Grace, Revelation and Faith

Grace, Revelation and Faith


In this article we are going to examine the relationship between grace, revelation and faith. These three words are often used outside of their biblical context, and are just as often misunderstood. Christians often speak of grace when they really mean revelation, such as in the well known hymn 'Amazing Grace', where we sing, 'was grace that taught my heart to fear'. It was a revelation of God's wrath and holiness that taught our heart to fear, but that revelation was a gift from God, and the word grace fundamentally means 'gift'. Both revelation and faith are gifts from God, indeed, life itself is a form of grace.

Similarly, faith is an extremely misunderstood word. Atheists think that faith is believing in something without evidence, but biblical faith is quite the opposite to this presumption. Biblical faith, generally speaking, has two properties, revelation and action. Hebrews 11 gives many examples of this: God warned (revelation) Noah, and Noah built (action) the ark, God called (revelation) Abraham, and Abraham obeyed (action). Yet there are some who teach that any form of action a person takes towards salvation can be considered a form of works based salvation. This is a false teaching.

When we read verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9, 'For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift from God — not by works, so that no one can boast', do we really understand the difference between the actions of faith and what Paul calls works? We may argue, and wrongly so, that if faith requires action, and action is a form of works, because 'faith without works is dead' (James 2:18-26) then how can Paul say that our works do not contribute to our salvation?

In this passage, Paul is not stating that a person cannot take positive action in order to be saved, for indeed, we are commanded to seek with all our hearts, and seeking definitely requires action on our part. Paul was specifically speaking about what people call 'good works', works they believe will earn a reward, and thinking that their 'good works' somehow contribute to their salvation. Good works can never save, because God's standard is perfection, but also, faith without action is not biblical faith, and without biblical faith we can never be saved.

If we do not understand the relationship between grace, revelation and faith, we can easily end up with extreme forms of Calvinism or Arminianism, neither of which are Biblical views, and our views have a very profound influence on our relationship with Jesus Christ.


Grace (charis) literally means gift or blessing. This word is used in Scripture to mean many different gifts from God. Grace also means an 'undeserved favor', or to receive forgiveness when we deserve punishment. Consider the following:

1. General Grace.

The Bible says that the 'wages of sin is death' (Romans 6:23). All humans everywhere are under God's general grace in the sense that we are not immediately punished by God when we consciously sin (Romans 2:4). General grace means that God does not pour out His wrath against sinners immediately, but allows them the time to exercise their free will and calls them to repent and be saved (2nd Peter 3:9). In the case of the Great Flood, and destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, God's grace was withdrawn because these people had used their freedom to sin beyond the point of redemption. Noah preached for 100 years and no one repented, Abraham pleaded with God to not destroy the city if there were any righteous men in Sodom, but none could be found.

2. Circumstantial Grace.

We also use grace to speak of circumstances which are beyond our control. For example, we may say that we were born into a Christian family by the grace of God, or, we survived a car accident by the grace of God. This is the basic meaning of grace as an undeserved favor from God. This undeserved favor is also, and most profoundly seen, not in circumstantial grace, but in saving grace.

3. Saving Grace.

When Scripture says 'it is by grace you have been saved', it is expressing incredibly profound and important facts. Firstly, that God's standard is perfection (Matthew 5:48) and no human being can meet His standard. Therefore, this status of perfection can only be received as a gift. This gift is only bestowed upon those who have surrendered their lives to Christ and been united to His perfection (Hebrews 10:14).

Secondly, saving grace is very closely tied to both revelation and faith, both of which are gifts from God. Once we see how they work together, we can understand that the action of our faith is motivated by God's revelation of Himself and our sinfulness. Grace gives us time and freedom to answer His call, but when we come to the cross and our eyes are fully opened to our state of hopeless slavery to sin, God's greatest gift is given to those who fully surrender to His will.


Like grace, revelation is often misunderstood and has different meanings and applications. People get very confused thinking that God reveals Himself more to some than others, they also want God to force Himself onto people through a great movement of revival etc. Personally, I like the term 'progressive revelation' which I think answers all of these objections. Consider the following:

1. General Revelation

Revelation is tied to grace, because it is a gift, in various degrees, to every person who has ever lived. God has fundamentally revealed Himself to every human being who has ever been born. Why do I make this statement? Firstly, by the fact that we are made in God's image. The Bible teaches that God has 'set eternity in the hearts of men' (Ecclesiastes 3:11). This is what separates us from every other creature. From the beginning of man's existence, people have known in their hearts that there is a God or 'gods'. In every culture, people have an inbuilt instinct that we are more than mere animals, and thus they created religions and gods to answer their questions about life and the afterlife.

God has also made His existence known to every person through creation. Paul states this fact in Romans 1:18-23 that 'since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse'.

This is general revelation, and no person can ever say that God has not revealed Himself to every single person. The question is, did people exercise faith and apply action in seeking answers. Many have done so, as Paul explains in Romans chapter 2. He tells us that even pagans, who acted on this basic revelation, tried to live godly lives because they 'showed that the requirements of the Law were written on their hearts and consciences' (Romans 2:12-16), and when such people die they will be judged on the amount of revelation they received and how they acted (faith) on that revelation. Paul's point is that they did not have the Law of Moses, which is a much deeper revelation of God, yet they acted on what they knew. This brings us to 'progressive revelation'.

