Ephesians 2:10 — Saved Unto Good Works
This article finishes off our series about how we are more sinful than we could ever imagine, yet, we are more loved than we could ever fathom. Here are the previous articles. From just nine verses, we have both probed the depths of our sinfulness and ascended to the heights of the great love of God.
However, we have one more question to answer: knowing our great sin, and yet saved by this unfathomable love, how are we to respond?
Introduction: The Commands of Scripture
Scripture is filled with lists of commands to do good works. Take just the last three chapters of Ephesians for example. [Actually read these passages!]:
• Ephesians 4:1-3
• Ephesians 4:17-32
• Ephesians 5:7-12
• Ephesians 6:1-6
Now, some questions:
• When you read those passages, what rises in your heart?
• What do you think to yourself?
• What do you feel? Stress? Guilt? Despair? Shame? Pride? Fear? Bewilderment? Burden? Anger?
• Why do you think and feel this way?
• Is it because you doubt you can obey? Does it seem too hard? Or is it because you've failed? Or because you have no hope of changing?
But let's probe deeper. Why do you think God gives these commands? Be honest with yourself. To control us, to keep us in line? To have a reason to punish us for messing up? To make us self-improved, better people? To create a point system to separate the best of the world from the losers of the world?
If those thoughts resonate with you, you are thinking like an unbeliever. Unbelievers say Christianity is a religion just like every other religion — a way to control the masses, a deluded way to find fulfillment. But that is not biblical Christianity. Why does God give us commands? The Bible says for His honor and our joy. Why do we obey? The Bible says because we delight to obey God.
Remember, Christians don't do good works to become Christians; Christians do good works because they are Christians. Christians do good works because they have believed and still believe the gospel. As Ephesians 2:10 says:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
It is simple truth, and yet profound truth. I want us to see three things from our verse:
I. God is the Author of Salvation by Grace
II. Good Works Flow From a Heart of Love
III. God Glorifies Himself Alone
I. God is the Author of Salvation by Grace
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus
Let us remind ourselves: what is the gospel? What good work did God do for us? He crushed His Son for our sin, forgiving us of our transgressions through the cross. What good work did God do in us? He opened our eyes to see the truth and made us spiritually alive together with Christ. How were we created in Christ Jesus? God united us with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, and gave us the eternal inheritance in Him.
This is what it means when the verse says, "we are His workmanship." It means that we are His work. If we are His workmanship, we did not make ourselves. We are not our own doing; we are His doing. He is the author of our faith, not we ourselves.
As the Author of salvation, He is the One who created us in Christ Jesus. This speaks to the regeneration, in which we are made a "new creature" (Gal 6:15, 2 Cor 5:17), once dead to God and alive to sin, but made alive to God and dead to sin. To be created in Christ Jesus is to be born again (John 3:3), to be transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the beloved Son (Col 1:13), to be indwelt with the Holy Spirit (Ro 8:5,9). To be created in Christ Jesus is to be a Christian, wrought by God's power, given by His grace, prompted by His love.
How shall we respond to the gospel of this grace? As those who have been forgiven much, we are to love much! The Lord Jesus Christ said in Luke 7:47, "For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Indeed, the mark of a Christian is someone who loves God (Eph 6:24). Now then, as those who love God, because God loved us first, what shall we do? How shall we respond to this great love?
Good works. Grace-motived, God-entranced, faith-fueled, Spirit-empowered, good works.
II. Good Works Flow From a Heart of Love
for good works, … so that we would walk in them.
First, we must ask, "What are good works?"
Good works are works that are good, done for God's glory. They are good because they honor God and love people. They are works done for God's glory, by God's strength, because God commands.
Second we must ask, "What is the proper motivation of good works?"
All religion hinges on this question. Christianity alone says this: the gospel. Christians labor for God in order to please Him, not to appease Him. Christians do good works because it delights God, not in order to be forgiven. Christians do good works out of a love for God, not to make God love us, out of thankfulness, not out of fear. Being a Christian comes prior to doing what Christians do. We don't make ourselves Christians by doing good things. Christians do good things because they are Christians.
Third, let us ask, "What is the relationship between God and the do-gooder?"
God is not a slave driver, a task master, a boss, a judge, a teacher, nor even an instructor. If we are to do good works rightly, we must understand that God is not looking to employees or mercenaries. He is looking for sons and daughters to adopt. To His children, He is a loving Lord, and better yet, a gracious Father. He is a Father who loves us. And a Father whom we love. As Jesus said in John 15:10, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love."
Fourth, let us ask, "Who ought to do good works?"
