It is not of yourself

by Mike Ratliff

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB 2020) 

I have learned to never be surprised when I teach a group of believers about our Justification that no matter how mature most of them are, there is still various misunderstandings about it. I used to be surprised, but have come to understand that the famine of solid discipleship has been neglected in our churches for a very long time. Even in those churches that are very solid when it comes to preaching the gospel the emphasis has been heavy on evangelism and light on discipleship. I have heard way too many younger preachers say to their congregations that focus on “doctrine” can cause division so they will just preach the Word. Well, how do you do that?

Doctrine, if it is Biblical, does not cause division within the Body of Christ. It is the opposite. It causes unity. On the other hand, it will cause division between those who love the truth from those who are offended by the truth. Yes, this requires more work on the part of pastors, elders, and teachers, but isn’t it worth it? From this what do we learn? We learn about the Sovereignty of God. We learn that all are sinners who can do nothing to earn their salvation. Salvation is entirely a work of God, not of those being saved. Even the faith through which we are saved through grace is a gift of God. Yes, that is what we learn we study God’s Word and also learn the doctrine that teaches us these things. Those who decry the existence of doctrine are exposing themselves as defying what Ephesians 2:8,9 actually says about us and God and our salvation.

In any case, when we humble ourselves under these truths it changes how we worship and walk before our God. Spurgeon understood this. Here is his devotional from Morning by Morning for July 14.

C. H. Spurgeon

“If thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.”—Exodus 20:25.

OD’S altar was to be built of unhewn stones, that no trace of human skill or labour might be seen upon it. Human wisdom delights to trim and arrange the doctrines of the cross into a system more artificial and more congenial with the depraved tastes of fallen nature; instead, however, of improving the gospel carnal wisdom pollutes it, until it becomes another gospel, and not the truth of God at all. All alterations and amendments of the Lord’s own Word are defilements and pollutions. The proud heart of man is very anxious to have a hand in the justification of the soul before God; preparations for Christ are dreamed of, humblings and repentings are trusted in, good works are cried up, natural ability is much vaunted, and by all means the attempt is made to lift up human tools upon the divine altar. It were well if sinners would remember that so far from perfecting the Saviour’s work, their carnal confidences only pollute and dishonour it. The Lord alone must be exalted in the work of atonement, and not a single mark of man’s chisel or hammer will be endured. There is an inherent blasphemy in seeking to add to what Christ Jesus in His dying moments declared to be finished, or to improve that in which the Lord Jehovah finds perfect satisfaction. Trembling sinner, away with thy tools, and fall upon thy knees in humble supplication; and accept the Lord Jesus to be the altar of thine atonement, and rest in Him alone.
Many professors may take warning from this morning’s text as to the doctrines which they believe. There is among Christians far too much inclination to square and reconcile the truths of revelation; this is a form of irreverence and unbelief, let us strive against it, and receive truth as we find it; rejoicing that the doctrines of the Word are unhewn stones, and so are all the more fit to build an altar for the Lord.

My brethren, such wisdom comes from humbling ourselves under what God’s Word clearly teaches us rather than what we want it to say. Our salvation is the work of God from beginning to end. He saves His people and keeps them for eternity. Any other teaching is unbiblical.

Soli Deo Gloria!