We are created in Christ Jesus for good works.
SEPTEMBER 29, 2022
Justin Holcomb: We are created in Christ Jesus for good works. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
This is Key Life. We are here to let you know that because of what Jesus has done, God will never be angry at you again. Justin Holcomb has been teaching us all this week. Justin is an Episcopal Priest, an author, and he teaches at Reformed Theological Seminary.
Justin Holcomb: Thank you Matthew. My name is Justin Holcomb. And I have had the joy of teaching this week. And at Key Life, you know the focus is on the grace of God. We’ve been exploring that as the central message of the Bible and what the Bible says about grace. Yesterday, we looked at Ephesians 2, focused on versus two through nine. And today, we’re really going to hone in on the idea from verse 10. Let me read the larger passage, but verse 10, I’ll note it when I read it. This is Ephesians 2 versus eight through ten.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
And here’s verse 10.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that you should walk in.
I wanted to talk about this because many times we feel like sanctification, the Christian life, the good works is the burden, but this verse, verse 10 shows this as a gift, as a joy, it changes how we think about good works. If we’re not saved by them, we’re free to actually do them because we’re not banking on our standing before God because of them. So moving to Ephesians 2:10 with its focus on good works. It’s tempting at first to glance and to think that verses eight and nine are all about grace. And then verse ten is where you crowbar ends some works, but this would be to miss something very important that can easily be neglected. Everything is grace, as Andrew Lincoln puts it.
It’s grace all the way.
What does that exactly mean, especially for verse 10 and this focus on good works. Ephesians has focus on the work of God from the very beginning in verse one from chapter one. Now, it all comes to a crescendo in Ephesians two, especially in verse 10. Notice how God centered Ephesians 2:10 is. In the Greek, the first word in the sentence is actually his referring to God, which is an unusual placement. And it does it to actually put the emphasis squarely on God. You wouldn’t normally say his workmanship, you would say it differently in the language, but what we have here in the way it’s formulated in the original is, we are his workmanship. It says his workmanship we are, sounds a little bit like Yoda, I guess.
His workmanship we are created by God in Christ Jesus for good works.
These good works were those quote that God prepared beforehand. Clearly works are important to Paul in the rest of the Bible. But his emphasis here is on God bringing them about within us. Notice that this verse does three important things. First, it gives the reason why Paul can say in verses eight through nine, that salvation is a gift of God because we are his workmanship recreated in Christ Jesus. So, the first thing is it answers the reason why, second it points forward to other places. The new creation idea is found in Ephesians. Right here in Ephesians 2:10, it’s setting up future things that you will read in Ephesians 2:14 through 15 and 4:24. You can go ahead and peek at those, if you’d like to. Third, it completes the section of Ephesians two versus one through ten, in a fitting way by using again, the idea of walking, which contrasts in Ephesians two verse two, where Paul talks about how we used to walk in sin, following the course of the world. Now, we walk in good works God has set before us, as if it’s a path. Ephesians 2:10 continues that we have been created in Christ Jesus for good works. So, we are saved for the purpose of walking in good works. Good works are never the ground or the cause of our salvation. It’s the gift that flows from our justification. They can’t be the ground or cause of our salvation, they just don’t work like that. That’s not how God set things up that you earn it by our good works. They’re not the cause, but they are the goal of the new creation. This is what God wants to do through us in and in us, when he saves us, free us from the chains on our shoulders, around our legs and in tripping us up as we try to walk. And God has already prepared them for us ahead of time. We must always hold Ephesians 2:10 together with Ephesians 2:8 and 9, that’s because the Bible paints a holistic picture of the believer as one whose life is continually lived in grace that bears fruit. Fruit that is used by God to show gratitude and worship to God, but to bless others, as Luther says.
God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor sure does.
How do we then live? If our works are prepared beforehand, what do we do? Paul says we walk in them, we show up, we abide in the vine of Jesus Christ, we walk by the Spirit, we do our best not to mess it all up, but we will. And when we do, grace picks us back up and we repent. It’s like the old Rich Mullen’s lyric.
If I stand, let me stand on the promise that you will see me through. And if I can’t, let me fall in the grace, that first brought me to you. If I stand, let me stand on the promise that you will see me through. And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace, that first brought me to you.
I love those lyrics because there’s a damaging idea floating around that says, God saved you, now what are you going to do for him? And that’s a recipe for failure. If you come to the table believing you can do anything for God in your own strength to repay him on any level, to show that it was worth it to him to sacrifice his son, we’ve already lost. We’re back to confessing our own self dependent, spiritual death from which Jesus saved us. Above all else, and before any discussion of what we should do, we must understand deeply in our bones, who we are. We are the workmanship of God created in Christ Jesus for good works. We are God’s project. So, you are invited to be who you are. Your life is not your own. It was bought with a price, so we can live with gratitude and humility, joy, and the peace that comes from knowing it’s not all depending on us. You are loved and accepted by God in Jesus Christ. So, you don’t have to focus on what you do or don’t do for God. Now, you can focus on what Jesus has done for you and who he is, and that will cause you to love God more because the Holy Spirit will pour the love of God into your hearts. And the Holy Spirit makes you new, with a new heart, new mind, new desires, then you can’t help but walk in grace realizing how costly God’s grace was for you. Our salvation costs God the precious blood of Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes that.
God’s grace quote is costly grace because it costs God the life of his Son. God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivering him up for us.
That is beautiful. God accomplished all he intended through his Son. God gave everything in Christ. This is why Jesus said the Son of man came to give his life as a ransom for many. Paul uses the language of ransom, you were bought with a price, the life of God’s own Son. And Peter refers to the precious blood of the lamb. Charles Wesley reflects this freedom in his hymn.
And can it be that I should gain. Long my imprisoned spirit lay; Fast bound and sin in nature’s night; Thine eye diffused a quickening ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
You will go where you are loved and we are only finding the ultimate love in Christ. He first loved us, not that we loved God first, you don’t need to be exhorted and told, you better love God. How could you not? You’ve been ransomed by the costly blood of his Son. Christians live every day by the grace of God. We receive forgiveness according to the riches of divine grace and grace drives our sanctification. Paul tells us in Timothy, sorry, Titus 2 versus 11 and 12.
The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives.
And this doesn’t happen overnight.
We grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
That’s II Peter 3:18. Grace transforms our desires, our motivations, and our behaviors. And this is liberation indeed. The gospel is all about God’s grace through Jesus Christ. That’s why Paul calls it quote.
The gospel of the grace of God.
Or the word of his grace, the gospel of the grace of God is the message everyone needs. The word of grace is proclaimed from every page of the Bible and ultimately revealed in Jesus Christ. The last verse of the Bible Revelation 22:21, summarizes the message from Genesis to Revelation.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.
Because of and from Jesus, we have all received grace upon grace, the gratuitous and undomesticated grace of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Thank you Justin. Justin Holcomb there wrapping up his week of teaching on gratuitous grace. Remember, if you missed any of those episodes, you can stream them anytime you want for free at keylife.org. Steve will return tomorrow along with Pete Alwinson for Friday Q&A at which time they will tackle this question. Is grace enough, or do we have to do something else? Well, come back tomorrow for that answer. So, here’s a question. Have you ever felt like the church no longer meets your needs? Well, for a lot of Christians, it’s a very relevant, very timely question. It’s also a question. Kendra Fletcher explores in her article called When the Church Can’t Meet Your Needs. You’ll find that piece in the current issue of Key Life magazine, along with articles from some of your favorite Key Life voices like Chad West, Pete Alwinson, and yeah, of course, Steve. Get your free copy right now by calling us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for the magazine. If you’d like to mail your request, send it to
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