Faith and Works and Grace
What does it mean to be saved through faith by God’s grace?
It means that God, through Jesus, and only through Jesus, has made the effort to save us. It is his gift and it is freely given. That’s grace.
When someone works at a job, they receive payment for what they have done. They have earned their pay. We would never call that paycheck a gift. By works, we get what we deserve. That is exactly why ‘faith ‘ is the opposite to ‘works’ – by works we get what we deserve, but in faith we get what we don’t deserve.
A Christian is saved in faith by grace.
Faith and Obedience and Grace
While faith is opposite works, there is another dimension to consider. Faith is also opposite disobedience. And that is why when someone becomes a person of faith the right response is to obey Jesus – after all why would you trust Jesus to remove your sin and guilt before God, if you were only going to hold onto sin and continue to disobey God day after day?
When Jesus started his public ministry as recorded in Mark 1 – his first words were these: ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news’ (1:15).
Jesus calls people to repent (to turn to him) and to believe (to place their trust in him). Repentance involves seeing sin for the deceitful and deadly thing that it really is – and so turning away from it. Belief in Jesus involves seeing Jesus for the gracious and powerful Saviour that he really is – and so turning to him.
To have faith, places these two acts together in a person’s salvation – repentance and belief are two sides of the same faith coin if you like.
Have you ever noticed that when you turn from something you turn two ways?
Suppose you are walking to go to the front door of your house when you suddenly remember that you have left your wallet on the bench. When you turn to go back to the bench you also turn away from the front door. Every turning involves a turning from something – to something.
That is what a saving faith looks like – it involves turning from the horror of sin (which if you didn’t would leave you out of step and not at peace with God who will hold you to account) and it involves turning to trust and hope in Jesus (who brings you in step with God and at peace with him).
Now let me try and explain why repenting and believing in Christ is not a work.
Repenting and believing in Jesus, if solely by human action, does nothing if Jesus had not already paid the price. It is because of Jesus that salvation forever is even on offer – and it is by God’s grace and only by his grace that we are saved.
What does a Christian Look Like?
So for someone who is indeed saved by grace, what should that change about the way you live your life?
A Christian is someone who has moved from being out-of-step with God to now being someone who is in-step with God through Jesus. Or to put that another way, A Christian is someone who has move from being in-step with the world to now being someone who is out-of-step with the world.
- Be more concerned about the security we have in Christ then you are concerned about the security you have in the world. There will always be a temptation to rest in what the world offers – it will only be a temporary rest.
- Don’t think that being good, or working hard for God is what gives you more credit with him – the best line of credit has already been offered in Jesus alone.
- Be obedient to Jesus. There will be a temptation to use the excuse ‘because I am saved by grace then I don’t have to do anything that Christ asks of me’ (of course we wouldn’t say it like that – we would be much more nuanced). To think to yourself, ‘I don’t have to be involved in service, because I know I have already be saved by grace’ is a self-deception and a misunderstanding of grace. Christians should be concerned about being saved people who take obedience to our Saviour very seriously.
- Don’t take the gift of salvation for granted. Instead live lives that are worthy of the gift that has so generosity been given. And that will look like a sinner, who rejoices in the hope of the glory of God and rejoices in whatever sufferings they might experience for being in Jesus Christ.
For more in this Series:
What must I do to be saved? (Part 1 of 4)
What must I do to be saved? (Part 2 of 4)
What must I do to be saved? (Part 3 of 4)
What must I do to be saved? (Part 4 of 4)