For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10

 

Christians often get the relationship between faith, works, and salvation messed up. Some of us think that our works can earn our salvation, though this is plainly contradicted by Ephesians 2. Others think that works are completely irrelevant to salvation, though this is also contrary to the plain sense of Scripture.

Someone holding an umbrella up for another.In yesterday’s reflection, we considered the first phrase of Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s handiwork.” Today, we will reflect upon some of the implications of this extraordinary truth.

The rest of verse 10 elaborates on the initial phrase, “For we are God’s handiwork.” This means we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” At first, what we read here might confuse us. Hasn’t Paul gone to great lengths to emphasize that our salvation is not by works? Why is he saying here that we have been created in Christ to do good works?

It’s crucial that we read this verse in context. Yes, our salvation does come by grace received through faith. It is “not by works, so that no one can boast” (2:9). 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.

Salvation, as you might recall from our study of Ephesians 2:4-7, is not simply a ticket to heaven after death. Rather, it is being brought from death to life by the love and grace of God, communicated through Jesus Christ. When we are saved into new life, we begin to live now, on this earth, in our mortal bodies, in an altogether different way. At least that’s God’s plan for us. Yet, we often can shirk his salvation and continue to live a deathly existence. This overlooks the fact that God has other things in store for us as his masterpiece. He has good works for us to do, works that contribute to his restoration of the world, works that build up rather than break down, works that help the world to be fruitful, works that fulfill us and make our lives meaningful.

In tomorrow’s Life for Leaders devotion, we’ll consider further the nature of these good works. For now, let me invite you to consider the following questions.

Something to Think About:

How do you respond to the truth that God has good works for you to do as his handiwork?

How do you think about these good works?

What are some of the good works God has in store for you today?

Something to Do:

Do good works today, wherever you find yourself, not to earn God’s favor, but as a response to God’s favor already given to you.

Prayer:

Gracious God, when I think of the fact that you have good works for me to do today, at first, I feel grateful. Thank you for including me in your work in the world. Thank you for allowing me to invest myself, my time, my energy, my gifts, my passion… all for you and your purposes.

Help me, Lord, to see my life today from the perspective of Ephesians 2:10. Help me to offer all that I do to you as good works for your glory. Make me attentive to good works I am not expecting. Let your Spirit guide me, encourage me, and use me.

All praise, glory, and power be to you, O God. Amen.

 

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
God’s Grand Plan: A Theological Vision (Ephesians 1:1–3:21)