“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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10).
“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” (2:8-9). Amazingly, we have been saved by grace through faith. We had nothing to do with our change in position before God. We had nothing to do with our stone hearts coming alive again. Grace and faith are not of our own doing; they are a gift of God, not a result of works, because “we are his workmanship, created in Christ for good works” (v. 10). Eph. 2:8-9 makes it clear that salvation is not a result of works, therefore it is important to unpack these verses in order to define the role of grace and faith in salvation. First, Calvin writes that Paul “does not say that the will is prepared, and is then left to run by its own strength . . . to make our own choice” (Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. 21, 229). Paul simply says that we have been saved by grace through faith, not by works. Both ‘grace’ (chariti) and ‘faith’ (pisteos) are feminine, and both ‘this’ (touto) and ‘gift’ (doron) are neuter, so the reference to faith also being a gift from God is not necessarily plain. However, Eph 2:8-9 does tell us that God does not save sinners by their works. Therefore, “Faith is something other than a work” (Boice, Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary, 68). This, of course, is not meant to take away from our responsibility to respond in faith to the gospel; however, we should never disconnect faith from God’s work in regeneration. Without God giving us the grace necessary to make us alive, we could never respond in faith to the gospel. In election, it also seems that those whom God chooses will certainly respond in faith to his grace for salvation.
Second, it is also important to affirm that God does not want faith to be of our own doing. If it was, we would be able to boast that salvation, in part, was our own work (MacArthur, Ephesians, 61 . . . Salvation is God’s work from the beginning, and then to the end. Without God’s effectual calling and grace, there would be no regeneration, and therefore, no faith. Effectual calling, regeneration, and faith all go hand-in-hand. If one is missing, then the other two are not truly there. In other words, if God effectually calls a sinner out of death and into life, then he will come out of death and into life by breathing in that grace that God supplies through faith. To put it plainly, we must respond to God’s call to salvation with faith; but if God calls us, we will respond in faith [cf. Rom 8:28-30]. Therefore, justification is by faith alone, because without faith, there was no grace given to justify that sinner.). In view of that, faith is a response that is only made possible by God’s grace in salvation—”It is simply breathing the breath that God’s grace supplies). This does not mean that we are being treated like machines; rather it means that God has made our dead hearts alive by reviving us in Christ, and our most natural response to that is faith. Paul mentions faith at least eight times in his letter to the Ephesians, always referring either to faith that gives us confidence in knowing God, or faith that shields us from Satan (see 3:12, 6:16), or faith as an outward response that accompanies grace for salvation (see 1:15, cf. 4:5).
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (v. 10). The reality in our experience is that each of us continues to fail regarding worship in spirit and in truth (cf. John 4:23-24, Rom. 7:19). But the gospel is for God’s children, and through Christ our worship is acceptable and pleasing to God. Although we are still sinful, our position in Christ cannot be changed, and God does not want to change it.
But there is more to it. We may still be sinful, but Christ has still saved us. Our boasting must be boasting in Christ. That should be our response of love toward God, and that is proper worship. God is renewing our hearts and minds in Christ “that we should walk with them” (v. 10). The concept of worship and works in light of Eph. 2:8-10 cannot be legalistic moralism. If it were, we would be trying to make our position of grace before God a result of our own works. But instead, it should be a response of love toward God that says, “I am so sinful. But by the grace of God through Christ, I am so thankful that God has forgiven me and made me clean. And now I want to live my life in a pleasing manner of worship as best I can by God’s grace, because I love him.” Eph. 2:1-3 must not be separated from Eph. 2:4-10. There is a big contrast between the way we formerly walked in our sins and they way we should presently walk in the good works God has “eternally planned for us to do” (Stott, The Message of Ephesians: God’s New Society, 85). And, it should give us great joy and confidence toward God, because we are the work of his hands, and we are being molded to be more like Christ day by day, until he completes it—and he certainly will.
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