A. The Purpose of Salvation in Christ
Without faith there is no salvation. We cannot think that those without faith will somehow come to be saved. This is folly. We dare not depend on God’s general goodness by thinking that Christ has died so that it will end up being fine for all. Clearly not. Without faith, there is no salvation. Having said this, there is also a dangerous distortion of this teaching in Christian circles.
I have been horrified by what I have heard evangelicals say about this verse. It is common to say that faith is our contribution to our salvation. Many Christians have made faith his deserving mark to gain salvation. Because I believe, therefore I am saved. This is opposite of what this passage says.
Although faith is necessary for salvation, it is not our spiritually-inclined nature to respond in faith that saves us. It is not as if we have been awarded salvation due to our faith. Man is so corrupt that he looks anywhere to pride himself in his higher and good status. It is quite clear from our general and immediate context that we cannot in any way save ourselves nor make ourselves worthy of salvation. Man, even a good man or religious man, cannot muster enough faith to save himself. I fear for those who think that that they have been awarded salvation due to their faith, as if their confidence is in their faith rather than in Christ.
Faith should not be understood as our qualifications for being chosen but as a gift from God which brought about new life. In other words, God saw that we were spiritually dead. We could not in any way contribute anything to our salvation or even a more sensitive spiritual heart. We were spiritually dead. God then gives us grace through faith. This is what this passage clearly teaches us.
He awakens us with His Spirit and enables us to see what we never saw before. Repentance is the first sign of this newly given faith. We have nothing to give Him. Faith is the next. Faith is something God gives us due to the new life that He makes us alive with. Without His work in us, we have not way to respond just as a dead person cannot respond to light or sound. With Him, we start to see and respond to Him and others. I, for example, was not at all aware of my sin until God helped me see. This seeing of my sin and deserving of hell was a result of the new faith that God brought to me.
If we at all thought that we could awaken ourselves from the dead, then this phrase ought to straighten out our confused thinking. The apostle says, “that not of yourselves.” Whether you think it is your upright character, the way you tried to please your parents, the many religious services you attended, all piled up they contribute nothing to our salvation. If grace is grace, then it is because we do not deserve His kindness. Otherwise grace is no longer grace but something deserved.
By the way, a side benefit from this truth is that we do not need to impress God. Of course, we could not impress Him anyway. But sometimes we get certain notions in our head that set us off on such paths, some of them quite rigorous. Some people go to exotic religious places, fast and pray for many days, offer much money to the poor. The Lord takes the burden off us by simply saying it is none of these that could ever get us saved. Now of course, you might be wondering, “Well, how are we saved?” This is the right approach. We must turn to another for help. Let us continue on.
The apostle continues to describe the characteristics of salvation. This attribute is positive. The grace through faith is a gift of God. It is freely given with hope of bringing great blessing to our lives. Salvation is not from ourselves. It comes from God.
We all like presents. At least, I did not meet up with one that didn’t. But even if we did get bored with things, it would be because we had no need for it. If I already had 4 top of the line cars, then another free one would not mean much to me. Of course, I would be appreciative but not in the same way as if I did not own one at all or my own car was just sentenced to death by the repairman. I remember our old Volvo was worth about $1,000 in the books. That was, if it was in good condition. But it was not! Repairs just to keep a sticker on it were about $1,500. And then there were the many smaller things like the air conditioner and knobs that would make it much more expensive to fix. We sold it as trash. A new car would have meant a lot to us in that case.
Our salvation, however, falls on us who have no salvation or hope of salvation on our own. We could not do one thing for it. That is right. Salvation is a gift of God. And He chooses whom He will save. Paul has already mentioned this early on in Ephesians 1:4-5. How wonderful when we know we cannot save ourselves and that in us is no good thing. For then, we can really appreciate what God has done for us through Christ.
Paul has one more description of our salvation. He says it is “not as a result of works.” One would have thought that we were dumb, but the apostle knew better. The stubborn pride of man again and again devises means to think much of himself. We prop ourselves up and think well of ourselves. This thinking is devilish because it is this thinking that actually destroys man’s hope of finding salvation. Man will never enter the gates of heaven by thinking well of himself. We need to know our need of salvation. This need of salvation, this awareness that on my own, and that even if I had what we think are good works, would all add up to less than zero. Salvation is not a result of good works.
