It is the Gift of God

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8

In exploring the teaching of the Apostle Paul in this text from Ephesians I am faced with the question what is the free gift of God. Is Paul telling us that our salvation is the free gift of God, or is it God’s grace, then could it be that our faith is the free gift of God? This question has set me on a journey this past week in which I asked the Pastors of our Church, assuming that it was grace that was the free gift, how do we receive God’s Grace? That question went around the table and was sidetracked off into a discussion which did not answer the question for me. That is alright, as I was just stirring the waters anyway. If one has a question on the Scriptures where better than to seek the answer than from the source of truth God’s Word.

In every search of Scripture I always remind myself to accept it in the Nature of God who by His Spirit is the Author of all absolute truth. God has many marvelous attributes that we as His children should aspire to but I believe they are all spawned from the truth that God is Love. “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Everything that He has and will do is in the context of His love and justice. Love demands justice and justice is lost without love.

It may seem unnecessary but I first wanted to get a solid definition of God’s grace. Many a home I have been in at meal time, I seem to always visit around that time, folks say grace before eating the meal. I have always wondered about that as my understanding of the word grace does not fit with what we are actually doing, thanking God for His provision. So, what is grace that God gives us so freely?

In the New Testament the word grace and favor translate to the same Greek word “Charis.” The first definition in Strong’s is “graciousness … manner or act.” Merriam-Webster defines grace as, Unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification, a virtue coming from God, a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace, approval, favor. And the Biblical definition for grace is, “Grace is God’s unmerited favor.” It is kindness from God we don’t deserve. In the context then grace is born out of God’s love for His creation that He will sacrifice all to save His creation from the wrath it deserves.

Okay, that was the long way around the bran to say that grace is the unmerited favor from God shown towards us by His love for us. Considering what we have done and still may do we have no claim to expect God’s divine grace. God shows His grace to all of His creation and to all of mankind. The sun shines on all of us, the rain falls upon farmer John’s field as well as farmer Doe’s. Whether they are righteous believers or not the blessings from God’s creation are available. I was not the most obedient child in my father’s brood yet I still received the blessings of his provision. I was never denied the provision of home, food or clothing. The fringe benefits may have been slackened due to my disobedience but the essentials were always provided. Of course on those few occasions when I was good I received rewards as well. If then I received the grace of my father because I was his child then I also receive the grace of God because I am His creation and in spite of what I have done He loves me.

The Apostle Paul then is saying that Salvation is the free gift of God. Now I am sure some people have a problem with that. Every time I hear the word free I grab tight hold to my wallet. Receiving free gifts cause me trouble as well because I then feel in debt to the giver. Though I have overcome that somewhat by something my father said many years ago. “Be just as gracious to receive as you are to give.” If someone wants to give me a gift at no cost to me, then I should thankfully and joyfully receive it and not deny them the joy of giving the gift. Now all of mankind by the grace of God their Creator have the free gift of Salvation offered to them at no cost. This is an extraordinary expression of God’s grace toward mankind. Yet many refuse this offer from God, how this refusal must hurt Him, and what peril shall be realized on that day of the Lord’s judgment.

In the context of God’s nature, Love, it is His gracious will that we should receive salvation from His wrath freely through His Son Jesus Christ. If it was not the desire of God to save His creation then salvation would never have come to man. Therefore it is, “For by grace you have been saved.” There is nothing in human accomplishment that can earn our salvation, we can’t acquire the wealth to purchase salvation, certainly we cannot work and earn our salvation, and we were all born with our sin nature and have sinned against His Word so the law of God cannot save us. How else could we be saved if it was not gratuitously given to us by a merciful loving Heavenly Father? Salvation is the gift of God, it is not earned.

So is faith also a gift from God? It is true that there is a miraculous awarded faith as we read in Paul’s letter to the Church in Corinth, “To another faith by the same Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:9) Faith is a quality that is received by our conscious effort. We have to express our faith in God’s Word by our actions as a result of our trust in His Word. Faith is received by our cooperation in the course of living in God’s providences. Whatever faith we have exists within our minds and is in reaction to the work of the Holy Spirit’s influence of truth. Faith along with other Christian virtues resides in the heart that has surrendered to the Holy Spirit’s influence. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “For not all have faith.” (2 Thessalonians 3:2) Those who reject God’s Word as absolute truth certainly will not have faith in His Word. Paul’s statement then does not mean that those who have faith received it as a gift from God. On the contrary, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

We develop our faith by the study of God’s Word. The Word of God is alive through His Spirit and awakens our spirit and brings life to our spirit. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) We are to study and hear what the Spirit is teaching us then meditate and learn, and by faith trust and obey the instruction of His Word in Spirit and Truth.

The free gift of God is salvation which comes by His grace because He loves you and me. It is that God breathed the spirit of life into you (Genesis 2:7) and wants to fellowship with you forever. He has made the greatest of sacrifices including the sacrifice of His Son that you may be washed in His cleansing blood and redeemed through His righteousness. Salvation, is the escape from the deserved wrath of God. All a man has to do is accept the gift, it is theirs for the taking.

We receive this gift through faith in His Word. We cannot please God if we do not trust Him. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) We cannot prove our trust in Him without the exercise of faith. We demonstrate our love for Him by hearing what He has to say to us by studying His written living Word prayerfully. By our trust and obedience we grow the virtue of a Godly faith. It is our faith that enables us to work out our salvation. “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12) To continue on walking in the path that He has set before you, growing in the like mindedness of your Savior Jesus Christ until your salvation is complete. Filled with the love of God towards God and fellow man, walking blameless in your testimony, and bearing holy fruit for His Kingdom till you reach the everlasting home you were created to abide in.

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, January 7, 2015

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