Thursday, October 4, 2012

Getting Grace And Works In The Right Place

What is the relationship between God's grace and our works?
Paul teaches in Ephesians 2:8-10 that we are saved by grace, and yet we are saved for works.

Saved BY Grace
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.” Eph 2:8-9, ESV

Paul sums up his description of God’s salvation by emphasizing the truth that it is all according to God’s free grace, and not our doing. Paul’s focus and theme in the entire letter thus far has been the glorious grace of God in Christ (including God's choice of us before we were born [1:4], his predestination of us to adoption as sons [1:5], Christ's redemption at the cross [1:7], the various words and phrases pointing to God's sovereignty and initiative in salvation [1:9, 11], his making us alive when we were dead [2:5, etc]). God must be glorified in all his salvation. By grace we have been saved, through (not because of) faith. By saying ‘through faith,’ “Paul is emphasizing your passive reception of something from God” (Duncan).

“And this is not your own doing.” What is not our own doing? Grace, salvation or faith? Many Bible commentators agree that Paul is referring to all of it (O'Brien, Stott). The whole thing is his doing. Everything mentioned so far is the work and gift of God, not deserved, not earned and not performed by us. This is not our own doing! Election was not our doing. Predestination to adoption was not our doing. Redemption and forgiveness were not our doing. Being sealed with the Spirit and guaranteed future glory was not our doing. Being made alive when we were dead in sin was not our own doing. And even the faith we put in Christ was a gracious gift to us from God, who enabled us to see truth and warmed our affections toward him, and gave us ears to hear his call and grace to believe the gospel. “When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed” (Acts 18:27).

"Salvation is not a reward for good deeds" (O’Brien).

John Stott provides this insight:
We must never think of salvation as a kind of transaction between God and us in which he contributes grace and we contribute faith. For we were dead, and had to be quickened before we could believe. No, Christ’s apostles clearly teach elsewhere that saving faith too is God’s gracious gift (Acts 18:27; Phil 1:29).
“ that no one may boast.” As we have already seen, we were saved to show the glory of God (2:7, see my post on this verse here). Paul emphasizes here that it is all of God’s doing, so that no man will be able to boast of anything before God. All must give glory to God. Salvation is of the Lord.

Saved FOR Works
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we 2should walk in them.” Eph 2:10, ESV

Though Paul is clear that all of salvation is by grace and not by works, he is equally clear that salvation is not without works. Works are not the root, but the fruit of salvation. Works are the goal, since they are outward evidence of our genuine inclusion into Christ, and they are the means God uses to show off his glory to the universe through his people.

As Jesus said:
...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16, ESV

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