(An Excerpt from Salvation by Grace)
All men naturally feel that they should earn their salvation, and a system which makes some provision in that regard readily appeals to them. But Paul lays the axe to such reasoning when he says, “If there had been a law given which could make alive, verily righteousness would have been of the law,” Galatians 3:21; and Jesus said to His disciples, “when ye shall have done all the things that are commanded of you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do,” Luke 17:10.
Our own righteousness, says Isaiah, is as filthy rags — in the sight of God (64:6). And when Isaiah wrote, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price,” 55:1, he invited the penniless, the hungry, the thirsty, to come and take possession of, and enjoy the provision, free of all cost, as if by right of payment. And to buy without money must mean that it has already been produced and provided at the cost of another. The further we advance in the Christian life, the less we are inclined to attribute any merit to ourselves, and the more to thank God for all.
If salvation is of grace, as the Scriptures so clearly teach, it cannot be of works, whether actual or foreseen. There is no merit in believing, for faith itself is a gift of God. What God loves in us is not our own merits, but His own gift; for His unmerited grace precedes our meritorious works. Grace is not merely bestowed when we pray for it, but grace itself causes us to pray for its continuance and increase.