Grace is never earned. It is unmerited, undeserved, unwarranted.
“You are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast”(Ephesians 2:8–9). There is absolutely nothing that man can do to save himself. He can’t get good enough. He can’t earn God’s approval by good deeds, faithful worship, sacrificial giving, or obedient living.
The Apostle Paul describes each of us prior to our marvelous new birth experience. We were dead! “You were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient” (Ephesians 2:1–2). Death was the result of our sinful natures and our rebellious spirits. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). But God made a gracious provision for those who would come to Him in faith. “When you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive with him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13–14).
We were dead… like Lazarus.
It’s quite possible that Lazarus was the son of Simon, a leper who had been miraculously healed by Jesus (John 12:1-8, Matthew 26:6-16, Mark 14:3-11). If that’s the case, then it helps to explain the loving relationship that Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, had with Jesus, the One who had healed their dying daddy.
When Lazarus became sick, Mary and Martha sent a courier to Jesus. “Lord, the one you love is sick” (John 11:3). Like all of us, Lazarus had been sick before, but never like this! I can imagine that Mary and Martha took turns sitting at his bedside as His fever spiked. Each day he got weaker, until they were certain that he would perish… unless Jesus came to the rescue. Jesus had rescued their daddy. When his body was covered with leprous sores, Jesus had touched Simon, and immediately he was made whole! “If Jesus comes… if Jesus will touch Lazarus, he too will be made well!”
Jesus didn’t come… and Lazarus died. Without Jesus, the lifeless body was lovingly perfumed with expensive spices, wrapped in cloth, and placed in the family tomb. Four days later, his body was quickly decaying, decomposing, putrefying. Martha was right. “Lord, by this time he stinketh!” (John 11:39, KJV).
Finally, Jesus came, but it was too late.
Standing in the graveyard, with Mary and Martha by His side, Jesus called out in “a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unwrap him and let him go’ ” (John 11:43–44).
What did Lazarus do to secure his rebirth? Did he grunt and groan until life returned to his dead body? Could he do anything? No! He was dead! It was only by the grace of Jesus that he was called from the grave.
How do dead people secure eternal life in heaven? Baptism? Church membership? Big checks in the offering plate? Perfect attendance in Sunday School? Nope!
It is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone… grace.