We do not earn our salvation through anything we do. Salvation by works? Absolutely not. But this does not mean that good works are irrelevant to salvation. In fact, as this passage makes abundantly clear, salvation and good works are closely connected. Good works do not earn salvation, but they do follow salvation. To put it differently, we are not saved BY good works, but FOR good works. Good works are an expression of the fact that we have been saved by grace.
I realize that you might not feel like a masterpiece today. You may be feeling like something far less than this… You wonder: How could I possibly be God’s masterpiece? The answer is that your status as a masterpiece is true, not because of how healthy you are, how accomplished you are, or how moral you are. You are a masterpiece because of what God has done in your life by his grace. You have been newly and wonderfully created through Christ.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do…” Even though this verse is obviously connected to the preceding verses, it has often been neglected by Christians, especially those of us who swim in the Protestant stream. We have been so excited (rightly) by the truth of salvation by grace through faith that we have failed (wrongly) to follow Paul’s thought to the end.
Is boasting always wrong? Are there times when boasting may be okay? Ephesians 2:9 frowns on boasting about our salvation. Because we are saved by God’s grace and not by our works, we cannot boast about salvation. It’s nothing that we have earned or for which we can take credit. But this doesn’t mean all boasting is always wrong… salvation by grace leads us to praise God and to boast of God’s wonders. Boasting, in this case, is simply a matter of telling others how great God is.
Today, we get into one of the most significant debates among Christians: the debate over faith and works. This issue has perplexed followers of Jesus for centuries, since the very first decades of the church’s existence (see Galatians and James, for example). Disagreements about faith and works contributed to the division of the church during the Protestant Reformation. And, to this day, you’ll still find lots of confusion about how faith is related to works and how both are related to salvation.
When I was a pastor, I often listened to people’s struggles to have faith in God. Some had a hard time believing in the existence of God. Others couldn’t believe that God’s grace was really offered to them through Christ. Still others had put their trust in God’s grace, but struggled nevertheless to trust God on a regular basis. As I listened to people sharing how they struggled to trust God, I was reminded of the fact that even our ability to put our faith in God is, in some sense, a gift of God’s grace.
If you are going to accept God’s gift of salvation, you need to believe that there is a God who graciously saves through Jesus Christ. But biblical faith is more than intellectual affirmation. Biblical faith is acting on what you believe. It is trusting God to save you on the basis of his grace. The word translated here as “faith” (pistis in Greek) might be more accurately rendered in English as “trust.” Trust includes believing certain facts, but it conveys a personal choice to rely on those facts.
Ephesians 2:8 says that we receive salvation by grace “through faith.” Through faith, we accept and unwrap the gift of salvation by grace, so to speak. Notice that we are not saved by our faith. Years ago, that’s what I believed. I know this because I once wrote a note in my Bible, right near Ephesians 2:8, which read: “Saved by faith.” I now understand that my sixteen-year-old self was not reading carefully enough. The text says we are saved “by grace… through faith.”
There is more of God’s grace than you or I could ever comprehend or imagine. So, if you ever ask, “Does God have enough grace to save even me?” the answer is clear. Yes, absolutely! But not just enough grace, more than enough. You can never use up the grace of God. No matter your failure, no matter your sin, God can and will save you by his glorious, incomparably rich, all-surpassing grace. Believe this good news! Live it!
The gospel of Jesus Christ… confronts those of us who pride ourselves on our self-reliance. It invites us to deal with the truth of our own limits, weaknesses, and inabilities. If we’re going to accept the good news of salvation by grace, we need to acknowledge the impossibility of salvation by our own effort. God isn’t trying to insult you by telling you this truth about yourself. He’s seeking to save you by his grace, because that’s the only way you can be saved.