For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Paul has already established the point that we are saved by grace because there can be no other way. Dead men can’t do a thing to help themselves. But here he adds that we are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8). In other words, faith is the pipeline by which we receive God’s grace.
In Romans 3, Paul words it this way:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:23-25)
In Romans 5, he says, “We have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Ro 5:2). That’s why I refer to faith as a pipeline. It is God’s appointed means to bring sinners who have been saved by his grace into the fold. It is a result of God bringing sinners to life.
Like Lazarus, God doesn’t save his people only to leave them wrapped in their grave clothes. He transforms us, and that transformation results in faith. He reveals to us the way, and the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6). In John 17, Jesus prayed, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word” (Jn 17:6).
But before we are tempted to brag about our faith (our belief in Christ for salvation) as though we accomplished something on our own, Paul reminds us that even faith is a gift of God. Paul told the Romans, “Righteousness depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace” (Ro 4:16). Don’t mistake your faith for human works. Faith is a byproduct of God’s saving grace.
Having said that, good works are natural byproducts of faith. Let’s just be careful not to put the cart before the horse. Grace leads to faith which leads to works. If we put them in any other order, we are contradicting the clear teachings of Scripture. Human effort (or works) is the antithesis of faith. Therefore, good works must follow faith, not be the cause of faith.