Ephesians 2:10. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:8-10 offers us what may be the clearest and most succinct summation of the life of the Christian in all of the Bible. Grace. Faith. Works. In that order.
Paul starts with grace because back in 2:1 he started with “your dead.” A dead person cannot save themselves. God’s salvation must begin with God’s grace. Even faith is only possible because God has done something that demands a response. God is the primary agent. He is the first mover. He is the initiator.
Our life in Christ is still only the result of grace. Look closely at verse 10. Even the good works that we walk in as Christians are prepared beforehand by God. And why? Because we are his workmanship. The entirety of our lives is grace. It’s all his work. The same grace that saved us is saving us. The same grace that made us alive has revealed to us our good works. We can only do a good work because first we are his good work. It’s all from grace.
Faith doesn’t save us, grace does. We are not saved by the worthiness of our faith, but by the worthiness of the One in whom we place our faith. Faith is always a response to grace. As Paul says in Romans, faith comes by hearing the word of God. God speaks then we believe.
Faith is not something we do. That is, it is not a work of the law or a work of righteousness. Paul makes this perfectly clear – this is not your own doing…not a result of works. Faith is believing. It is trusting the truth of God’s salvation in Jesus. This is why there is little talk in scripture about the amount of our faith and much more talk about the object of our faith.
Faith is a transfer of trust. It is placing all of my hope and confidence in the person and work of Jesus alone and my union with him. It is the reception of God’s grace found in Christ.
Faith is dependency. It is admitting that we need Jesus to rescue us, yesterday, today, forever. And this is why life in Christ will forever be one of faith. We never graduate past our need for grace. And we never graduate past faith as the means to receiving that grace.
Captain Phillips – from death to life by grace and the good work of those who would save him.
Now here is where so many of us get tripped up. The line is fuzzy between not a result of works and created in Christ Jesus for good works.
But here’s the difference – created in Christ Jesus.
Usually as Christians we ask the question “what are the good works Jesus wants me to do?” But this fails to find Christ’s life as the source of our good works. Instead it’s an attempt to live up to some list that we think Jesus has created for us. A new law if you will.
Rather we should ask “what good works does Jesus want to do today?” Which, because we are in Christ, is the same thing as asking “what good works do I want to do today?”
Jesus lived his earthly life by doing good. What God wanted him to do and what he wanted to do were the same thing. Yes, he completely depended upon and submitted to the Father. But he also always did whatever he wanted to do? How? Because he was in the Father and the Father was in him (union).
So was Jesus looking for a specific agenda each day from God? Was he looking for a daily to-do list of the good works that he was supposed to accomplish that day? No. He simply “went around doing good” (Acts 10:38). He lived his life as an expression of God’s grace. He was Gods workmanship. Just like us.
Unlike us Jesus came to do the ultimate good work. The good work that only he could do. The good work that the uncreated one was “created” for – sacrificially dying for mankind on the cross as our substitute. This good work informed all his other good works. Every good work he did before the cross and every good work we do after the cross points directly to the cross. Every act of kindness. Every response of love. Every movement of grace. When these are done from faith in what Christ has already done, they become the workmanship, the masterpiece, of God’s new creation.
“To live is Christ” is to live by grace through faith unto good works. Yes, the order is important. Any other way is not the life of Christ in us. He lived his life doing good works, from faith by the power of the Father’s grace. We too can live that same exact way. When the good works flow effortlessly from simple unstated faith in the gracious love of our Savior… that’s God’s workmanship. His work of art. His glory.