Archive for January 23rd, 2019

Saved By Grace

January 23rd, 2019

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance as our way of life. (Ephesians 2:8-10 BSB)

Paul has been working toward this truth since the first line of his epistle, where he identified himself as an apostle according to the will of God. A question often asked is which comes first: the calling of God or the credentials of dedication on the part of the disciple? The answer is abundantly clear here, that the calling of God comes into our lives when we were without any credentials to recommend us to God. As He spoke the world into existence in the darkness of nothingness, so He calls to us in the darkness of our selfishness and sin and draws us to Himself.

No precondition required

Grace means unearned favor, and that means that there is no pre-condition that must precede the calling. God chooses, God calls, and then and only then can we believe. God prepares the heart to believe, just as Paul must have been influenced by the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7:54-60), but that also is His work. When Jesus and Nathaniel first met in the flesh, Nathaniel asked him “How do you know me?” And Jesus replied, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree” (John 1:48). 

It is God’s calling that credentials the disciple, and not the disciple’s morality, or good works, or religiousness, or seeking, or “spirituality” that credentials God’s calling. God uses Christians as they mature in their faith – an “overseer” should not be a brand new Christian, for example (1 Tim. 3:7). God led Samuel to anoint David and said, “Men look on the outside but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).  But let’s not confuse this issue and suggest that God saved David because of David’s heart. The opposite is true, that God’s salvation is the explanation of David’s heart. 

In fact, the scripture emphasizes just that: “He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds” (Psalm 78:70). God’s choice always comes when the one He chooses has no credentials to recommend him to God or to salvation. Jesus said, “Many are called but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). It was said against the background of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, where the originally invited guests did not come, so the servants were sent out to invite as many as they could, “both evil and good,” to the great banquet. But one guest was not wearing proper “wedding clothes” and was cast out (Matt. 22:1-14). The point of Jesus was precisely on this issue of grace received through faith. 

The guest cast out is the kind of person who would have said, “Well, I should have been invited with the first group, along with the so-called ‘important guests.’ And I’ll show my displeasure by not dressing properly.” And this guest depicts those who hear of the gospel but decide to come to God through any other means other than through faith in Christ, whether it be personal morality, or another religion, or whatever. They were called, but did not come the way the invitation was given. They may say, “Well, I’m just as good as many Christians I know.” But God can see that they have not dressed in the robes of grace that come through faith in Christ and are the only thing that can cover our sinfulness. 

Created for good works

The disciple then becomes God’s “workmanship,” God’s project. We are “created” anew, fresh, by God and He is the One who enables us to do truly good works. He changes our motives, and aligns our steps with His own, and with those other disciples who are following Him by grace through faith. Our lives are divided into two sections now, before Christ and since Christ. Before Christ our works were our own, even our good works, and though God might have used them to do His will not a single one of them came from transformed hearts. “Since Christ” He now works in us and through us. 

“Through faith” is an important phrase, because the New Testament is careful never to assert that our faith alone is the foundation of our salvation. Our salvation rests upon the foundation of the work of Christ, and we come into salvation by the choosing and calling of God. Faith is not the stubborn believing in what we have decided is true, rather it is surrender to God’s witness through His word and through His Spirit. It is all by grace and only by grace. The “good church child” still is in need of the grace of God, and the transformation of his heart that can only come by the Spirit of God. 

The miracle of God at work in us

And this is the miracle that Paul has been stressing throughout these first two chapters, that anyone who hears God’s call and repents and trusts in Christ, becomes a miracle in progress. God’s surpassing greatness is at work in him. Nothing can compare to God – and perhaps the most deceived is the one who trusts in his own righteousness rather than Christ simply because he does not think he is so bad as the others. But we have ALL walked in sin.

At one time we all lived among them, fulfilling the cravings of our flesh and indulging its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature children of wrath. (Eph. 2:3)

Perhaps some of us did not stand out like others in human society, but God who sees the heart could see what was going on inside of us. Heaven will not be populated with good church people who are still unconverted in their hearts. Heaven will be filled with those who were sinful, beyond hope, children of wrath but who have been saved by grace through faith, and have become re-creations of God’s great mercy and love. 

Doctrinal Studies, Ephesians, Evening Devotionals