Purchase the CD of this sermon.
This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.
More From This Series
Well, let’s take our Bibles and turn to Ephesians 2:8, 9, and 10—only three verses this morning to cover. The message I’ve called “Beyond Kind.” That’s the thesis and the message of these three verses. God is beyond kind. God’s grace to us is amazing. It exceeds our imagination and what we deserve. Here’s what Paul says: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” What a marvelous, magnificent passage of Scripture.
Some years ago, I heard Dr. Adrian Rogers speak on Psalm 23, and in that message, he told a story about a man who went to his local bank to withdraw $500 in cash. After the bank teller had counted the money and handed it to the man, the man, in front of the bank teller, proceeded to count it dollar bill by dollar bill. After he had finished counting, the teller looked at him inquisitively and said, “Is it all there?” To which the man replied with a kind of smirk, “It just is.”
Now, when it comes to God’s grace, when it comes to God’s love toward us and for us, it never just is. It always is more than we deserve. It is always more than we can imagine. It is always more than we think we need. God’s dealings with us in the gospel is always marked by amazing abundance and unwarranted generosity. It never just is. It’s always beyond. It’s always more. When He offers life, He offers us abundant life (John 10:10). When He promises us peace, it’s a peace that transcends all understanding (Phil. 4:7). His love in Jesus Christ, manifest on the cross, defies adequate definition; it surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:19). His riches toward us in Christ, they’re glorious riches (Eph. 3:16). The power that is at work in us, the power made available to us through the indwelling Holy Spirit, is an all-surpassing power (2 Cor. 4:7).
When it comes to His grace, it’s sufficient; there’s a totality to it (2 Cor. 12:9). God’s dealings with us in the gospel is always marked by an amazing abundance. In the gospel, God is beyond kind. In fact, it’s that thought, I believe, that’s on Paul’s mind when he writes verses 8, 9, and 10 of Ephesians 2. The reason I would say that is because he’s picking up the parenthetical thread of verse 5, where he interjected this idea: “(by grace you have been saved).”
Not only is he picking up the parenthetical thread of verse 5; he’s amplifying the incomparable wealth of God’s kindness towards us noted in verse 7. See, God intends that in the ages to come, throughout eternity, He’s going to continue to show us His grace, and He’s going to show off His grace in us in a glorified state. Look at verse 7: “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” And then we have “for by grace.” So, it’s picking up the thread of verse 5, and it’s reveling in and amplifying the incomparable wealth of God’s kindness towards us in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Listen, there are verses in the Bible that at least to the eye, seem more important than others. All doctrine is important, but not all doctrine is equally important. All verses in your Bible are important, but they’re not all equally important. And I think what we’ve got here in verses 8, 9, and 10 are some of the most important verses in the Bible regarding the gospel. See, man tends to complicate the gospel, and man tends to corrupt the gospel. That’s why we’ve got to listen to these verses and give our attention to them.
Four things: grace appreciated, grace attributed, grace appropriated, grace animated. Let me show you this. Look at verse 8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” That’s grace appreciated. As we have just made an argument for, Paul is picking up the thread of verse 5, and he’s also appreciating anew the exceeding riches of God’s grace toward us in verse 7. Having talked about grace, he now wants to talk about grace some more, because it’s amazing. It’s worth a second look. It’s worth drilling down into. It’s got to be appreciated. The exceeding riches of God’s grace. We’ve got to appreciate that. In fact, in verse 8, although our English versions don’t show it, the word “grace” is accompanied by a definite article; so, it’s “for by this grace.” “For by the grace I mentioned in verse 5 and talked about in verse 7.” This is an article of renewed mention.
Paul is rightly once more focused and refocused on grace. Wouldn’t you agree that grace always deserves a second mention? It’s always worth going back to and over again and again. He mentions it in verse 5. He mentions it in verse 7. Now he uses this definite article to renew a mention of it once again. We’ve got to keep coming back to grace to recognize that it’s amazing. We’ve got to keep coming back to grace to make sure it’s still a sweet sound. Peter O’Brien, in his commentary on Ephesians, says, “Paul has rightly focussed on the amazingly rich grace of God, for by it salvation has been secured for Gentile men and women. The great cry, by grace you have been saved, which had interrupted the flow of thought in v. 5, is now taken up in a renewed form and amplified, especially in relation to faith and works.”
