God’s Work: Grace and Faith

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, May 13, 2014 0 comments

by Bill Seng

Faith is important. But what good would be faith without grace and how are grace and faith related to each other? To be sure that there is a relationship between the two, let’s look at Ephesians 2:6-9: And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 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. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. (NIV 1984)

Such a passage is challenging. It creates a paradox that on the one hand, a person is saved by grace. On the other hand, the power of grace is initiated through faith, which is a gift from God. So if faith is a gift from God, who can receive grace through faith? Without getting too technical, let’s look at the components of grace and faith.

Grace is unmerited favor. Unmerited favor means that there is no reason for someone to grant you such a blessing; rather, he or she chooses to do so despite any other factor. An example that I think of is one of my friends who routinely gives $100 tips to his waiters and waitresses. He does not do so because they did such an outstanding job that they deserved a huge tip. He does not do it because he knows them. He doesn’t even do it because the people are friendly. He gives out $100 tips because he knows they are in need, he has money, and such a blessing might give them a different outlook on life. Such is the grace extended to us through Jesus Christ. He does not extend grace because of anything we have done, but because he desires that all people would come to the knowledge of his grace and receive salvation. Whether they will accept his gracious offer is another story.

Grace was extended to the world through the death of Jesus Christ by means of crucifixion. Although Jesus is the Lamb who was slain before the creation of the world, his torture and death had to happen in real time for all people to see. As John the Baptist would put it, it was so that the world would, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29) This death was not only meant to be upon display for the whole world, it was also meant to wipe away the sins of the whole world. This is proven in 1 John 2:2, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” So this was clearly meant as a universal atonement. Under such circumstances, shouldn’t all people be saved because of what Jesus did? That is where faith comes into play.

When being questioned about the nature of God’s work and how to accomplish it, Jesus responded, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29). Jesus was clearly speaking of himself. Lest anyone think I am referring to works vs. God’s work, Romans 4:5 states, “to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” Faith is a response that is enabled by the Holy Spirit when a person believes. Ephesians 1:13 testifies to this truth, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.”

Faith, then, is a response to God’s grace that is made possible by God’s gift of the Holy Spirit. Before the gift of faith can be received a person must hear the gospel preached. The gift of faith enables people to do God’s will and to persevere. It is what initiates the unshackled power of God’s grace in the believer’s life and secures salvation. Faith in Christ, the work God has assigned for us, is impossible to accomplish without Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and would be meaningless otherwise.

Faith would not be necessary if everyone already believed. Grace would not be necessary if we were not guilty of sin. Because of the inherent spiritual blindness of humanity, which is a result of our sinful natures, faith is necessary in order to enjoy the riches of God’s grace.