Sermon: What We Believe (3)
Pastor Choi explains that no human merits can buy or earn God’s gift–salvation. We are saved by God’s grace through our faith alone.
Following is the sermon script in its entirety:
What We Believe (3) Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5
- Ephesians 2:8-9
- New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
- 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
- Titus 3:5
- New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
- 5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
- Repentance is the beginning of our relationship with God.
- All have sinned and need salvation.
- Definition of sin: violation of any God’s commandments.
- Wages (consequences) of our sin were paid by Christ that proves God’s love for us.
Saved not by works but by faith:
- We are saved through Christ’s merits not by our own. Let me tell you a story of a man whose name was Martin Luther: He hoped that his act of penance (through climbing stairs on his bare knees) would count something in his salvation. Later he realized that that’s not the case. He also said that the practice of buying indulgences for loved ones in purgatory was unscriptural. He declared that salvation is not earned by his good deeds, in fact, by any human good deeds. Nor can it be bought with money. Salvation is, rather, a gift of God attainable only through faith not through our works. It is our faith in Christ, not our own good deeds that counts in our salvation. “Luther wrote to Melanchthon on the same theme: “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides.”(Martin Luther, “Let Your Sins Be Strong,” a Letter From Luther to Melanchthon, August 1521, Project Wittenberg, retrieved 1 October 2006).
- Indeed, that’s what the Bible says: we are saved by God’s mercy and grace not by our own deeds.
- What about James, then, some might argue, who says that faith without works is dead? (James 2:26) If faith is all we need in our salvation, then, we don’t have to be good, right? No, you still ought to be good and will be, not for the salvation but for the glory of God. The fact that we don’t need human works or good deeds for our salvation, or the truth that human merits is not the necessary condition for our salvation, doesn’t mean that we are exempt from living a moral life. Let me repeat what I have said: works don’t get us into heaven; they are not the necessary condition for salvation, either. What are they, then? They are a result of our faith and a fruit of our salvation. E.g. Horse and a cart: they go together, yet, you always put the horse before the cart, not the other way around. The horse here is faith and the cart is works. Faith goes first, and works follow. Anyone who claims to be a believer in Christ will demonstrate good works as a fruit of his/her faith. In other words, God only requires us to bring faith into salvation, yet He expects us to live out our faith through our good works to bring glory to His name.
- When it comes down to salvation, I am so glad that God doesn’t require us to bring any human merits to the salvation table. Any human merits such as education (B.A.), money (million dollars), physical condition (6 foot tall), beauty, age, race, sex, can never buy salvation. We can’t fully satisfy any of them, either. So, God came up with another perfect solution: faith that believes in Jesus and what He has done on the cross. In my humble opinion, that’s the perfect and the fairest solution for all to satisfy in salvation. E.g. A street vendor who accepted Christ. E.g. 2. Criminal crucified at the same time with Christ.
Created for Good Works
- So, do we still have to be good even after we believe? Yes, we still need to live the moral life. We are the children of God, created for good works in Christ (Ephesians 2:10). We are the salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13, 14). We are the children of light. We are to demonstrate how great our God is through our good deeds (Matthew 5:16). Works are not the condition for salvation but they are the demonstration of your faith in Jesus (E.g. helping the homeless, helping Sandy relief).
- Freedom from God’s punishment cannot be purchased with money. God’s grace cannot be earned. No one is justified with his/her own works and merits. Salvation is by God’s grace through faith alone.
- “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).
- “5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy” (Titus 3:5).