God has saved us, but it is “not by works done by us in righteousness.”
This is the heart of the gospel. You are not saved by the works that you have done in righteousness. This is because our works can never be perfectly righteous. There is always the infection of sin in everything we do. Isaiah says, “…all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6).
The human situation is extremely serious. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We have a debt of sin. Then, if we try and be religious and work hard to repay God for the debt of our sin, we increase our debt because even the “works done by us in righteousness” are not actually righteous.
Salvation cannot come from our works. Nor can it come from within, because we cannot change our hearts and minds (we will see how our hearts and minds can be changed later in this verse).
This is humbling. We do not like to be helpless. To be saved we need to throw ourselves into the strong arms of the Saviour. He alone can rescue, He alone can save.
For the Christian, this truth is a challenge. Although we know that we cannot save ourselves, we can often slip into the mindset of trying to earn God’s favour and love. If we sin, even though we confess our sins, we don’t feel forgiven. So we think to ourselves, “I need to work harder.” No, we need to trust the promise of His forgiveness in the gospel. We obey, not to receive forgiveness, but because we are forgiven.
But this is also a great comfort. When we sin, the enemy of souls whispers to us, “Call yourself a Christian! How can God love you now?” Your answer is this: “not because of works done by us in righteousness.”
Instead it is “according to His own mercy.” Your salvation is because of Him. 100%. To Him be the glory.
- Let’s give thanks to Him, for this humbling reminder that it is Him and not us.
- Let’s preach the gospel to ourselves – “not because of works done by us in righteousness.” This is the answer to the devil’s condemnation. Let’s take God at His word, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).