the NT, involving a change for the better and repentance from sin, except in Luke 17:3-4. The gospel changed the lives of many in Ephesus. They turned completely in their way of life. Though they had once practiced magical arts, witchcraft, etc., they showed repentance in a bonfire that cost 50,000 pieces of silver.
We see that they were baptized. “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5). To be saved by grace, one must be a penitent believer who is then baptized for the remission of sins (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38). Being saved by grace includes being saved by baptism (1 Pet. 3:21). They had to overcome and remain faithful as we do today (Rev. 2:7). Being saved by grace alone is a popular idea. The Ephesians show us that it is not a Biblical concept. Let’s let their example help us in our walk today.