My favorite Bible verse of all time could be Ephesians 2:8-9, which is a foundational verse for the Protestant Reformation. Let me share it with you:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 – NIV; See, Romans 3:24 and Galatians 2:16).
So this verse is one that is a centerpiece for Protestants showing us that being a good person won't save you. And doing nice things does nothing to get us to heaven. Instead, it is God's grace that gives us salvation. Through our faith and trust that Jesus is our Savior, and that He paid the entire price for any punishment that is owed for the wrong things we have done in our life. I find an interesting question coming up from the second part of this verse, after the dash – namely, what is "the gift of God"? In the first portion of Ephesians 2:8, the "gift of God" could be one of three things: Is it God's grace, which is the subject of the preceding sentence? Or is our 'faith' given by God as a gift? Or it could even be our salvation that is the gift. Anyway, that's how my brain works – questions are more interesting than answers.
But let me raise one additional point from this verse – namely, that it is Christ's righteousness, not our own righteousness that provides us with our salvation. This point is made clear in 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, which says:
He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, and our righteousness, and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord." (1 Cor. 1:30-31).
And so, Jesus is our righteousness, our good deeds, our attempts at righteous living is viewed by God as 'filthy rags' (Isa. 64:6). And so, Paul rightly points out that we cannot boast in our own righteousness, but we can only boast in the Lord. (1 Cor. 1:31).
OK, I was just kidding. Allow me to make one more comment about the process of sanctification – is sanctification our responsibility? Sanctification is the process where born-again Christians (John 3:3) are turned from wretched sinners into people who grow to act more and more like Jesus. No again, I understand that sanctification is also the work of God. The verse I like to show this is Philippiansc2:12b-13, which says: "…work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." This verse shows that God works in a believer's desires and their will to act the way God desires. And so, as we approach Palm Sunday and Holy Week, my take away thought as we close Lent is this - if God gives us His Son in payment for our sins, and gives us a desire to appreciate all of what Jesus did, and is even completely responsible for cleaning up our actions through sanctification, can we take any credit for our growing obedience? I think the Apostle Paul already answered this: Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord! (1 Cor. 1:31, above). Have a happy and blessed holy week.