The latter part of the verse says, "we," which refers to Christians. Why? Because good works are a uniquely Christian thing. Now, note that above, I defined “good works” as those done for God's glory. Unbelievers do not and will not and cannot do good works for God's honor. They may do things that are perceived as good, but their motives are not for God's honor. Thus, their works, although they may be good in the sight of men and may even be noble and profitable for men, do not honor God, for they are not done for Him. Only Christians can truly do good works, because only those with faith to believe God can please and honor Him. Hebrews 11:6 says it bluntly: "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him."
Fifth, let us ask, "What ought to be the frequency of our good works?"
The verse says that we are to "walk in [good works]." To walk in them means to do them constantly, to make it a pattern of life. In every and any season of life, wherever and whenever, the life of a Christian ought to be marked with consistent, fervent good works. "Let us not lose heart in doing good" (Galatians 6:9). "Instruct [the rich] to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share," (1 Tim 6:18). And lastly, and most powerfully: "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
Notice the goal of good works in that last work. "that they [men, presumably both believers and unbelievers], may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven." That brings us to our third point.
III. God Glorifies Himself Alone
which God prepared beforehand
Good works point to God alone as glorious. The do-gooders receive no praise from men for their deeds.
After all, why did God make us in Christ? To do good works. When we do good works, we show that He is worthy to be loved and served, and make Him look great. Again, Matthew 5:16 says, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). Men see your good works. And they glorify God. This is the righteous ordering of all things. We are the ones doing the works. But God gets the credit. Ephesians 2:10 tells us why: "…God prepared [our good works] beforehand, so that we would walk in them."
Any and every good work that we have done has been prepared by God. It has been ordained by His sovereign will. All true good works are God-planned, God-empowered, and God-superintended. He planned it all, and willed that we would do them. He brought it forth from plan into fruition. He is the Architect, the Funder, the Builder, and the Worker. The plan, the power, and the purpose originate from Him.
Well, if God is responsible for the good works, what role do we play? We are the earthen pots. Conduits of grace. Cups that carry the water to the thirsty. Knowing this, even as we do good works, we ought to be humble before God. Nothing we do ought to puff us up in pride. "…What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (1 Corinthians 4:7) "For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself" (Galatians 6:3).
In every good work, we ought to say with Paul, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me" (1 Corinthians 15:10 ). We ought "not to think more highly of [our]self than [we] ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith" (Romans 12:3). Let us put the honor in the right place: with God.
Note this well: an arrogant Christian is an oxymoron. To those that would dare to boast in the face of God, and seek to claim a shard of glory for themselves, be warned! Who formed you in your mother's womb? Who gave you life and breath? Who gave you the gospel? Who saved you? Who blesses you? Who empowers you? Who sanctifies you? Is it not God? Do not all good things originate from Him? Has He not proved beyond doubt that He is good and that He blesses the least deserving, the undeserving, the ill deserving of men — even you? Tremble before Him, proud fool. Humble yourself before Him, before He Himself humbles you to the dust. "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen" (Romans 12:36).
We have seen three things from Ephesians 2:10. Firstly, that God is the Author of salvation, meaning that good works do not merit salvation; they are the fruit of it. Secondly, that good works flow from a heart of love, out of thankfulness for the gospel. And thirdly, that God alone is glorified by good works, and we receive no glory for it.
My fellow Christian, weary and heavy-laden, burdened and downtrodden. Let me remind you, God gives us commands that we might respond to the gospel with joyful, thankful obedience. We have the privilege of showing our thanksgiving to God for what He has done in Jesus Christ by doing what He says. Jesus said in John 14:15 "If you love Me, you will keep [observe, walk in, live by, obey] My commandments" and "His commands are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). Remember, God has commanded obedience for His glory, which is our joy.
To those who profess Christ, and yet find themselves void of true good works, who boast in their religion rather than in Jesus Christ, let me challenge you: test yourself, to see whether you are in the faith! Do you view God's commandments as heavy weights of joyless duty or as an attractive obligation to show joyful thankfulness to God? Those who believe the gospel love the commands of God because of the gospel. Those who are merely religious think it's just a task list because they don't understand the gospel. Oh, leave a dead religion of slavery to sin and shame that Christ might set you free to serve Him!
And to those that know they are not in Christ, I implore you to come. This series about Ephesians 2 was written for you. I know of no other passage that states your peril so completely and so succinctly, and yet your only hope and Savior so gloriously and so invitingly. Why will you refuse the One who compels you to come, for His glory and your everlasting life?