Last week, I was listening to something on UCB Radio about the free gift of God’s salvation. It made me think about last week’s blog (link here) that encouraged us to look at our God given gifts and use them in His service (1 Peter 4: 10). There seems to be a real paradox within scripture as we are told by Paul that we are saved by God’s grace and not though any works of our own (Ephesians 2: 8-9), but in the same chapter, he tells us we have been created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand (Ephesians 2: 10). So is our salvation a free gift not earned through our own good works, or should we be doing good works? Surely it can’t be both?
Well, God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5: 8). We didn’t have to do anything to earn our salvation because Jesus has already died for us. All we needed to do was accept that gift by faith: ‘If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’ (Romans 10: 9). I think the equation may look something like this: (God’s Grace + Faith) – Works = Salvation
But what happens after we take that step of faith and accept God’s gift of salvation, which comes through the death of Jesus, His son? The more we grasp the wonder of the gift, the more we want to do the will of Him who gave us that gift and so, good works become the product of our salvation. James goes as far to say that faith without works is dead! (James 2: 17). He asks ‘What good is it if someone says he has faith but does not have works?’ (2:14). He explains his point like this: When we see a fellow believer in need, if we just say ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled’ without giving them the things that they need, where is the good in that? (James 2: 16).
So the apparent paradox is actually not! The gift of our salvation is not given to us because of anything WE have done. In terms of our righteousness before God, our good works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6); they cannot make us clean. Only Jesus’ shed blood can make us clean before God and it’s that sacrifice that we need to accept through faith. THEN we are overcome with His goodness and mercy, and our desire to serve Him and do His will results in us doing good works that bring about His glory (Matthew 5:16).
I think the concern I had when I heard the UCB program about God’s free gift of salvation was that last week’s blog may have come across as a bit ‘works’ heavy. Good works are a natural outpouring when we come to God and accept His grace, but they should not be forced. I wouldn’t want anyone reading this blog to think that they HAVE to do something to earn God’s love. We love because God loved us first (1 John 4: 19). God’s love is there for us no matter who we are, where we’ve been or what we’ve done. All we need to do is accept by faith the free gift He’s given us and He will lead us into His will.
With regards to last week’s blog, I still challenge you to look at your innate strengths and see where they can be used to serve God, but more importantly, listen for God’s calling. He is gracious and gentle, He does not condemn those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) so take time to seek His will and the purpose He has for your life (Jeremiah 29: 11) knowing that the salvation you have found in Him came through God’s grace: a free gift! Thank you Lord.