Thought for the day: Ephesians 2:10

NRS Ephesians 2:10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

I was struck today by the implication of this verse; that we are what he has made us and that the placement of good works in our lives is not the source or starting point of our salvation, but rather they are the end or goal of being made anew in Christ Jesus. Further, and I quote, “To say that God has prepared the good works in advance in his sovereign purpose is also to stress in the strongest possible way that believers’ good deeds cannot be chalked up to their own resolve, but are due solely to divine grace” (Lincoln, WBC, 116).

I wonder how such an evaluation plays out for those who are not in Christ and who still purportedly do “good works?” Are their good works also only possible by the grace of God, even though they would not acknowledge him as the source? Even still then, this seems to not allow for a reversal of the previous verse in 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through [good works], and this is not you own doing; it is the gift of God” instead of “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” If then both good works and faith are as a result of divine grace, is one better than the other?

At least in this verse, Paul seems to place the primary emphasis on faith. If it is God’s grace that allows us to choose him (whether by predestination or prevenient grace) and if it is God’s grace that moves us toward good works, then it is all by grace, and no one can boast (cf. 2:9). At least from this verse, it might imply (at least in the life of the believer) that good works have always been apart of God’s program of salvation, never attached on as something separate, indeed those made new in Christ, are God’s “good work” or “workmanship,” and so there is really no such thing are as believers (or anyone?) doing “good works” apart from the grace of God, i.e., our good work is really his good work. And so, are those who are trying to earn salvation by throwing good works on the scale simply offering up these good works that have only been made possible by the grace of God in the first place? In this case then, trying to be saved by our “own” good works is not really an option; we have nothing to offer God, which later in Romans 12 leads Paul to say, “offer your bodies as living sacrifices.”

Ultimately, we can take comfort in the following quote from Karl Barth, “the distinctive thing about Christian or theological ethics is that we do not have to do any carrying without remembering that we are carried.”


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4 Responses to Thought for the day: Ephesians 2:10

  1. Nick says:

    Good stuff Mr. Wiggers.
    Faith in the good work of Christ on the cross! Our good works grow out of Christ’s good work, and the Father owns all the soil out of which all humanity grows. Christ is the fountainhead, and from Him flow the streams of life. We drink from the brook, but the Master own the water even when we wish to call the works our own. Divine grace gives life, and all good work has God behind the scene. We are His work, and therefore all our good work is His good work. When we act godly, we are an extension of His body on earth. We are the sprouts that grow into trees that bear fruit and all that is produced belongs to the Father. We are in the process of salvation when we come daily to drink from the Father’s stream.

  2. Nathan Eubank says:

    Wiggers – Hey what are you doing right now? I have no idea where you live or anything. Congrats on the pregnancy. Jessie’s due in two weeks with number two.
    I apologize for being off topic. I thought Lincoln’s Eph commentary was one of the most boring I’ve ever read! (Now, if you wrote it Steve, it’d be great).

  3. wiggers says:

    Eubanks- hey man, thanks for saying hey. Congratulations by the way on your second child on the way, wow, papa Nate, that’s cool. A quick update…we are living in Wheaton, IL currently. I just recently graduated from the grad school here at Wheaton with an MA in Biblical Exegesis. We originally came here back in January of 2006. The plan was for me to a do this second MA (in addition to the MA in Biblical Studies at Asbury) and then to apply for Wheaton’s PhD program in Biblical Theology, New Testament. Well, I did apply this past January, but didn’t get into the program (pretty competitive-they only accept like two applicants per yr I guess).

    Anyway, so we’re still here in Wheaton. Jen works at a pediatric dental office and will be for as long as she can until the baby comes, which is supposed to be sometime in late August. I’m currently hunting for a job- had some interviews recently with some non-profit organizations (World Relief, TEAM), so hoping to have some sort of job as soon as possible. I think you knew we were in Kenya for a year (from Aug 2004-Aug 2005) teaching at a Bible College there? Anyway, we are still considering going back, but just waiting to have the baby for now and see how things go with that, and PhD work is still not out of the question, but perhaps not at this time (perhaps after some years of teaching overseas?). Well, I guess that can serve as a mini-update for now. Thanks for writing. Take care man. Say hello to Jessie, and Richard Hays, ha.

    peace, steve

    ps- ya, I would probably agree with you about the Lincoln commentary, though I’ve only read a few portions of it, but thought that his comment was pertinent for Eph 2:10.

  4. Nathan Eubank says:

    Thanks man! Hang in there on that job hunt.

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