The first Great Awakening, a series of Christian revivals began in England during the 1730’s. This spiritual movement quickly spread to Britain’s thirteen colonies lasting until the 1740’s. During these two decades, Jonathan Edwards played an integral role as a preacher, theologian and writer in America. One of Edwards’ lasting legacies is a quote from an old sermon, “you contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.”
For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; Ephesians 2:8.
As individuals struggled with the notion that you can earn your salvation through good works, Jonathon Edwards uses the teaching of the apostle Paul to stop this train of thought. Perhaps, members of the church of Ephesus shared a similar belief. The passage above is part of a letter Paul wrote to expose this flawed mindset. Salvation is a gift from God, only accessible by grace through faith in Christ. This verse inspired Jonathan Edwards’ comment that mankind’s only contribution to salvation are transgressions from the past and present.
Not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation]. 10 For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us], Ephesians 2:9-10.
To fully understand the apostles’ teaching, you have to look to verse 10. Human beings are merely a piece to the puzzle, a work in progress. As the Holy Spirit works behind the scenes to sanctify newly converted Christians, this process takes a lifetime to complete. Meanwhile, God the Father serves as a potter, molding and fashioning followers of Jesus like clay. Trials and tribulations serve as a furnace to remove our imperfections. Instead of trying to earn your salvation, Paul urges readers to become a willing participant, eager to fulfill the good works God has prepared for you in advance to accomplish in life. This is an important message from the past to remember.
by Jay Mankus