Today’s Scripture: 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
|There is a warning in this passage. We can come to the message of salvation and end up boasting if we get the gospel wrong. This confusion of the gospel comes from our sin nature – we want to say we had something to do about our salvation to satisfy our pride. The true gospel of grace strips us of our pride because we can’t pay for even 1% of our salvation. We can’t satisfy God – only Jesus can satisfy God. That is enormously offensive to our old nature.
When people get the gospel wrong, they talk about personal salvation but they don’t understand that it’s by God’s grace. They begin to mix faith and works, and they end up boasting about their accomplishments and their achievements.
Some years back I was debating a Church of Christ preacher. He turned to me and said, “You can’t tell me that someone who doesn’t go to church faithfully is really saved.” When it was my turn, I asked him, “How often do you have to go to church to go to church faithfully? If this is a condition of salvation, I really, really need the answer. If the reason we are going to church is so we can go to heaven, I need to know how often I need to go. If it’s only once a week, I might start checking out some Sunday night football that I’ve been missing, but if it’s four times a week, I’m starting another church service because I’m not going to Hell over 1 night a week.” It comes down to “I’m going to heaven because I go to church faithfully enough.” If that were the case, don’t you think God’s Word would have discussed it?
Some pastors teach you have to give up all known sin to be saved. One day, a pastor friend of mine that I had known for 20 years came to me after switching to this doctrine. He told me in order to be saved you have to give up every known sin. However, I challenged him, “Do you think you are living in victory over every sin?” I then reminded him of things I knew he had done. He responded that it was an attitude. You have to have the attitude to have victory over every sin. So I asked, “So you have to insincerely and hypocritically want victory over every known sin.” He answered that it was an attitude you have to have right before you get saved. You have to be willing to abandon every sin, and then you can be saved. I responded, “So the most spiritual time in your life is the moment before you get saved. In that moment, you are willing to abandon every sin, but once you get saved and have the Holy Spirit indwelling you, you’re no longer able to keep that attitude and sins sneak back in. It’s a shame we can’t hang on to that last moment before we got saved – it would change our lives!”
As you can see, I tell these stories to make a point – anything we add to salvation can give us something to boast about. The people who claimed to be righteous in the Bible weren’t. The rich young ruler, the miracle worker in Matthew 7, and the Pharisee who thanked God he wasn’t like the publican all boasted in their righteousness but were all unsaved. They were trusting in the things they had done, not in the grace of God. God’s grace is apart from all our works. He paid the price completely, and as Ephesians 2:8 so clearly says, “It is the gift of God.” Salvation is freely offered to all because of His grace, and there is nothing for us to boast in. Let’s make sure we aren’t mixing faith with works.