Q: What’s the difference between grace and faith?

If you’re a lost person, and desperate, this is an all-important question. A man or woman trapped in a burning building wants to know how to get out!

The Bible describes both faith and grace as being all-important parts of the salvation process. Perhaps the key verse – one of many – is Ephesians 2:8, 9: 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.

God’s Word describes faith as a trust relationship. (See related question.) The great Bible heroes had faith in God because they trusted him. They knew him. They counted on him to keep his word and to be honest and good and caring and omnipotent on their behalf. Job had so much faith – or trust – in God that he was able to say: Though he slay me, yet will I hope [or trust] in him (Job 13:15).

What, then, is grace? All through the pages of Scripture, grace is portrayed as God’s unmerited favor. It is God’s willingness to save us when we don’t deserve it. It is his attitude of loving us first before we love him back. It is a Calvary pardon that we don’t deserve. Romans 5:8 says: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. So saving grace is a salvation gift from God that we can never deserve.

So what, then, does this mean in Ephesians that we are saved BY grace – THROUGH faith?

Let’s return to the burning building. Say you’re on the sixth floor and the flames are creeping closer. There’s no way out, no possible avenue where you can escape by yourself.

But good news – firemen stand down below with a net! “Jump!” they call out. “We’ll catch you.” You do jump . . . and are saved. Now the question: what is it that saved you?

Clearly you were saved by the net. Grace is the net. Without the net you would have perished.

Were you saved by the jump? No! On September 11, 2001, the world was horrified by the image of desperate people jumping out of the World Trade Center towers and plummeting to their deaths on the pavement hundreds of feet below. There was no hope for them, no way of escape . . . and no net. Even with a jump, they died.

But in our case, the decision to jump – is faith. You believe the firemen will be there with the net; you trust them to catch you. The net saves you, but the jump of faith is what enables you to get to the net and the gift of salvation.

As Christians then – or those considering the Christian faith – we need to feed our minds and hearts with enough of the gospel that we will be willing to trust our lives to Jesus’ gift on the cross. That decision, which is faith, will give us access to the grace which flows from Calvary.