This past week in my Journey class that meets at the crack of dawn on Friday mornings, we have been learning a lot about how we can’t earn our salvation. How there is nothing that we can do through our performance of acts in this life to earn or not earn our way to heaven. It is through the grace of God that we are saved. He sent his son to be horribly beaten, tortured and killed so that he could take our sins for us and we can be saved.
When we speak of grace there are three simple beliefs that we learned about:
We lost it all
This means that all humanity lost all virtue in God’s eyes; not just perfection, but also all goodness. No amount of effort spent performing for God could ever result in our being good enough to earn his love. Performance tells us that there is something good enough we can and must do to earn a right standing with God. So, to break the trap of performance-based living, we must first embrace the belief that we lost it all.
He did it all
Christ did everything necessary to completely pardon law breakers like you and me. There is nothing left to be done. The grace of the great swap completely satisfies God and puts us in a right relationship with Him. The only thing we contribute to that is our faith and repentance to God for our salvation to become a reality. The only real thing a person can contribute to their own salvation is the sin that makes it necessary.
We get it all
God credits the full righteousness of Christ to His followers. Since we are forever forgiven of all past, present, and future sins, we can be fully assured of God’s unconditional love. God gives us everything necessary to live rightly related to Him and to be fully satisfied in life and eternity. Only when we believe we get it all and embrace the grace that comes via the cross can we expect to rest in Him and to accept that what He did for us was enough.
“You can’t earn this.” That’s what writer Michael Kelley wrote about Paul’s words concerning the gift of grace in Romans 5. I am repeatedly told I can’t work to earn my salvation. But no matter how often I hear that truth, whether from my own reading of Scripture, or God’s whisper in my ear, by nature I continually do different things and think different thoughts in hopes that I am slowly repaying God for the salvation He has already given me. Then I read things like Romans 5, or Ephesians 1-2, and am reminded—yet again—that all I can do is respond in love to this unfathomable gift. Read some of the ways Paul describes our relationship with God in Ephesians:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, in Christ; for He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight” (1:3-4). “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding” (1:7-8). “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation—in Him when you believed—were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (1:13). “But God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. By grace you are saved! He also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens, in Christ Jesus” (2:4-6).
These few verses could be talked about for hours as you try to unpack all of the theology, love, promises, and hope that is in them. But two things can’t be missed: What do the bold phrases have in common?
1. They are complete
2. They were completed by God
All of the verbs Paul uses describe varying aspects of our salvation, and we have nothing to do with them. Our role is complete as well, as Paul writes in verse 13—”when you believed.” It is a gift, and it is finished!