Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Saved by grace...through FAITH

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Paul says we are saved by grace through faith in his letter to the Ephesians. A simple definition of grace is God's favor shown to those who deserve only his wrath. For grace to be grace it must be totally of God. If we contribute something to His favoring us, we could not say our salvation was by grace, at least not strictly speaking. There is something more to consider about our salvation in Christ when we say it is by grace through faith. I might be tempted to think that it is my faith that salvation depends on. God does it all, but, I must have faith. It is true, just as Scripture says- we are saved through or by faith. Isn't faith something I must then contribute? Is faith somehow a work that I do?

A generic definition of faith is a confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing. On the surface, it seems like faith is something I must exercise or somehow conjure. I take faith in Scripture to mean faith in Christ. More specifically, faith in the finished work of Christ on my behalf. Again, if I must have faith, is this something I do? If so, isn't it a work? James writes something that causes more questions-

James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

James is posing a rhetorical question to which the answer is NO. If someone has no works which manifest a life transformed by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit they do not possess saving faith. A person can have a kind of faith (that is, a belief in something) yet not have saving faith. This is James' point in 2:19

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

Belief in God's existence or even some particular attribute of God does not constitute saving faith- the kind of faith that will save me from the punishment I deserve for my sins.

But wait a minute. We are saved by grace through faith. The kind of faith it takes to save me- saving faith or justifying faith- is far too great a faith for me to exercise. Frankly, if it's up to me to muster such faith, I would be lost. Further, how would that not be a work I contribute to salvation if the faith comes from me? I think the answer is actually contained in the same passage from Paul (among other places) in Ephesians. Look again keying on what is said about faith-

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Do you see what this passage says is a gift? Look closely. The passage says- "For by grace you have been saved through faith".....AND THIS IS NOT YOUR OWN DOING; IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD. What is not our own doing? Being saved by grace through faith! Therefore, the faith needed to save us is a GIFT from God. He provides the faith necessary to lay hold of Christ! Our own faith would not ever suffice. We could never believe well enough. God must give faith for us to own Christ! That's exactly what He does and that's why we are saved by 100% grace! God does it this way so that no man can boast. None of the credit for salvation is ours...none.

Think of it sort of like this- back when I was a kid delivering newspapers in Western New York an old fisherman invited me to go fishing in Lake Erie with him. I had told him I liked to fish, so he thought I would enjoy some real fishing. He was a pretty serious fisherman, the beautiful mounts that lined his garage and house gave testimony to his angling prowess. The day we were going to fish I arrived at his house well before first light, loaded my fishing stuff in to his truck and we drove 45 minutes to a long pier that jutted out into Erie. As we approached the pier I could tell this was way bigger than pond fishing for sunnies and catfish. When we started to unload our stuff I immediately noticed his huge heavy poles with rope-like line and odd looking huge hooks. I realized that my Zebco 33 pole with 10 lb test line and a small hook would not be able to catch whatever we were about to fish for. My older fishing buddy looked at my pole and asked, "what do you think you will catch with that"? He then told me we were going to try and catch Northern Pike and/or Muskies. Both were aggressive, large fish. Along the pier there were actually hollow poles made to slip your own pole down in to. If a pike got on your line, you'd need to brace yourself for the fight to get him in! I knew I was ill prepared. My pole was simply not capable of doing what I came to do. Just as I was embarrassed and despairing, the old man grabbed a pole from his truck and handed it to me. I could barely carry it! I knew this pole would work! It was not mine, it was given to me to use. I knew it would work!

I suggest that man's faith is not capable of doing what it would need to do to for our salvation. We must be given a faith by God, a saving faith, that allows us to lay hold of Christ and to rest in Him completely.

The Westminster Larger Catechism does a tremendous job describing the kind of faith that is necessary for salvation-

What is justifying faith?

Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receives and rests upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

How does faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?

Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receives and applies Christ and his righteousness.

When faith is rightly understood, it is plain to see that we contribute nothing to our salvation. Man receives none of the glory in salvation. This is why we can truly say "Soli Deo Goria"- to God alone be the glory.


