Saved by Grace through Faith
We live in a broken world. Bad things happen all the time. We often wonder why bad things happen to us. While life is not a walk in the park for any of us, there is a way to make life more tolerable. We call this good news, the gospel. This is what separates Christianity from all other world religions. Most all other religions base their system of beliefs on a system of works that rely on a person to do the good work in order for said person to achieve a state of salvation.
What makes Christianity different is that we believe that true joy and peace reside in the gospel. It is a way for us to break free from a broken and corrupted system that will not help people get any better. The gospel is life change waiting to happen. While we must understand this, we also must understand that there is a way out, and when we look at scripture, we can see how to take advantage of that way.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 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.
God’s Character (2.4)
God’s Character (2.4)
The first thing we see here is the character of God. Verse four states that He is rich and mercy, and that mercy comes from the great love that He has for us. This is important to understand about God, but we must also understand that God is Holy, righteous and just. He is holy in the aspect that He is pure and free from any faults (what we call sin, imperfections, etc.) He is righteous, meaning He is morally right by definition, and He is just. Just meaning fair and impartial. With God’s character, things are black and white, there is no gray area.
God’s Holy character demands purity. This has never changed. We see this from the very beginning. We can go all the way back to the story of creation when Adam and Eve first disobeyed God’s command, and they were separated from God. We read the story of Noah where God found only one man that was upright enough to receive His grace, and the rest of the world was judged by a cataclysmic flood. Moving forward, we read of the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy of Holies which was the dwelling place of God and a normal man could not enter into that place and touch the ark or they would die. The high priest that was the only person to be able to enter into the Holy of Holies had to go through a long process that was meant to cleans him from his imperfections long enough to make sacrifices on behalf of other people. says, “you who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong,” and says he will “by no means clear the guilty.” God’s character demands that those that violate His character be judged accordingly.
Now, we have to backtrack for just a moment to verse 3 to understand how things fit together in line with God’s character:
3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
There is one phrase that stand out here, and that is “the children of wrath.” Humanity became the object of God’s wrath because there was a violation of God’s character, and according to God’s character, with Him being just, that violation must be dealt with, and that is where verse four really has an impact, “but God, being rich in mercy...” That’s an amazing transition right there. It changes the scope of everything. In just one transition, humanity goes from being the children of wrath to the recipient of God’s love and affection.
God’s character is Holy, just, and righteous, but it is also full of love, and motivated to mercy by that love. This doesn’t mean that the character of God changes when it comes to mercy. It just means that God’s wrath has to be settled by someone other than ourselves. Because of God’s character, His wrath doesn’t go away, it remains; His mercy is displayed fully, and His wrath becomes satisfied, and that mercy is demonstrated in the person of Jesus Christ, and we will talk about that in just a moment, but here is the catch, we must first understand our separation from God and our need for a savior in order to even begin to learn what God is about.
Offense of Sin (2.5)
Offense of Sin (2.5)
Our separation from God is total. There is no way around this. We can look around us, and if you watch the news or stay on Facebook for any length of time, you can see just how depraved society is. Verse 5 reinforces this fact: “even when we were dead in our trespasses.” Let’s back up just a moment to verses 1-3:
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
Humankind is depraved. That’s just the way of it. We are completely and totally separated from a holy and just God. Every single person in this world has some sort of sin in their life, and by nature, we offend a holy God.
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
All of us regardless of where we come from, even if we have grown up in church all of our lives, are spiritually dark, and spiritually dead. Here is where we come to terms with the fact that it is our sinful nature that separates us from God, and our need for a savior.
In 2010, a mine collapsed in Copiapo, Chile. When this mine collapsed, there were 33 miners that were trapped 2,300 feet underground three miles away from the entrance to the tunnel. For 17 days they were cut off from everything. No lights, no air, no food, no water. For all practical purposes, they were dead. There was absolutely no way they could get out on their own. When the drill bit finally reached where they were, they sent a note back to the top that said, “we are still alive.” The story is that almost all of them converted to Christ while they were trapped in that mine, but the point is, they needed help to get them out of that seemingly impossible situation of facing certain death.