2. Progressive Revelation

There are many examples of progressive revelation within Scripture, indeed we can say that God has revealed Himself in this way. From the beginning God revealed Himself through His image in us, He then gave us the Law of Moses to teach us of His holiness, character, and need of sacrifice. Finally, in the person of Jesus Christ He revealed Himself completely.

The Exodus is another good illustration. God did not march the Jews to the Red Sea at the start and order them to trust Him, walking through a path with walls of water on either side. First they saw all of the miracles and plagues in Egypt, and how God separated them from the Egyptians. Then He brought them to the Red Sea, He fed them with manna and quail to show them His love and care, brought them to Sinai to teach them of His unapproachable holiness and to fear Him, and finally to the banks of the Jordan river. Their revelation of God progressed to deeper and deeper knowledge of Him as they acted in obedience, learning to trust.

God does not expect someone who knows little or nothing about Him to trust their lives to Him, but He absolutely expects them to seek Him according to the revelation they have received. God reveals, and we must take a step of faith, He reveals more, and we must step again. This process continues as the Holy Spirit leads us to the cross of Christ. During this process a person learns to trust God, as the Old Testament saints did, the Holy Spirit opens the person's eyes and convicts them of sin through preaching, Scripture and speaking into their heart. This is the process of 'seeking with all our heart' which leads us to salvation, a process which helps us to understand that we are in our situation of slavery to sin because we have chosen our own way and rebelled against God's will.

The final step is in counting the cost and surrendering to God's will. It is at the foot of the cross where the final step of saving faith occurs. Biblical salvation (and there are many counterfeits), requires a death to the self-ruling principle, the ego, which demanded to live its own way. God uses the principle of counting the cost to achieve this death to self and surrender to Him. Denying self and taking up our cross are analogies of this death. In practical terms, it means walking away from sin and those who participated in that sin. It may also mean losing one's family, wealth, position, etc, as Jesus explain in Luke 14:25-33.

In short, we surrender our will to God's will for our lives, trusting Him completely for our future. He has already taught us that He is faithful, and like the Jews on the banks of the Jordan, He commands us to trust Him. He takes our old life (freely given) and figuratively kills it, buries it and raises us as new born children, just as Christ was raised from death. If there is no death to self, there is no new birth. The old man must be crucified with Christ, and the new man must belong to Christ. Once we surrender our wills to His will, God reveals to us that we are now His children (Romans 8:16), that He now dwells within us, Father, Son and Holy Spirit (2nd Peter 1:3), and we KNOW His presence whereby our hearts cry out in joy 'Abba, Father' (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6).

If we do not know His presence after surrendering our lives to Him, then it is extremely doubtful we have experienced new birth and are, rather, still in the process of seeking. In this case, we must remember two things. Firstly, that the Lord will not regenerate us until He decides we are ready to die to self, and secondly, that He promises to reward us if we continue to seek Him earnestly (Hebrews 11:6).


Grace, revelation and faith work hand in hand to bring us to salvation. For those of us who know Christ, we can testify that He continues to give us grace (gifts), to reveal Himself more deeply, and deepen our faith as we grow in discipleship. In surrendering to Him, we became the victors, in dying to self, we gained eternal life. We surrendered our free-will to His will, and discovered that we are now truly free, free from the penalty and power of sin, free from our slavery to the sin principle which once dominated us.

Sadly, few Churches today give people time to get to know God. They take a verse which says that if we confess and believe we are saved, and apply it literally to people who may not have even begun to seek sincerely. One Facebook friend of mine thinks he brings about 20 people to salvation every week. He goes to a restaurant, park or other place, asks people if they are sure of where they will go when they die, takes them through a 4 step ritual and prays with them. He then tells them they are born again and tells them to read a bible and go to church. This is not biblical salvation, but a weak and powerless counterfeit! If, after praying to 'accept Jesus' (the opposite of surrendering our lives), we need to be told by a man that we are born again, then we are not born again! Jesus said that His sheep know His voice.

God has His own way of doing things. He gives grace to all humanity, reveals Himself in order to motivate us to seek, and walks with us in a process towards salvation. The Lord will not grant new birth to someone who isn't ready to die to self. We cannot command God to regenerate someone because we read a verse that said 'today is the day of salvation', any more than we can command Him to heal us or give us wealth because we read a verse to ask for anything in His name.

God promises many times that those who seek will find Him, but this promise comes with the provision that we seek with all our heart, and only He knows each person's heart. His grace allows us to have free-will, to sin, and even destroy our lives, but there is no grace protecting sinners from His wrath beyond the grave. His revelations call us to seek Him, to act. If we act on the revelation we have received, seeking to know God, He reveals more of Himself and what is required to be saved. If we do not act and seek, then we do not exercise faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God. If we seek earnestly, we will come to the cross, and in a final act of faith as sinners, we surrender our life to Him and receive His absolute grace, His gift of salvation as we trust in Jesus Christ to be our substitute for sin. Not only do we believe and confess Christ raised from the dead, but we experience this spiritually, we hear His voice, and are His forever.

Author: Steve Copland