Keller: Grace Comes Before Faith

Keller: Grace Comes Before Faith February 25, 2024

We are saved By Grace THROUGH Faith

Have you turned faith itself into a work? Keller turns to the word “frame” to explain a crucial point about how we must not trust in our own faith but rather in the object and producer  of that faith: Jesus.

It’s tremendously dangerous for you to mistake these prepositions. When it says it’s by grace but through faith, the grace of God, the power of God, that’s what makes you a Christian. The faith is just a way of receiving it. It’s just a channel for it. If you mess this up, let me tell you what happens . . .

In the beginning, you see, you get to the gospel, and the gospel says, “You’re not saved by being a good person. You’re not saved by your good deeds. You’re not saved because you always obey the Ten Commandments. No one does. God saves you. He accepts you. He loves you and welcomes you and embraces you because of what Jesus has done. You’re not saved by your good works; you’re saved through faith in him.”

So your little mind hears that, and you say, “Great, I’m not saved by my good deeds; I’m saved by my faith.” But, you see, you have to be very careful because how easy it is for you to think therefore, “It’s the quality of my faith. It’s my trust in him. It’s my love for him. It’s my sense of his presence, my faith. That’s why God loves me, not because of my good deeds or my bad deeds; because I go out during the week, and I make mistakes, and I fall down, but now I see as long as I believe …”

. . . what almost inevitably happens when you first become a Christian and you first sense the pardon of God and the presence of God, very often he is very real to you in prayer. Your feelings are full. Your feelings are sort of hot, warm, vivid.

Like anything … like marriage, like a great job … it wears off. Your feelings come and go at a certain point. When the feelings start to wane . . . You begin to doubt whether you’re really a Christian, which just goes to show you didn’t get it, did you? You begin to doubt you’re a Christian. When people tell me that, I say, “Why?” “Well, I just don’t have the faith.” What that means is, “I thought the quality of this feeling, this love, this trust, this sense of God’s presence was the reason he was saving me.” I’m looking at the quality of my soul.

You know, there is a hymn we sometimes sing called “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand.” There’s a great line in there . . .

I dare not trust the sweetest frame

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

Have any of you ever heard that? See, what does that mean? That’s a British archaism that really meant a frame or an emotional state of heart. A frame of heart.


. . .  See, if I believe it’s faith then comes grace, then I can boast. It would be very hard for me not to boast. I would look at somebody who doesn’t believe, and I would say, “You have to do what I do. Do you know why you’re down in the dumps? Do you know why you’re in the problem you’re in? You haven’t exercised faith like I did.” . . .

If you understand it’s grace then faith, what can you say to somebody who doesn’t believe? You can say, “Do you know what? I know exactly how you feel. There’s no fundamental difference between you and me. I also didn’t want Christ. I also was far from him, but he opened my heart, and he can open your heart too if you turn, because the Bible says, ‘… him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.’ If you turn and say, ‘I don’t have any faith,’ that’s all it takes. He’ll give you faith. Faith is not something you have to pull out of your heart. It’s a gift of God. There’s no fundamental difference between you and me. Just turn.” You see?

. . . Grace has to come before faith. It just has to be! Christ will be squeezed out because of your irrational faith in yourself. Only God in his power can break that. If you believe today in Christ strictly because of God’s grace and you know it, if you’re a Christian, you know your faith is a miracle. If you’re a Christian, you know the fact you are here singing from the heart, believing the songs you’ve sung tonight, is an act of God’s grace. You know that. Grace is the cause of faith.

Keller, T. J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. Redeemer Presbyterian Church.


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