Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
When we are successful, we all like to believe we’re at where we are because we got there on our own. There’s nothing more satisfying than basking in the notion that your a ‘self-made man’. Who wants to walk around saying ‘God made me the man I am’. The world much prefers the song ‘I did it my way’. Also sometimes we give God ‘bad press’ if we boast ourselves up and claim His stamp of approval on all our ‘works’. For one thing, if you’re like me, it’s pretty obvious to neighbours, friends and family that you’re nothing special – prone to mistakes, pettiness and sometimes just plain wrong ‘headedness’.
At first, when I read the verse I thought that the subject was ‘being saved’. Yet the Forerunner commentary starts with faith; “Where do we get the faith that is required for salvation? Ephesians 2:8 answers: ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.’ We cannot work it up—that would be our effort (Isaiah 64:6).” Salvation is a gift from God because it is His work and His alone done for our behalf (John 3:16) And the faith to believe is also a gift from God.
Even the desire for the gift is a ‘gift’ from God. Usually my desire for any gift is based on one of two motivations; it will make me feel good about myself or I need the gift. So either I’ve accepted salvation because it makes me feel good about myself or I realize that I really need to be ‘saved’. The former appeals to my pride and self-righteousness and the latter appeals to nothing in me that want’s to feel good Who wants to admit they’re a wretched person, so broken they’re in desperate need.
What do we do with this gift from God? Even though I have never refused a gift, that would be too impolite, I have accepted gifts and then put them away in a closet never to bother with them. Haven’t we all done this with gifts not to our taste or liking? Perish the thought that we would treat God’s gift that casually! Faith to believe is a gift we must accept and practice daily especially in the tough times. Our salvation and maturation as Christians depend upon this faith. Like the father whose child was suffering terribly; “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
Salvation can be a gift you politely accept and then put in a closet because it doesn’t really ‘suit you’. Without the faith to believe it, you just listen politely and say ‘thanks’. You can also ‘re-gift’ it! Re-gifting makes you look really good and it doesn’t cost you anything – you got the gift for free and you think you don’t need it so pass it on to someone else instead. Maybe they’ll like it or use it. Jesus warns us about this; “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” (Matthew 5:15) It’s your gift, His light shinning in you and for the benefit of others as well as yourself. Trying to give it away without accepting it yourself is an empty self motivated kind of generosity. Sadly, this kind of ‘evangelism’ has become all too common today.
Salvation was a gift I really needed. Salvation is a gift I really need. I have been very successful in life so the world certainly didn’t put that idea in my head. Oh I’ve had troubles and difficulties but I can blame others for those. So where on earth would I get that idea? The Bible tells me I’m in need of salvation – that sin has sickened my life and blighted a lot of it; “. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Even me! How did I come to believe this scripture and the many others that point to the failure of ‘doing it my way’?
The Forerunner commentary says; “Consider when God first started working with us. One year we were clueless, the next year things were making sense. We read the Bible and understood it, but more importantly, we believed it. Where did that belief come from? It was, as Ephesians 2:8 says, a gift from God. The real miracle is not that we understood, but rather that we now believed those words we understood. And this happened only because God made it possible.” God’s Word tells us what is wrong and God’s plan of Salvation. God’s grace gives us the faith to be convinced that we need it and God can do it. When you’re beaten down and desperate with nothing to save you or help your situation you call out to God! You need His grace with no bargaining or strings attached.
That grace when it comes and it always comes because it’s always there, changes a man. Faith does nothing for my ego and everything for my spirit; “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6,7) You start living your faith; “To complete our faith, are we willing to believe and do whatever God tells us? Consider those first experiences as we began to believe. We faced family pressure, work pressure, peer pressure, etc., to obey what we now believed. What evidence did we have to back up our actions? All we had were God’s words.” (Forerunner Commentary)
You can read the Bible like a history and philosophy book and walk away edified in the mind but unchanged in your heart. You can even practice the Golden Rule – ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ – as a good policy for keeping the peace and earning a good reputation and not believe that Scripture is divinely inspired – right from God’s mouth.
Inevitably you run into a neighbour that you feel doesn’t merit the application of the Golden rule. Since you believe it is a good practice but not really out of God’s mouth, you decide it doesn’t apply to your ‘nasty’ neighbour. He or she becomes the ‘exception’ to the rule. Soon you develop criteria and categories for your neighbours – after all – ‘Do not judge’ is a good practice but not divinely inspired as God’s Word for you always. You do good for ‘goods’ sake when the situation merits it – not for God’s sake because you believe He saved you. The world teaches us that looking good is a statistical approach to behaviour – Do good most of the time and you are good because you look good! Self love and pride are intimate forces that work in us on a daily basis. We can be thankful other ‘forces’ are at work as well.
Jesus tells us; “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” This kind of attraction is like Newton’s law of gravity – which is universal. All men are under it’s influence. Indeed all of the universe is under gravity’s influence and all of the universe is under Jesus’ influence; “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16,17) Jesus is the greatest of all. All men are drawn to Him because they feel His pull on them.
God has placed in every person’s heart an inclination to believe. This ‘grace which comes before’ is a spiritual and universal influence. As with gravity, men can work against God’s grace, even defy it by clever or brutish means. As with gravity, men can be drawn away to follow lesser lights like the moon pulls the tides across the earth. But it is the sun that keeps the planet on course. As with gravity, men can foolishly reject His lawful hold upon them and fall to their spiritual death. If that can happen to an angel it certainly happens to men.
Eventually, all must come to rest according to our response to this grace that God pours out on all. The Bible tells us; “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10,11)
The Apostle Paul tells us; “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) I will surely need God’s love and forgiveness then because for me life is a struggle. I surely need God’s new covenant; “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:10,11,12)
Let our daily prayer be; ‘Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!!!’
Praise the Lord!