It is the Gift of God

“He (Jesus) entered Jericho and was passing through.  And there was a man named Zacchaeus.  He was the chief tax collector and was rich.  And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature.  So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, ger he was about to pass that way.  And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zaccaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”  So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.  And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”  And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor.  And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”  And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Luke 19:1-10

At our church we have been working through the book of Ephesians.  This week, our pastor pretty much spent the message expounding on Ephesians 2:5:  “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.”

The idea here is that God makes us alive (grants us salvation), while we are still dead (there’s nothing we do to earn or deserve it.)  This is what is meant by the phrase, “by grace you have been saved.” Verse 8 says: “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.”

Romans 5:8 says: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

If our salvation was somehow a result of something we do, of us moving towards God in some way, than it wouldn’t be by God’s grace alone.  We would actually play a part in our salvation and could take part of the credit for it.  These passages make it abundantly clear that we have nothing whatsoever to do with it. 

Let’s bring this back to the story of Zacchaeus.  Zacchaeus basically makes some promises to Jesus face here.  He says he will give half of his possessions to the poor, he says that if he cheated anyone he will repay them back 4 times.  Jesus then says, “Today salvation has come to this house…”  We need to see the point here that Zacchaeus was not saved because of some righteous things he did.  He hasn’t done anything yet.  God saved him and as a result of that salvation, his response was to do those things. 

I think that’s a pretty important distinction that can be glossed over if we’re just reading a (probably) familiar story like this one without paying much attention.

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