On grace, faith and works

The apostle Paul wrote, "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith." He continued with, "We are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works."

Properly understood, what is grace? The grace that saves is not unconditional. Paul places upon it the condition of "faith." Grace is the undeserved favor of God.

Here, Paul uses grace as a synechdoche, a figure of speech in which a part of a thing represents the whole. An example might be, "I'm going out for a bite" meaning "I'm going out for a meal." Bite stands for the whole meal. Grace stands for all that God has done and continues to do for undeserving mankind. Paul highlights God's great love and amazing grace in Romans 5:8, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Paul uses faith as a synechdoche in the second chapter of Ephesians too. For Paul, faith includes one's total response to God. Faith includes belief in Jesus, repentance, confession, baptism and submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Since "faith comes from hearing," obedience to God is not a work of man, but an act of faith (cf. Romans 10:17; Hebrews 11:4). Faith and obedience are one and the same in the Greek and in Paul's reflection on Lordship.

Grace is the undeserved favor of God. Grace is accessed by faith. Genuine faith produces good works. Martin Luther put it this way, "We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith which is alone." James wrote, "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do ... You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." Paul wrote, "We are God's workmanship created in Christ to do good works" Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) and good deeds are proof of a living, vibrant and genuine faith-a faith that saves.

• The Rev. Ken Haskins is the pastor of First Christian Church in Carson City.


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