“Saved . . . Not of Works”

Saved! yes, thank God, saved! Saved in the full and bright and happy consciousness of the fact!

Eternal praise to His grace, there does not remain one doubt nor one fear as to salvation!

I may have many a misgiving as to other things, for the soul must be exercised in ten thousand ways as it moves homeward and heavenward, and this chiefly in order that the work of transformity to Christ may be daily deepened in me as a child of God. But, blessed be God, I do not cherish one single question as to salvation. And why? Simply because God has written of every believer that he is saved.

Let me refer you, dear reader, to the passage quoted (see Ephesians 2:8-9); and pray ponder closely the wording of that remarkable sentence. It stands alone, in its peculiar blessedness, as a statement intended by God to give certainty and full assurance to the heart of every one of His dear children. Would that it were better known, more frequently studied, and more abundantly unfolded. “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Observe, it does not read, “Being saved,” but, “Ye are saved.” The fact is accomplished. It is no continuous work, no progressive attainment. It declares that salvation is as certain, here and now, amid the temptations and snares of the world, as it can be in glory, when such things are no more.

This fact, the present salvation of the believer, cannot be over-estimated. Faith always thankfully accepts what God has said. It is unbelief that either doubts Him altogether or else wickedly diminishes the force of His words.

Granted that God speaks of the Christian as saved, shall we dare to question? Shall we allow our fears as to possible failure on our part to touch the verity of the word of God? Shall we not rather humbly take the Word just as it stands, and rejoice in the truth it conveys? Most assuredly. All will fail but that Word.

But we find elsewhere, that “he that endures to the end shall be saved.” Now does the one truth not affect the other? Nay, both are equally true, for God’s word is never self-contradictory; but each statement is found in a different connection, and must be looked at in the light of its surroundings.

Ephesians 2:8-9 views the Christian as saved already. Elsewhere he is looked at as on the road to heaven, not yet there, and therefore exposed to the trials of the way. His “enduring to the end” thus becomes intelligible, and is the proof of the genuineness of his faith and of the sustaining grace of God toward him. Enduring to the end, he is saved. And thus we find a remarkable difference in the point of view of Ephesians and that taken elsewhere. Everything is according to the counsels of God, and effected by His own power. It does not contemplate the road, and can therefore say, “Ye are saved.” On the other hand, in Romans 8:24 it is said, “We are saved in hope”—for salvation there includes the redemption of the body—a firm and solid hope doubtless, but yet “we hope,” for it is evident that we have not the redemption of the body yet. That is, in Romans salvation is viewed as future—“Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (chap. 13:11)—because it contemplates the full and grand result in glory; just as it speaks of the believer as justified and made a child of God, and moving on as such through “tribulation” and present suffering in anticipation of the glory of God.

If a person be in a place he does not speak of hoping to reach it; if on the way thither he does so. This explains the difference between Ephesians and most of the other epistles. The one gives, in the main, counsel; the other gives Christian responsibility.

I am warranted therefore to say that “I am saved.” Oh, what grace, that I, once a poor, vile sinner, guilty and hating God, finding my pleasure in the world by which His Son was crucified, am now saved from hell, from judgment, from sin, from Satan, and am brought to God! that I, once stained by sin, and inherently depraved, having in my flesh “no good thing,” nor capable of producing one single work whereby to merit His favour, am now, here on earth, consciously saved! Wonderful indeed, but divinely true!

“Saved . . . not of works”! not on the principle of works. And why? Because if my works could save me, then I might boast indeed. There would be no sin in my pride. I could claim heaven on the ground of my worthiness, and rightly allow in myself for ever any amount of the very thing which, of all others, is detestable to God; that which lies at the root of all sin—pride or self-sufficiency. But this is impossible. I can no more give myself new birth than bring myself into the world. I am indebted to God for the new birth as for the breath of my nostrils. Life, whether natural or divine, is alike the gift of God; only to communicate the latter there is the necessity of something besides the exercise of divine power. In order to give Adam life natural, God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, “and man became a living soul;” whilst in order to give life divine there was the necessity for the death of Christ, to be accomplished in God’s due time, both as the propitiation for our sins, and as the corn of wheat which, through death, might bring forth much fruit. Without dying the corn of wheat would have abode alone, and life and pardon there would have been for none. In giving natural life God displayed but an act of power; but to give divine life the question of sin had to be raised, and in the cross was fully settled. The first was only physical, the second was moral and spiritual. And, in this respect, the new creation transcends the old. In the old we witness God’s power and wisdom; but in the new we see His righteousness, truth, love, and grace. The old is subject to vanity; the new is indestructible.

If our works had any part in this creation, there would be the elements of failure in it; and hence it is “not of works.” But the fact that it is only and wholly of grace makes it absolutely certain and stable. The secret of much of the doubting that exists as to salvation, is simply because “works” are introduced more or less as part of the plan.

How often one hears the statement, “We must do the best we can.” But who of us does that? And if we did, we should be met by the words, “Not of works.”

No, thank God, the one perfect foundation is laid in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God’s grace is the cause, the blood of Christ is the merit, faith is the instrument, and works are the evidence before men—works flowing from life.

  1. Grace—for “God is Love.”
  2. Blood—for the Son of man must “be lifted up.”
  3. Faith—for it is “not of works.”
  4. Works—for it is not a mere assertion of faith, but one that is visible in fruit.

Hence, had God not been “Love,” our salvation would never have been devised. Had Christ not died, our sins could never have been remitted. Had our works been called for, not one of us could have responded. Had there been no evidence of good works, then faith would have been a mere theory. But “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” This gives us a full and charming summary of the whole gospel, and our present saved condition.

Notice, it is “not of works” as the principle, but it is “unto good works” as the object. Good works accompany salvation, but they never go before it. Up to that point they are only sinful.

Now, nothing is of more practical importance for the children of God than that they should know that they are saved, and that this blessed salvation is exclusively of God, and that in their lives there should be the bright confession of it to others.

We like our own children to be happy. We love to see the smile on their faces, and to hear the music of their song. God does the same. He has given us a relationship with Himself that is inviolable, and He would have us enjoy it. He would have us walk in the light of His presence, and the purity of His company, so that our salvation might be a thing seen by others—one of immense value to ourselves, and one we would fain make known on all hands.

It is a solemn thing. Oh, when we remember that it cost the life of the blessed Son of God, when we remember His agony in the garden, and His suffering on the cross, how can we speak flippantly of salvation? To procure it for us was no light matter to the Lord Jesus. It cost us nothing indeed, but it cost Him “all that He had;” for He “gave Himself” for us. And shall we regard it lightly, or value it cheaply? God forbid. “It is the gift of God.”

May the sense of the sacredness of this unspeakable gift be deepened in each saint, and increasingly valued, and God be thanked and worshipped by hearts more divinely attuned to His infinite grace in our salvation.