Salvation: The Gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-10)
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. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. —Ephesians 2:8-10
Ask just about anyone on the street where they think they will go when they die, and most everyone will say, “Heaven!” Why is that? Well, first, no one thinks they are going to hell. They assume that hell is reserved for the likes of Hitler, Stalin, and Osama bin Laden. Also, there is the idea that a good “God” won’t send anyone to hell, so while all of us fall short in many ways, we’re all going to heaven. But perhaps the most popularly held belief is that if we just do more good than bad, God will accept us in the end. This is the message of world religions—we all fall short, but if we follow “the eight-fold path” or practice the “five pillars” or obey “the Law” or whatever your preferred religion teaches, then you will be accepted and enter into eternal bliss.
The problem with these ideas is that both the Bible and our experience tell us this is simply not true. In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul reminds us that we are all born as sons of Adam deserving God’s just wrath. None of us is good enough to be acceptable before the holy God who has revealed himself in the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Scriptures. And our experience confirms this fact. That’s why all of us are concerned with what we must do to be accepted before God. And in our western culture where we’ve been taught to believe in ourselves and work hard and we will accomplish all our hearts desire, the message of the gospel is hard to swallow—all of us are born deserving hell because all of us are born in rebellion against a holy God. Unless God does something to awaken us and show us our sin, we will remain in our sinful rebellion against God. And that’s the good news!
God does make us alive, in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5). And when he makes us alive, we see our sin and understand we deserve God’s wrath, so we turn away from our sin and trust in Christ. From our experience, we only know that we were once blind, but now we see. And from our perspective we freely and joyfully choose Christ. But in Ephesian 2:8-10, Paul pulls back the curtain to show us our salvation from God’s perspective—it is the gift of God.
Saved By Grace
Our salvation is by God’s grace. In other words, it is undeserved. Theologian Louis Berkhof defines grace as “the unmerited goodness or love of God to those who have forfeited it, and are by nature under a sentence of condemnation” (Berkhof, ST, 71). Our God is both holy and good! And his goodness is unmerited, undeserved. Grace is when God shows his goodness or love to those who don’t deserve it, because of their rebellion, and who stand under God’s judgment. The salvation God offers is a gift to sinful rebels who stand under his just judgment. That included you, and it includes me. There is not one who is born good, not one.
Of course, when God opens our spiritual eyes, and we see our sinful condition, we cry out to God in faith, believing in Jesus as our savior—the one who lived the righteous life God requires of us all, and the one who paid the penalty of sin by his death. This one, Jesus, God raised from the dead, accepting his substitute life and death on behalf of repentant sinners. We are saved because we trust, not in our own works (2:8-9), but in Jesus and the work he has done on our behalf. For this reason, none of us can brag (boast) that we saved ourselves (2:9).
It Is the Gift of God
It is the gift of God. Well, what is the gift of God? Faith? Yes! Salvation? Yes! It’s all God’s gift. The word gift does not refer to just one word—faith, for example. It refers to the whole of salvation. All of it is a gift of God—repentance, faith, salvation.
To Live For the Glory of God
Salvation is the gift of God, that we may live a life worthy of the calling to which he has called us. It is the gift of God, that we may fulfill all the works he has prepared for us to do before the foundation of the world. We are not saved by our own works; we are saved by the grace of God. Our works are our appropriate response to the salvation we have received in Christ. So, let us glorify God and walk in them (2:10).
What might be some dangers in forgetting that our salvation, including our faith, is a gift from God?
How might the truth that salvation is the gift of God encourage you in your evangelistic efforts?
When you think about your repentance and faith being a gift from God (at conversion and ongoing as you grow in holiness), how does that influence your understanding of God’s love?