The apostle Paul has been proclaiming the amazing spiritual blessings found in Christ. We were dead in our sins because of our own actions. We were following our own passions and desires. We were following the course of this world. We were carrying out the desires of our body and mind. We were deserving of wrath and destined to receive wrath. But God made us alive together with Christ. We see the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us through the resurrection of Christ (1:20) and through making us alive, though we were dead in our sins (2:5). All of this is to remind us that we were dead but God has saved us. Now Paul is going to teach us that God has a purpose for our lives because he saved us.
You Are Saved By Grace Through Faith (2:8)
I think it should cause us to pause when we see Paul repeat this point in such a short amount of space. Go back to verse 5 where Paul says, “By grace you have been saved.” In verse 8 Paul is compelled to say it again to us. You have been saved by grace. It is a point that apparently is easy to forget. It is worth Paul repeating because we forget that we stand where we are only by the grace of God. God delivers people who are dead in sins and eternally separated from him through Christ. We do not deliver ourselves. In fact, notice that Paul presses this into our minds in verse 8. “And this is not your own doing.” Some translations say, “This is not of yourselves.” It is important to ask what the “this” is referring to. Some want to teach that faith is what Paul is referring to. Therefore, your faith is not of yourselves, but is the gift of God. However, the scholars point out that this cannot be the case because Greek gender is wrong to be referring back to faith (Hoener, 342). Instead, the “this” refers to salvation by grace. This deliverance does not come from inside of us. We did not activate this salvation. We saw this in the first chapter. Before the foundation of the world God chose us to be holy, blameless, and adopted to be his children. Before any person was created God prepared a means of deliverance from our sins so that we could be in relationship with him.
But in verse 8 Paul adds an important component. We are saved by grace through faith. There is a requirement on our part. There is a condition given to the world for deliverance for sins. If you want to be saved by grace, there must be the response of faith. We know this when we move forward in this letter by Paul. Turn to Ephesians 4:1 where Paul urges his readers to walk in a manner worthy of the calling. These first three chapters of Ephesians are describing the calling we have been given. The final three chapters describe how to walk worthy of that calling. Paul wants to emphasize the necessity of faith while at the same time pressing the fact that salvation’s origin is God, not humanity. But still there must be the response of faith.
But what does it mean that we are saved by grace through faith? What is God asking us to do? In the most simple definition, faith is about trust. God wants us to trust him. Trust is an interesting thing. We like to think that we trust someone. But the only way we exhibit trust is by doing what they tell us to do when we are unsure of the results. Trust is not found through agreement. Trust, true faith, is forged when I don’t believe what you are telling me or I am at the very least uncertain about what you are telling me to do, but I do it anyway. This is where we stand before Christ. Being saved by grace through faith means that I will trust in the Lord to such a degree that I will do anything he asks. There are so many actions that God asks us to do that show tremendous faith in him. From turning the other cheek to putting the interests of others ahead of ourselves, we see that the Christian life is a life of faith. We are exposed to this from the very first steps. Listen to how the apostle Peter explains baptism.
Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3:21 ESV)
We are appealing to God for a good conscience. We are asking God for the cleansing of our souls. What about baptism makes sense that this is how to appeal to God for a good conscience? Baptism, along with everything God commands us to do, requires faith. The apostle Paul said the same thing to the Colossians.
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11–12 ESV)
Notice that the apostle Paul says that baptism is an expression of faith. It is our faith in the powerful working of God. God raised Jesus from the dead, and through baptism we are expressing our faith that God is raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life. For by grace you have been saved through faith. This salvation is a gift from God that looks for the response of faith.
Not A Result of Works (2:9)
Verse 9 contains another wonderful truth. This salvation is not a result of works. Friends, we really need to hear these words. We are so ingrained to seek a salvation by works that it is difficult to mentally rely on the grace of God. This faulty wiring is exposed in a number of ways. At a funeral, what is the comfort we want to rely upon? I have a friend whose father just passed away. The majority of the comments are about his good works. We look to something tangible for such a moment. Every funeral tries to proclaim the good works of the individual to justify hope in the afterlife. But there are lots of people who die who have done great works! This cannot be the basis of our hope.
We also see this reliance on works in our own lives. Many times we can feel uncertain about our salvation. Why do we doubt our salvation? Usually because we are trying to look to our own works of righteousness, trying to be good enough to deserve salvation. Then Christians become miserable, being uncertain whether they have “done enough.” But we cannot do enough. We cannot be good enough. The words of verse 8, “not a result of works,” become the place where our soul can rest. Your salvation does not rest in your good works but in your faith in Jesus. The cross is the work to look to for hope. We put our faith in Jesus’ dying work, not in ourselves. As Paul has just shown us, faith in Jesus acts. Faith is always active, as James points out in his book (James 2:14-26). But as soon as I look to my works for salvation, I am not trusting in Jesus anymore. I am trusting in myself. We must stop trying to save ourselves. We must stop worrying about our past sins. What does it mean that we are saved by grace? It means that you are saved in spite of your actions. By definition you and I do not deserve this salvation. So we must stop looking at our actions as if somehow we can show that salvation is deserved. Look at the rest of verse 9. God does not want us trusting in ourselves. He does not want us boasting in ourselves. Our trust is in Christ and the cross. We rest in the grace of God. “Not a result of works” gives us hope and comfort to look to the grace of God and not ourselves.
We Are His Workmanship (2:10)
We now come to a statement of our identity. We are God’s workmanship. The word translated “workmanship” was a word used in those times for the work of a craftsman. God determined that we would be made by him in Christ for good works so that we would walk in those good works. Good works is why we are here. These good works do not save us, as Paul already carefully pointed out. These works are the evidence that we are God’s workmanship. God’s intention is that our salvation will result in acts of service. We are not saved for our own benefit. We are not saved to live a self-centered life. We are saved to serve Christ. We have been created by God with great intention. We are created for good works. We are created to walk in good works. We were not created to walk in sins and trespasses. We were not created to follow the course of this world. We were not created to carry out the desires of our body and mind. We were created for something more glorious — crafted by God for good works. Each of us has an important job description given by the eternal Creator. You are not salesman. You are his workmanship. You are not here for your earthly occupation. You are here for good works. Every good work we do is simply fulfilling our God-given purpose.
What was your television made to do? What do you want your television to do? Do you want to your television to be a table? Do you wish that your television was a rug? The television was made with a purpose and our only desire is for our television to fulfill its purpose. We would not be happy if the television because upset with its purpose and tried to be a pillow instead. The television brings us joy when it does what it was made to do. We bring joy to the Father when we simply do what God has created us to do. God saved us and he wants us to do what he created for us to do in the first place. You were created to walk in good works. You are God’s handiwork. You are his workmanship. God has constructed you to be something so useful and valuable to him. Do not despise that purpose. Be what you are supposed to be. This is why you are on this earth. You are saved for good works. God’s joy is that you rejoice in fulfilling your purpose to love and serve him.