Best of Daily Reflections: Grace, Grace, God’s Grace
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
As you read Ephesians 2, you get the idea that salvation by grace is a big deal. Verse 5 reveals that we have been saved by grace. Then, that thought is repeated in almost exactly the same words in verse 8. Additionally, verse 8 adds that “salvation by grace through faith” does not come from us, but is “the gift of God.” The Greek word translated here as gift is not charis (grace), but doron. It underscores the fact that salvation is not something we earn, but comes from God’s generosity. Then, to underscore the point once more, verse 9 adds that salvation comes “not by works.” We cannot earn salvation by anything we do, by our best efforts and intentions. It comes only by grace. Period.
I don’t know exactly why Paul goes to such great lengths to emphasize the fact that salvation comes from grace alone. My hunch, however, is that he realizes how easy it is for human beings to think of salvation as something we can earn. To be sure, this perspective was nurtured through Paul’s experience as a law-abiding Jew. But, in the wider Greco-Roman world, salvation, however it was envisioned, was not a gift from God (or the gods). One way or another, it was something a person earned.
Although Scripture is clear that salvation comes from God’s grace, we Christians often have a hard time truly believing this. There’s something in us that just can’t believe salvation comes as a free gift from God. So, one way or another, we add something to the formula. Salvation comes by grace and good works. Salvation is something God’s gives us, but only if we do the right things to deserve it. Of course, this turns salvation by grace on its head. If our salvation is in any way dependent on what we do, then it is not fully by grace.
Yet, the good news of God is that he saves us through Jesus Christ, not because we earn it or deserve it, but because of his grace. God saves us on the basis of his unmerited favor, his undeserved kindness. The more we take in this truth, the more we will be set free from guilt and fear, the more we will be filled with gratitude that moves us to give our whole selves to God in service and worship. The good news of salvation by grace changes everything. It changes you. It changes us. And it is at work changing the world.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are you convinced, truly and fully, that you are saved by God’s grace? If so, how do you respond? If not, why not?
PRAYER: Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured, There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.
Grace, grace, God's grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within; Grace, grace, God's grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin.
Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold, Threaten the soul with infinite loss; Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold, Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide. What can avail to wash it away? Look! There is flowing a crimson tide, Brighter than snow you may be today.
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, Freely bestowed on all who believe! You that are longing to see His face, Will you this moment His grace receive?
Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within; Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin.
"Grace Greater Than Our Sin,” by Julia H. Johnston, 1911.