I have married a very simple guy. On our date nights, we usually stop by the local frozen yogurt shop where I love to try all the new flavors. Yes, I also have my “usual”, but I get excited at the new options. As we check out I look at the bowl next to mine on the counter and see that Adam has again, chosen chocolate and vanilla. Every time. Just chocolate and vanilla.
I started thinking about life through a chocolate and vanilla lens. It’s a perfect, pure foundation – one that all great flavors are created from.
I see God’s pure doctrine like that chocolate and vanilla ice cream. So many times I can get excited about all the good works I can add to Jesus dying for my sins and think somehow I’m earning favor by doing them. A little cherry flavoring would go great with the vanilla. To the chocolate, how about we add some Oreo cookie crumbles. Then I might have a craving for chocolate syrup, my kids might want caramel or strawberry, ooh no – chocolate mint, the list goes on and on! Pretty soon we’ve deviated so far away from the source – chocolate or vanilla – we don’t know which one we started with. We can so easily slip into doing this to the pure and simple Gospel – that Christ died according to the scriptures, was buried, and was raised and appeared to his disciples and 500 others before He was taken to Heaven and seated at the right hand of God. This happened for me and you. Period! No extra flavoring.
“For it is by Grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
This is one of my favorite, foundational verses and I want to break this verse down – almost like parsing, but more fun! I promise we won’t diagram or label anything! And at the end, it will not be grammatically correct, but I hope it will give you a new light to a sometimes “well known” verse.
Let’s define a few words first. I heard a wise man define Grace this way: God’s un-ending favor for our un-ending need. If we apply that to our verse above we get: It is by God’s unending favor for my unending need…
Next word, Saved. What does that mean? Literally rescued as though we were falling into the flames of death. Lets plug that in. It is by God’s un-ending favor for our un-ending need that we have been rescued from death. (side note here – do you notice the word favor looks/sounds a lot like the word flavor?! Going with the theme of chocolate and vanilla, the verse could go like this: It is by God’s unending flavor for our un-ending flavor needs that we have been rescued from death. I love that!)
“Through faith.” What is faith? Heb 11:1 Defines faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” In this since, we are certain of our secure salvation, even though we don’t see it. So let’s plug that in. It is by God’s un-ending favor for our un-ending need that we have been rescued from death, through being sure of what we hope for (eternal life) and certain of what we do not see.
“It is the gift of God…so no one can boast” What is a gift and what is boasting? This will be the last part. We all know what a gift is. It’s something given to you rather than earning the money to buy it yourself. I have no gift to offer my Father, except what He has already given to me. If I could offer Him something, it would be of my own making – by works, and then I could boast (brag!) to my friend about what a great Christian I am because I did _____! Christ came to remove the boasting.
So, applying all that we’ve re-worded one last time would go something like this:
It is by God’s un-ending favor (flavor) for our un-ending (flavor) need(s) that we have been rescued from death, through being sure of what we hope for and certain for what we do not see, which is not from anything I can do well or earn, but accepting God’s gift and relinquishing my right to lord it over people.
Maybe Chocolate and Vanilla flavors aren’t so bland after all! We’ll talk next time about Ephesians 2:10 and what flavoring we can add, now that we have a solid foundation of chocolate and vanilla.
Putting it In Our Own Words,