Created for Good Works

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…” (Ephesians 2:10)

Bible Reading: Ephesians 2:8-10

Paul’s emphasis on saving faith as a gift from God opens the way for him to make a play on words about “works.” 

Faith, he says, “is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:9). There is no room for boasting “for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (v. 10). We are not saved by our works, but through the “workmanship” of God, for good works.

The contrast is vivid – not “by” works, but “for” works. This vital idea is often missing among Christians. In our concern to distance ourselves from any thought of earning our salvation through our own efforts or merits (“works”), we swing to the opposite extreme and practically deny the value of good works.

That this is a mistake is clearly evident in what are often called the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus). In Titus, for example, Paul’s co-worker in Crete, (Titus), is urged by the apostle to show himself “a model of good works” to younger men (Titus 2:7). Believers generally are urged to “devote themselves to good works (3:8, 14), and Jesus is said to have redeemed us from all lawlessness to purify for himself “a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (2:14).  Far from being indifferent to “good works”, we are to be “devoted” to them and “zealous” for them.

These good works are not things we are to try to conjure up for ourselves. Rather, Paul says in our Ephesians 2 passage, God “prepared them beforehand” that we should walk in them (v. 10). What a glorious thought this is. Not only has God chosen us in Christ to be his own, but prepared good works that we should perform.

This gives a wonderful sense of value to the Christian life. It makes it possible for us to live in a way that has eternal significance as we daily “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” knowing that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12, 13). As the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it, our ability to do good works is not at all of ourselves, “but wholly from the Spirit of Christ”. There is, it continues, a need for “an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit” to work in us “to will, and to do, of his good pleasure” (WCF XVI: III).

Here, then, is the secret of a truly fruitful life of lasting worth. It lies not in our frenetic efforts to invent things to do for God, but in resting and abiding in Christ, constantly seeking and responding to his Spirit working within us to bear the fruit of good works.

Let’s remember that we are not saved by works, but for works.

Closing Thoughts:

  • How important are “good works” to you?
  • Are you conscious of God working in you to “will and do of his good pleasure” as you seek to live in Christ?

– Andrew Young