8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Yes. It’s true. We are not saved by our works, but it is only by the grace of God that we are saved. So what is grace and how does it work into God’s plan of salvation? I’m glad you asked.
Grace: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
Sanctification: the act of setting apart to a sacred purpose or to religious use
Grace is unmerited (We didn’t “do” anything to earn it.) It is a gift from God. The apostle Paul teaches us in Ephesians 2:8 that the only way we can receive the gift of eternal life is through faith alone. Any idea that you can be saved by your own works is contrary to God’s word. It is easy to get caught up in the “works” of Christian life, but never believe for one second that it is your works that will get you to heaven.
If anyone could be saved by his/her own good works, then the death of Jesus Christ would be unnecessary. But we know the reason He died was because there was no other way by which guilty sinners could be saved.
If anyone could be saved by his/her own good works, would be his own savior and could worship himself. This would be considered idolatry, and God forbids it (Ex. 20:3)
Hypothetically speaking: If you could be saved through faith in Christ plus your own good works, you would have the impossible situation of two saviors—Jesus and the sinner. Christ would have to share his glory of saviorhood with another, and this He will not do (Isa. 42:8).
Finally, if anyone could contribute to his/her salvation by works, then God would owe it to him. This, too, is impossible because God cannot be indebted to anyone (Rom. 11:35).
Going to church every Sunday does not save you. Being baptized does not save you. Living by the Ten Commandments does not save you. Living a moral and respectable life does not save you. Giving to charity does not save you.
You may be wondering at this point: “Why should I do these things, if they don’t save me?” Good question! Good works are the product of salvation. You are not saved by good works, but because you are saved good works follow.
Grace gives us what we don’t deserve and Mercy keeps us from what we do deserve.