I love that. See, in these verses, 8, 9, and 10, Paul is appreciating afresh and amplifying anew the whole idea of grace. He doesn’t want to leave it behind too quickly. See, Paul wants them to appreciate the nature of their lives apart from grace. See, before they got saved, they were dead in trespasses and sins. Before the grace of God touched their lives, they walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air. They were sons of disobedience. They were children of wrath. He wants them to appreciate what they were before what they became in Christ, and he wants them to appreciate the surpassing nature of God’s love, mercy, grace, and kindness towards them. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together” (vv. 4–5). That’s grace.
He wants them to appreciate not only the nature of their lives apart from grace and the nature of God’s love and mercy in Jesus Christ; He wants them to appreciate the cost of grace to God. Free to us but costly to God. In verse 5, we read we’re made “alive together with Christ.” In verse 6, we’re raised up together and made to sit together in the heavenlies in Christ. We’re told in verse 7 that it’s God’s intention in the world to come to show His exceeding rich grace to us in the kindness of Jesus Christ. And the amazing reality is that God spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, that we might enjoy the exceeding riches of His grace. The apostle Paul wants the Ephesians—who have encountered God’s grace, who are now experiencing God’s grace in all of its fullness and facets—to give praise to God, to appreciate this grace.
That’s been His intention, hasn’t it, almost since the beginning of this letter—that as you and I understand the gospel, come to encounter the gospel, then experience its promises, the outworking of it is that we should be “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph. 1:6); “to the praise of His glory” (v. 12); “to the praise of His glory” (v. 14). Paul has a deep jealousy for God’s glory because God has a deep jealousy for His own glory. In fact, we studied for four weeks verses 3–14 in chapter 1, which was an exquisite and an excited doxology extolling the fact that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
So, Paul wants them to appreciate grace. He wants them to know that grace leaves no room for human boasting. See, we’re saved by grace through faith, not of ourselves; “it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:9). There’s no room for human boasting when grace is at work. Human pride is ruled out because the only thing that our human effort can earn is condemnation and judgment. We’re children of disobedience, which means we’re children of wrath. That’s what our actions lead to: judgment and condemnation. Human pride is ruled out, and humility and gratitude are ruled in, in the light of God’s marvelous grace and what He has done for us in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace appreciated. In fact, if you go back to Romans 3, where Paul talks about the grace of God, talks about imputed righteousness and the gift of salvation, he tells us in verse 27, in Romans 3, “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”
If you go to 1 Corinthians 1:27–29, you have again this desire to appreciate the grace of God and the fact that it leaves no room for human boasting: “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.”
Galatians 6:14. We won’t go there, but Paul says if I’m going to boast, I’m going to boast in the cross. Because I have nothing else to boast in. I have nothing to boast in myself. This is God. This is grace, start to finish. Look at me and the change in my life. God has wrought it. God has done it. Or, to quote 1 Corinthians 15:10: “by the grace of God I am what I am . . . the grace of God which was with me.”
I appreciate what one writer, Darrell Bock of Dallas Seminary, says about this: “Paul desires that we appreciate the privilege of this new life and the power God has already extended to us. The remarks also underscore the prayer request of [Ephesians] 1:19 that we might come to understand the immeasurable greatness of God’s power extended towards us. This rooting of our identity in Christ and in what God has done means that our connection to him is worth more than anything else in life. It is also designed to create a sense of gratitude that fuels a life lived worthy of what God has done, growing out of the note of praise that extends as far back as 1:3–14.”
Hasn’t God blessed you and me this morning with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, in Christ Jesus? In grace, didn’t He elect us? In grace, didn’t He preserve us until we were saved? In grace, didn’t He save us? In grace, hasn’t He secured us in a relationship with Jesus Christ, with all the fringe benefits that come with that? In grace, isn’t He keeping us by His power until we find ourselves in glory, where we enjoy an inheritance that doesn’t fade away? And then it will be grace followed by grace followed by grace into infinity. No wonder Paul wants to come back to talk about grace, because we’ve got to appreciate it and keep on appreciating it.
I’ve told the story before of R. C. Sproul. He taught a class of 250 students in their second year on the Old Testament, and he demanded and desired for three papers throughout the semester: one on the 30th of September and October and November. When the first paper was due in September, 25 students missed the mark, and he showed them some leniency. Well, the word got out. Next month, October, 50 students missed the mark, and he gave them a few more days to turn in their paper. By now, he was the most popular professor on the campus. But when November hits, 150 students missed the mark. So, he started handing out Fs. In the middle of the room, a student by the name of Fitzgerald shouted out, “That’s not fair.” To which Sproul replied, “Fitzgerald, didn’t you miss last month? If it’s justice you want, I’ll give you an F for October.”
