Summary: Are we saved by faith or baptism? This is an extra sermon in our 3 on 3 series.
You know how some sermons are just easy to listen to? Maybe they hit on a subject you were just wondering about, or they address a need you felt but hadn’t put a name to, or they re-affirm something you believed but didn’t have the words for. Some sermons just seem to hit us right where we are at just the right time with just the right words. I love it when that happens. That probably isn’t going to happen today.
I guess what I’m saying is that you’ll have to work a little harder than you usually would to connect with the message. But you know how sometimes when you really dread getting into something, like a project at work or a homework assignment or a chore at home, how right in the middle of it you think to yourself, "You know, this isn’t so bad." I love it when that happens, too. And I
think that will probably happen today.
So am I killing you with anticipation here or what? We’re going to continue the three week series on faith we began last week. We’re calling it 3-on-3. Three weeks on faith, three on hope, three on love. Three internal issues that can make a powerful impact on how we live out our lives. We began trying to define faith. Then we talked about how faith helps us when everything around us is falling apart. Today, we’re going to dive into a controversy that has been a part of the conversation of faith for centuries. From the beginning, in fact. We’re going to talk about faith and works. Is my faith in Jesus death on the cross enough to save me, or do I have to do something else to earn salvation?
Let’s look at a passage right up front so that we know what we’re getting into. Ephesians 2:8,9. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast." If you are saved, you are saved by God’s grace through faith -- not by your own good behavior or your performance of some religious ritual or your ability to submit to any set of rules and regulations.
That’s only one passage, but all through scripture the point is the same; human beings cannot make themselves right in the eyes of God by what they do. Our works, no matter how good, are insufficient. Both in quality and quantity they are inadequate.
Look at it this way; drop two men into the middle of the Pacific Ocean. One is a world-class distance swimmer, the kind of swimmer who eats tri-athletes for breakfast. The other is a guy who learned to swim at Boy Scout camp in 1969, hates getting water up his nose, and just had tripp1e by-pass surgery. Question: Which one is going to make it to the coast of California? Answer? Neither.
Think about Mother Teresa. Can you think of anyone who did more good in her life than that dear woman? She tended the dying in the streets of Calcutta. She loved the unlovely. She didn’t lie. She didn’t lust. She didn’t smoke. Or drink. Or cuss. She wasn’t guilty of insider trading. She didn’t buy lottery tickets. She never yelled at people in traffic. If anyone in this century ever did it right, it was Mother Teresa. But Mother Teresa didn’t do it right enough. Unless she was saved by the grace of God through faith, Mother Teresa wasn’t saved.
Now and then I’ll hear a person say of someone who has just died, “Well, I know where they are now -- they’re in heaven because I’ve never known anyone who was that good." Or we’ll say, "I sure hope they’re in heaven because if they don’t make the cut nobody can make the cut." That’s just the point. No one -- not one single human being -- makes the cut because of their own goodness. Paul put it this way in Romans 3:23; "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." How many? All. Not some. All. Not most. All.
But then Paul adds this in vs. 24: "and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Being justified means being made right. It’s the same thing as being saved by grace. We are freely justified by God’s grace. As Paul says in vs. 22, being made right with God comes from God and by faith in Jesus Christ. If you trust Christ rather than your own goodness or performance, God justifies you. God makes you right with him. God saves you from your sin. Like the old song, Rock of Ages says, nothing I do, nothing I bring to the table saves me from my sin. Only God’s grace does that.