Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
What a wonderful message of the Grace of God. For it is by Grace that we have been saved, through faith. Paul takes that thought one step further and even highlights that we cannot boast on the faith that we blood of Jesus, for even that faith is a gift of God. Paul also mentions this in Romans 12 when in a similar message he is cautioning believers not to think too highly of themselves:
Romans 12:3 (NASB)
3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
While there is undoubtedly a sermon in the works here, I’d like to take a moment to point out that in stopping the related scripture verses short, I’ve actually omitted a greater message on Christian living. While I can appreciate a desire to keep the message of Salvation in its simplest form for those who are new to the Gospel, the concern I have is that we might not ever return to these scriptures and complete the thought. What is at risk here is a doctrine that stops at Salvation and fails to carry the new believer through to maturity in Christ. So, let’s go back to the passage in Ephesians and see if we can’t better complete the thought:
Ephesians 2:4-10 (NASB)
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
In recent church history, there has been an overwhelming push to emphasize Salvation by faith (sound doctrine), and a distancing itself from the salvation by works (not sound doctrine) as is generally the approach by most of the world’s religions. However, what sometimes happens is people who seek to counter balance an unbalanced theology, themselves become unbalanced whenever they lose sight of the whole of scriptures. In evangelical circles, we’ve gone so far in attacking the “salvation by works” that we’ve discredited any place for good works, or their necessity in God’s plan and design for the Body of Christ. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before hand so that we would walk in them. While good works are in no way an avenue for Salvation, it is very much a part of the purpose for which we have been Saved, Redeemed, made alive in Christ. So, when we complete this thought in Ephesians, let’s also complete the thought in Romans:
Romans 12:3-8 (NASB)
3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
I love that we find a continuation in parity between the passages. Notice, that the acknowledgement of the Grace of God extended to us is the pretense, or starting point for how we are to live our lives in Christ. That from the point of Grace, in which we have our Salvation and Redemption we are to move forward in exercising the gifts given to us by God. We are expected to do good works, provided we remain firmly grounded in the knowledge that apart from Jesus we can do nothing (John 15:5). If we look back at the underlined portion in Ephesians 2:5, we see that what follows is drawn in contrast to our previous state of being dead in sins. If you read from the beginning of the chapter, you see that while we were dead in sins, we were guilty of all sorts of works of evil. In fact the whole of Ephesians 2 is addressing the contrast between the works of sin we were guilty of prior to our redemption and salvation through Christ, and that we are now made alive in Christ and we are to continue growing and being built into the Temple of the Spirit of God (Eph 2:19-22).
The importance of completing the thought from salvation through maturity in Christ cannot be overstated. For if we neglect the place of good works within God’s plan for the Redeemed, then we are completely ill-equipped to understand how James would be so bold as to assert the following:
James 2:14-20 (NASB)
14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?
Yikes, some strong words from the Apostle James. But he is speaking against the very over-reaction to “salvation by works” that we find ourselves discussing today. Only the early church wasn’t fighting/bucking against the Catholic Church of Rome; rather, they were tempted to abandon the Law and the Prophets. Paul had to address lawlessness in many of his letters, and he also had to deal with legalism. We serve such a Gracious God who has preserved for us His Word so that we will never be left without direction or purpose.
So, is it wrong to limit a quote of Ephesians 2 to verses 8 and 9? Not if the purpose is to highlight an unbalanced approach to works, or boasting. Personally, I’d prefer to include verse 10 to encourage balance in each message, so that if/when I am later quoted, the quote might better serve the one who would hear/read the quote. But most importantly, if you’ve never been introduced to verse 10, it is my hope that today, you will have a better appreciation for how we are to live out our lives as Christians. We are called to do good works, works that were prepared for us by God, who Himself also gave us the very means to perform those works, so that we cannot boast in ourselves, only in the Grace of God. In closing, I confess that I tend to be accused (jokingly) of being rather long-winded… and for the most part that holds true. But I love the Word of God, and I endeavor to be a faithful steward of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m okay with being accused of “sharing too much” of the Word of God, especially when I consider the alternative…
May the Lord Bless and keep you in His Will.