Posted by: Jonathan Stepp | February 9, 2008

By Grace Through Faith . . .

. . . is the core of the Christian understanding of humanity’s relationship to God. In our 21st cen. American Christian context faith is generally seen to be the human action by which we complete Jesus’ saving work.

So, we say “Jesus has saved you by grace and if you will have faith then you will be saved.” The idea seems to be that Jesus has done 99% of what needs to be done to get us into a right relationship with the Father and we need to do the last 1%.

My question is, which is it? Has Jesus saved us by grace (a gift) or do we save ourselves by our belief? At this point in the conversation people often say to me “faith is not a work!”

Faith is a work, if it is seen as a human action by which we make ourselves acceptable to God. It may be a very “small” work or even, in some people’s minds, an “easy” work, but it is still a work if we think it is what causes us to belong to Christ.

The only way salvation can be a gift (“by grace”) is if we do absolutely nothing to get ourselves into Christ or Christ into us. For grace to be grace we must have a theology that says Jesus has given himself to us with no conditions.

Here’s what I believe Paul means in Eph. 2:8 when he says that we have been saved by grace through faith:

The Father has given us a gift (“by grace”)

This is the gift: he has adopted us as his children and included us in the life he shares with the Son and the Spirit (“you have been saved”) Eph. 1:5

As the Son shares fully in our humanity, the Father has raised us from the dead and seated us at his right hand in heaven through Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Eph. 2:6

This is the truth about ourselves: we are adopted, raised, and ascended to heaven in Christ.

The Father wants us to stop believing lies about who we are and believe the truth about who he has made us to be in his Son Jesus Christ (“through faith.”)

In this interpretation faith is no longer the human effort that pushes us the last bit of distance toward salvation. Our salvation is already complete in Christ. Faith is our acceptance of what has always been true about ourselves: that we have always been included in the life of the Father, Son and Spirit.



  1. Well said, Tim! Our believing what is already true (that in Christ God has already forgiven us, cleansed us from all sin, and made us righteous) does not cause God to do what he’s already done. What it does do is enable us to begin to enjoy what is already true. And what joy it is to leave the darkness of unbelief and open our eyes to the light of fellowship with Jesus and our Father in the Spirit. Even our ability to open our eyes to the truth that already is comes from him!

    Someone once said, “We believe because of, not in order to.” That is, we believe because of what God has done for us, not in order to get God to do something for us. He did it all before we ever thought about believing.

    That’s why it’s good news. It’s already true and it doesn’t depend on us. All we have to do is believe it so we can start enjoying it. And when we believe Christ is in us and we are in him, we discover that we are a new creation, conformed and being conformed to the image of Christ by the Spirit.

    So many Christians are needlessly afraid of the Father, worried that he might get angry and shut them out. But the Father shows us exactly what he thinks about us and how he feels about us by sending us his beloved Son, who is the exact representation of his being (Heb. 1). Bottom line is that the Father loves us, has always loved us, will always love us and will not allow anything to separate us from his love, not even our sins.

    Like you said, “Our salvation is already complete in Christ.”

  2. Thanks for reading and making such an encouraging and helpful comment!

    Just for clarity: I’m Jonathan, you can find Tim’s blog at


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