Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What does it mean to be saved through faith?

We've got a phrase, it's actually a verse from the Bible which we love to quote, but I don't think I've really understood it before.
If you can't paraphrase something, you probably don't understand it.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith." (Eph 2:8)
So try this one. How would you restate this very simple verse?

You've basically got two nouns and a verb linked by prepositions: grace, faith, and saved.

What does grace mean? Some have called it "favor," or perhaps we could say "kindness."

So far we have: "by favor/kindness you have been saved through faith."

What does saved mean? Well, a good approximation would be "deliver." We're delivered from something, but we'll think about that something in a moment.

We now have: "by kindness you have been delivered through faith."

Finally we ask, what does faith mean? This is perhaps simpler and easier than any of the others for faith in its most natural sense means "belief."

So if we substitute just these simple synonyms we have: "by kindness you have been delivered through belief."

By itself this probably makes little sense, but if we then imbue this phrase with all of biblical history that Paul is thinking of when he says this phrase it starts to sound really scandalous.

For by (out of) kindness you have been delivered (from the punishment due for your sins) through believing (that God can and will deliver you).

In other words, you are saved from the guilt of your sins simply because God loves to forgive sins so much that He'll do it for anyone who believes He can.

Is that not crazy or what?

"Come, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins be like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool." (Is 1:18)

God says to the world: "I'll make a deal with you. If you believe that I can keep you from getting punished, I'll do it. That's all I ask. That you believe I can do it. (For by grace you have been saved through faith.)"

As is obvious, this leaves no room for our boasting in our selves. Who gets the credit when God forgave you because you believed that He could? Oh, wow, good for you for believing God could do what He said He could do.
God said He can forgive sins and you said, okay, I believe it, and so He did it. Remind me where the credit goes?

This is Paul's heart when he wrote these words many years ago, because He knew the God who wants to make a deal with mankind because He loves mercy so much.

Somehow I don't remember fully appreciating the scandalous simplicity of salvation before. Hallelujah for a God who saves us even when we don't understand how amazing His offer really is!!
With grace like this there's no reason to stop us from telling everyone we come in contact with the amazing news that God saves anyone who believes He can!