(We are making the move back to CO and the office, school, church, etc. Please enjoy these posts from the archives. You are welcome to comment as usual and I will respond on the other side.)
The question I received asked about Ephesians 2:10, the verse just after a wonderful assurance of God’s grace where Paul says that we were “created for good works.” Doesn’t God expect us to be out doing good works now that we are saved by Him?
What about good works?
What a great question! It seems obvious that “good works” are important to the Lord. No respectable teacher of grace would dismiss the call to good works. However, there are a few things to understand.
First, the verse you mentioned helps us to understand the order of things.
10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)
“Created in Christ Jesus” is a reference only to those who are believers. In Christ we are new creation. So this has nothing to do with becoming saved. These good works come after salvation and have nothing to do with getting us saved. You are right about that. Titus 3:5 says much the same thing. There are many verses that support this.
However, there are at least four more points that should be noted.
1. The Scriptures speak of two kinds of “good works”. There are those we perform by human effort; the ones we do. Then there are those performed by the strength and will of the Lord, whether in us or not. It will be important to discern the difference as you read. One is of little value; the other is everything. I will try to note the difference by referring to “our good works” and “His good works”. Understand, however, that both may look like they come from us.
Paul seems to separate the two by calling one “works” and the other “grace”, at least when he is teaching about the difference. Interestingly, he says that it is the works system that is set up against grace. When Paul thinks of the law, he is thinking of a system of our good works. He makes a strong case that these works, this human effort or performance, are contrary to grace. Our works lead us to expect spiritual blessing from God as a wage (Romans 4:4). Thus, if our good works were counted, our spiritual blessings would no longer be of grace (Romans 11:6), and we would be entitled to our boasting. So there is a difference between the works we do in the strength of our flesh and the works God does in and through us.
Point 2 is next…