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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
– Ephesians 2.8-10
In American religion, properly defining salvation by grace through faith is a serious challenge. While the concept is clearly taught in Scripture, an informal survey might reveal many varying definitions. Manmade doctrines have led some individuals to reach very different conclusions from what has been divinely revealed. Part of the problem results from how some define faith.
What has the Holy Spirit revealed? A proper understanding of the meaning of faith in Ephesians 2.8 will go far in clearing up the confusion that encompasses our world. Is the faith here only a mental acknowledgement of the Lordship of Jesus? Or is more involved? The faith mentioned Ephesians 2.8 is defined in Hebrews 11.1, 6: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. These two verses are a presentation of the Biblical definition and essentialness of faith. In the original language, faith implies an emphasis on trust in God’s power and His nearness to help. There is much more to faith than belief that God exists and that His word is true. Faith involves our conviction to act in response to God’s expectations, in humility and total dependence on the power of God for providing the blessing.
This is the meaning of faith in Ephesians 2.8: a faith that works. It involves a full surrender to Christ and this genuine faith will always be accompanied by the evidence of obedience, James 2.14-26. If a person claims to believe, but does not obey, he or she will not be saved, Luke 6.46.
We work from grace, not for it. Our work is the response to God’s work in us.
In Matthew 9.20-22, a woman with a discharge of blood was healed by touching the fringe of Jesus’ garment. She was told, your faith has made you well, 9.22. Was Jesus referring to her mental assent that He was the Messiah? Or, was He speaking of her deep conviction and trust in His ability to heal? She acted with full conviction that only He could provide her with the help she needed. It is the active faith that saves. The Hebrew writer says God rewards those who seek Him, 11.6. What are we seeking from Him? Salvation! He is the only one who can provide what we desperately need! Salvation rests in our faith in His power to save – not in ourselves. God, not our own works, is the object of our faith!