Our scripture this morning is ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭1-‭10‬.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Some say that there is disagreement between Paul and the apostle James in their understanding of faith and works. James writes “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (‭‭James‬ ‭2‬:‭26‬). Paul teaches “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves” (v. 8). While they may be making slightly different statements, they both agree about what is necessary for salvation.

I once heard an explanation of this that spoke to me, comparing it to the scientific principle of combustion. If you have a spark (faith) but no fuel (works), you can’t start a fire. If you have fuel but no spark, again you can’t start a fire. Both are necessary for this to happen. I know someone will ask but isn’t oxygen necessary too? Perhaps we liken that to God’s grace, as Paul mentions. God’s grace, faith and good works are all necessary for us to be saved.

Two other examples that we may ask about are the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), whose actions speak for themselves. Did he have faith? Jesus doesn’t say, but holds him up as a model for us. The other is the thief crucified next to Jesus (Luke 23), who asks Jesus to remember him when He comes into His kingdom. He appeals to Jesus in faith, but he has no chance to do good works. In these examples we can only look to God’s grace as the defining factor. We must accept this grace, continue in faith and do the good work for which we were created in order to be in a full relationship with God, and receive the blessing of eternal life with Him.

Heavenly Father, we know that You made us in Your image, and that You have a plan for every one of us. Help us to live in Your love and go to the world to share the gift of salvation. Amen.

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