By Dr. Foster H. Shannon
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9)
The Bible clearly teaches that all of us are sinners, disregarding God, disobeying God. And we know that to be true. As a result we feel guilty, and have a tendency to seek God’s favor by doing things that are pleasing in his sight. There was a serious theological problem in the early church. The first Christians came out of Judaism. They had followed the Old Testament teachings regarding the importance of circumcision for all males, as a sign that they belonged to God. Thus, in the early church there was a circumcision party affirming that salvation could not be attained unless believing male gentiles were circumcised. The apostle Paul, and many others with him recognized that this teaching would get us off of the track. In Acts, Chapter 15, we read of the church’s wrestling with this false idea. In the debate, Peter said, “But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as [the gentiles] will.” The idea that some special idea or act will bring us salvation is a fallacy. It is all through the sacrifice and graciousness of Jesus Christ.
Again and again, the teachings of the New Testament remind us that we cannot earn our way to Heaven; “not because of works, lest any man should boast.” It is a general problem for most of us, who begin to think that we need to help God out—regarding our salvation. We need to be refreshed by this passage in Ephesians, chapter two, that reminds us that salvation is a gift. The guilt of our sins was placed on Jesus Christ as he suffered on the cross. As he died, he said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The salvation that he sought for us had been attained. We cannot do anything to add to the justifying work of Jesus Christ. We humbly accept his forgiveness, recognizing that without him we should be lost. The cost of our salvation has been paid. We do not have to repay it. So what do we do? We love God! We rejoice in his grace and mercy, and we seek to honor him, not to save ourselves, but because we belong to him. We have been set free to love him and to live in accord with his will.
John 8:31,32, “Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Our message to others should be that God has a wonderful gift to give, and that you will be forgiven, have life and be free. A gift involves two things, a giver an a receiver. God is the giver, we must make sure that by faith we are the receivers. We claim him as our Savior. We worship him during the week, and on Sunday. We read the Bible and seek to serve our Lord.