What Kind of Faith Allows Us to Receive Salvation by Grace?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.
Ephesians 2:8 seems clear enough. According to this verse, we are saved by grace, through faith. God extends salvation to us as a gift. We receive it in faith. What could be confusing about this?
Unfortunately, the English word "faith" can be misleading. If someone were to ask you, "Do you have faith in God?" chances are that person is asking a question about your belief. "Do you have faith in God?" often means "Do you believe that God exists?" Similarly, the faith that allows us to receive God's gracious salvation is sometimes portrayed as simply a matter of believing that salvation comes from God through Christ. Faith is reduced to cognitive assent, to saying, "Yes, I think that is true."
Biblical faith surely includes such assent. To be sure, if you are going to accept God's gift of salvation, you need to believe that there is a God who graciously saves through Jesus Christ. But biblical faith is more than intellectual affirmation. Biblical faith is acting on what you believe. It is trusting God to save you on the basis of his grace. I've often wondered if the word translated here as "faith" (pistis in Greek) would be more accurately rendered as "trust." Trust includes believing certain facts, but it conveys a personal choice to rely on those facts, to put your confidence in what you believe.
Consider a commonplace illustration. When I fly on a plane, I have certain beliefs that help me get to the gate, ready to board. I believe that a heavy, solid object can indeed fly through the air if the aerodynamic properties are right. I believe that the plane I am about to board has been carefully maintained. I believe that those who will fly the plane have ample skill and are of sound mind. I believe that the plane will actually fly to the destination I want to visit. These and many other beliefs get me to the gate. But I don't actually put my trust in the plane, its systems, and its pilots until I board. At this point I put my life on the line, trusting on the basis of my beliefs.
Similarly, you can believe that salvation comes by God's grace, yet without actually trusting God to be your Savior. You can affirm all of the truths of Christian orthodoxy, but still hold back from entrusting your life to God's grace. The salvation that God offers can only be received through trusting God to save you. When you acknowledge that you need saving, that you cannot save yourself, and that there is no other way to be saved apart from God's grace, then you are ready to receive salvation by trusting God and God alone to save you.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you trust God as your Savior? Why? If not, what holds you back? If you were to live each day trusting God as your Savior, how might your life be different?
PRAYER: Gracious God, you are my Savior. You have reached out to me in love. You have done what I could never do. You have done what nothing else could accomplish. You have taken my sin through Jesus Christ, giving me his life in return. You offer me salvation, not because I deserve it, and surely not because I have done anything to earn it, but because you are abounding in grace. Thank you. Thank you.
Today, Lord, I reaffirm my trust in you as my Savior. I trust my life to you, both in this world and in the world to come. I lean fully upon your grace to save me, both now and forever. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.