Salvation was God's idea. Salvation was God's initiative. Salvation was God's gift. Salvation was God's work in your life for you, not your work for God. That's why you're saved.
We're so glad you've joined us on the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Hi, I'm Bill Wright and today Don continues our series, Your Sin and God's Salvation. He's got part two of a message titled, By Grace, Not By Works. Last time Don laid out the case, Paul clearly makes in Ephesians, salvation is by grace alone. Today our teacher will move on to the second part of the equation, salvation is not by works. That means even the faith we use to come to the Lord is nothing for which we can take credit. It too is a gift of grace.
So open your Bible again to Ephesians chapter two as we join Don Green now in the Truth Pulpit. The word faith expresses a firm conviction that Christ is the Son of God who alone can save from sin. In faith we surrender to Christ as our only hope of salvation. We receive him and we rest in him. We receive this eternal Son of God as our Savior and we cease trying to do anything to earn God's favor as if we bring merit that he will reward us for going forward. We rest in Christ, understanding that his righteous life fulfilled the righteous demands of God's law on our behalf. We rest in his death and resurrection as the payment for our sins. When we sing, Jesus paid it all, we mean it. And we simply have received what he has already done by grace through faith. Now, at this point, the pride of man looks for something to claim for his own. The pride of man in the face of the gospel is like a cornered animal just looking for any place to strike, any place to escape, any place to assert itself.
Paul doesn't allow for any of that here. Man, we are tempted to say, my faith is why God saved me. But beloved, you must understand this.
You must understand this. God did not save you in response to your faith. God did not reward you with salvation because you came up with something in your own human ability and said, here it is, God. And he says, ah, that's what I've been waiting for. Here's all of the riches of my grace upon you.
I'm glad that you brought that because these other guys didn't. Paul extinguishes that possibility before it even gets started. He's introduced the word faith, but notice what he immediately says next.
It's so important that we don't hurry through this and that we just assume things based on what we've been taught in the past. Paul says, it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And says, don't stop there because there's something else that needs to be joined together in your thinking about this concept of faith.
And you see it, right? There's a conjunction. He's joining together again what he's about to say with what he had just said. This is not a time where Paul is congratulating Christians on their wisdom in bringing faith to God, and that they prompted God to save them with their human faith.
That is so absolutely foreign to the context. It couldn't possibly be what it means, that idea that I cooperated with God, that God did his part and I did my part with faith, and working together synergistically we came up with salvation. Good job God, and good job me. No, that is not Christian salvation. That is a different religion. And Paul makes this point unmistakably clear, and he says, that not of yourselves. I love this phrase.
I mean, this is just really too cool. Paul says, that not of yourselves. Now, I very rarely do this, but I want to give you just a little sliver of the Greek language here, because it's really important for you to understand what's being said here. Paul says, that not of yourselves.
Of yourselves. He uses a Greek preposition, ek. The preposition ek identifies the source from which something came, the origin of where something came from. Paul says, as soon as he says, by grace you have been saved through faith, he says, and ek, that did not come from yourself. That did not originate with you.
You did not contribute to this through your intelligence, your morality, or your spiritual strength. It was by grace. Remember, that's the whole point of the passage. Paul has been praying for verses and almost chapters, saying, oh, I pray to God that you would understand he saved you by his power and his grace.
It's by grace that you have been saved through faith. And he says, and he's so intensely concerned that you understand where it all came from, that as soon as he says through faith, he says, understand that that aspect of salvation did not originate with you. He says, that not of yourselves.
Look at verse 8 with me again. And that not of yourselves. What is the antecedent of that?
What is that? In other words, what I'm saying is, when he says that is not of yourselves, what's he referring back to? What is that word standing in place of? As you read it in the English text, it's just a little bit ambiguous, isn't it? By grace you've been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves.
What's that? You know, can we nail that down, exactly what he means by that? Because somehow the heart of the gospel is right at the core of this. Well, just a little bit more grammar for you, grammar that you can rest your soul on. In the Greek language, the word grace and faith, both of them are feminine. They're feminine nouns, just grammatically feminine. It has nothing to do with gender. It's just grammatical, a grammatical, feminine noun.
Both of them are. The word that here is not feminine. It's neuter, like our English word it.
You know, there's he, she, and there's it, neuter. And so this word that is designed to refer back to something that Paul has just been talking about, but it doesn't agree in gender with faith, it doesn't agree in gender with grace. So what's he saying here? That, not of yourselves. Well, what he's referring to here is the whole entire operation of salvation.
He's using this neuter word that to refer in general as a whole, as a complete unit, to everything that he's been saying, including its individual components. And so, think about it this way, one phrase, by grace you have been saved through faith. That, grace by which you've been saved through faith.
