There was a discussion I used to have with an old coworker who was a non-Lutheran Evangelical (right now my Pastor is screaming “We’re the Evangelicals! They stole our name!”) during which we would discuss the meaning of Ephesians 2:8-9.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
He would say, rather profusely, that a gift is free, to be sure, but you must reach out and take the gift. It is our job, he would argue, to accept the gift that God gives us. And, of course, I would look at him like he had three heads and say, “No, the gift is free. It is given to us and we don’t have to do anything to get it.”
This would go back and forth for a while until our boss would come out of her office and tell us to get back to work. And then, a few weeks later, we would do it all over again. I would say, “Accepting God’s grace is a work,” and he would disagree. You can see how this went on, over and over.
It was only recently that I come to realize the flaw I was missing. His point of view left out the key to the whole discussion. What does “accept” really have to do with this? Nothing, actually.
See, we don’t accept God’s grace. Any good Lutheran will tell you that. We receive it. That’s the real rub of the matter. My coworker’s argument holds water in the human mind if you don’t move the method behind it to the proper place. Even Baptism looks like a work if you don’t take into account the power of God’s Word.
God gives us His grace. In fact, He gives us our faith through hearing His Word. Our salvation comes from the Lord. How wonderful it is to know that we do not have to make ourselves believe, or turn our hearts to God, or feel His Sprirt in order to get the gift of grace. Because, to be honest, I feel like a pretty bad person a lot of the time. I constantly sin. It’s impossible for me to go for any amount of time without doing something against God, others, or myself. The doubt in my own ability is enormous. How can I feel an assurance of my salvation when this is what I have to deal with all the time? And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.
How glorious it is then that we know God has given to us, by faith, the saving grace of His love. We only need to hear His Word and receive the faith from the Holy Spirit that we are redeemed through Christ.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”. Romans 5:1-2
By Grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Amen and amen.