One of the most famous lines written by Paul is Ephesians 2:8-9–“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” This verse makes it pretty clear. The good works we try to isn’t enough to save us. I think a lot of us understand that.
But it’s not faith either.
Before you object, notice the prepositions that Paul uses in the verse. We are saved through faith, not by it. No, what saves us is grace. This grace doesn’t come from us. It can’t. All we can produce are filthy rags. Grace can only come from God as a free and undeserved gift. It is grace that saves us, not anything we can do or produce on our own.
We can’t boast about anything we contributed to our salvation because, bluntly put, we didn’t contribute a single thing. Not even our faith. “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” Even our faith is a gift from God.
Imagine yourself dying of thirst. Not just thirsty, but dehydrated. Wrung out. Not a single drop of moisture left anywhere in your body. Typically, a person can only live three days without water. Well, you’ve gone without for two days, twenty-three hours, and fifty-nine minutes. Your body is shutting down. For all intents and purposes, you’re already dead. All you can do is lie there.
But then along comes someone. You can’t speak to him. Your throat is as dry as the desert. No way you can muster even a pitiful groan. But you can hear the water sloshing in his canteen.
And he kneels down next to you. His hand slips behind your neck, tipping your head back and steadying it. Then he uncorks the canteen and pours the water into your open mouth.
What can you do in this situation? You could close your mouth and refuse to drink. You could, with the last ounce of your strength, flop out of his steady grasp. Or you can simply let the water flow into your mouth, down your throat, and into your body.
How many of you would try to claim any sort of credit afterward? The guy with the canteen did all the work. He brought you the water. He held you steady. He poured the life-saving gift into your mouth. You have nothing to boast about. Not a single thing.
The same thing is true when it comes to our salvation.
God is the one who brings us His grace. He is the one who gives us our faith, through which the precious gift flows. It is by grace we have been saved, through faith. None of this is from us. Not one of us can boast.
When you come right down to it, there’s really only one thing we can boast in, the same thing that Paul boasted in:
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Adapted from my non-fiction manuscript, The R-Rated Bible