Section 6: Salvation — Part 1
Week 1: What Is Salvation?
Day 4: We Are Saved by Grace
So far we’ve looked at what we, as Christians, have been saved from and what we are saved to. How does someone “get saved” though? You may have heard of Aron Ralston. The movie 127 Hours is about him. He was hiking through a canyon in Utah by himself when he fell into a crevice. He wasn’t seriously injured in the fall, but his arm was pinned under a boulder, and he couldn’t move it. So he was stuck. After five days, no one had come to rescue him. His food and water were running out, and the elements were taking their toll. He realized he wasn’t going to survive unless he could find a way to his get his arm out from under the boulder. So he took a pocketknife from his backpack, cut his forearm off, climbed out of the crevice, repelled down a cliff, and hiked out of the canyon to safety.
Aron Ralston’s ordeal is a remarkable story of self-reliance. It’s safe to say he saved himself from a situation that would have killed most of us. Does salvation from sin require similar heroics on our part? Sin put us in a difficult position before God, do we have to get ourselves out of it? No. In fact, there is no way we could. As dire as Aron Ralston’s situation was, ours is much worse. Sin places us under God’s judgment, and there is nothing we can do to save ourselves because no amount of good deeds is sufficient to tip the scales in our favor.
For one thing, as we discussed in the Digging Deeper section on Humanity, sin taints everything we do. That means nothing we do is truly good in an ultimate sense. As a result, we don’t really have any good deeds to balance against our sin. But, even if we did, our good deeds wouldn’t be enough to save us because by doing good we’re merely doing what we’re supposed to do in the first place.
Imagine you get a ticket for speeding and, when you go to pay the fine, you say to the clerk, “I paid a lot of money towards my property taxes. Just take that money and apply it toward what I owe for the speeding ticket.” What sort of reaction are you going to get? The clerk is probably going to look at you like you’re crazy. You paid your property taxes. Great. But you already owed that money. That means there’s nothing left over to apply towards your speeding ticket.
Trying to use our good works to pay the penalty we owe for sin produces a similar result. When we choose to do good in any situation, we aren’t going above and beyond our duty; we are merely fulfilling the obligation we already have to God. As a result, there’s nothing “left over” to go toward the penalty we owe for sin. Even if there were, the penalty we owe is no small traffic ticket. The penalty we deserve dwarfs the good works we could accumulate in our lifetime. As a result, there is absolutely nothing we can do to save ourselves.
That’s exactly why salvation is by grace alone. We contribute nothing to it. Salvation is utterly and completely a gift from God.
Read Ephesians 2:8-9.
In your own words, how would you describe grace? Can you come up with an illustration of it? Do you ever feel like you are more acceptable to God when you are “good”? What good things in your life or character are you tempted to point to? What do you think Paul means by “works”?