“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8, 9)
The belief that salvation is by grace and not by works was one of the prime movers in the Reformation of the 1500’s. The reformers felt that too much emphasis was being placed on what sinners could do to “earn” salvation. Works was one method advertised, and money was another. Whether working or paying or some of both, the credit belonged to the sinner. To escape sinning, men and women went into monasteries and convents. By denying themselves the world, they thought they could live such perfect lives that God would save them.
Gift is defined as “Something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present.”
Gifts are not earned; bonuses are earned. Gifts are voluntary; works require payment. Gifts are not wages, and wages are not gifts. Should the Christian then forget about good works? No, of course not. The very fact that they are to become like God would tell us that they too should be in a position to give gifts to others. Those gifts to others are the works God wants from us. They come as a result of being saved not as a means of being saved.
Works bring with them the opportunity to boast. It lets the worker say, “Look at me, see what I have done with my own hand.” Works, if allowed as payment for salvation would take God out of the picture. The real problem with trying to be saved by works is that we will not live long enough to pay for our sins, especially when you consider that we continue to sin our entire life.
Our major contribution to salvation is faith; that is, believing and trusting that God is saving us without any payment. We must believe that he is and that he rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6). To offer our works instead of accepting God’s grace is to refuse the gift of God. Surely, we can see that to refuse the gift is the same as refusing the giver.
The popular song, “Just as I am” puts it right. No hymn says, “Here are my good deeds, so save me, Lord.” At Westgate when we sing “Just As I Am” we sing the new addition as well:
“I come broken to be mended
I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned
By the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I’m welcomed with open arms
Praise God, just as I am.”
I can offer nothing other than a contrite heart and a desire to serve him by serving others. He saves me and recreates me to do good works (see tomorrow’s blog).