“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not from you, it is a gift of God.”
Here, in as concise a form as one is ever going to find it, we are given the heart of the matter about salvation. Salvation is worked by the grace of God through the means of faith. It is not something that has been chosen by us, nor has it been something for which we have worked; it is by grace. And faith is the avenue through which God works to make the recognition of that grace a reality in us.
Too often people fall into the trap of missing the language of grace here. They say, “I am saved by faith…” The danger of doing so is that often people get the notion that the faith that saves them was somehow generated from within them or that it was a result of their decision to follow Jesus. The Bible’s response is consistently, “No, No, No!” The Bible insists that while it is by faith that we are justified (Romans 5:1) and it is by faith that we understand that the universe was created by the Word of God (Hebrews 11:3), but it is by grace that we have been saved. Further, we cannot even boast in the faith that we have, as we have discussed before, for we are born into this word, dead in our sins, which means that the faith we have is a faith that comes through God’s regenerative work. It is all of God, from beginning to end, and there is no room for us to lay claim on anything when it comes to our salvation…no room to boast, as Paul will insist.
So, think of faith as the medium through which we realize the grace of God in our lives. God’s election took place in eternity past, before the earth was ever created and before any human being had done anything good or evil. And, his plan of election will stand as God works it out through history. So, we have had saving grace set to our name from eternity, but that saving grace is not realized until God works regeneration and then faith in us. Then, and only then, do we experience the wonder of God’s grace toward us. Faith is the tool that God uses so that we might realize the salvation he brings by grace into our lives.