Read Ephesians 2:4-9
4 But because of his great love for us,God,who is rich in mercy,5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith-and this is not from yourselves,it is the gift of God- 9 not by works,so that no one can boast. (NIV)
It seems clear from passages such as this that our right relationship with God and membership in his family stems from the action of God. We do not save ourselves. We do not climb up some ladder of merit in order to get into God’s good books.
And yet,embedded in this passage is that key word,’faith’. We do have a part to play. Perhaps an illustration will clarify. Imagine floundering in deep water as one who is unable to swim. You will drown unless help comes. Someone appears on the shore and throws you a lifebelt. You desperately and thankfully take hold of it and are saved from drowning.
You cannot boast about your rescue: unless the lifebelt was thrown to you there was no chance. Then again,the lifebelt would have done no good unless you took hold of it. So while you did not initiate your own ‘salvation’,you did participate in it. In fact,it needed your participation if it were to be effective.
The lifebelt signifies the grace of God,without such grace salvation is not even an option. Taking hold of the lifebelt signifies faith,without which salvation will not be effective. Salvation is always in the form of an offer which has to be accepted if it is to benefit us. Christians will always see God’s grace as primary in all this,and at the same time always see human faith as a vital response.
Faith makes grace effective. Grace makes faith possible.