Prepositions Matter!

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.

desert walkImagine 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


  1. AMEN… it’s such a heart-wrenching thing when people can’t understand that we can’t do anything but accept what Jesus already did for us. We can only swallow the water He gives. Let Him lift our heads up so we can look into His loving eyes. Rejoice in His Mercy as His Grace through Faith restores us by HIM alone. Thank you for the reminder we all need each day! LUV YA BUNCHES IN JESUS WITH HUGS & PRAYERS! TK ^_^ and

  2. In this analogy, I wonder what the water represents. I wonder if the water is grace, or if the water is faith.

    The image that has always appeared in my head is that faith must be some kind of tunnel or funnel that the grace comes through to reach us.

    • Sorry, I should have been more clear. In this analogy, the water is definitely grace.

      And I agree with what you said about faith being a funnel, although it’s my contention that there are two types of faith a Christian experiences. One is that “funnel faith” that the grace is delivered through. The other is more reflective faith, which can reflect on doctrine, theology, and beliefs. Both are essential, but I don’t think they’re interchangeable.

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