Sproul says of that semester, “Those students had grown accustomed to my grace.” September, they were amazed by his grace; in October, they were now surprised that he continued to show them grace. By November, they were demanding it, and they had forgotten what grace was. They’d come to see it as an inalienable right. My friend, can’t that process unfold in your life and my life, where we start taking the grace of God for granted?
Paul wants grace appreciated. Secondly, we see grace attributed. Piggybacking off the last thought, salvation by grace, God’s unmerited favor in Christ. . . That’s election, according to chapter 1, adoption, forgiveness, acceptance before God. That’s what’s bundled up in this idea of God’s grace, God’s unmerited favor toward us. We’re told that it’s a gift. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Listen, your redemption this morning and my regeneration this morning are attributable to God alone. The plan, the passion, and performance that brings about your salvation and my redemption lie wholly with God. That’s why we’ve got to kind of reverse back up to verse 4: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” This is grace. This is what brings about salvation: grace, unmerited favor, God’s gift.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached from 1943 to 1968 at Westminster Chapel in London. He preached the book of Ephesians during that time, and it took him eight years. Okay? We’ll try and do it in a year. He took eight years, 230 sermons. And one of the most talked about sermons in the series of 230 was one on Ephesians 2:4, where he preached just two words: “but God.” Here’s what he said: “With these two words we come to the introduction to the Christian message, the peculiar, specific message which the Christian faith has to offer to us. These two words, in and of themselves, in a sense contain the whole of the gospel.” Think about that. If someone said, “Could you explain the gospel to me?” Just say, “But God.” That’ll get you to the heart of it pretty quick. But God. Because of our sin, we’re lost, we’re damned, and we’re on our way to hell—but God. . . . You know what? I lived a prodigal life. I did some terrible things, but God. . . . I’ve come to understand I don’t deserve this. I don’t merit this. This is a gift. But God. He says, “The gospel tells of what God has done, God’s intervention; it is something that comes entirely from outside us and displays to us that wondrous and amazing and astonishing work of God which the apostle goes on to describe and to define in the following verses.”
Grace appreciated. Grace attributed. Let me just very simply underscore this because men and women are addicted to the thought that they need to contribute something to their salvation. I could put all the religions of the world, traditional and non-traditional, into this one category and title it “Human Achievement.” And then I can take Christianity out from among the religions of the world and put it in its singular category: “Divine Accomplishment.” That’s the difference. Christianity believes in divine accomplishment, not human achievement. We’re saved, rescued, redeemed by grace through faith. It doesn’t originate from us. There’s nothing in us. It’s a gift from God. It has nothing to do with works. God forbid it was; then we could boast and take the glory of the Lord Jesus.
Let me just underscore a few things. Just notice the word “grace.” You’ll see it in chapter 1:2, 6, and 7, in chapter 2:5, 7, and now verse 8. It basically speaks of God’s favor—unmerited, directed toward us through the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a word that speaks to salvation being without merit, being undeserved. It speaks of God’s free and unwarranted favor toward us, where He decided to love the unlovely in a very special manner and in a very special way. See, by nature we deserve wrath, but God in His grace is willing to remove that wrath, place it on the head of His Son, and offer us forgiveness of sins through what Jesus Christ did on the cross. Salvation does not originate with us or within us. That’s what the word “grace” means.
We understand that also in the image of a gift. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” A gift is something that someone else purchases and procures for you and then offers it to you at a cost. You wouldn’t like someone to come up and say, “Hey, I bought you this. Now you owe me 50 bucks.” That’s not a gift. It might be a bargain, but it’s not a gift. A gift is someone purchasing something for you, absorbing the cost, and giving it to you out of love or favor as a free token of their love for you.
That’s what salvation is. It’s a gift, and it comes to you at no cost. It comes to God at great cost. It comes to us at a great cost to the Lord Jesus Christ, for “though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Those are verses describing the incarnation, a life of obedience, a substitutionary death on the cross for our sin. Christ impoverished Himself to enrich you. Don’t you love Him? How rich is your love for Him this morning, given the richness of His love for you?
Are you appreciating grace? And are you attributing grace to its source, which is God alone? Listen to what Paul says in Romans 4. He’s dealing with the issue of salvation, and he’s drawing an analogy between salvation being a debt that God owes us or salvation being a gift that God gives us. See, the religions of the world teach people that salvation’s a debt that God owes them. If they’ll do this, if they’ll go there, they will enjoy God’s favor, because as they do that—as they obey, as they keep the commandments, as they follow religious rules—then that puts God in their debt. And God will pay them back for what they have done. But Paul isn’t saying that. He says, no, it’s grace. It’s unmerited, unwarranted, undeserved, and it’s a gift. It doesn’t originate in you, and you can’t work for it.
