"For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9)
There is a lot a information packed into this single verse. To begin with, it says 'for by grace you are saved THROUGH FAITH' - let's stop there for a second.
'Grace' (Gk charis) means benefit, favor or gift. It is from the word 'grace' that we get the word 'gratitude' or the sense of being grateful.
Note that grace alone does NOT save. Grace is both the extension of the gift and the gratitude of its recipient. To be grateful, one must first receive. While grace is extended to all mankind, not all mankind accepts it.
Not all mankind is grateful. Grace is extended to all, but salvation comes by faith. A simple concept, but many miss the big picture.
Let's look at the next section of the verse, 'And that not of yourselves'. What is not of ourselves? Grace? If it refers to grace, then the Lord has wasted words unnecessarily. Of course we can't extend grace to ourselves! It is not only impossible, such an extension of grace would be meaningless. We haven't the authority to save ourselves.
Read the verse again. "For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." Since we already KNOW that grace 'is not of ourselves' that only leaves one other element that can be the 'gift of God' and that is saving faith.
So the Scriptures say that even the faith that saves us is a gift from God, and not something we conjure up as a result of our own works, 'lest anyone should boast.' This verse is the great equalizer of Christians.
"No one can come to Me unless the Father who has sent Me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44)
We all come to the Cross the same way; recipients of God's extension of grace, which we receive by a faith which is God-given. None of us has any reason to feel superior. If we are saved, it is because we were drawn of the Father to the Son.
"It is written in the Prophets, "And they shall all be taught of God." Therefore everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to Me." (John 6:45)
Allow that to sink in. "So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen." (Matthew 20:16)
And again; "For many are called, but few chosen." (Matthew 22:14)
And again; "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you." (John 15:16)
"Among whom are ye also the CALLED of Jesus Christ:" (Romans 1:6)
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the CALLED according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)
The goodness of God in converting and saving sinners encourages others to hope in His grace and mercy. Our faith, our conversion, and our eternal salvation, are not of works, lest any man should boast. These things are not brought to pass by any thing done by us, therefore all boasting is shut out.
It is the free gift of God, and the effect of being quickened by His power. It was His purpose, to which he prepared us, by blessing us with the knowledge of His will, and His Holy Spirit producing such a change in us, that we should glorify God by our perseverance to holiness.
'Holiness' (Gk hagiasmos) means 'purification' which is a PROCESS, also accomplished by God through Jesus.
"Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath BEGUN a good work in you will PERFORM it UNTIL the day of Jesus Christ:" (Phillipians 1:6)
There are no Christians more deserving than others. Because you have not yet achieved the state of holiness others have does not mean you are less favored. We all come to the Cross equally lost, and we all came away equally saved.
Salvation is an eternal state for which each of us were chosen before the world began.
"Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began," Paul writes to Timothy, (2 Timothy 1:9)
"In hope of eternal life, which God, that CANNOT LIE, PROMISED before the world began. . ." (Titus 1:2)
We are eternally secure, because we are eternally saved, which was accomplished in the Mind of God when each of us was called -- BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN!
Let's bring it together. Nobody can come to Christ unless they are drawn by the Father, who provides us with both the extension of the offer of salvation and the faith necessary to receive it, a calling that was sealed in heaven before the world began, according to His purpose and grace.
Our salvation is immediate and eternal, but our purification is a process, which, having been begun in us at the moment of salvation, will be perform in us BY CHRIST until the day we stand before Him. Lest anyone should boast.
"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." (Romans 3:10-12)
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:" (Romans 3:23-24)
"I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." (Galatians 2:21)
Legalism runs counter to the clear teaching of Scripture. This is a very difficult doctrine to both teach and understand. It sounds like a license to sin. It is not.
It is an understanding that our relationship to Christ is unique -- that God knows our hearts, and has already judged us accordingly. So that sin cannot reign supreme in our mortal body and thereby render us useless to our calling.
The most effective weapon we have in our war with the enemy is the knowledge that he cannot take away our salvation. There is never a time when we are unworthy to tell others of Jesus Christ.
Paul tells us, "Finally, my brethren, be strong IN THE LORD, and in the power of HIS might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." (Ephesians 6:11-12)
Paul says we put on the 'armor of God' in a specific order. The certainty of the truth of Scripture, the breastplace of righteousness (imputed by Christ) the knowledge of the Gospel and the shield of faith. Our heads are protected by the 'helmet of salvation' - the certainty of our eternal salvation. These are all DEFENSIVE weapons.
Having secured our defense, we then take up our only offensive weapon, the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
If the enemy can convince us of our own personal unrighteousness (of which each of us is acutely aware) or cause us to doubt the truth of Scripture or of our faith (which is a gift from God, lest anyone should boast) or cause us to doubt our own salvation, then we will not be able to effectively wield the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
God chose each of us, and His plan is to use us to seek out those similarly chosen and introduce them to their Savior. That is our assignment on this earth. THAT is our 'calling.' To spread the Gospel.
That isn't Calvinism -- Calvinism teaches that because the Church was predestinated, we are under no obligation to lead people to Christ -- God has already chosen them so He'll sort it out.
There is a joke about the Calvinist who fell down the stairs, and remarked, "Thank God that's over."
Instead, the Scriptures teach that God foreknew who would be saved, therefore it is predestined. But God also knew who He selected to carry the Word to that person. And the enemy will work overtime to thwart God's will by convincing us we are not worthy to carry it.
As Christians, we have an awesome responsibility before God. We have been assigned to seek out the lost and offer them the Gospel. To accomplish our mission, we need to be fully equipped for the task.
That is what eternal security is all about. Not a license to sin, but rather a certain knowledge that our sin is forgiven.
Jesus said of His sheep (the Church) "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."
"Give" (Gk didōmi) means 'to bestow'. It is a present-tense verb. The Scripture does NOT say, "I WILL give them eternal life," it says it has already been bestowed upon us.
Jesus said that no man can pluck His sheep from His Hand. I am a man. If I can sin my way out of His gift of eternal life, it is neither eternal, nor is it a gift. It then becomes wages, dependent upon my works.
But the Scriptures say; "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
And since I, a man, can, by my works, undo His Word, it means His Word is not true.
Our works are the 'fruits' of our labor for Christ. Our labor is to lead others to Christ.
"According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon." (1 Corinthians 3:10)
Our foundation is our salvation, but our obligation is to build upon that foundation by leading others to the Cornerstone of Life. But our individual salvation is already an accomplished fact.
When we stand before the Bema Seat of Christ, "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; yet so as by fire." (1 Corinthians 3:13-15)
The mission is to provide each one of us with the information necessary to equip us for the work of one on one evangelism.
Henry Ford once said, "I'd rather have one percent of the work of a hundred men, than 100% of the work of one man." Ford was the father of mass production. In the time it takes for one man to build a single car, a hundred men can build a thousand cars.
Don't let the enemy render you powerless. You ARE worthy, not because you are you, but because of Him Who made you worthy according to His will and by His own Hand.
"Therefore said He unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest." (Luke 10:2)