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How Does God Save Us?

September 24, 2018 cross in forest

The High Sierras of the Bible … that’s what Dr. McGee called the book of Ephesians. With so many wonderful, practical topics to study in Paul’s “letter from prison,” it’s hard to choose where to focus this month. But when it comes down to the most important topic, Ephesians has the definitive description of our wonderful salvation in Christ Jesus.

Dr. McGee shares here about a conversation he had that answers the great question, just how does God save us?

From Dr. McGee:

A young fellow who had been attending a conference with me came up to talk. He had on a funny hat that had “love, love, love” written all over it.

I asked, “Why do you have ‘love’ written all over your hat?”

“Man, God is love,” he said.

“Well,” I said, “I agree with you. Nothing could be truer than that.”

Then he added, “God saves us by His love.”

“I don’t agree with that,” I said. “God doesn’t save us by His love. Can you give me a verse that say He does?”

He scratched his head and thought a while and then admitted he couldn’t think of one. “Well,” he said, “if God doesn’t save us by love, then how does He save us?”

“Very frankly, I’m glad you asked me that question because the Bible says, ‘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’ (Ephesians 2:8, 9). God saves us by His grace.”

Then the boy wanted to know the difference. This is how I explained it to him:

God does love you. Don’t lose sight of that. God loves all of us. But God cannot, on the basis of His love, open the back door of heaven and let us slip in under the cover of darkness. He can’t let down the bars of heaven at the front door and bring us in because of His love.

God is also light. God is the moral ruler of this universe. God is righteous. He is holy and He is good.

That adds up to one thing: God cannot do things that are wrong—that is, wrong according to His own standard.

So God couldn’t save us by love. Love had God strapped—we could say it put Him in a bind. He could love without being able to save. I thought you would quote John 3:16 to me. Let’s look at what that verse says:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Does it say God so loved the world that He saved the world? No, that’s not what it says.

God so loved this world that He gave His only begotten Son. You see, God couldn’t save the world by love, because He goes on to say “that whoever…” You and I are going to perish. We’re lost sinners and God still loves us, but the love of God can’t bring us into heaven. God had to provide a salvation, and He paid the penalty for our sins. Now a God of love can reach out His hands to a lost world and say, “If you will believe in My Son, because He died for you—if you will come on that basis—I can save you.”

God doesn’t save us by His love. God saves us by His grace, motivated by His love.

​Get more resources from Dr. McGee on how you can have a relationship with God​.

If you are a child of God you may wander from Him, but He will always make a way back for you because it is by His grace and that alone that you are saved. You have a finished salvation. On the basis of what Christ has done for you and on the fact that the Holy Spirit has inclined you toward Christ and you have believed the Word of God and have trusted Him, you can say, “I am saved.” Your salvation is by the grace of God, by means of faith, and it is not of yourself. It is a gift of God.  –Dr. J. Vernon McGee

What’s so great about God’s mercy? Dr. McGee told this story:

A poor woman from the London slums was invited to go with a group of people for a holiday at the ocean. She had never seen the ocean before, and when she saw it she burst into tears. “What’s wrong?” they asked. Pointing to the ocean, she answered: “This is the only thing I have ever seen that there was enough of.” My friend, God has oceans of mercy. There is enough of it. He saves us by His grace.

More from Dr. McGee on Ephesians:

E-booklet: Download “How to Stand Against Satan” (Ephesians 6)

Sunday Sermons: Listen to these messages in the audio archives:

My Turn

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  

--Ephesians 2:4-10

These great verses summarize your past, present, and future:

Past: How does verse 5 describe what your life was like before you knew Jesus Christ as your Savior?

Present: According to verse 6, because of Jesus, where now do you sit? Why?

Future: What does Jesus want to show us in the ages to come (v. 7)?

What does this passage say should characterize your life today?

Our goal of our Christian walk is to stay in the will of God, like a train runs on the track. Our walk in this world demonstrates that we belong to Jesus Christ. –Dr. McGee