One summer day at the early age of 19, I was in the office at my first internship. It was just before lunch and as the preaching minister was leaving we had a short discussion on how most people view grace.
He looked at a glass of water that was on my desk which was almost empty. “Most people see grace like that glass of water. It is not completely full. Likewise my righteousness lacks a little. SO do as much good as I can and whatever is needed God will fill the rest.” He then, very briefly, discussed Romans chapter 3 and a few passages in chapter 4. “We do not do anything to fill our righteous cup, God fills it completely. Our salvation and forgiveness is ALL grace!”
This led me to dig into the scriptures and for that lunch hour and the rest of that day I did a verse by verse break down of Romans chapter 3 and 4 and Galatians chapter 3. It shed new light on Ephesians 2:8. It was as if a switch had been flipped and my world changed light years in one day.
I was inspired which caused me to share this with anyone who would listen. It was not long before I was challenged. One misguided minister overheard me speaking of this at a church camp and he was quick to “set me straight.”
“We have to do SOMETHING to be saved!” he said. “Look at Noah, he would not have been saved if he did not make the ark. He would not have been saved if he had not made the ark just like God asked. So, yes, God was gracious to Noah but Noah had to do something to get that grace. The same is true today, we must do things to get God’s grace.” (a more complete explanation of this can be found in the New Birth Essay Conclusion by clicking here)
I came across this same idea in the following article from the Niceville Church of Christ. Below is an excerpt from their web site as well as a link to that article, which was active when this post was written.
In the salvation of man’s soul there are two necessary parts: God’s part and man’s part. God’s part is the big part, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift if God; not of works, that no man should glory” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The love which God felt for man led him to send Christ into the world to redeem man. The life and teaching of Jesus, the sacrifice on the cross, and the proclaiming of the gospel to men constitute God’s part in salvation.
Though God’s part is the big part, man’s part is also necessary if man is to reach heaven. Man must comply with the conditions of pardon which the Lord has announced. Man’s part can clearly set forth in the following steps” . . . Fr0m there it goes on to list the “Five Steps Of Salvation.”
( From Niceville Church of Christ web site: Link Click Here )
That summer day, while being challenged by that Church of Christ minister, I was confused. His statement seemed to be true. It seemed to make logical sense. However, Ephesians 2 says that I was saved by Grace and not by any work of my own. If I have to do something then it is a work. I had no answer. How could the Bible say something in one place and something different some where else.
Over the years, through Spirit’s teaching I have learned a great deal. I have learned that my righteous act is like a dirty tampon (Is. 64:6). That Hebrew phrase there for filthy rags is the same as used or dirty menstrual rags. My righteousness is like a dirty tampon in God’s presence.
Pretty bad isn’t it? There is NOTHING I can bring to God to make me righteous. My acts of righteousness and my acts of faith are BECAUSE of God’s saving grace in me. He changed me and also changed every saved believer (Ezekiel 36:25-27; Titus 3:4-6). He changes my heart and my actions to desire to be obedient.
To take credit for any part of salvation is nothing short of disgustingly irreverent to a Holy God. The word picture Isaiah creates with the dirty tampon is done for a reason. We do not have a PART in salvation. To say otherwise is to proclaim that God owes me.
God will get all the glory for any saving work. It is His grace. It is purely grace and it is always for His glory (Colossians 1:16).