Is Saving Faith a Part of God’s Gift?Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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.
In last Friday's reflection, I suggested that the Greek grammar of Ephesians 2:8 shows us that the "gift of God" is not just "faith," but rather "salvation by grace through faith." Yet, we might wonder how faith is a part of God's gift. Isn't faith something we produce in ourselves, in response to God's grace in Christ?
Ephesians 2:8 reflects what is revealed elsewhere in Ephesians. Though we play a central role in God's work of redeeming the world, God is the chief actor. Everything having to do with salvation and restoration flows from the grace of God. Thus, while our reception of God's grace in faith is something we do, from another perspective, it is something God is doing in us. Our choice matters, but it is dependent on God's gracious work within us. This is similar to what Jesus teaches about the work of the Holy Spirit, who guides us into all truth (John 16:13) and convicts us of our sin (John 16:8). According to Jesus, apart from the Spirit, we will not be able to put our faith in God our Savior. Yet, with God's help, we will be able to trust him and his grace.
Saint Jerome, the fourth- and fifth- century theologian, wrestled with the riddle of faith in his commentary on Ephesians. There he wrote, "Paul says this in case the secret thought should steal upon us that 'if we are not saved by our own works, at least we are saved by our own faith, and so in another way our salvation is of ourselves.' Thus he added the statement that faith too is not in our own will but in God's gift. Not that he means to take away free choice from humanity … but that even this very freedom of choice has God as its author, and all things are to be referred to his generosity, in that he has even allowed us to will the good. (Jerome on Ephesians 1.2.8-9.15, from Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.)
In tomorrow's reflection, I share a bit of my own experience of faith as a gift from God. For now, I invite you to reflect on your own life and faith.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: As you think about your faith, does it seem like something you have produced on your own, or like something that flows from God's grace? What helps you to trust God each day? What makes faith in God hard?
PRAYER: Gracious God, there is a mystery here that I cannot fully understand. The interweaving of your grace and my faith is complex and beautiful. I know that, in some sense, I chose to put my faith in you. Yet, I also know that, apart from your grace, I would not be able to make this choice. So I thank you for enabling in me what I could not do by myself. Thank you, Lord, for helping me to trust you for salvation. Thank you for helping me to trust you each day. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.