The same applies to us, when we come to the realization that we are dark and dead, we look for a savior, and that brings us to Christ.
Sufficiency of Christ (2.5-6)
Sufficiency of Christ (2.5-6)
Here is where Christianity starts to lose people, but I want you to stay with me for just a few more moments. Today’s society doesn’t deal well with absolutes, yet when we talk about getting to God, there is only one way for us to achieve peace with God, and that is through Jesus Christ (verses 5b-6).
I have an illustration that was given to me by Dr. John Meador from First Euless, and he calls it “The Record Book of Sin,” and I hope if you are reading this you can follow along with me:
Picture your left hand being you. Now, take a book (any book) and place it on your hand. In that book, is every moment of your life recorded. We all have one of those books. Take ho many years you have walked this earth, multiply that by 365 (the days in a year), then multiply that by 24 (hours in a day), and again multiply that by 60 (minutes in an hour), and one more time by 60 (second in each minute). Every moment you have had to do and say the right thing has been recorded. Now, there are some parts of my book that I would really rather you not read, and I am sure you have moments that you would rather no one else reads, but God has complete and total access to every moment of your life.
This is our life (for better or worse). Now take your empty hand and hold it above your head and let that represent God. God is holy, just, and righteous and that book in my hand weighs me down and I will never be able to rise above that. That is what our sin does in our lives. It weighs us down and separates us from God.
But, God is also loving and merciful, and He knows that we will never be able to rise to His level, so He sent Jesus (His one and only son). So now the hand above our head comes down to an equal level with us, and Jesus becomes fully God and fully man. Jesus lived a perfect life, and He allowed Himself to be executed and placed on a cross from something He never did.
Now look what happens as Jesus is on the cross: says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” He took on that sin that we had, and that book that holds us down becomes transferred to the empty, sinless hand that represents Jesus, and according to , “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”
That book now goes on to Jesus, and when he died, he was buried, and he rose again to prove that He (as God) had power of death and that sin that holds us back, and He now sits at the right hand of God. This was an act of God on our behalf. This was an act of mercy, and act of love, and an act of justice, and that requires a personal response from us.
Personal Response (2.5, 8-9)
Personal Response (2.5, 8-9)
I want you to look at verse 5 for a moment, and notice a parenthetical passage: “by grace you have been saved” and then again in verses 8 and 9, Paul comes back to more fully explain what grace is. It is that grace and the response by faith lets us know that we must make a personal response to what Jesus Christ has accomplished on our behalf on the cross, and here in just a few moments, I am going to ask each of you to respond to this. Once we come to this point, we should be asking the question, “what must I do to be saved?”
The first thing we must address in all of this is, “What is grace?” The dictionary defines it as, “the free unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” I don’t think that definition does it justice, so I would like to share with you a quote that I heard from a pastor friend of mine: “grace is God providing for those that could not provide for themselves.” This is where verses 8 & 9 come in. It is “not of works, it is the free gift of God,” and this is where the personal response comes in.
The affirmative response is repentance. Let’s look at what repentance and faith look like:
9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
Our act faith and repentance is ONE ACT with TWO RESULTS. I want you to understand this very clearly. If I am on a set path and heading one direction, and when I repent (which literally means to turn around), I turn FROM something TO something else, and in this case, turning FROM sin TO God. This is not a side glance and keeping on the same path, it is moving to a completely different path.
The act of true faith will result in true repentance. So now we must answer the question, “What is faith?” Faith is like getting in an airplane and putting on a parachute to go skydiving. When you put that pack on your back, you trust that it is going to work even though you have never actually seen it work. You believe that when you step out of that plane and you pull that ripcord, that chute is going to open and you will float to the ground. You BELIEVE that chute is going to save you from certain death.
