Are you worried you’re not doing enough to please God?
If you grew up in church, you’ve probably heard Ephesians 2:8-9 a thousand times before. Perhaps you’ve even memorized the verses that tell us of free grace given by God apart from anything that we can do. It’s an amazing message that speaks of the incomprehensible grace of God:
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.
Taking a look at the context for these verses enlarges the vision of grace they present and empowers us to live our lives without worrying about doing enough to please God.
The Grace and Power of God
Ephesians 2 begins with our state before being saved: we were dead in our sins and children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3).
But then Paul gives us these majestic words: “But God.”
Because God is merciful and loves us, he makes us alive by his grace for his own glory (Ephesians 2:4-7).
Finally, our salvation is by grace and not our works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Ephesians 2:10 supports the notion of the gift of grace from God. It provides a purpose for the work that we do:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
This verse provides purpose for our work in a way that frees us to accept the grace of God and perform our good works in the power of God.
Good Works Cannot Save
Our good works cannot save us (Ephesians 2:9) because God prepared them before we were born so we could do them (Ephesians 2:10).
As created beings, we can’t even do good things apart from the preparatory work of our Creator. Even our good works were created by God; they aren’t ours to offer him.
This frees us from thinking we can do something big enough to please God.
We may have opportunities to do big things for God, but they won’t be because we’ve imagined a perfect plan or invented a perfect process.
No, the same God that created us and calls us has also already planned out how we can best serve him. We are to diligently use our resources to walk in those good works.
What a Gift of Grace!
Work is also a part of God’s grace towards us. In Ephesians 2:7, Paul points toward the vision of God’s glory in the future when the “immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus” is displayed. Part of that grace is our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). Another part of that grace is that God chose to use us to do good works, despite our history of sin.
The merciful God that spoke everything into existence for his own glory chose to redeem sinful humans.
He didn’t just redeem them; he chose to use them to do good works. However, recognizing that in their continued weakness they would mess up even those good works, he prepared them in advance.
What a gift of grace!
We find grace in our glorious redemption.
We see grace in the way God has used us in the past.
We look forward to grace that God will use us in the future.
The movement toward integrating faith and work is healthy. It’s good to see our vocations as part of the way we daily serve God.
However, if we aren’t careful, we can slip into the folly of believing we have to perform well enough to obtain God’s blessing.
Ephesians 2:10 helps keep that error in check, another sign of God’s grace toward us. Salvation is not of works, so that none of us can boast.