Now let us apply what we have learned of grace and salvation to the way we should think and respond to other religions and certain philosophies such as the different kinds of Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism. There are also many other smaller more regional idolatrous religions. We should also include here the religion of Roman Catholicism and the Orthodox churches and even the Protestant churches. What does Paul here have to say about these religions? He says that salvation does not come about by our good works. Each religious system has its own points of merit. But no matter how much merit I might earn in the views of some religion or philosophy like humanism or ecologism, I cannot cash those points in towards finding peace with God. But you might ask, what about Roman Catholicism. It doesn’t matter if a priest wear some robe or a nun some uniform, these things do not save. One can pray through rosary beads saying “Hail Mary,” but it is a religious rite that saves or helps no one. Baptism is the same.
Well you might ask, “Is it not good to go to church, give money and try to help others?” They absolutely do not help the unsaved to get one step closer to God. To assume those things can bring salvation is the very thing that keeps you away from finding Christ. As long as you find confidence in some knowledge, rite, religious habit or confession, you will not find Christ. So let’s go through a test here.
On what basis do you think you are saved? How would you personally answer this question? Does your mind go to the things you try to do? “I try so hard to be good.” Does your mind go to the list of spiritual activities you are involved in? If so, salvation is far from you. There are many deceived people. This is Satan’s biggest lie.
What if you find yourself thinking about the good things you try to do? You should realize, no matter what religion, sect of humanism or branch of philosophy, your pride will keep you in the dark because it keeps you from Christ who alone can save. Cry out to God that He might come and save you through Christ. You need Him to give you grace through faith. Plead for salvation until He grants it to you. You cannot demand it. It is not yours. You can only as a beggar plead for grace.
You might think that God really wants to keep us low. You are right but let us be careful. He does not delight in making us low. If He did, He would keep us there. He would not as he says raise us up with Christ, and if He did, He certainly would not seat us with Christ in the heavenlies. Do you get the picture?
Our entry into salvation is not to keep us low or make us feel bad, but it has an ulterior purpose. This is the first purpose that we find today. We get to discover why God planned us to go through this kind of salvation.
Perhaps an example from architecture and construction would help. We might have our hopes of building our dream home. We plan all the floors and rooms, the special halls and storage places. But all of this is no good if we do not think about the foundation. In the north, they dig a whole in the ground. You are dreaming of a house that goes up high but the constructors must start by going down. Why? We know that the house is built on a foundation. Without it, it would not be properly maintained, crack and finally fall. The foundation enables it to stand for a long time.
Our Lord has laid a wonderful spiritual foundation. He was setting up a framework by which the great glories of God would be ever adorned without the tarnish of man’s pride. What does Paul here state? He says that God’s purpose for so designing our salvation was so “that no one should boast.” That is right. In other words, God wanted all the glory of salvation to go to Christ and none to ourselves. There is a place for good works, but it clearly is not here.
In Christ’s death we see the utter condemnation that we deserved placed upon Christ. If we were to get what was coming it would not be reward but severe judgment. All of us without exception. We could not bring or contribute the slightest thing to this. We only have a cry for salvation. We cannot do it on our own but only through another. Faith is not our contribution to salvation! This is a lie from hell. It stains God’s purpose. We can contribute nothing so that God's glory might shine greatly in Christ. Unless we wholly trust in Christ, we should have no hope for salvation.
The first ‘for’ describes God’s purpose of salvation through Christ. If God desired to show the greatness of His glory, then we can see more clearly the sin of religions with their assumptions that they can somehow please God.
Let us then take a full bow and recognize that we are sinners deserving the worst but God has in Christ given us the best in Christ. All the glorious things that we have are because of God’s great and magnificent love. God has planned for this salvation not only to reveal righteousness but also so that all would see how glorious His kindness is. There is one more purpose that needs to be discussed in the next verse, Ephesians 2:10.
B. Clarifying the purpose for which God has saved us in Christ (Ephesians 2:10) Next =>
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Introduction to the Book of Ephesians
Ephesians 1:1-3 Every Spiritual Blessing
Ephesians 1:1-3 Every Spiritual Blessing
Ephesians 2:1-3 Our Need, His Grace
Ephesians 2:1-3, an Introduction
Ephesians 4:1-3 Preserving the Spirit's Unity
Ephesians 4:11-16 The Purpose of Training
Ephesians 4:14 B) Responsibility 1. Deceit