What Paul is talking about here is saving faith. I want to address a couple of issues here of what faith is and is not:
Saving faith is not intellectual assent (meaning, it makes sense) or historical agreement (I believe that Jesus was a real person at a real point in history), and it is not temporal faith (meaning that it just applies to the here and now.)
Saving faith is that parachute and that parachute alone. Not Jesus plus anything (church attendance, baptism, good works, etc.) it is faith alone in Jesus Christ alone and nothing else.
Eternal Urgency (2.7)
Eternal Urgency (2.7)
Verse 7 points to what awaits a professing believer, and all throughout scripture we see what awaits us after we leave this earthly home, but we must also understand that something else awaits those that don’t know Jesus Christ.
27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
Now some of you may say, “I can’t believe in a God that sends people to hell.” I really want you to understand this part:
9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
This is a point that we all must come to terms with. In light of God’s holy and just character, the eternal separation is mandatory. That’s the bad news, but there is a reason why it is called the gospel. Gospel means “good news.” The thrust of the gospel is God’s loving character. The fact that He sent Jesus to stand in that judgment on our behalf and to take the place of us so that we could be declared not guilt in God’s eyes and do not have to face the eternal separation is there for each of us.
The reality of all of this is, we have a choice. We can ether accept or reject this message. If we don’t accept this into our lives, we condemn ourselves to eternal separation and condemnation. This is a demand of the message and God’s character, but remember, God is on our side. He roots for us and hopes that we accept His way out, and once we accept that message, that will transform your life.
Life Transformation (2.10)
Life Transformation (2.10)
The entire thrust of this passage leads to verse 10. Look at verse 10 and really grasp what it says: “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” We don't get to verse 10 until we address God’s character, the offense of sin, the sufficiency of Christ, making that personal decision that carries eternal urgency. But once we get through all of that, we learn that the gospel can change our lives.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
The gospel is what changes a person. It’s not me, it’s not other Christians, and it’s definitely not anything I have done myself. Look back to verses 8 & 9 and see what it says, “not of works.” This is key. Our lives do not change because of something we have done to warrant it, but because of God’s decisions.
What changes lives is the fact that God has always seen you, God knows the inner workings of your hearts and minds, and yet in spite of any and all objections you may have, God still wants to use you. We are His workmanship. We are created in God’s image. We are created for good works to glorify Him who loves us and has called us to Himself.
You may be saying today, “well I am too bad of a person for God to use.” Let me tell you something, I thought that at one time, but I learned something about God: no matter what bad deeds I have done in my life, God took me, and He used me to do a good work in the lives of others, and He still loves me in spite of my imperfections today.
There was a man named Saul that went about killing Christians because of his beliefs that Christianity was blasphemous. He actually oversaw the execution of Christians and arrested numerous others. One day as he was heading off to arrest more Christians, he met Jesus face to face. He placed his faith in Jesus Christ that very day, and through him, God used him to write over half of the New Testament and establish hundreds, possibly thousands of churches in the middle east.
I’m sure he probably had the same thought many of us have that we could never be good enough for God, but he allowed God to work in his life, and through that, many many people came to the same point in their lives that many of you find yourself in today.
God is a holy and righteous God. He is Just and fair. In light of that we must understand that we are separated from God by our sin. Because of separation from God, He sent His Son Jesus Christ who lived the perfect life that we could never live. He allowed Himself to be punished for something he was never guilty of. When he died, HE was buried like any other person, but on the third day, He rose from the grave alive and glorified. All we are asked to do is place our faith in that, and believe that we have opportunity.
We are not guaranteed tomorrow, and once we take our last breath, we go to one of two places. Our eternal destiny lies either in heaven (if we place our faith in Jesus) or hell (if we reject the message). So now the question we each much face is, “What do we do next?” It is as simple as believing it in your heart and asking God for forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ.