For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do(Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV).
There are thousands of religions in the world today, and many of those religions are based on a man or woman’s works.
The individual’s ability to achieve a higher and desired spiritual state rests upon their own ability to do specific works and to follow the rules without breaking them.
Christianity differs from all other religions in that the work is not our own doing and the works that we do have no bearing on securing our salvation, but they are the result of our salvation.
Before we are born again by saving faith in Jesus Christ, our works and deeds are performed in our own strength and in our own flesh.
We may even view ourselves as good or righteous in our own capabilities, but the Word of God tells us that none of us are righteous and even in our own perception of personal righteousness, it is as filthy rags before God (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6).
Romans 3:20 even tells us that no human being will be justified by works of the law since knowledge of sin comes through the law.
It is only by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His death, burial, and resurrection in accordance with the scriptures that we can be saved from our sin and justified before God.
Saved by God for Good Works
Ephesians 2:8,9 tells us that we have been saved by grace through faith alone, and this is the gift of God rather than by our own works, which would cause us to boast if that were the case. According to this article, “Salvation is a divine exchange: our tattered rags of self-effort for the purification of Christ.”
Verse 10 goes on to help us understand further about good works in the life of the believer in Christ, telling us that believers are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works and that these works were created by God beforehand.
As believers in Christ, we will walk in these ways, which God has made for us. “God’s goal in saving us was not only to rescue us from hell, but also that we would reflect His character and goodness to the world.”
When we are new creations in Christ, the desires we once had to live for ourselves and for the ways of the world change. Instead of pleasing the self, we now live to please God and to glorify Him. We are not saved by our good works, but we are saved for good works.
There is a work, which guarantees our salvation, and that is the finished work on the cross by the spotless Lamb of God who takes away our sin. When we are born again, it is more than simply praying a prayer or a verbal confession.
There should be evidence in our lives of a change that only God can bring. For a person to confess Christ without true change in their lives from being dead in sin to alive in Christ, helps us to understand what it means to have a dead faith without works.
These changes will be seen in the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5, as well as walking in a way that we are living as Jesus alludes to in John 15, abiding in the Vine and producing fruit bearing witness as a branch.
Apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). John Tweeddale beautifully states this concerning salvation in correlation with Christ and good works, “Christ is the ground of our salvation, faith is the instrument of our salvation, and works are the fruit of our salvation.”
Good Works Glorify God and Serve Others
There is great joy in understanding that our salvation is not based on our works but rather is a product of our salvation.
We do not carry out works as Christians to remain in God’s good graces or because we have to, but we do them because we love the Lord, and we desire to testify His love.
John 15:8 says, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” Agreeing with this passage, John Tweeddale states, “Good works are the result of our being united to Christ.”
In submitting to the Word of God and to His instruction, this is part of our good works and is ultimately glorifying the Lord. As His workmanship made for good works, we can serve others in various capacities while glorifying God.
Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” We can encourage other believers to good deeds that glorify Christ (Hebrews 10:24).
Paul told Titus “in everything set them an example by doing what is good” (Titus 2:7). As the body of Christ, we are made for good works, which will testify of God as well as glorify Him.
What about Faith Without Works?
There can be a misinterpretation or a misunderstanding of works with regards to the Christian faith, particularly when looking at James 2 in contrast to statements made by the Apostle Paul.
There may seem to be a contradiction between what these two men ministered, but this could not be further from the truth. According to Steven Cole regarding this very issue,
Paul was attacking the Pharisaic idea that our good works will commend us to God. He argues that no one can even be good enough to earn salvation. God justifies guilty sinners through faith in Christ alone. But James was attacking the view that saving faith does not necessarily result in good works. He shows that genuine faith always produces good works.
This goes back to a previous point that confessing Jesus Christ without evidence of transformation in our lives and a love for God so as to glorify Him in word and deed.
Our faith in Jesus Christ is trusting in His work on our behalf. Trusting by faith alone in Christ alone in His completed work is a wonderful blessing for us as believers because His work cannot fail in providing salvation.
God gets all the glory for His work, and as those who are regenerated by Christ and abiding in Him, God gets the glory for our good works for Him.
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Dawn Hill is a Christian blogger known as The Lovesick Scribe and the host of The Lovesick Scribe Podcast. She is passionate about sharing the truth and pointing others back to Jesus Christ through the written Word as the standard of authority for Christian living and instruction while being led by the Holy Spirit into maturity. She is the author of NonProphet Woke: The Reformation of a Modern-Day Disciple. She is a wife to Nicholas and a mother to Anabel and Ephraim. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.