A Covid-19 vaccine, it seems, is just round the corner. If the latest news reports are anything to go by, it seems that the world can finally get hold of a long-awaited vaccine that could finally help us overcome this terrible pandemic and the resulting crisis. One of the potential candidates is being co-developed by researchers in Singapore, and could be ready by early next year.
What’s interesting is that all the possible vaccines are said to be “70% effective” or “90% effective”. One can’t help but wonder: Why can’t we have a vaccine that is 100% effective?
Some have already posed this question, to which experts have explained: no vaccine can be 100% effective. The numbers apparently have to do with how the drugs perform in clinical trials, and researchers have stressed that that is no absolute guarantee that a vaccine will protect a person from a virus. There is always a tiny chance that a vaccinated person may still be infected.
That’s a reality, I’m sure, that most of us can accept. In life, after all, nothing is guaranteed.
Fortunately, the saving works of Jesus Christ are quite different. Unlike the things of this world, His death on the cross and His resurrection are able to save us completely and perfectly. We do not need to do anything—and cannot—to add to His sacrifice for our sins, which was once and for all. Our reconciliation with God is absolute and certain, and so is our place in heaven. As 1 Peter 1:4 declares, this inheritance “can never perish, spoil or fade”.
But there may be moments in our lives when we doubt or forget this truth, and are tempted to think that Jesus’ death and resurrection are not enough to save us. These are times when some of us might wonder: Is it really enough to believe in Jesus and His work on the cross? Don’t I need to do something more?
That’s when we might start to think that we need to do a little more to secure our salvation by our own actions, such as doing good works, following Christian “rules”, or behaving well in front of God. Or, perhaps when we’re doing something good or right, we might think, “I’d better do this or else God won’t accept me.”
Why might we think this way? Maybe it’s because of our cultural upbringing (that no rewards come without hard work). Or maybe it’s because we are so used to living in the fallen world in which nothing—including the best vaccine—is 100% guaranteed.
Of course, God does want us to be holy and to do good works, for they please Him and reflect the transformation that the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives. James 2:26 famously reminds us that “faith without deeds is dead”, while Ephesians 2:10 observes that “we are… created in Christ Jesus to do good works”.
But these verses also emphasise the sequence of events—we do good works when we are saved, and not the other way round. The Bible makes very clear how salvation comes about:
For it is by grace you have been saved,
through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God—not by works,
so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9)
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,”
and believe in your heart that God raised him
from the dead, you will be saved.
For it is with your heart
that you believe and are justified,
and it is with your mouth that you
profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9–10)
So here’s the unchangeable truth: we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. If we confess of our sin and believe in Jesus, we will be forgiven and justified. We don’t need to do anything to “earn” God’s forgiveness and acceptance into His kingdom.
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas next month, how about taking some time to reflect on this comforting and powerful truth?
Whenever we feel doubtful or are tempted to think that we need to something to earn God’s forgiveness and acceptance, let us go back to God’s Word and remind ourselves that God’s grace and mercy are given freely to us. May we not forget that His promise of salvation has no “fine print”, if we truly believe in it and follow His Son. And may we thank God, that Christ’s death and resurrection is complete and can save us perfectly!
Jesus, help me to remember that I am saved
by faith alone, not by works.
It is only because of Your sacrifice
on the cross that I am forgiven,
and not because of what I do.
Instead, may this truth
empower and inspire me
to do the good works
that You have prepared for me to do.