Salvation by Grace through Faith

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Ephesians 2:1–10 (NRSV) You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

In this passage, Paul describes what became the essential doctrine of the Reformation:  salvation by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ.  The three solas of Luther were:  sola scripture (only by Scripture), sola fide (only by faith), and sola gratia (only by grace).

Grace is God’s unmerited favor.  God is love (1 John 4:8), and grace is an expression of the love of God.  In this case, Paul is speaking of God’s justifying grace, the grace of God that the Holy Spirit works in a person to justify them with God.  To be justified is to be “made right.”  In the work of justification, being made right with God means that we are freed from the guilt and punishment of our sins and receive new life (regeneration).  Only the presence and power of God can free us from the guilt and punishment of sin.

Before we believed in Christ, we were dead through our many sins.  This is true for every human being.  “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  (Rom. 3:23)  We once lived following the passionate desires of our sinful nature, and in fact, obeying the devil.  The devil is the “commander of the powers of the unseen world.  He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.”

I had another preacher ask me, “You mean to say that my little granddaughter is a sinner?”  I answered, “Yes.  She is.”  Although God does not hold her accountable until she is old enough to give account.  She is born a sinner.  “All” means “all.”  One of the first words that a child learns to say is, “No!”  Where does that come from?  It is the sin nature raising it’s ugly head leading a child to disobedience, which is sin.

But by God’s mercy, kindness and love, we who are joined to Jesus Christ are saved from the consequences of sin (Eph. 2:4, 5), which is death.  (Rom. 6:23)  Paul says literally, that God “made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in heaven in Christ Jesus.”  (Eph. 2:5, 6)  Since we are joined with Christ, we will share his resurrection.

When does the resurrected life begin for the believer?  Paul suggests that in some way, we have already begun living the resurrection life.  Although our physical bodies will still die, yet our soul will continue to live in heaven and we will also share in the kingdom of God with Christ.  All these blessings are a result of our union with Christ:  resurrection, eternal life, the Kingdom of God, and all the other blessings of the Kingdom.  They are as sure as if everything has already taken place.  Christ’s resurrection is the evidence that it is all true.  The Spirit of Christ living in us is the guarantee that we have a share in these blessings.  So we should endeavor to live into our resurrection, live into our eternal life, and to not live as those who have no hope.  (1 Thes. 4:13)

Ephesian 2:8, 9 are probably two of the most important verses in the Bible, in that, they concisely describe how a person is saved.  “God saved you by his grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”  (v. 9)This is how Protestants have understood the process of salvation since the Reformation.  People are made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ, not through our own goodness nor through good works nor through any of our own merit.  Only by grace through faith are we saved.  (Rom. 3:21-4:8; Gal. 3:2-10; 5:1-6)  This is the great theme that runs through all of Paul’s letters.

Lord, help me to live in the light of eternity.  Help me to live into my resurrection life.  Help me to live each day as a citizen and ambassador of the Kingdom of God, and to help others know you and the glory of the blessings in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

 

 

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