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SAVED FREELY AS A GIFT OF GRACE RECEIVED BY FAITH
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Monday, 29th Week of the Year, October 20, 2014
Eph. 2:1-10, Ps. 99, Luke 12:13-21


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9 NKJV).


Here we have one of the fundamental teachings of New Testament soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). Here St. Paul says that we are saved from our sins by grace as a free gift of God, not because of our works. And this salvation has been received by faith, our faculty for receiving. Therefore we have no grounds for boasting about our salvation from our sins, since it is a free gift given to us by God, not something we worked for and earned for ourselves by our own achievement in doing good works. So we have nothing to boast about in this matter. "It is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9 NKJV). It is not our own doing, "for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves" (Eph. 2:8-9 NKJV). Then, of course, we are to grow further in our justification and sanctification though our good works. But the basic act of salvation from our sins and justification is a free gift of God, without our works.


Salvation from our sins and justification, through which we are made righteous, in the first instance, is not something that we ourselves do by imitating the example of what Christ did in his Paschal Mystery in submitting himself to his Father in obedience. Rather, it is what Christ did for us in his Paschal Mystery by taking our part or place in suffering for us on the cross what we should have suffered for our sins. Our part, in the first instance, is not imitation of what Christ did in his Paschal Mystery, but rather reception of what he did for us. And we make this act of reception by making an act of faith in what he did for us on the cross. Hence we are not saved by our work of imitation of the Paschal Mystery, but rather by our faith in the Paschal Mystery. The work of imitation comes afterward as our means of growing still further in our justification and sanctification.


We do not merit, earn, or achieve our justification and the salvation from our sins by our own works. We simply receive the results of Christ's work on the cross through faith; and faith is the opposite of personal achievement. Faith is rather radical self-insufficiency, stretching out our hand to receive a free gift. There is nothing in this that we can boast about.


But if our salvation from our sins is only a free gift to us without any work of our own, how is it that our faith actually justifies and saves us? How can faith alone justify us without any work on our part? Our faith does justify us without any work of ours, because the work involved here is that of Christ, suffering our punishment for our sins for us on the cross, suffering for us what we ourselves should have suffered for them. Therefore our salvation from our sins is what Christ did for us on the cross, not what we do by imitating his example of submission to his Father on the cross. Therefore St. Paul says that we are "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24 NKJV). On our part justification is free, gratuitous, by grace, because the work involved in it is that of Christ on the cross; that is, it is "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24 NKJV).


Therefore boasting is excluded. Our justification and salvation from our sins is not our achievement or work that we might be tempted to boast about, but rather the achievement and work of Christ on the cross. "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith" (Rom. 3:27 NKJV).

 

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