“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves” (Ephesians 2:8).
Because the Scriptures are inspired of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), they are not to be broken (John 10:35)—i.e., interpreted and applied in such a way that makes them self-contradictory. They are to be rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15), not twisted or wrestled into saying something they do not (2 Peter 3:16).
The Bible is a book which contains both broad words and specific details. If this fact is not recognized and respected, the Scriptures can be broken, twisted into self-destructive falsehood.
As used in Ephesians 2:8, “salvation” is a broad term. Here it refers to the totality of God’s rescue of a sinner. It includes the details of: pardon of the guilt of past sins (justification), the amelioration of the present practice of sin (sanctification), and the inheritance of eternal bliss and blessedness (glorification).
As used in Ephesians 2:8, “grace” is an equally comprehensive term. Under its expansive umbrella would be the specific details of all God has done to offer salvation to a sinner: the mercy and love which prompted the planning and execution of humanity’s rescue (Titus 3:5; John 3:16); the incarnation and sinless life of Jesus (Matthew 1:21); the bloody, gruesome sacrifice of the Lamb of God (Romans 5:9); and the gospel’s good news of spiritual victory in the resurrected and coronated Christ (Ephesians 1:13; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; James 1:21).
As used in Ephesians 2:8, “faith” denotes all that humanity must do to access and enjoy the treasury of spiritual blessings found in Christ. Its details include: belief in the gospel (Mark 16:15-16); repentance (Luke 13:3, 5); confession of faith in Jesus, the Son of God (Romans 10:10); the calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13) when the guilt of past sins is washed away in the water of baptism (Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:20-21); and obedient, faithful living as a child of God (Hebrews 5:9; 1 Corinthians 15:2; Hebrews 10:38-39).
Because salvation is inherited, not merited (see yesterday’s post), everything a human must do to be saved (Acts 16:31) does not place God in his debt in any way. Sin has wages. Salvation does not; it is God’s gift.
This gift is made possible solely because of and by God’s grace. This gift is possessed solely because of and by a person’s obedient faith. Hence, “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves.”
Both the big words and the specific details matter.