That did not originate with you, not in any part. Salvation, beloved, get this straight. Drill deep and pour the concrete in your understanding and in your soul deep on this point. Salvation was God's idea. Salvation was God's initiative. Salvation was God's gift. Salvation was God's work in your life for you, not your work for God. That's why you're saved. And Paul says, that not of yourselves, he's saying the entire operation of salvation, even the production of faith in your heart came from God, not you. Think about it, beloved, it has to be that way.
Even though men hate this, this is why men hate the gospel, is because it destroys their pride. Think about it though, think about it biblically. God chose you, we saw in Ephesians 1, God chose you before the foundation of the world.
Watch it, when you did not even exist to respond. God determined to bless you in eternity past, before you even existed, before you had done anything good or bad. He set his loving affection upon you and then he said, okay, now Genesis 1-1.
Further, watch how all of this fits together in the immediate context. That's Ephesians 1, didn't think about it that way until just now. God chose you before the foundation of the world when you did not even exist to respond, Ephesians 1. Ephesians 2, God made you alive in Christ when you had no capacity to respond. And so, before time began, God chose you where you couldn't respond, when you couldn't respond. To talk about you in eternity past is, you know, weird, because you weren't there. Now, in Ephesians 2, as he talks about your conversion in time, in the span of your human lifetime, God made you alive together with Christ. He did that when you, yes, you existed, but you had no capacity to respond.
You were dead in transgressions, you were dominated by the devil, the world in your own flesh, and you were doomed to suffer the wrath of God. So where did human contribution that clinched the deal ever come from? Beloved, I'll tell you, it came from God working in your heart, not something that you did in your own power. And so that even the faith that we bring to God to receive Christ is a gift from Him. It's all from God, not from you.
He said it negatively, it's not of yourselves. Look at verse 8. He said, it's by grace you've been saved through faith, that not of yourselves, negative statement, not out of you, not originating with you, not from you.
I love this. Now he says it positively. He's beating this thing up one side and down the other. He's making it utterly impossible for a sincere reader of his message to come away with anything other than giving glory to God.
It's completely impossible. He's saying the same thing, he's emphasizing the same point in many different ways. There's one hub, but there are multiple spokes going out, making the same point, rolling all in the same direction, all straight to the glory of God. He says, that not of yourselves, and in the English text he says, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. The original text reads this way, that not of yourselves, of God the gift, is how it reads. Of God is the emphasis. It's the next word.
It came from God. He's emphasizing the same thing again. It is emphatic, it literally reads, of God, or from God the gift. And so, how many ways can he say it?
Look at it now. For by grace, this grace that we've been talking about in verses 5 and 7, you have been saved, delivered through faith. And, watch it, I'm still talking here. I'm talking as though Paul is speaking, okay?
This isn't me being severe to you. This is Paul speaking. He says, you've been saved by faith, and I'm still talking here. I haven't finished my sentence yet. That did not originate from you. This whole thing did not originate from you. Of God it came from. Of God the gift. It came from God and it was a gift, not something that you earned as a wage.
It just keeps going on and on and on. Paul is saying in this final clause, the gift of God, yes, he's saying it is a gift, something that was given to you that you didn't earn, but his emphasis is on where the gift came from. From God this gift came. Not from you. From God came this gift.
That's the idea. Puts you and God side by side, slaps you away and elevates God. A gift. A gift, not something you earned. Not from you, but by emphatic contrast from God.
Whew. I'm glad Paul made that so clear, aren't you? Now that that's established, we can move on to something else. Praise God, we can move on to something else. It wasn't from me, it was from God.
Verse nine. Not as a result of works. Are you kidding me? He's making the same point again.
He's not done talking about it. This brings us to our second point. We said saved by grace, point number two, not saved by works. And if you want to ship that with a complaint to my homiletics professor in seminary, go right ahead.
I don't care. I just want you to understand the text. Saved by grace, not saved by works.
That's the contrast. Paul, here in verse nine, he is saying the same thing again that he was just saying in verse eight. It's the preposition ek again.
That preposition that reflects origin or source. He said, he said, not of yourselves, of God the gift. Now he says it again, he goes back to a negative statement, not as a result of works.
Perfect parallel. Perfect parallel of statement that Paul makes here. Not of yourselves, not as a result of works.
Works here is simply a reference to human effort, human achievement. Paul says you were saved by grace. That didn't originate with you. From God it came.
It was a gift. And perhaps, beloved, we get a little bit of a measure of how difficult it is for this point to come home in our hearts. We are so wired to congratulate ourselves on what we do in life. We are so wired to boast and to make ourselves look better than someone else.
Competition is about that. Victory over you. Me better than you.
I vanquish you. We're so wired to think that way. I want you to follow me here. And we import all of that into the spiritual life and we have the audacity to carry that attitude over toward the God who saved us. Now, don't underestimate what resides in your heart to try to take some kind of credit for your salvation.
