An Offer That Can’t Be Refused
a study in Ephesians 2:8-9
by Bob Burridge ©2011
People generally like to be commended for the good things they do. We live in a rewards based culture where praises and prizes are lavished upon the best movies, the best songs, the best dressed, the most likely to succeed, the fastest, the most popular, and the first to set some record.
When “good” is measured by popularity or majority preferences it’s easy for those to be good who we see meeting those standards. A good singer is one who gets the most votes on “American Idol”, sells the most music tracks, or charges the most for seats at concerts.
Good can easily become very subjective and divorced from any absolute standard to which we are all to conform. Moral good becomes giving to the poor, helping the handicapped, contributing to hospitals, or being kind to our neighbors. While these certainly can be good things, they can also be manipulative and self-serving if done with the wrong motives.
It’s generally agreed that we should do good things in life. It’s not as easy to define what things are really “good” by these mere appearance based standards. Even those who do what they admit is “bad” do it for some result they think is “good” by whatever standard they use for measuring things morally. A thief might think it’s good when he gets away with a robbery because he gets money.
People often believe that what they are doing is truly good. They even believe that the good they do is a great personal accomplishment. Individuals want to take credit for the things they do which they think are good. The problem is that in our fallen estate, the effects of our inherited sin nature distort our ability to see things as they really are. This disables us from understanding spiritual truths and from doing good as God sees it.
Even religion is distorted to where mere belief in some kind of God is thought to be a good thing. Religion is promoted where God has to wait for us to allow him to do good in our lives, and where we get the credit for doing it. The Bible is very clear that in our fallen condition, we can’t do any good thing. Our motives are stained with sin, and are not focused on giving God the glory he deserves.
Romans 3:10-12, “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”
The greatest good is for us to fulfill the purpose for which we were created. We are here to honor our Creator, to promote his glory and to enjoy his blessings responsibly and thankfully.
The greatest good thing we can do is to be reconciled with our Creator by the grace that sent Jesus as the Messiah. Even that is a work of God, not of our own fallen nature.
Ephesians 2:8-9 are classic verses that explain God’s grace as the cause of our salvation.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: It is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
All people are challenged by the gospel to repent of sin, believe in Christ as Savior, and to do good. However, they can’t respond in these truly good ways because of their total inability to do what is really good in God’s sight.
The outward call of the gospel sometimes comes to those not enabled to believe. They will refuse God’s salvation because they aren’t able to understand it properly or to trust in it sincerely.
There is also God’s inward call described in the Bible. This is the call of the Holy Spirit which applies the work of Christ and regenerates the soul. This can’t be resisted because it inclines the heart to irresistibly come to Christ. It makes the redeemed grieve for their sins and repent. It makes them trust in the work of Jesus Christ alone as the way of forgiveness and salvation. and it makes them begin the process of sanctification, of growing in obedience to God. It is this offer, where the soul is transformed, that is an offer that can’t be refused.
Ephesians 2:8-9 makes this very clear. Being saved from our lost condition is by God’s grace through faith.
Grace is the undeserved favor of God to redeem the unworthy. That is the cause of salvation. It is that “by which” we are saved from our lost condition of separation from fellowship with the God who made us. The foundation of that grace toward the lost is the work of Jesus Christ who satisfied justice in the place of those he loved from all eternity. Earlier in this same Epistle (Ephesians 1:3-7) this foundation was laid out very clearly.
Faith is the means God uses by which grace works in the heart. He puts that certain knowledge, that trust, in our hearts which causes us to rely upon the gospel promise as our only hope. This work in us is done “by grace” but “through faith.” In our lost condition we are not able to trust what is true, or even to know what really is true. A true faith in God’s promises is impossible until the work of grace has already changed the lost heart to give it life.
Faith and the good works that flow from conversion to Christ are never initiated by us independently from God. They are God’s gifts. Until God gives that gift, there will be no true repentance, faith, or obedience.
When we come to Christ there is nothing to brag about. It is not our work, it is God’s work entirely. Even our faith is God’s gift. To put faith first and grace second turns this verse around. Faith is never the action of a fallen heart that then causes or allows God to work by grace. If grace is earned or deserved by us, it is not grace.
This is a very good message. Our salvation does not depend upon our doing enough, or of our doing something in the exact right way. There is no test or minimal standard for God’s work in saving us. It is by his love, not by our permission and human wisdom, that we are transformed into children of God.
What’s more, if we never deserved it to begin with, we can do nothing to lose it once we really have it. God’s forgiveness and perseverance with his children is our eternal hope and encouragement through all our stumbles and failures. We imperfect creatures, redeemed by grace through faith, are secure in the hands of our Sovereign God.
(Note: The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Bible unless otherwise noted.)