Salvation comes to us BY grace THROUGH faith, and that is a GIFT of God, not something we earn or deserve (Eph.2:8).
“BY grace” means that God did not have to save us at all, but due to His own mercy and grace, He provided a way for sinners to be saved. “THROUGH faith” means that this saving grace comes to us THROUGH this channel. The condition we were in before this channel was created was that we were “children of wrath” (Eph.2:3). Why? Because we were “dead” (separated from God) in trespasses and sins (v.1). What we earned was “wrath.” But God’s great love provided a means to make us “alive together with Christ” (v.4,5). So, by grace we are saved!
Well, how did this channel of faith connect us back to God by grace? “You first TRUSTED in Christ,” he said to the Ephesians (1:12), and you first “trusted” AFTER you heard the word of truth (1:13), “the gospel of your salvation.” You see the “gospel” is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom.1:16). This church first “trusted” in Christ and were “sanctified” (set apart to God) and “cleansed” (Eph.5:26), but notice, “with the washing of water by the word” (5:26). So there was a “washing of water by the word” that was involved in their faith. No, it was not faith alone, but faith WITH the washing of water by the word. Jesus said “he that believes AND is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). The word moves people to believe and be baptized (washing of water — Acts 10:47-48; 22:16) BY the word. Except the word had instructed this, the Ephesians would never have been “baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 19:6). By the word they were baptized in the name of the Lord wherein they experienced “the washing of water” by the word.
This is the way it happened to the 3,000 Jews on Pentecost (Acts 2:36-41). The word cut them to the heart. They had been “dead in trespasses and sins” just as the Ephesians. They cried, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). They were told to “repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins” (v.38). Peter exhorted them further to “be saved” from this perverse generation (v.40). They were not saved just by being convicted, but if they repented and were baptized they would have “remission of sins” or be “cleansed with the washing of water by the word.” Those that gladly received his word were baptized (v.41). So, what happened here? They were saved by grace through faith, sanctified by the word (John 17:17), “cleansed with the washing of water by the word.” You see, “through faith” we must repent of sins, and through faith we FIRST TRUST Him to cleanse us when we go down into the water with Him in baptism. We are “buried with Him” in baptism (Rom.6:3-6; Col.2:12), and we have “faith in the operation of God,” not in the power of the water, but this is where God promised to cut our sins away, and we believe what God says. We first TRUST in Him in this way.
This is not trust in the water, but trust in Jesus who told us to be buried with Him in baptism. We trust Jesus who said, “he that believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). We trust in Jesus who promised to cut our sins away when we are baptized in His name (Acts 2:38; 22:16). Baptism in his name is in “water” (Acts 10:47-48), thus the cleansing “with the washing of water by the word” (Eph.5:26). The Ephesians as well as the Jews on Pentecost and all others we read of in Acts were all saved by grace through faith WHEN by the word they were baptized in the name of Jesus to receive the washing of water by the word. THROUGH faith there comes a specific moment when our sins are removed from our record. That moment in faith is when we repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom.6:3-5; Col.2:12-13; Gal.3:26-27). If faith stops short of this, it is not “TRUST.” The Ephesians first TRUSTED and received cleansing “with the washing of water” (Eph.5:26; Acts 19:6). Have you actually TRUSTED Jesus in regard to when our sins are washed away?
— Terry W. Benton