Paul’s great summary of the gospel is laid out in Ephesians 2:8-10: “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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (ESV).
Those verses give us the four most crucial things to understand about salvation: the basis, the instrument, the result and the confidence.
1. The basis of salvation is grace.
You may have heard salvation described something like this: “I was drowning in a sea of my sin, and Jesus came by in a boat and threw the life vest out to me and pulled me onboard and saved me.”
David Nasser says that that sounds really good, but it’s just not the gospel. The gospel is that we weren’t just drowning in a sea of our sin. We were dead, floating face down in a sea of our sin, and Jesus came and pulled our lifeless bodies into the boat and breathed eternal life into our lungs.
Salvation was not a reward for good behavior. It was not because we were “less bad” than someone else or had a good heart or had great potential. It’s not even a reward for showing faith. “Grace” means that it was based on nothing good or meritorious about us; it was a gift of God.
Notice that little word “this” in verse 8. What does “this” point to? In Greek, the “this” refers back to the entire earlier phrase, including both salvation and faith. God didn’t just offer salvation as a gift; he also freely gave us the faith to believe in the first place.
2. The instrument of salvation is faith.
Faith is not simply a religious feeling or becoming more “Christian.” Faith is the hand that lays hold of Jesus. It’s the belief that Christ has accomplished it all, just like he said he did, and simply resting our hope on that.
The best picture of this is in the Old Testament—where all the best pictures are. When you brought a lamb to sacrifice for your sins, the priest would put it on the altar. Then, you would reach your hand out and put it on the head of the lamb, and you would begin to confess your sinfulness. As you confessed, the priest would take a knife and cut the throat of the lamb, and the blood would drain out. Your hand symbolized your sinfulness being transferred onto the innocent lamb.
When you become a Christian, you reach out to the Lamb of God and say, “I believe you came for me. You died for me. And there is nothing I can do to save myself. I am transferring my guilt onto your head. You are my blessed assurance.”
God has already (past tense) completed the purchase of our salvation. When we claim that as our own in faith, it becomes ours.
3. The result of salvation is good works.
We’re not saved by good works; but if we are saved, we will do good works.
That’s because when God saves us, he unites us to Christ and begins to infuse his life into us. There’s no way to be hit with that kind of force, to have that kind of power working in us, and not change.
Imagine I was late to church one day and finally came running up onstage and said, “I’m so sorry I’m late. As I got in my car to come to church, a grand piano fell on my head—just like the cartoons! I got up, all accordion-like, and it took me a few minutes to collect myself. But man, did it hurt!” Your response would probably be to call me a liar, because there’s no way I could show up at church in one piece after a grand piano landed on my head.
Have you experienced the grace of God? Then how can you say you understand and believe the gospel and not love him? How can you say you love God while enjoying those things that put him on the cross?
We’re saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.
4. The confidence of salvation is that what God started, he will finish.
“Prepared beforehand” means God has pre-planned these good works for us. He’s already created the opportunity for them and pre-supplied the power for us to do them.
Literally, in Greek, the word is poema (it’s where we get the English word “poem”). God has started composing our lives into a beautiful song that glorifies him. And what he has started, he will finish.
That word, poema, is used only one other place in the Greek Bible, referring to God’s creation in Genesis 1. At creation, God spoke something into nothing. He didn’t start with raw material. He started with nothing and created everything. He spoke a light that did not exist into absolute darkness.
When God saved you, he took a righteousness that did not exist in you and spoke it into being. The same powers that spoke the universe into existence began to create righteousness in us.
The darkness in our souls is no more able to resist the transforming power of God than the night is able to resist the sunrise.
Which means that all we have to do is yield ourselves to Jesus to let him do his work through us. Christianity is not about us doing anything for God but letting Christ do everything through us.
This article originally appeared here.