That’s the image of a gift, and he deals with that in Romans 4:4–5. Here’s what he says: “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as a debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him [that is, Jesus Christ] who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”
You know what? When you work for your company, at the end of the week or at the end of the month, they give you your wages because you earned them. When you get that wage either handed to you or through the post, you don’t say to the boss, “Thank you very much,” and you don’t write a thank-you note for your wages. If you do, that’s very nice of you, but you’re odd. You’re probably saying to yourself, “You know what? That’s not enough for what I do. Do they not appreciate what they’ve got? The skillset, the work I put in?” That’s what wages are. They’re a debt that’s being paid to you for your work, for your investment, your time, your talent. And Paul says if salvation is wages, then it’s not grace. What does Paul go on to say in Romans 6:23? Very simple. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.”
So, we see it in the word “grace.” We understand it in the image of a gift. And we confront it again in the description of a Christian. Look at verse 10: “For we are His workmanship.” Who’s doing the work in our text? It’s God. See, it’s God that plans salvation. It’s Christ that procures salvation. It’s the Holy Spirit that applies salvation. We saw that all in chapter 1. We are His workmanship.
If you’re a Christian, it’s because God did a work for you in Christ and is doing a work in you through the Holy Spirit. You are His workmanship. We’ll get to that in a moment. You’re His work of art. You’re His masterpiece. Beautiful. God worked your salvation, and God willed your salvation. Look at verse 5 of chapter 1: He predestined us and adopted us as sons or daughters “according to the good pleasure of His will.” Look at verse 7: “In Him [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Look at verse 9: “having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure.” It has pleased God to save you, and it pleased the Lord to bruise Jesus Christ (Isa. 53) so that indeed the debt of your sin could be removed. You see, grace, it needs to be appreciated. And, you see, grace, we need to attribute it to God alone.
In fact, another thing to notice is when we read here about us being saved, it’s in the passive voice. It’s in the perfect tense, but it’s in the passive voice. You say, “Pastor, is that important?” That is. When something is in the passive voice in the Greek, it means that that object or that thing or that person is being acted upon. So, I hit the ball. That’s an active voice. That’s something you do. I hit myself. That’s a reflexive voice in the Greek. I have been hit by the ball. That’s a passive voice. I have been saved by God. He acted on me. He elected, predestined. He adopted. His Son purchased. And His Spirit brought me to faith.
That’s why Spurgeon says this: “Because God is gracious, therefore sinful men are forgiven, converted, purified, and saved. It is not because of anything in them, or that ever can be in them, that they are saved; but because of the boundless love, goodness, pity, compassion, mercy, and grace of God. Tarry a moment, then, at that well-head. Behold the pure river of water of life, as it proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb! What an abyss is the grace of God!” Who can fathom it?
My friend, streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. We need to get to the headwaters and stand there and be amazed that God would set His love on us in eternity past, that His Son would come within history and die for our sin, and then, in a moment of time, that His Spirit would open our eyes and bring us to life in Jesus Christ. It’s glorious stuff. What an abyss the grace of God is.
Let me tell you a story. Samuel Morse invented the telegraph, which is why the Morse Code was named for him. A reporter once asked him, “Did you come to a place in trying to invent the telegram where you didn’t know what to do? If so, what did you do to achieve the breakthrough?” To which he replied, “I asked God.” “Did God give you the knowledge you needed?” the reporter replied. “Yes,” Morse responded. “That’s why I felt I never deserved the honors that have come to me from Europe and America because of the invention associated with my name. I have made a valuable application of the use of electricity, but it was all through God’s help. It wasn’t because I was superior to other scientists. When the Lord wanted to bestow this gift on mankind, He simply used me, and I am grateful to be a means.”
Do you know what the first message was that was ever sent across the wires? It was sent by Samuel Morse, the inventor. The first words ever sent across the wires were “What God hath wrought.” What God hath wrought. That’d be a good title for any one of our life stories: what God hath wrought. For by grace we have been saved. It doesn’t originate from us. We don’t contribute to it. It’s not of works. It’s a gift. Amazing, isn’t it? Have you received that gift? Do you value and treasure that gift?