Rick Calohan said...

Trinity Hymnnal #456
By Grace I'm Saved, Grace Free and Boundless

It is also known as By Grace I'm Saved from the Original Trinity Hymnal, #399

By grace I'm saved, grace free and boundless;
My soul, believe and doubt it not.
Why stagger at this word of promise?
Hath Scripture ever falsehood taught?
Nay; then this word must true remain:
By grace thou, too, shalt heav'n obtain.

By grace! None dare lay claim to merit;
Our works and conduct have no worth.
God in his love sent our Redeemer,
Christ Jesus, to this sinful earth;
His death did for our sins atone,
And we are saved by grace alone.

By grace! O, mark this word of promise
When thou art by thy sins oppressed,
When Satan plagues thy troubled conscience,
And when thy heart is seeking rest.
What reason cannot comprehend
God by his grace to thee doth send.

By grace! This ground of faith is certain;
So long as God is true, it stands.
What saints have penned by inspiration,
What in his Word our God commands,
What our whole faith must rest upon,
Is grace alone, grace in his Son.

Frontier Forest said...

Over the years I have read John 10:27-30 many times. But it was in 1997, on my first mission trip to Russia, when I believe the Lord opened a huge window for me to truly understand God’s grace and my totally helpless position to accomplish anything for God, in my own strength. After a day of sharing my faith with believers and non-believers in the city of Voronezh, my interpreter wanted to know more about Jesus, as THE CHRIST. It is not a good idea to have an atheist assigned to be your interpreter, but in this case, it was providential. I turned to John 10:27-30 and first read it. Then I placed a small cross inside my opened palm, I shared that the cross represented my tiny and totally helpless position in trusting in my behavior or working for my own salvation. Then I closed my fist around the small cross to dramatize how it is Christ, who is holding on to me, not me holding on to Christ! Then I took my other hand and placed it over the hand holding the cross, making a strong and very secure double fist. Then I ask her to pry the cross from my hands that were securely holding on to the cross. I shared this double fist now represented God, placing His hands around Christ’s hands, making me totally secure, protected in His place of absolute safety. Then when I quoted the verse again, it was as if a bright light had suddenly illuminated the entire room! She smiled and her eyes lit up and what amazing peace flooded my soul! This day, using this simple but practical application of John 10:27-30, I came to understand my position in Christ as well as HIS amazing grace. Since the day I feel the Lord showed me this simple illustration, I have shared this powerful Scriptural analogy with many.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Jim said...


I have noticed, however, what seems to me to be a tendency among some Calvinists rather than saying we're saved by grace through faith, instead seeming to say we're saved by grace through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, thereby seeming to reduce "faith" to a by-product or fruit of regeneration similar to that of other good works.

E.g., in talking about whether someone is "saved" even though he no longer have faith & etc.

Just an observation from a Lutheran with lots of Reformed friends (and a high regard for Calvinism).

Reepicheep said...

You make a very good point Jim. Thanks.

christianlady said...

I believe I was saved at a very young age because I would not have been able to come to Christ otherwise, I would have been too far into sin and lost to be saved. I know this may seem weird, but I just believe I would have never on my own chosen Christ, so I had to be snatched early. Does this make any sense? I've always believed (as far as I can recall) that my faith was given to me by God. I don't even own my faith.
Below is a poem I wrote that reminds me of the illustration given to the interpreter...hopefully it's not off base.


I cling
to You
in desperate grip
my fingernails dig
deep into Your
crimson robes
holding tight
though I tremble
though I weaken
I clench
though my hands
my joints
I feel the velvet
of Your cloak
and yet
all is nearly lost
my strength
almost gone
I slip
I am not
strong enough
I fear
my load
pulls me
and pries
my fingers open
though I tighten
I beg
to stay
I fight
I slip
I slip
and the grip
is lost
I open my eyes
to find
where I've been
all along
In the eternal
loving grasp
of God.


Wayne said...

Good post, Tony!