Is boasting always wrong? Are there times when boasting may be okay? Ephesians 2:9 frowns on boasting about our salvation. Because we are saved by God’s grace and not by our works, we cannot boast about salvation. It’s nothing that we have earned or for which we can take credit. But this doesn’t mean all boasting is always wrong… salvation by grace leads us to praise God and to boast of God’s wonders. Boasting, in this case, is simply a matter of telling others how great God is.
Today, we get into one of the most significant debates among Christians: the debate over faith and works. This issue has perplexed followers of Jesus for centuries, since the very first decades of the church’s existence (see Galatians and James, for example). Disagreements about faith and works contributed to the division of the church during the Protestant Reformation. And, to this day, you’ll still find lots of confusion about how faith is related to works and how both are related to salvation.
When I was a pastor, I often listened to people’s struggles to have faith in God. Some had a hard time believing in the existence of God. Others couldn’t believe that God’s grace was really offered to them through Christ. Still others had put their trust in God’s grace, but struggled nevertheless to trust God on a regular basis. As I listened to people sharing how they struggled to trust God, I was reminded of the fact that even our ability to put our faith in God is, in some sense, a gift of God’s grace.
If you are going to accept God’s gift of salvation, you need to believe that there is a God who graciously saves through Jesus Christ. But biblical faith is more than intellectual affirmation. Biblical faith is acting on what you believe. It is trusting God to save you on the basis of his grace. The word translated here as “faith” (pistis in Greek) might be more accurately rendered in English as “trust.” Trust includes believing certain facts, but it conveys a personal choice to rely on those facts.
Ephesians 2:8 says that we receive salvation by grace “through faith.” Through faith, we accept and unwrap the gift of salvation by grace, so to speak. Notice that we are not saved by our faith. Years ago, that’s what I believed. I know this because I once wrote a note in my Bible, right near Ephesians 2:8, which read: “Saved by faith.” I now understand that my sixteen-year-old self was not reading carefully enough. The text says we are saved “by grace… through faith.”
There is more of God’s grace than you or I could ever comprehend or imagine. So, if you ever ask, “Does God have enough grace to save even me?” the answer is clear. Yes, absolutely! But not just enough grace, more than enough. You can never use up the grace of God. No matter your failure, no matter your sin, God can and will save you by his glorious, incomparably rich, all-surpassing grace. Believe this good news! Live it!
The gospel of Jesus Christ… confronts those of us who pride ourselves on our self-reliance. It invites us to deal with the truth of our own limits, weaknesses, and inabilities. If we’re going to accept the good news of salvation by grace, we need to acknowledge the impossibility of salvation by our own effort. God isn’t trying to insult you by telling you this truth about yourself. He’s seeking to save you by his grace, because that’s the only way you can be saved.
You have been saved, not by your own efforts, not by good luck, not by getting in touch with the divine within you, but by God’s grace. Or, to put it in the active voice, God’s grace has saved you. The answer to the question, “How can I be saved?” is simple: by grace. What is grace?… Grace, by definition, cannot be earned. It is given freely by God on the basis of God’s nature and decision.
“You have been saved.” Salvation is something that has happened to you. You did not make it happen yourself. You have been saved by something external to yourself. Salvation is something you receive, a gift of God’s grace. If you’re a Christian, I expect you have heard this before. But, if you’re like me and most Christians I know, you struggle to let this truth penetrate your heart and permeate your life.
In his letters, the Apostle Paul uses various tenses when he speaks of our salvation… By using the present perfect tense in Ephesians, Paul underscores the fact that our salvation is grounded on something that happened in the past, namely, the sacrificial death of Christ. In this sense, we were saved (past tense). Yet, our salvation continues to unfold in our life as we experience more and more of what we have in Christ.