Saved for good works

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not 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, that we should walk in them.

-Ephesians 2:8-10

Many think that verses 8 and 9 form the climax of this paragraph (verses 1-10), so much so that verse 10 is seldom quoted. This is a sad omission, because I believe that verse 10 – “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” – completes the thought begun in verses 8-9. Without verse 10, we have an incomplete view of the place of good works.

If we focus on verses 8-9 while excluding verse 10, we may come to the erroneous conclusion that there is to be no consideration of good works in the salvation experience. But what part do good works play? While 8-9 clearly show that good works have no place in a person becoming saved, verse 10 just as clearly show that these works are a necessary part of the life of the believer after being saved.

It would be a grave error to assume that because we are saved by grace through faith (not works), that good works are optional to a believer. This verse makes this impossible. The same God who saves by grace those who believe is the same God who purposes and prepares good works for those who are his creation in Christ. To divorce our position in justification from our daily walk in sanctification as if one can be reality and the other optional is to do disservice to this and many other passages of Scripture (Romans 6:1ff; James 2:14ff to name a couple). To be sure, our practice of these good works is imperfect in this life, but a life with no works is not a true, redeemed Christian life. Faith without works is dead (James 2:26).

-excerpt from my upcoming book on reading Scripture theologically, title TBD

Embrace mystery: thoughts on Ephesians 1:3-14

The following is a portion of a chapter I have written on Ephesians 1:3-14. It is a part of a book I am writing: Framework: Passages That Teach Theology (working title).

There is mystery in these verses; embrace it! Whenever I discuss the issue of the sovereignty of God with other believers, invariably objections are raised. If God has predestined us for salvation, then what about free will? Why should we share the gospel? Why should I even pray? These are all good questions, but I urge you to pump the brakes a little on those questions and simply meditate on the truths that are plainly stated. “The words speak of a mystery, but words could not be plainer.”

All too often, believers look at a passage like this and immediately go in to denial-mode. “Since I know this is true, then that can’t mean…” And what ends up happening in our thoughts is that the truths about God we see plainly stated are mitigated and softened. And before you know it, we’ve created a mental picture of God that we can be comfortable with but is a distortion of what the Bible reveals.

The closer we come to truths about God, the more mystery there is. We will not be able to “figure it out.” If you can’t reconcile God’s sovereignty with mankind’s being held responsible for their sins, then you’re in a good place! Don’t try to reconcile two irreconcilable truths. Embrace the mystery.