Readings for the Day
Ecclesiastes 1-3, Psalm 45, Ephesisans 2
Verses for the Day
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Other than John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8 could be considered one of the most important verses in the bible. This verse sums up the essence of the Good News. Paul says to the church at Ephesus, "by grace you have been saved. Grace is a free gift. God's grace is his unmerited favor. Grace is hard to understand because we did nothing to get it. We are so used to earning everything in life that the concept of grace is elusive. Grace is God's way of giving, because it points to the nature of who He is. God loves to give good gifts to those He created. If we could be saved by works, we would not need grace. We wouldn't really even need God or get to know him.
Paul writes, "We are saved by grace through faith". We are given the gift of grace, God's unconditional acceptance through Christ, and it is by faith that we receive God's grace. Faith is trust. It is trust in what God has given us. Specifically it is trusting in what Jesus has done for us on the cross. Faith is also a gift given to us, but we need to exercise faith. Jesus likens faith to the trust of a child. Faith is simple and childlike. It is hard to have faith, because we are used to and conditioned to trust in ourselves. Faith trusts in the promise God has made to us. It is relational, it is not blind faith. Faith is trusting in what God has revealed to us in sending His only Son.
Now comes the third part. Even though good works don't save us, we are created to do them. This is the verse that is often not bWhy? Because we often separate faith and good works.
Martin Luther gives us great insight into the relationship between faith and works, which was the major issue of his time. This is part of his commentary on the book of Romans when he says,
"Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire!"
This is why the letter from James says "faith without works is dead". He is not saying that works cause faith, but a living faith always produces works. We don't need to spend much more time beating this to a pulp, but it is suffice t sufficient to say, "we don't do good works to get God's approval, but we do them because we already have it."