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What Does It Mean to Be Saved? Paying Attention to the Voice of the Verb

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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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.

Ephesians 2:10

In the past few days, I have been examining in detail the verb “to be saved” as it appears in Ephesians 2:8—“For it is by grace you have been saved.” I realize that this little study might stir up uncomfortable memories of grammar lessons when you were in school. I confess that I am one of those odd beings who finds grammar rather fascinating. But I acknowledge that not everybody shares my peculiar fascination. (Okay, very few people do.) Nevertheless, I ask you to hang in there for one more word study. If you really want to understand what it means to be saved, today’s grammar lesson is perhaps the most important of all.

Ephesians 2:8 uses the verb “to save” in the passive mood. It does not say “you save yourself,” using the active voice (or the middle voice in Greek). Rather, the text reads “you have been saved.” Salvation is something that happens to you. You do not make it happen yourself. You are saved by something external to yourself. Similarly, you are saved and will be saved that way. You don’t do it. You receive it.

If you’re a Christian, I expect you have heard this before. But, if you’re like most Christians I know, you struggle to let this truth penetrate your heart and permeate your life. There is something about us that wants to earn our own salvation. Or, at any rate, there is something about us that thinks we can and we should.

The passive verb in Ephesians 2:8 makes it abundantly clear that our salvation is not something we do. It is something done to us and for us. Salvation is God’s activity. God alone can save us. In future reflections, we’ll learn more about how this happens. For now, let me encourage you to consider the following questions.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Is there something in you that wants to believe you can and should save yourself? Has the fact that salvation is something God does—not something you do—truly touched your mind and heart? If you really believed that you have been saved by something or someone outside of yourself, how might this affect the way you think? feel? live?

PRAYER: Gracious God, I confess that there is part of me that thinks I can save myself, or, at least, that I can contribute significantly to my salvation. Forgive me, Lord, for my arrogance.

There is also something in me that feels as if I should save myself, that being saved from the outside is being too dependent or irresponsible. Forgive me, Lord, for my ignorance.

Yet, there is also something in me that knows I cannot save myself. I know I need a Savior. I need you to be my Savior. How I thank and praise you for being the agent behind the passive verb. I have been saved ... by you! What a wonder! Amen.

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