The Cross is Not Proof of Our Worth But of God’s Grace
by Mike Ratliff
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Luke 18:13 ESV)
In our day it is not unusual to hear a man-centered version of the Gospel message that has everything turned around backward and is presented in such a way that is meant to appeal emotionally to unbelievers with a statement such as, “Christ’s crucifixion is proof of our worth to God!” The appeal is meant to show that if Christ was willing to go to Cross to save sinners like us then that proves we are of value to God. I have even heard one version of this that says that Jesus would have gone to that Cross even if it was for just one unrepentant sinner. Is that found anywhere in God’s Word? I have never found it. Instead, what I see clearly presented there is that all of us are undeserving sinners and even dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). Until God regenerated us, we are spiritual corpses, that is, without spiritual life. Therefore, grace that is not all grace is no grace. Grace that saves means that God has done everything; if He does not do everything, then it is not grace.
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. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)
Τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον· οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων, ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NA27)
For by grace you have saved through faith. And this not of yourselves, it is God’s gift; not of works, lest anyone should boast.(my personal translation of Ephesians 2:8-9 from the NA27 Greek text.)
The phrase, “And this not of yourselves, it is God’s gift,” translates, ”καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον·” Many want to debate that this is God’s gift and part of it is not. Some want the grace and the salvation to come from God, but the faith to come from us. Let’s look at this passage with that reasoning part of the mind God gave us my brethren. In the first part of v8 Paul sums it up by saying that we are saved (σώζω) by grace (χάρις) through faith (πίστις). No one argues that. Would Paul then repeat the same thing by saying “grace is a gift of God,” or “salvation is a gift of God”? We don’t do that in English or any other language so why would Paul do that? Therefore, he is also making the point that faith is a gift (δῶρον) of God as well.
Paul tells us here that God makes our salvation a gift and not of a works whereby we do something to earn it so that no one may boast. God gets all the glory through the salvation of those whom He saves.
Now think back to the those horrible sermons we talked about earlier that try to manipulate people to make a decision for Christ using emotion and trying to show how important we are to God, et cetera. No my brethren, no one believes the Gospel and is saved or even responds to it until God gives them the power, the gift of faith, to believe.
This faith must be from God, for if we say that faith is of ourselves, then faith becomes a human work, as in partaking of a sacrament or just “being a good person.” Faith does not determine salvation; grace determines salvation. God has done it all. John MacArthur has said, “When we accept the finished work of Christ on our behalf, we act by the faith supplied by God’s grace.” Our faith comes as a gift from God’s grace.
Soli Deo Gloira!