For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
Lent is a time to become fully aware of our dependence upon grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is your own doing.” This is a foundational understanding in Reformed churches such as Trinity Presbyterian. There is some dispute as to whether this letter to the Ephesians was written by Paul, but there is no dispute that salvation through grace is central to Paul’s thought. Throughout his indisputable writings, Paul emphasizes that God’s reaching out in Christ precedes any action on our part. The value of the law is that it reveals sin. The value of Christ is the erasing of our sinful condition.
There is no question that Paul is referring to our faith in his formula. The faith is our faith in God’s grace. Abraham is his model, whose trust in God was reckoned to him as righteousness, as Paul writes in Romans.
Something to think about. Could it be that, in addition to our faith in the grace of God, there is also God’s faith in us? Could we also understand this phrase- “saved by grace through faith” as something that happens entirely on God’s side?
The crucifixion is the center-point of Christian faith and theology. There is no way around it, one must go through it. Given how inconceivable it is that Jesus, the sinless son of God, would be crucified, the answer must lie in the benefit that we derive from that death? Historically, that benefit has been understood as Jesus’ sacrifice for sin. Here at Trinity we are starting a Lenten study on this question and we will refer to it as these meditations continue through the season, but for today indulge me in this. What if the death of Jesus was simply that? An unjust horrible death. It is not difficult to understand why it happened historically. Jesus was a total threat to both the religious power base and the Roman power base. He was openly accused of blasphemy and was crucified for sedition. This is clear enough, the theological application came later.
What also came later was the resurrection. The tomb was empty when the sabbath was over. Three of the four gospels report an appearance of Jesus to the disciples and others after the resurrection. But should we assume that the resurrection was for our sake? Jesus was God’s son, not ours. Jesus remained faithful to God, while humans were pretty much unfaithful to him. Certainly Jesus’ resurrection was something God intended for Jesus but was it necessary that God share Jesus again with those who had abandoned him and rejected him? Isn’t it amazing, in the end, that after everything that Jesus went through at the hands of those he came to save, he would return to them and not be raised straight into heaven to be at God’s right hand?
My point is this. Jesus’ post resurrection appearances signify the ultimate faith God has in us, his human creation. Forgiveness has been said to be shown on the cross but is forgiveness also shown in the return of Jesus after his resurrection to the very ones least deserving? Jesus’ return to us—Jesus’ promise to remain with us always—is the rainbow at the end of the crucifixion flood. God keeps God’s word. Humanity was not destroyed—and the attempt to destroy God’s grace was equally fruitless—for God so loved the world that he gave his only son back to us after we had rejected him fully. This is being saved by grace through faith… God’s faith in us…that although we stumble and fall we are able to right ourselves and in spite of ourselves live for him and witness for him and and be his church in the world.
We accept our salvation, certainly, be grace and not works of the law. But we should always remember that our faith in God is a small thing compared to God’s faith in us.