Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
No one will enter into heaven because they were naturally good. No one will be able to stand before God and boast about who they were or what they did. The Bible says:
- Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. ESV
- Romans 3:10 None is righteous, no, not one. ESV
- Romans 3:12 No one does good, not even one. ESV
- Isaiah 64:6 All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. ESV
Paul tells us that our salvation is based entirely upon God’s grace. What is grace? Some have defined grace as – ‘God’s unmerited favor.’ Others have said that it is – “God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense.’ A deeper definition of grace says that it is:
“The merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.”
In other words, everything there is about being a Christian, (from salvation to sanctification), is based entirely upon God’s grace.
Salvation is not ‘by’ good works; yet that is not to say that good works are not important. Consider once again Paul’s words to the Ephesians.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast… 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Some have said that we are not saved ‘by’ good works, but rather ‘unto’ good works. God has saved us so that we may now live the kind of lives that will please Him.
Perhaps this passage of scripture will help us to better understand the relationship between God’s grace and our good works.
1 Corinthians 15:10 But God’s grace has made me what I am, and his grace to me was not wasted. I worked harder than all the other apostles. But it was not I really; it was God’s grace that was with me. NCV
Paul viewed God’s grace as a special gift given to him in order to help him live the Christian life. Therefore he made every effort to not waste a single moment of God’s gracious favor, but instead he determined to work as hard as he possibly could. Yet Paul also realized that he could never boast about who he was or what he did. He recognized that it was God’s grace and God’s grace alone that was always empowering him.