For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
We are all familiar with these two verses that come from Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. It was these two verse that helped spark the Protestant Reformation. But most of us have forgotten what Paul was telling the Ephesian church and by extension us. And that is what we are going to rediscover over the next several minutes.
Paul here in these two short verses is telling us that we cannot be “saved” and gain a right relationship with God by good works, acts of love, devoted efforts to keep God’s commandments or any sort of religious routines. Living in the post reformation world I think we can all agree on that principle. But that still leaves the question of how can we be “saved”? And Paul here gives us the answer. You can only be spiritually saved by God’s grace, which is his unearned favor, love and enablement. And that there are clear Biblical reasons for this fact: (1) The unsaved, those who have not been restored to a personal relationship with God, are spiritually dead, under Satan’s influence and control, enslaved to sin and under God’s condemning judgement.
(2) In order to be saved, restored to a right relationship with God, you must respond to and accept God’s provision of mercy through his Son, Jesus, be forgiven of sin, be made spiritually alive, be freed from the power of Satan and sin, be made a new creation and receive the inner presence of the Holy Spirit. And no amount of self-effort can accomplish these things.
(3) Salvation comes to you by God’s gift of grace, his unearned favor that comes as a response to your godly faith. God’s gift of grace includes the following: (a) God calls you to repent (to turn from your own rebellious ways, accept his forgiveness, surrender your life to Christ and follow his purposes for them) and accept his invitation to new life by faith in his Son, Jesus. Along with this invitation comes the work of the Holy Spirit with you, giving you the power and ability to respond to God. (b) Those who respond in faith and accept Christ as Lord and Savior-the Forgiver of their sins and Leader of their lives-receive additional grace. This allows them to be spiritually renewed, or “born again”, by the Spirit. In the process, the Holy Spirit comes to reside within them, also making available Christ’s invitation to be filled with the Spirit for additional power to communicate his message of forgiveness and new life to others. (c) Those who become new creations in Christ receive continuing grace to live for Christ, resist sin and serve God’s purposes. God’s grace operates within committed followers of Christ, giving them both the desire and the power to fulfill God’s good purpose for their lives. From beginning to end, salvation is by the grace of God.
In today’s “Christian” world we seem to have forgotten that concept. You may hear it peached that you are saved by grace through faith, but the actions of a great deal of “churches” say otherwise. They will tell you that you must act in a certain way, dress in a certain, and/or talk in a certain to be saved. They are in essence saying that it is grace plus works that will save you. When it is in fact only through God’s grace that you can ever be saved. And it is time that the Church started putting into action the words that they are preaching. It is time for the Church to return to the concept that the great reformers of the Reformation rediscovered: YOU CANNOT EARN YOUR SALVATION.