How Can You Be Saved?

By Mark D. Roberts

May 30, 2018

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10


When I was in school, I was encouraged to avoid the passive voice in my writing. Why? Because most uses of the passive voice tended to be unclear. Consider the first sentence of this paragraph, for example. I used a passive construction, “I was encouraged.” But I did not specify who did the encouraging. It could have been my teachers or my parents or the editor of the school paper. My use of a passive construction left things vague. It would have been clearer if I had identified the agent of the action “When I was in school, I was encouraged by Mr. Bottaro to avoid the passive voice in my writing.” (Mr. Bottaro was my high school English teacher, whose teaching changed my writing and my life.)

A person with arms outstretched, standing on shore at sunset.As we saw yesterday, Paul uses the passive voice in Ephesians 2:8 when talking about salvation: “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith.” But, you’ll notice, he does not leave us guessing about what saves us. He does not say only, “For you have been saved.” Rather, he adds, “For it is by grace you have been saved.” The context reveals that the grace of which Paul speaks comes from God (see 2:7, “the incomparable riches of his grace,” and 2:9, “it is the gift of God”).

You have been saved, not by your own efforts, not by good luck, not by getting in touch with the divine within you, but by God’s grace. Or, to put it in the active voice, God’s grace has saved you. The answer to the question, “How can I be saved?” is simple: by grace.

What is grace? The Greek word translated here as “grace” is charis. In secular Greek, it meant “kindness” or “favor” or “thankfulness.” In the New Testament, especially in the writings of the Apostle Paul, charis identifies God’s unmerited favor or undeserved kindness. Grace, by definition, cannot be earned. It is given freely by God on the basis of God’s nature and decision.

If Paul had written, “For it is by God you have been saved,” this might still have allowed us to believe that we are somehow able or required to earn our salvation. God might save us only on the basis of our good intentions or meritorious deeds. Salvation could be like God giving us an ‘A’ for living moral lives. But Ephesians 2:8 overrules this understanding of salvation. Yes, you are saved by God… by God’s grace, by God’s unmerited favor. You are saved by God precisely when you do not deserve it and have not earned it.

People receive this truth differently. Tomorrow, we’ll consider how we might respond to salvation by grace alone. For now, let me encourage you to reflect on this truth by using the following questions and prayer.

Something to Think About:

When you hear the word “grace,” what comes to mind?

When have you experienced grace in human relationships?

How did it feel?

Something to Do:

Find a time today when you can be quite for a few minutes. In that time, reflect on the fact that you have been saved by grace. Let the truth of God’s grace for you sink in to your heart. What thoughts and feelings come to mind when you do this?


Gracious God, how I thank you for your grace. You have done what I could never do, saving me from sin into righteousness, from bondage into freedom, from death into life. And you have done this not on the basis of my worthiness but because of your amazing grace. What a gift! What a wonder! What good news! Thank you! Amen.


Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
Don’t Worry, Be Thankful: Eucharisteo with Ann Voskamp

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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