• Associate Pastor Jeremy

By Grace, For Works

One of the most stunning truths in Scripture is that we’re not in control. This may cause us to pause or even raise our cackles, because humans typically like to be in control of things. We like to set our own course in life, do the things we want, when we want, and be who we want to be. A passing glance at today’s “me” society confirms this. Yet, the Bible strongly opposes our self-will and instead teaches full reliance on God for everything, including the most important thing: our salvation.

The apostle Paul spent most of the opening chapter of Ephesians stressing the purpose of our salvation, which is to glorify God. We are the beneficiaries of His goodness, kindness, and sacrifice (Eph 1:5-7), but all of these will ultimately bring Him glory in the ages to come.

In Chapter 2 Paul continues this theme, as we read in Ephesians 2:4-10:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (NASB)

Reading through this we see a couple key takeaways:

First, God saved us by His mercy and grace. This is perhaps one of most important doctrines for a Christian to understand as it immediately silences any notion that God owes us something. He saved us while we were dead in sin and made us alive with Christ by grace.

Secondly, the grace He saved us with is not something we earned or will earn. It is a gift of God, and whatever good works we did before we were saved had no part in God choosing to save us. This is not always an easy pill to swallow as humans who like to think we are rewarded for our performance, but the truth seen here is that God saved us by grace, not works, and there is great comfort and peace in that because this puts the onus on God to save us and keep us saved. It also eliminates any pride and boasting in our salvation because nothing we did caused God to save us. You can’t be proud of something you didn’t do.

And thirdly, and most importantly, God saved us for His glory. As verse 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. The phrase “prepared beforehand” is the Greek προετοιμάζω (proetoimázō), which is more like “ordained”. The beautiful truth here is that through God’s grace, mercy and unmerited salvation, we are now able to do good works, and those works were planned in advance for us to do. So once again we’re reminded that we’re not in charge – God sets the agenda.

These good works are not something for us to dream up on our own, but were setup for us to do very likely even before He created the world (see Eph 1:4). That’s a little crazy to ponder, but this is what we might refer to as our calling. If you are saved and truly seeking to do God’s will, then where you are at this very moment was ordained (proetoimázō) by God before the world was made. And you’re here to do those good works for His glory.

While it is very easy for us to get trapped into doing what we think God wants, be it ministry, personal or business matters, what we need to remember is that God has this all worked out. He’s had it all worked out from the beginning. Our place in this is to humbly submit to God through prayer and petition, and allow Him to put this work before us, and then to do that work with all our heart. And it’s important to remember that our internal attitude should never be to seek glory or praise for ourselves, or even to do this work with the idea we can earn more favor with God, but instead it should always be for the Lord’s glory. This is precisely why He saved us in the first place: to do good works for His glory.

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