“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.” -Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
What an incredible verse highlighting the good news that God saves sinners. In this article, I will explain why this verse concerning grace and faith separates all other major religions from the Judeo-Christian worldview.
Major religions exclaim one must earn their way to salvation. The Bible says Jesus, The Son of God, earned salvation for the believer.
Global religions teach heaven is attained when your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds. Christianity teaches that all our good works are not sufficient to grant us eternal life. Only the righteousness of Christ is acceptable to God the Father.
Other worldviews, philosophies, and new religious movements profess that the individual is solely responsible for being accepted into God’s kingdom. Scripture argues that the believer must put their trust and faith in Jesus of Nazareth to be saved.
Why is it that the Bible teaches a stark contrast from the various philosophies and religions of the world?
Does this mean that Jesus really is the only way to salvation? For instance, if salvation is not earned but rather a free gift, then these two views can’t work in harmony.
For if one can earn heaven by their own abilities, then grace and mercy would not need to be extended. Also, salvation would not be a gift since earning it through personal achievements would be a possibility.
That is why Jesus said He is the way, the truth, and the life. Because without His sinless life and righteous living He bestows to the human race, none of us can be saved. All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory or standard of God.
God requires perfect obedience. The Father is holy and therefore can’t allow any unclean being in His sight. Only when we are clothed in the righteousness of God’s Son can we truly be shielded from the wrath of God. Only when we are covered by the blood of Jesus can we stand confident before The King of Kings.
This can’t be said of other religions. While humans do good deeds like take care of orphans and widows, feed the homeless, mentor the youth, and heal the sick, this righteousness is not adequate for salvation.
Salvation requires a perfect life. And no matter how good a person may be, surely they have lied, coveted, lusted, and been angry in their hearts. Thus, we need a redeemer. This is the hope we have in Christ the Messiah. He is the imputation we need to free us from our guilt. This viewpoint is not compatible with other religions.
Evidently, there is a fundamental difference between the biblical worldview and other religious movements concerning soteriology, or how one is saved. Keep in mind, salvation is not just an afterlife notion. It deals with life now and for eternity.
For example, when one is born again, they are already living for God. They are part of the messianic kingdom. Believers are conforming daily to the image of God. Christians are loving God and neighbors, following the commands of Scripture. This is the essence of what it means to be saved.
Moreover, we are being saved from our sins. Saved from living impure lives. Rescued from the lusts of the flesh that entangle our soul. Freed from the chains of addiction that bind us and wreak havoc on our psyche. Salvation is much more than just going to heaven.
Now that we understand both the meaning and reason why people are saved, it’s important to ask a follow-up question: If salvation is a free gift and not earned, does this mean a believer can live however they want?
The answer is an emphatic no. The apostle James said that faith without works is useless. In other words, if someone says they are saved because they are trusting in the grace of God, but they live like the world and have no desire to be Holy, their faith is not real. Thus, they are not saved.
You may say the Bible teaches that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Fair enough, but Scripture also teaches that on Judgment Day, many will say: Lord, Lord, we did many wonderful works in your name. And God will reply: “I never knew you. Depart from me, workers of iniquity.”
So then, one is saved by grace. It is a free gift. Our deeds cant save. Works are not a means to salvation. Nevertheless, salvation is a means to good works. Therefore, when you are chosen, redeemed, and born again, you will produce good fruit. You will have a repentant heart that desires to follow God’s will.
Believers won’t be perfect. They will fail. Scripture says not if but “when” we sin, confess our sins to God, He is faithful and just to forgive us of all our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness.
However, it is important to stress the trajectory of the believers heart. They have a desire to be holy and good, even if they know works can’t save. Essentially, a believer does good deeds not to earn salvation. They do good deeds because they love God and want to imitate His attributes.
This is another key difference between the Judeo-Christian faith and other worldviews. A works based religion says keep doing and eventually God will accept you. The Bible teaches God has already accepted you, now do good works because it’s simply the right thing to do.
Interestingly, all religions do require good deeds. Christianity teaches us to love God and neighbors. It teaches that a pure and undefiled religion is to visit orphans and widows in distress. What’s different is the paradigm. What’s different is the attitude towards being good. And I think it’s clear in the Christian worldview we act good because God is good. We act good because this is the morally responsible action to choose.
This is what salvation is all about. To know God. To love people. To grow in holiness. To enjoy our relationship with the God of this universe. Let’s pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, salvation is a crucial aspect of the Christian life. Let it sink into our hearts that heaven is a free gift. That our redemption is by grace through faith in your Son Jesus Christ. Help religious people who are trying to earn their salvation to let go and trust in God. Continue to reveal this marvelous truth to the whole world. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.