August 12, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)
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.
According to Ephesians 2, we are not saved by our works. We are saved by God’s grace, received in faith. But, we are saved for good works that God has prepared for us. God’s grace saves us into a whole new way of living, in which we are deeply engaged in God’s purposes in the world.
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 Scripture, including Ephesians 2.
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.” It says 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” (Ephesians 2:9). We do not earn our salvation through anything we do. Salvation by works? Absolutely not. This is one of the things that distinguishes genuine Christianity from so many other religious and philosophical traditions throughout the world.
So, we are not saved by our works. But this does not mean that good works are irrelevant to salvation. In fact, as Ephesians 2 makes abundantly clear, salvation and good works are closely connected. Good works do not lead to salvation, but they do follow from 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 2:4-8, 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 are sometimes tempted to shrink 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.
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?
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.
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.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Titus: Working for Good Deeds
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
Amen! We do not work our way to enter Heaven but rather, we work as Citizens of Heaven by Grace through Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ!
Thanks, Mark, for your comment.