Lately, I have been doing a lot of thinking about Gospel… what it is, what it means to us, how it is hope… My brain is still trying to formulate all of these images and impressions about Jesus into coherent words. A somewhat-very much-kind of daunting task to say the least.

The other day I decided to brush up on what the Bible clam’s as Gospel (now there’s a novel idea), so I decided to start in a very familiar place: Ephesians 2:8-9 “Grace through faith…” This has been spoken about a ton in the area I live, mainly due to the culture and dominate religion holding to a works based salvation. But More than preconceived notions, I want to understand what this means. So I tried to think of something profound, some way that this verse encapsulates the good news of Jesus… but all the teaching and ideas and sermons surrounding this verse in my head made such a din that I got lost.

So I picked up some light reading, “Theology for the Community of God”- Grenz. It is a text from my brief tenure at seminary… I get about 9 pages into the introduction (speaking about what theology is, what its purpose is, and how it relates to other concepts and discipline… basically good ol’ Stan G. is validating the writing of this 700 page monstrosity). So my head is all sorts of spinning, but then something slaps me back into focus: Theology is vital only insofar as it can deal with faith.

Theology seeks to reflect on and articulate our faith, that the people of God might understand the nature and content of our faith as we seek to apply this understanding to our lives that are saved by grace through this faith.

Something clicked, and I found my self staring not at grace, but at the means to lay hold of this grace, namely faith. Let me here share my definition of faith- Faith: active trust. It is not enough to simply “believe”… there must be action other wise it is just words. (1 John contains several “couplets” about this: 1:6-7, Say vs. walk/claim vs. active proof; 1:8-9, say vs. confess; 2:4-6 say vs. obey) So I have been “saved” by grace through faith (active trust in that grace), and the whole shebang is the gift of God, not by works so that none of us can claim bragging rights. My struggle to articulate Gospel, orthodoxy, orthopraxy, salvation, truthful thinking… my attempt to articulate faith (theology) is solely based on the fact that I have faith in… what? What am I actively trusting for? What am I hoping for?

Ephesians 2:4-9 I go back and look at the passage as a whole, and find Paul defining “saved by grace” and “through faith”. Ok, so bare with me here as I try and write out how I see this passage taking shape:

{a}Out of His (God) great love (which was the same toward us even while we were dead through our trespasses) {b}made us alive together with Christ (this is the meaning of “by grace you have been saved”) {c}and raised us up with Him (God) and seated us with Him (God) in the Heavenly places in Jesus Christ- so that [ for this reason] in the ages to come He (God) might show the immeasurable rights of His (God) Grace (which has saved us) in/through kindness towards us, in Jesus Christ.

{c} is “through faith”, for we hope because we have not seen this, yet. Our active trust (faith) in the unseen reality and promised fulfillment of His (God) words is the means we appropriate or choose/accept this grace which saves, not of our works, so we cannot boast.

In simple terms: Gospel is {b} by Grace {c} through faith and {a} based in God’s love. This hit me rather profoundly… Gospel is simple: we believe what God has promised us and secured for us by the life, death, and resurrection of God incarnate, namely Jesus the Christ. Our salvation is based on hope (the hope of salvation) and hope cannot be something that you earn for your self. It is something of distance from you, a goal, an end… like Christmas. Kids make those paper chains counting down to the big toy fest because it is not here yet, and they do not yet have that day. By the same token, hope alters how we live, for how can I be truly hopeful for marriage if prostitutes keep me satiated? Being saved by grace through faith is moving into the reality of a life of hope in all that God has done and all He will give to we who are co-heirs with Jesus.

This leads me to the topic of salvation, and the question are we saved yet, or do we only hope for it… But that is for another post.