We're all, in one way or another, we have our pockets of pride and we'll display it when the opportunity is right. Thinking in the biblical context here, knowing that this is such a big deal, Paul has been praying now for 23, 24 verses. Oh, I pray that you'd understand this.
I pray that God would open your eyes to see. The power that saved you. The grace that saved you. And so this whole thing, this whole passage in verses 8 and 9 are bathed in prayer. It's the culmination, the climax of him praying, God do something that they can't do on their own.
And then in this condensed, concise climax, there's so much in his heart. There's so much that the Spirit is trying to communicate to the church of Jesus Christ. Communicating, this came from God, not from you. That he just says it and he steps over himself saying the same thing in so many different ways. You know why he says it so many times?
You know why he's been pleading with God to help us understand? You know why? It's because you don't want to believe it. You want to congratulate yourself. You want some kind of credit for your ultimate fate. You want to be the captain.
You want to distinguish yourself. I'm saved by grace, but I was better than him. I understood. I took the step that others wouldn't. God, I brought my faith to you.
Did that really just come out of my mouth? Even to mock it? Even to refute it? You see, you have to step back and let the magnitude of what Paul is doing here. Here's an apostle of Jesus Christ appointed uniquely for this purpose.
And he says, I want you to understand this. In fact, I'm praying that you would understand this. I'm praying that God would exercise his power toward you because this is something that you won't grasp in your own human effort. You're too proud to want to acknowledge this on your own, so I'm asking God to help you. And I'm praying and I'm praying that you'd see power and kindness originating with God as the reason that you stand in grace now and that you did not contribute to that. Look at verse 8 with me again. By grace you've been saved through faith.
That's not of yourselves. It's the gift of God, not as a result of works, not as a result of religious ritual, not as a result of your human ingenuity. The saving act, including faith, was a gift from God. It did not originate with you. It was not a result of your works.
Follow me here. It was God's plan. It was God's power. It was God's grace. It was God's gift.
Paul has beaten this horse to death. Why such emphasis? Look at the end of verse 9. So that no one may boast. Grace, rightly understood, makes boasting impossible. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we enjoy our privileged status as a result of the good grace of God and God alone. And God will not allow.
The Apostle Paul, in his prayer and in his intense, concise, compressed, explosive language, will not allow. The Spirit of God who lives within us will not allow our pride to diminish the glory of God in our salvation. We are saved by grace, not by our works. And even the desire to come to God came as a result of his prior work in our hearts.
And why is it like that? So that in the ages to come, there would be no human boasting. There would be no poison of human pride to sawly the utter display of perfect grace, kindness, love, and mercy. And the Spirit of God, through the Word of God, says, Grasp that now.
It did not originate with you. If you're here today as a Christian, you are on the receiving end of immeasurable kindness from a good and gracious God upon whom you had no claim. Your back was turned to him, was not looking at him, and as it were, he came and placed his hand on the back of your shoulder and said, You come to me. That's why you're saved. The grace of God, the goodness of God, to the glory of God. And so we see our Savior, and we love him completely.
I understand, Christian, that your present sorrows and challenges are real and difficult and burdensome. As we step back into life, as it were, life today, we do so from the perspective that God has undertaken kindness toward us of immeasurable, infinite value. God has loved us. God has displayed goodness to us. And even now, even today with where you're occupied with earthly things, understand that God is not going to stop. He has not stopped being good to you.
He will not stop being good to you. This is just stuff along the current that is taking us into perfection of eternal life. View today from this great context, God chose me, God saved me, there's more grace to come.
He did this because of who he is, not because of who I am. In that I rest, in that I rejoice, in that I go forth. Today on The Truth Pulpit, Pastor Don Green has concluded his message, By Grace, Not By Works. Don will have more of our series, Your Sin and God's Salvation, on our next broadcast, so plan now to be with us. Right now, Don's back here in studio with more exciting ministry news. Well, you know, my friend, one of the exciting things about ministry is to see the doors that the Lord opens to you that you never could have planned for yourself.
I'm about to describe that here. What's happened in Truth Community Church is this, is that somehow the Lord has opened a door for us to send sermon transcripts to prisoners throughout our region who are reading these matters, coming to Christ, growing in Christ, and sharing the material with others. We'd like you to be a part of that.
Maybe you have a friend or a loved one who is in prison. Do this for us, if you would. Go to our website, give us the contact information for your loved one, and we'll be glad to add them to the list in case they want to have access to God's Word, as you've enjoyed it here on The Truth Pulpit. Visit us at thetruthpulpit.com for further information. Now for Don Green, I'm Bill Wright, and we'll see you next time on The Truth Pulpit. .
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