A Contrast of Works

Posted on: July 31st, 2016

Paul begins Ephesians, as he does so many of his epistles, with a general salutation affirming his apostleship and identifying his audience. This letter was written to the “saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 1:1) He then sends them “grace” and “peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (v. 2)

Starting in verse three, Paul praises the Father for richly blessing His saints through His Son. (v. 3) This process of sainthood was not by accident or chance, nor was it reserved for a select few. In fact, God’s plan to save and the details of salvation were known to Him even “before the foundation of the world.” (v. 4) I would also point out that Sainthood is not reserved for a select few Christians. All God’s Children are saints! (Read the prologues to his other letters.)

What were some of the details God decided “before the foundation of the world”? He choose the kind of people He would save. Those who are “holy and without blame before Him in love.” But how do we get to that point of becoming “holy and without blame before Him”? We are redeemed and forgiven through Christ’s blood and by God’s grace. (v. 7) How do we know any of this? By trusting and believing in the “word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” (v. 13) `

In the latter portion of chapter one Paul highlights Christ as the head of the church. Then as we come to chapter two, the apostle stresses how Christians are made alive, even though they “dead in trespasses and sin”. (v. 1) Every Child of God begins the journey to heaven by coming out of a life of sin. All of this is made possible by God’s mercy and grace. (vv. 2-5)

It is abundantly clear that we are saved by Divine grace through faith, and that grace is God’s gift to mankind. (v. 8) Do not forget how this grace is extended in Jesus. (vv. 5-7) Paul also states unequivocally that grace is “not of works, lest anyone should boast”. (v. 9)

Some have taken this passage to mean that none of our works have anything to do with our salvation. But is this right? First, understand that a particular kind of “works” is intended by Paul and he qualifies it by the words, “Lest anyone should boast”. There is absolutely no work that I can do whereby I have the right to boast about my inherent goodness. I am not saying I cannot do some good deeds and even recognize that I have done something good. It is even right to be happy and “proud” when we do something worthwhile.

There is nothing wrong with me feeling nice about helping the poor, doing a good job, or upholding sound ethics. These are the deeds we want people to do. They are the ones we recognize as good. But they do not save us. And while Christians must do these, without Christ, they are just “good” deeds wasted regarding our salvation. Whatever God commands of us, their eternal value is found only in Christ.

Notice Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Saints are the “workmanship” of God “created in Christ Jesus for good works”. God has made it possible for us to do “good” works that please Him. These are the commands and duties He gives us to become Christians and to live as Saints. Necessary for salvation? Absolutely! If we do not “walk in them” then we are not His “workmanship.”

Terry Starling