Let’s move on. Grace appropriated. Grace appreciated. Grace attributed. Grace appropriated. See, Paul is writing to people who have been saved, and he wants them to know the basis, the means, and the goal of salvation. And in this thought, of grace appropriated, we’re going to look at the basis and especially the means.
Here’s what I want us to cover just for a few moments: We’re saved by grace, through faith in Christ, apart from works. Just break that down. This is the movements of salvation. It’s by grace. We’re not going to go over this too much. Grace, as we’ve said, is God’s sovereign, free, and exceeding kindness toward us in Christ. Grace, undeserved and unwarranted.
So, it’s by grace we’ve been saved. That’s the basis. God is the source. His kind actions: the reason. But what’s the means? Through faith. Grace is God’s initiative. Faith is man’s response. Faith is the hand that receives the gift, a hand opened by the gracious work of the Holy Spirit. If you read a description of a Christian anywhere, or you read a description of salvation anywhere, the component of faith is always mentioned. The basis of our salvation is God’s sovereign, free grace put on display in the Lord Jesus Christ—because grace isn’t an abstract thing; it’s a person. The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation. That’s Jesus Christ, His birth, life, death, burial, resurrection. But you and I have got to believe in that.
In fact, here’s the description of the Ephesians back in chapter 1: “In Him [Jesus] also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”
If you go to Romans 3, great passage again on salvation and the gift of Christ’s righteousness credited to us, imputed to us. Again, the means of receiving it, the means of enjoying it, is faith. Verse 21: “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Faith. Belief. It’s a turning to God with a sense of need, with an awareness of weakness, with an emptiness and a willingness to receive what’s being offered. That’s what faith is. It’s receiving with confidence what God is offering. We read in John 1:12 just a few minutes ago, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right [power and authority] to become children of God.”
Let me go to one verse and kind of make my point. It would be 2 Timothy 1:12: “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” It’s interesting. There’s an unfortunate translation of that: “I know whom I have believed.” That’s not a good translation of the text. It would be better translated, “I know in whom I have believed.” Because that’s what it’s all about. It’s coming to a place where we put our faith in Christ.
And there’s a difference between believing things about Christ and actually believing in Christ. See, the devils believe things about Jesus. They’re very orthodox in their theology. You know that? Devils know that He was virgin born. The devils know that He was sinless and the Son of God, God in human flesh. The devils know that the intent of His death on the cross was to atone for our sins. The devils know all of that. They believe in the virgin birth, the sinless life, the deity, humanity of Jesus Christ, His atoning death, His physical resurrection, His promise to return in power and glory. They know, they believe, all those things about Him, but they don’t believe in Him. They don’t treasure Him. They oppose Him. And it’s important that we make that distinction.
Paul is saying, “I know in whom I have believed, and I’m persuaded that He’s able to keep that which I have entrusted to Him against that day.” Those are three component parts, by the way, to faith. If you read the Reformers or Evangelical theology, there’s three component parts to believing in Jesus. There’s what we call knowledge, assent, and commitment. And Paul’s acknowledging that. “I know in whom I have believed.” I know things about Him. I’ve got a knowledge of Him. I understand what He came to do. I understand who He is. And then there was an assent to that. He brought emotion and heart and will to believing that. I’m persuaded that He is who He said He is. I’m persuaded that He did what He said that He did, and I’m persuaded that He’s able to save me, keep me, take me to heaven. Therefore, I have entrusted it to Him against that day. Those are the three component parts: knowledge, assent, commitment.
So, you can believe that a bank is safe and a good place to put your money. You can believe that, and you can bring yourself to the idea that I’m going to put my money in that bank. You assent to the thought. That’s a good bank, and I would do well to put my money there. But, until you go down to the bank and put your money in, you haven’t committed. You haven’t really believed in the bank, because until you put something in it, you haven’t believed in it. Same with Jesus Christ. We’re saved through faith. We’re saved through a knowledge of who He is, what He promises to do, and then we assent to that. We believe that in our heart and our mind, and then we commit our whole trust, our whole self, our whole lives to that. I hope that’s true of you.
By grace through faith in Christ. Let me just say something here. Christ is the object of faith. It’s not the size of your faith, by the way, that saves you. It’s the bigness of the Savior you put your faith in. Grace is relentlessly Christological. Grace is all things Christ. By grace, through faith in Christ, apart from works. It is by grace, through faith centered in the Lord Jesus Christ, apart from anything that we do, that we’re saved, right? Titus 3:5 reinforces that: “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” The only thing you contribute to your salvation is the thing that made it necessary. You cannot add to a finished work.
