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By Grace You Have Been Saved

“even as we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved —“

(Ephesians 2:5)

Paul will go on to further explain the final phrase in this verse…”by grace you have been saved. What ought to be said here is that this is one of the foundational doctrines of the Christian church. To deviate from this means to enter into a world of cultic thought if not activity. No, it is not by your works that you are saved; neither is it by your good character, your good intentions, your good name, or your church membership — no, it is by God’s grace and apart from the grace of God, there is no salvation available to mankind.

How often we speak with people and ask, “Why do you think you will go to heaven?,” that an entirely different answer is given. People say things like, “I’m basically a good person” or “My family and I have served God in this church for generations.” The first statement is certainly not so (there is none good but God) but the second may be so; nevertheless, it does not earn you the right to claim heaven. You simply cannot earn God’s favor as your works are all and always tainted by your sin. Your offering of sinful works to God will be no better received than that offering given by Cain, who did so without faith. No, if you are saved, beloved, it is because of God’s grace and his grace alone.

And because it is God’s grace and God’s grace alone that saves, then salvation begins assuredly with God and God alone. You did not choose to be saved; God chose to save you. You may perceive yourself as having “accepted Jesus into your heart,” but if such be true, then it is only because God pummeled the dead rock of your heart into a fleshy substance which he remolded and remade into something living. He did that, not you. It is not about you; it is about what God is doing in you, to you, and with you. It is all about God. 

Friends, cease clinging to the notion that you have done something to contribute to your salvation; it is a foolish and un-Biblical idea that only leads to pride (Paul will soon get to that). You were no more born again by your own choice than you were born by your own choice in the first place. Yet, free-will decision theology has run amok with the church. And so I say put that foolish notion off and let the words of the Apostle Paul define your understanding of salvation — it is by grace that you have been saved and it is not of works (not even of one little tiny work!). If there were an avenue for works in even the smallest of discernible ways, then as Paul writes in Romans 11:6, “grace would no longer be grace.” Oh, the arrogance of man when man claims something of God’s as his own.

Dead is Dead

“even as we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved —“

(Ephesians 2:5)

Okay, we have driven this point home repeatedly, but dead means dead and a dead man can do nothing to serve himself. Before we are born again, we are spiritually dead — commonly born dead on arrival in this world — and until God places sends his Holy Spirit into your sin-dead life, sin is all you pursue. Sin is all you can pursue. Sin is all you desire to pursue. Get the point?

Yet, notice the language about being made alive. God does not make us alive and send us on our way, no, we are made alive with Christ. In other words, our regeneration is not so that we can be spiritually alive on our own nor does it leave us to our own devices. Not at all. We are regenerated with the aim of being bonded to Christ and that works itself out in the life of the Church, which is the body of Christ. People today will foolishly say that they can be spiritual apart from the church. That is about as sensible as saying that a body part can stay alive apart from the body. If a limb is amputated, the body will go on living but the amputated part will wither, die, and rot. True, a digit may survive for a short time if preserved in ice…but it will only survive if grafted back onto the body (this is how church discipline is designed to work!).

Do not be misled, brothers and sisters. God has called us to identify with a True Christian Church. True, you ask? Yes, one that practices the sacraments properly as Jesus taught them, one where the whole council of God is preached from the Scriptures, and one where church discipline is practice for the chastening of sin. The Belgic confession says that if your church does not actively pursue these three things; flee for your life — your spiritual life that is! — and find a church that has all of these marks (even if that means driving a ways to do so — it is good for your soul). Too many churches will lull your soul to sleep rather than enlivening and enlightening it.