We begin a new series on following Jesus, and we begin with a Scripture that doesn’t seem to fit with that topic, but when we think about it, it’s a beginning place. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (NASB)
Salvation is the beginning of our journey in following Jesus. Following Jesus doesn’t depend on what we can do to gain salvation from our sins, because there is nothing we can do to work for our salvation. Our verse today tells us that it is a gift from God when we believe in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, through faith, and because of the grace God has extended to us because He loves us so much.
Many people don’t understand this. They think that if they could only do enough good things to outweigh the bad, that God will accept them into His family, and they can gain entrance into Heaven. Some believe that they can “buy” their way into Heaven. They think if they could only give enough money to the church, it will count in their favor, but no amount of money will get them into Heaven. That isn’t God’s requirement for being part of His family. He requires faith in Jesus and a clean heart.
The Apostle Paul explains this in Ephesians 2:4-5, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (NIV) Only through the grace of God can we be saved from our sins. Because we are imperfect and sinners, we can’t save ourselves.
The church leaders of Jesus’ day never got this. They added so many laws to the original Ten Commandments, that it was virtually impossible for anyone to follow all of them. Following the Ten Commandments perfectly was impossible, let alone adding more to it. The law (Ten Commandments) was brought forth by God as a measuring stick for the children of God to see how far from being perfect they were. God knew they would never be able to obey every single one of the Commandments perfectly. Jesus pointed this out to them in Matthew 23:27, “ Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.” They expected the people to follow the law, but they didn’t even follow it in their hearts. On the outside, they made the appearance of following the law, but they were far from it on the inside.
That’s why Jesus had to come to earth and die for our sins. He was our perfect sacrifice! He paid the penalty for our sins. When we accept Him into our hearts and lives by faith in what He did for us and believe in our hearts that He is the Son of God, we are saved. That starts us on a journey in following Jesus. He places us on a pathway that has been designed for us. Each Believer has their own journey, and no journey is the same as someone else’s.
So, as we begin this study. Now is a good time to do an evaluation of ourselves. Are we saved? Have we accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord? Have we accepted God’s free gift of salvation? If not, now is the perfect time! The Bible says, “For he says: At an acceptable time I listened to you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. See, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation!” (2 Corinthians 6:2 CSB)