I’ve got a question for you this morning regarding your salvation. What have you got to do? What have you got to add to the work that Christ finished on the cross for you (John 19:30)? “It is finished!” It’s a Greek word that means “paid for.” “I have paid for sin.” If that’s true, there’s nothing left for you to do. Salvation doesn’t originate in you, and there’s no works for you to do. There’s no boasting. It’s all grace. It’s not a wage. It’s not a debt. It’s a gift. But, for some reason, man is addicted to the idea of contributing something to his salvation.
My friend, it’s not by your first communion, not by your baptism, not by your church attendance, your good upbringing, your religious affiliation, your fasting, your giving, your mission trips, your confession to the priest. It’s not by your abstaining from certain sins, your outward appearances of righteousness, your religious denomination, your self-improvement, your follow-through on an ideal. It’s not by the philanthropic efforts, your kindness to others, your public service, your private devotion, your human wisdom, your positive feelings, your political activism, your respectable reputation.
It’s not even by walking up the aisle, your private devotion, your ministry involvement, your head knowledge of Bible truth, your rule keeping, your guilt wallowing, your sermon swallowing, your solid discernment, your recitation of a particular prayer, your heartfelt songs, or your agreeing with a pastor. My daughter, Angela, sent me that last night. I think she covered most of it. Not by works of righteousness, which we do, but by His mercy.
We don’t have time to really exposit verse 10. I’ll give you the gist of it. It’s beautiful, grace animated. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we should walk in them. Salvation is God’s work, not ours. We’ve already established that. But it is a work that not only puts us right with God but makes us do right, live right, once we have been put right. Justification—being declared righteous, accepted through Jesus Christ before God—is always followed by sanctification, which is a life set apart for God’s glory, a life where we pursue holiness and righteous living.
We’re saved and set apart. We’re saved from something to something. God never justifies a man that He does not consequently sanctify. That’s the whole thesis of the book of James, right? James says, “I hear you’ve got faith, and I hear that you’re saved, which means now you’re in a vital, living relationship with Jesus Christ, which means you’re like a branch in a vine.” Wasn’t that his analogy? And if you’re a branch and He’s the vine, and you’re in Him drawing life from Him, there’s going to be fruit.” That’s why you go to verse 10. We’re not saved by works, but once we’re saved, in a vital, living relationship with Jesus Christ, we are saved unto works. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
When God elected you, when God set His love on you, when God determined to save you, there was a goal. You see, the basis of salvation is grace, the means of salvation is faith, and the goal of salvation is holiness. Go back to verse 4 of chapter 1: “just as He chose us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy.” Where is workmanship? He did a work for us in Jesus Christ that’s finished, and that’s where our faith and trust for heaven lies. But He’s doing an unfinished work in us through the Holy Spirit, where He’s creating us unto good works.
What are those good works? I got to assume it’s chapters 4–6, which means seeking to keep the unity in Christ’s body; seeking to use your spiritual gifts to grow the body of Christ; seeking to love your wife like Christ loves the Church or to submit to your husband like Christ is the head of the Church; seeking to honor your mother and father all the days of your life; seeking to put a good day’s work in at work, being punctual, hardworking; seeking to love your neighbor; and seeking to do this all against the backdrop of an enemy that works against us as we work for God.
Listen as we close. The Christian is not to luxuriate in his inward experiences but to impact the Church and the outside world around him. As Oswald Chambers once said, “The best measure of spiritual life is not ecstasies but obedience.” Love that. Oh, it’s a joy to know God, and it’s a thrill to experience His work in us through the Holy Spirit. But the measure of spirituality is not ecstasies but obedience—because we are His masterpiece created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which He has planned for us to do from the moment He planned to save us.
That’s why old John Wooden used to say, “Make each day a masterpiece.” Will you do that today? Make it a masterpiece. Go and love your neighbor, and go and love God. Go and do good works. Go and enhance someone’s life. Go and pick a brother up that has fallen down. Go and give to the poor. Go and encourage a law enforcement officer. Go and thank a nurse or a doctor for all that they do. Go and do something good in Jesus’ name. Make today a masterpiece. Go home and kiss your children. Go home and raise them in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Go home and have a marriage that approximates the gospel. Make each day a masterpiece because you are His masterpiece.
Father, we thank You for this text. We thank You for the message of the grace of God, free and unmerited. We thank You we’re saved by grace, and we thank You that that grace unleashed in our lives will produce a life of holiness. We’re not saved by works, but we are saved unto works. So, help us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is You that works in us. These things we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.