(Article for publication week of 3-6- AD 2013)
There is only one way that the grace of God comes to a sinner, and that is through the channel of faith. The grace of God only flows through one channel, and that is the channel of faith. My friend, there is only one way for you to receive the grace of God, and that is by believing in the Son of God.
You cannot receive the grace of God by working for it. Our text makes that plain, does it not? It plainly says, "not of works." Grace and works are two different things completely. As it says in Romans 11:6, "if by grace, then is it no more of works", and vice versa. To receive something by works is to receive what is rightfully yours because you have earned it, whereas, to receive something by grace is to receive it as a free gift, unearned. So it is with faith in Christ. To receive the grace of God in Christ by faith is to disavow your own worthiness and goodness, and to simply receive a free gift. Faith is an empty hand that receives the free gift of salvation. I repeat, faith is the one and only channel through which the grace of God flows to sinners.
Note well, the distinction in our text between the prepositions "by" and "through". A believer is saved "by" grace", but it is through" faith. Thus we see that faith is not the procuring cause of salvation, but rather grace is the procuring cause. Thus we see that a sinner is saved by grace. But then it is through faith. You see the same idea in Romans 3:25 where we read that God has set forth Christ "to be a propitiation, through faith in His blood." You see a believer's faith will not appease the wrath of God (propitiation), only the death of Christ can. But we receive the benefit of propitiation through faith. Again, faith is the channel through which the grace of God in Christ Jesus flows to the child of God.
We see this principle also in Philippians 1:19 where Paul says, "this shall turn to my salvation, through your prayers." The prayers of the saints are used by God in accomplishing His will. That is, prayer is a channel, or conduit, or instrument through which God accomplishes His will, but it is He Himself Who does the work. It is the same idea in our text here in Ephesians 2:8-9 where salvation is said to be by grace, through faith. Faith itself does not save. It is God's grace treasured up in His Son that actually saves. But God has fixed it so that this saving grace flows to you through faith alone.
Now, note well, that faith is the exclusive channel through which saving grace in Christ flows, but it is a channel opened by God Himself. Our text says that saving faith is a gift of God. No one can, or will believe in Christ for salvation unless and until God Himself grants the gift of faith. Thus we see that salvation is indeed all of the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Everything necessary for an elect sinner's justification is furnished by God Himself. God supplies everything, the sinner supplies nothing. Indeed, you have nothing whatsoever you can offer the Lord to help Him save you. If you think your faith is somehow you doing your part to help save yourself, then you do not understand justification at all. True saving faith in Christ Alone for salvation claims no merit or power of its own. It simply looks to Christ for a sinner's whole and sole righteousness. Faith, again, is simply an empty hand that receives the gift of God's free and sovereign grace. May the Lord grant you the gift of faith to receive His grace for your salvation today.