The sacred irony
A memory scripture from my youth is a familiar verse to many. In fact, it’s a gold standard for kids memorizing scripture in Sunday Schools and Vacation Bible School.
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. Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
This verse is one of the anthem cries of our faith, especially in the evangelical protestant tradition. We are saved by grace, not by good works or good nature or good attitudes, or whatever plea we make on our own behalf. Salvation is the gift of God.
But look at the next verse:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
Did Paul just do a 180° here? He was talking about how salvation is the gift of grace, not works, and then in the next breath, he’s talking about how God has prepared good works for us beforehand, to adopt as our lifestyle. Is this a contradiction?
Not at all. It is important to know that Paul isn’t talking about “good works” as some way to merit God’s favor or “earn” our way into heaven. And there is no discussion in this passage of somehow keeping God happy. The verses before make it clear that our identity in Christ is sealed and delivered.
Paul is talking about life, and by “life” I mean real life, full life, spirit-filled life, which the New Testament writers called “zoe.” This is eternal life, and it begins today, right now, in Christ. It also deepens and broadens as we experience Christ by joining him in his work in the world—the “good works” that Paul is talking about. This is the key.
The best life is knowing Christ and walking with him—participating with him in his good works. This is the sacred irony of freedom through obedience; experiencing fullness by giving everything back to him.
Jesus saved us, but he doesn’t just wait for us to meet him after death. He leads us, by the Spirit, to serving and loving and giving and we meet him every day and join him in the daily good works he has prepared for us.
Presented by Greg Williams
About the presenter:
Word of Life each Sunday is taken from Speaking of Life, (https://www.gci.org/videos/media-speaking-of-life/), a public resource video on the USA website of Grace Communion International. Greg Williams is President of Grace Communion International and lives in North Carolina, USA.
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