Salvation by grace through faith is what makes Christianity different from man-made religions. I rejoice in the truths of grace as well as the truths about faith. I never knew grace in the religious background I came from until I first heard it expounded and made clear to me in 1978 during what was called “The Word and Faith” movement. It was the truths of grace that took the strain and struggle out of what I thought was faith. Before I heard the message of grace, the message of faith was a formula of steps to follow which became full of pressure and a struggle to keep. I have since realized grace and faith are both needed to understand both. You will become lopsided or out of balance if you only focus on one or the other. In my view the truths of grace and faith need to be presented together to minimize misunderstandings, but starting with grace.
Grace always comes before faith because faith is always a response to grace or the finished work of God in Christ to redeem us. Grace always comes from God and always comes first. Grace is an initiator and an originator. God initiated a move toward man, that’s grace. All of our redemption, which was Jesus paying the price to release us from sin, sickness, satan, and the curse, was by grace (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 3:24). God did not ask for or need our help. Grace is all of God and none of us and we must understand grace before our faith will work.
Think for a moment:
Before we received Jesus as Lord, God sent Jesus to die for us Romans 5:8.
Before we ask to be healed, God sent Jesus to take our infirmities and bear our sicknesses Matthew 8:17.
Before we ask for deliverance from some bondage, God sent Jesus to deliver us Colossians 1:11.
Before we ask for financial help, He sent Jesus to be made poverty for us 2 Corinthians 8:9.
Before we face problems, He made Jesus to be wisdom, the answer for us 1Corinthians 1:30.
Before God tells us to be holy and live right, He recreated our spirit in righteousness and true holiness Ephesians 4:24.
We do not originate or create anything with our faith; we respond to a finished work and receive already provided provisions. If you don’t know what God did first by grace, your faith can become a heavy burden and even a fleshly effort trying to get God to do what He already did. If all you hear is the message of faith which was my experience, and not what God already provided by grace, you’ll try to create with your faith instead of responding to what God already created.
I like to use the example of a bakery (called redemption), bread (a grace provision), and a man driving a car (a faith car) to illustrate how we can strain and struggle unnecessarily with our faith.
The Bread can stand for any provision (of grace) man needs,
The Car, with the man in it, is the faith that the man uses (like a tool).
The Bakery is where the bread is created and originated.
When the man needs bread, he doesn’t strain and struggle in his faith car to create bread and make it suddenly appear; the bread isn’t created in or by the car. The bread is created already in the Redemption bakery and the man in his car has to simply learn how to use the car to drive up to the bakery and receive the provision of bread created there. His faith car simply receives the created grace provision. He doesn’t with his faith originate or create the bread, he only responds and receives the bread already made by the Bakery. The Baker Himself originated and initiated the baking of the bread. The Baker and bakery didn’t need the man’s help to create the bread, only receive what was created. To think we have to create the bread in the car by following certain steps puts all the pressure on you or on our faith.
God doesn’t need our faith to help Him create what we need. Our faith neither initiates nor creates what we need. Our faith responds to and receives what God already initiated and originated by His grace; He then gets all the glory.