“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
Considering how much consequence I have found myself in the middle of because of my own poor choices at times, I find it tremendously comforting that at least this one thing is “not my own doing.” Salvation is a gift from God. For once, I didn’t do it. It can’t be earned or deserved, and there’s nothing that we do or can do that allows us to obtain any measure of it. For by grace we have been saved. It is only because of God’s grace.
As I studied these two verses further, there was an incredible truth that leapt off of the page and planted deep roots within my heart. The phrase in verse 8 that says “and this” refers not only to the previous statement of salvation that we have been given and to the grace that has saved us, but it also refers to the faith. Let me unpack this for us. Although we are required to believe in Christ to obtain salvation through Him, even the faith to believe is part of the gift that God gives us. Faith itself is a gift from God and cannot be exercised by our own power apart from God granting it to us. Wow. Do you understand this? Every single one of us that would say, “I have faith in God” must also understand that the faith that we have that enabled us to believe in order for us to be saved…that very faith was given to us from God. What grace! What mercy that He allowed us to believe! For it is because of God’s grace that you were given the faith to believe, and it was that very gift of faith to believe that ushered you into the gift of salvation that Christ extends to all who believe. Further, this salvation was granted because of God’s grace. None of this could be had apart from the abundant gift of God’s grace. None of it.
This means that you and I could never come to God on our own merit. He draws us in. We could never choose Him without Him first choosing us. We could never believe in Him without Him first granting us the faith to believe. He is the initiator. He is the Creator. He is the sustainer.
Romans 3:20 speaks further to this and gives us a deeper understanding of God’s grace and its role in our faith. What does it say? Can we be saved by our works or our adherence to the Law? By whom are we justified? What does Romans 3:28 add to this conversation? What about Galatians 2:16?
The reason why this conversation is so important is that it is vital to our relationship with Christ. Even among the church, there is a heavy weight of religion that is found, and God’s people are oppressed under its burden. God has and always will call us into relationship, not religion. Religion emphasizes all that YOU must do in order to secure good standing with God, and while our works are evidences of genuine, saving faith (James 2:17, 26), they do not save us. Our works are simply expressions of the grace, faith, and salvation that we have received, the overflow of a blessed life. Grace alone secures our fate. For it is by grace. Religion emphasizes your works (plural). Relationship emphasizes God’s work (singular).
I don’t know where you stand today on this fence. Are you slipping into the dry, desert places of religion, the heavy burden that emphasizes your performance? Or do you find yourself free-falling into the embrace of relationship with Christ? The pastures of God’s grace do not exclude the responsibility on our part to pursue obedience and righteous living. Rather, it frees us to know and believe that the obedient life is not the catalyst in securing our salvation, rather the expression of the grateful heart that has been rescued from the grips of sin.
For by grace you have been saved. Not by works. Not by good deeds. Not by sheer determination to stop sinning. Not by volunteering and serving. Not by living a perfect life.
For by grace.
Know that God is inviting you into this freedom today – Freedom from religion and the fear that is accompanied with it; Freedom from a heavy load and an impossible yoke. For by grace…faith, salvation, and freedom have come.