For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast. - Ephesians 2:8-9
Our key phrase today is "not of works." We've already discussed this a bit when we talked about
, which means unmerited favor. Just as grace cannot be obtained through works, the same can be said of salvation itself. Remember it is a gift, and we're not supposed to work for gifts. If we worked for it, it wouldn't really be a gift, would it? But for some reason, this is where many seem to lose track. They say they understand and believe by grace through faith, yet they spend every waking moment trying to earn their passage to Heaven. May I be blunt? If you're trying to earn passage, you'll never obtain it! It simply doesn't work that way. Remember what Jesus said in John 14:6:
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me
? Accepting Jesus' sacrifice on Calvary is the only way to Heaven, no matter how good you are or how hard you work.
There is not a single verse in the Bible that indicates salvation through works, yet so many are still trying to earn favor with God through good deeds and vain rituals. Someway, somehow, they have it in their minds that if they follow all the rules just right, they'll make it in. That simply isn't so. It's right there is Ephesians, and it couldn't be any more plain: "not of works." Nothing you can do outside of accepting Christ as your Savior can get you to Heaven. Nothing!
So where do works come in? What is the answer to the question, "Well, I've asked Jesus to save me. Now what do I have to do?" It's not what we
to do. It's what we
to do. You see, when we get saved, the Holy Spirit indwells us (i.e. He comes to live inside us). With that indwelling comes a change. The Bible puts it this way:
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (II Corinthians 5:17)
With God in our lives, we're not the same people we once were. We feel different. We think different. We act different. Not to gain favor or a place in Heaven, but because His love spreads through us and changes us from the inside out.
Out of the abundance of love and thanksgiving we feel towards our Lord, we strive to serve Him simply because we want to and because we are now aware just how much He has done for us. It's not a partial payment for our entrance into Heaven nor a repayment for His death on Calvary. It's an act of love, just as we would show a friend or family member. For example, even though I work from home and set my own hours, I get up every morning
to fix my husband's lunch
before he has to leave for work. I don't have to do it. I could sleep in. He's never asked me to do it. He's quite capable of doing it. I don't really get anything in return specifically for performing that task. So why do I do it? Simple, because I love him, and packing his lunch is one way I can show that love.
I've heard people say that they're living their lives in such a way that they hope to be found worthy when the Lord comes back. Sadly, if they're counting on their worthiness, they're going to be left behind. None of us are worthy to go to Heaven outside of the blood of Christ. When He returns for His bride, He will call up those who have believed on Him and accepted Him as payment for their sin, not those who are trying to live right and hoping that will be enough. It's not! Jesus is
way. And if you've accepted that WAY, you'll desire to live right, not because you have to pay your way, but because you want to show your love and appreciation for the One who loved you enough to die for you.
"Not of works." There's really no other way to interpret it. Salvation is by grace through faith, plus nothing, minus nothing.
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. - Galatians 2:16