Cherished, what is it that you rely on for your salvation? Are you justified because you are a good person? Are you saved because you’ve earned salvation doing good works or adhering to the law? Or are you saved by grace because of your faith?
I think many of us, I hope many of us will answer that we are saved through faith and that it is God’s grace and only His grace which saves us. But I think that even though we might say it, we may live our lives believing that we have to be good and do good to earn salvation. Salvation is a gift, it cannot be earned, only given and received. If you must work to earn something, it is not a gift, it is a wage, the remuneration for work done, a paycheck. What does Romans chapter 4:1-8 have to say about it?
Verses 1-5 read,
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
If anyone could have been justified by his works, it was Abraham. He was not perfect, he made many judgement errors and his transgressions are recorded for us to learn from. Yet, he obeyed God and left his home, a place where his ancestors had worshipped God and taught him the same, to travel to places where idolatry was not only normal but expected, where people practiced religions, heathenism, and cultural ritual that often had dangerous consequences for the sojourner. Throughout that journey, Abraham remained faithful to God, obeying Him and in an ever-deepening relationship with Him. When God promised Abram that he would be the father of nations and that his descendants would be like the stars, Abram believed even though he had no children. Twenty-four years after God made that promise, it still had not come to fruition, but Abraham still remained faithful. It was not obedience to God’s commands that made Abraham righteous. It was not the Law, that had not yet been given to Abraham’s descendent Moses. It was Abraham’s faith. He believed God and it was his belief that was counted to him as righteousness.
Being counted as righteous didn’t make Abraham perfect. He made mistakes. He let desperation for a son move him to have a child with Sarah’s maid Hagar. He let fear for his life inspire lies. But when God looked at Abraham, He chose not to count his wrongdoings, disobediences, and lapses in judgement against him, because God had called him righteous.
Did Abraham’s faith make obedience to God easier? Yes. He knew God, he talked with God. He knew God’s wrath was real, but he also knew God’s love was real. He could obey because he understood God didn’t ask anything of him without a purpose and that the purpose would have effects for generations, even eons beyond himself.
Does faith make you perfect? Not yet, chances are you, like me sin frequently. Your belief that God is who He says He is, that Jesus is Christ means that God chooses to look at you and see the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ instead of the sins you commit regularly helps you walk with Jesus. You can’t earn salvation. Stop trying to earn it and rest. Sanctification is not a job and your redemption is not your paycheck. The only wage you can earn is death. God’s gift to you is faith and salvation which produces obedience, sanctification, and eternal life. All are gifts from God and have nothing to do with your efforts. Give yourself over to God by believing Him. Romans 6:19-23 puts it this way,
I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The salvation and sanctification given to us, is given to all as the LORD see fit, not based on us but based on what we are capable of, the measure of our faith (Romans 12:3-6). You may have been saved for decades, work hard for the kingdom of God and have spoken and lived the Gospel for tens of thousands. Are you anymore saved than the guy who spent decades addicted to drugs, committing crimes, and hurting people but came to salvation last week because you shared the Word with him? Do you deserve a better eternal life than he does? No, you both deserve eternal death, Jesus gave you eternal life as a gift. Jesus told a parable to clarify this concept in Matthew 20:1-16. In The Message, the story is told like this,
1-2 “God’s kingdom is like an estate manager who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. They agreed on a wage of a dollar a day, and went to work.
3-5 “Later, about nine o’clock, the manager saw some other men hanging around the town square unemployed. He told them to go to work in his vineyard and he would pay them a fair wage. They went.
5-6 “He did the same thing at noon, and again at three o’clock. At five o’clock he went back and found still others standing around. He said, ‘Why are you standing around all day doing nothing?’
7 “They said, ‘Because no one hired us.’
“He told them to go to work in his vineyard.
8 “When the day’s work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, ‘Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first.’
9-12 “Those hired at five o’clock came up and were each given a dollar. When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar. Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager, ‘These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.’
13-15 “He replied to the one speaking for the rest, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?’
16 “Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.”
The guy that got saved an hour ago is just as saved as the guy who got saved fifty years ago. Hopefully, the man saved fifty years ago is mature, meaning he looks, acts, and thinks more like Jesus than someone new to Christ but when Jesus comes back both men will be transformed to perfection in a moment (1 Corinthians 15:52).
By no means does this mean, Christians should just sit back, eat bonbons and think they’re covered. There are some who do and many of them are genuinely saved, others are not. True faith results in people who desire grow in faith, serve God, and be more like Him. These are the people who want to take part in and build the kingdom of God not sit idly in the kingdom of God. Some who are idle are actually hurting the kingdom. 1 Corinthians 3:10-16 explains it this way,
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?
Does this make sense to you? You are not saved by works, you are not saved because you’ve earned it. You are saved because God chose to give you that gift. You are save by His grace through faith. This is a reason to rejoice! It is a reason to be happy. Romans 4 continues with verses 6-8 which read,
just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
Cherished, you do not have to work to earn salvation, it is yours for the asking. It is given freely. Jesus paid the price, you don’t have to pay Him back, you cannot do that. If you are doing good works, it is not to earn your salvation, it is because as the Holy Spirit transforms you, you become more like Jesus and His love in you must be demonstrated. Like fruit from a tree, must naturally grow, the fruit shows the world what the tree is and that it is alive and purposeful. Jesus explained it in Matthew 7:16-20.
You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
James, the brother of our Lord said it this way in James 2:14-18
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
It is not your works or obedience to the law which saves you. It is faith alone, belief in Jesus Christ confessed which saves you Romans 10:8-13 says,
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, 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. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Salvation is simple; it is an uncomplicated gift from God. You can’t earn it and you do not deserve it. Accept it.