As Christians, we often ask “Are you saved?” This innocent question is provocative, leading to arguments and more confusion. The nature and meaning of salvation are misunderstood. Many abandon their salvation inquiries as a result, choosing instead to exploit the Doctrine of Grace. As a theologian and Christian, I ask, “Can grace be saved?”
“Saving Grace” is a term God asks us to address. Saving or “salvation” is deliverance from danger or difficulty. Theologically, salvation is deliverance from the power or penalty of sin. “Grace” is the free and unmerited favor of God given to a sinful humanity.
These constructs cause us to struggle with “Are you saved.” It may be better to ask, “Have you received Christ as your personal savior?” Many will answer “Yes;”
others will honestly admit, “I am not sure.”
Most of us make scant progress toward salvation, dispirited by the reality of frequent backsliding. We become stuck reviewing the past sins of ourselves and others. This backward focus prevents us from moving forward.
A story in “Our Daily Bread” recounts the saga of a man slowly losing his memory. His doctor suggests that surgery to reverse the condition risks nerve damage and loss of sight. Asked to choose which faculty he most valued, the patient replied, “My sight, because I would rather see where I am going than remember where I have been.”
In Philippians 3:13, Paul makes a similar choice, pledged to “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” Paul chooses to forget his past successes and shames, alike. What mattered most to Paul was his commitment to gaining Christ’s approval and assuring his own salvation.
Earlier in Philippians 2:13-14, Paul states, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His purpose.” Paul herein reveals a Christian mindset balanced between the doctrine of good works, and the doctrine of grace. Salvation melds the blessing of being saved while recalling God’s generous gift of grace.
Grace, like money that burns a hole in our pocket, can burn a hole in our soul, if we fail to conserve it. Like bad money habits, the repetition of sins presses our luck, and tries God’s patience. Worse, we tax the gift of grace by demanding special favors of God.
Many do not know grace. Nor will anyone come to know grace, without acknowledging its four tenets. First, acknowledge you are a sinner and are unable to save yourself. Second, acknowledge and believe that Christ is the son of God, and that He can save you. Third, acknowledge that His crucifixion was for your personal sins, and that His death was for your salvation. Finally, give Christ your life and ask Him to be your Lord and Savior. If you will commit to this knowledge and these efforts, you will no longer be exploiting the gift of grace. You will be worthy of receiving “Saving Grace.”
The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami. To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or email
the pastor at firstname.lastname@example.org.