from John ZuHone
The human plight and its solution could not be clearer in today’s Psalm and New Testament readings:
“For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.” – Psalm 5:4-6
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the bodyand the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” – Ephesians 2:1-3
“But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
in the fear of you.” – Psalm 5:7
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”—Ephesians 2:4-9
In spite of who we are, but by the abundance of God’s steadfast love and mercy, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have been saved. It is sometimes alleged that the idea of being saved by grace through faith can lead to moral complacency (St. Paul answered this charge in Romans 6). However, if our works earned us God’s favor, then it seems that our performance of them would be singularly focused on making sure they were “good enough” to avoid his wrath.
Instead, since salvation is the gift of God, this frees our works to be for his glory and for the needs of our neighbor. These are the “good works which God prepared beforehand,” the works that God is using to build for the future kingdom. As John Calvin once noted, “It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone.”