From beginning to end, Christians are God’s unique works of grace. Our lives in Christ are the masterpieces of our all-good, all-wise, all-powerful Father in heaven. His work of grace began with us before the creation of the world, when He lovingly decided that He would choose us to become His adopted sons and daughters. In love and kindness, He knit us together before our physical birth, and in mercy and grace He redeemed us from slavery to sin by giving us a spiritual birth through repentance and faith in Jesus. We began to experience this salvation when we finally heard and understood the gospel in our hearts and first believed. And his work of grace continues each day as we grow in Christ, slowly becoming in this life what He has already declared us to be in the court of heaven: holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4).
In today’s passage, Paul reminds his Christian audience of arguably the greatest theme of the Bible – that “salvation belongs to the Lord” (Psalm 3:8; Jonah 2:9; Revelation 7:10). Salvation is a gift that God gives us because He is kind and loves us, not because we are good and deserve it. The very definition of grace is that it is unearned – that’s why it’s called GRACE! Even if we could do enough good works to build a ladder to heaven, what would we do when we got there? Heaven is a place where Christians will worship God forever and ever, constantly praising the One who has saved us from our sins and the consequences we justly deserved (that’s called “mercy” – when you don’t get the punishment that you ought to get). A person who made it to heaven through his or her own goodness (which, remember, is impossible), would have no reason to praise Jesus! Christians will do good works (Ephesians 2:10), but these are the evidences of our faith, not the cause of our faith. Good actions and attitudes pour forth naturally from a soul that has been made new by the Holy Spirit; these character traits are called “the fruit of the Spirit.” We serve the Lord and do good to others out of joy and thankfulness because He has saved us, not so that He will save us. This vital difference is not just a wrangling of words – it is literally the difference between heaven and hell, between everlasting life and eternal death and suffering. May the Lord open our minds and hearts to see His hand of grace in our lives today, and may we praise Him for His grace forever and ever!
The Text (Ephesians 2:7-10)
7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Questions to Think About
1. When you think back on your life before your salvation, what evidences of God’s grace can you see?
2. When did you first begin to understand your salvation as the work of God’s grace and not your own efforts?
3. Why do think that the concept of salvation by grace alone through faith alone is so offensive to so many people? In other words, why doesn’t everyone want to be saved / become a Christian?
• Our salvation is indeed the result of work. But it is not our work which saves us, but the work of God on our behalf. God the Father sent God the Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for our sins with His death on the cross. Then the Father raised the Son back to life and sent God the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sins and give us the power to believe in the Son and receive eternal life. That’s some incredible work by God both for and in us!
• While verses 8-9 are famous memory verses from today’s text, verse 10 is also very important. Paul concludes this passage by explaining that as Christians, we are God’s “worksmanship,” or “works in progress.” By the power of His Holy Spirit, the Lord is at work in His people, transforming us from the inside out to become more like Jesus as we grow and mature in our faith. That process is called “sanctification,” and it will produce good words and actions in our lives that should be visible to those around us. These works do no save us, but they are the proof or fruit by which others recognize us as followers of Christ. When a person claims to have been saved for many years and yet does not show any evidence of being one of God’s works in progress, we have a right as Christians to lovingly question the reality of that person’s faith. This verse harmonizes with what James is talking about in James 2:14-26, when he argues that we show our faith to others by our works and that “faith” without works is dead and cannot save us.