For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:…
One thought runs through these two verses like a thread of gold. We are not saved by works, but unto works.
I. THE PRIVILEGE OF BELIEVERS. "Ye are saved."
1. It is implied that the salvation is a present reality. It is not, "Ye shall be saved." They were already in an actual state of salvation; they had passed from death unto life; and the life was everlasting.
2. The salvation was more than a deliverance from the guilt of sin, so as to exempt sinners from future punishment. This is, indeed, the first step in salvation. There must be likewise a deliverance from the power of sin. To be saved from sin is the climax, the consummation, the essence of salvation. Holiness is the most essential thing in salvation. Therefore, while believers may rejoice that they have received pardon through the blood of Christ, let them still more rejoice that Jesus "saves them from their sins" by a continuous supply of his living grace.
II. POWER FOR GOOD WORKS IS INCLUDED IN SALVATION. "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." We are saved because we are thus created. This was the Divine purpose in the mission of the Son; God sent Christ to bless us "by turning every one of us away from our iniquities" (Acts 3:26). We have learnt to believe that our works have nothing to do with our pardon - our evil works have not hindered it, our good works have not helped it; our pardon is of pure grace. But the apostle teaches, in the tenth verse, that what is true of pardon through the death of Christ is equally true of power by his life - that if we are delivered from the punishment of sin by the atoning death of Christ, we are also delivered from the power of sin by the loving grace that streams from the fountain of the cross. Salvation, if it be salvation at all, is "unto good works;" good works not being the root on which salvation grows, but the fruit which grows upon the tree of life.
III. HOW IS THIS FULL SALVATION TO BE OBTAINED? "By grace are ye saved, through faith." You are "God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works."
1. Grace is the fountain at once of pardon and of holiness. The purpose of God is of grace, for "he hath saved us according to his own purpose and grace" (2 Timothy 1:9); the atonement is of grace, for "ye know the grace of ... Christ, that, though he was rich, for your sakes he became poor" (2 Corinthians 8:9); the application of it is of grace, for it is "grace that bringeth salvation" (Titus 2:11); and it is according to this grace "we are called with an holy calling" (2 Timothy 1:9). Now, we have learned to say of pardon that it is "not of works;" equally true is it of our purification that it is not of works - that is, not of our working - for we are "his workmanship, created... unto good works." The old man cannot work. The new man receives the power in the very structure of his spiritual being; for, having died with Christ, he is risen with him that he should walk in newness of life.
2. Faith is the instrumental cause of our salvation. "By grace are ye saved, through faith;" and thus the gospel becomes "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." Power as well as pardon flows forth from Christ to every one that believeth. We are not to suppose, however, that salvation is given as a kind of reward of faith, for, in a true sense, faith is part of the salvation itself. But the apostle uniformly represents faith as that which apprehends the salvation. It is in no sense the ground of salvation; "the righteousness of God which is by faith of Christ Jesus" is the only ground of it, and it is therefore called "the gift of righteousness" Romans 5:17); but faith is the hand by which it is received. There is thus no merit in faith any more than there is in the hand of the beggar who receives an alms.
3. Good works are the predestined way along which the saved walk. "Which God hath before prepared that we should walk in them." This might be true in a double sense: either that, by the revelation of the moral law, he has fixed the firm and unalterable pathway of the believer's obedience - prepared, as it were, the sphere of our moral action; or that, by creating us in Christ Jesus, he has preordained our disposition and aptitude for this obedience. It is evident from the apostle's doctrine that
(1) good works are not necessary to qualify us for believing in Christ,
(2) or are the ground of our expecting a future inheritance in glory. But they are necessary, notwithstanding, on the following grounds: -
(1) We are elected unto holiness (Ephesians 1:4); and we are "called unto holiness" (1 Thessalonians 4:7).
(2) They are necessary as acts of obedience to the Lord's commands (John 14:15);
(3) as acts of gratitude for all his goodness to us;
(4) as evidences of the sincerity of our faith in Christ;
(5) as tending to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior, and to glorify his Name;
(6) as contributory to our inward peace and comfort. - T.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: