025. SALVATION. God Says Not “By Good Works” But “For Good Works”

A transformation was taking place before my eyes. Graham was a young engineer who had wanted to see me to find out what Christianity was all about.   I shared some of the Bible passages with him that stressed how salvation was God’s gift to us in Christ and we how we could never deserve or earn our salvation.  The longer we shared, the more wide-eyed he became. It was as though an inner light was being switched on within him. That was literally what was happening as he heard and responded to the word of God I was sharing with him. I wasn’t surprised when he eventually said, ”Can I become a Christian right now?”  That night he prayed a prayer inviting Jesus to come into his life.  In the days that followed he was quickly changed by the power of God and became more and more “switched on” for Jesus.


One of the things Graham found amazing was the fact that God was offering him salvation freely in Christ. Graham was a worker. He had worked hard to get through school. He had then worked hard to graduate as an engineer. As an engineer he continued to work hard in serving his employer. So to be faced with the concept that he couldn’t work his way to heaven was at first confronting to him. But as he heard the word of God from such passages as Ephesian 2:8-9, spiritual understanding came.  These verses say, 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. In other words we are saved by putting our faith in who Jesus is, and in what He has done for us on the cross.  We can’t boast that we earned our way. Acceptance by God does not come by the “works” we do, but by receiving the free gift of salvation in Christ.  That night in our home, Graham understood for the first time what grace really is.


In this next verse 2:10, Paul goes on to write about the “works” we are to do as believers. He calls them “good works”.  10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. What is the difference then between the works that we do that don’t get us right with God, and the “good works” He wants us to do? It has to do with the origin of those works. Good works originate in the mind of God. They are manifest through humans who are in a living relationship with Him as He works in them.  They work them out in practical living. 

 In verse 10 Paul describes His people as being His “workmanship” (the Greek word is “poiēma” from the verb “poieō” to make, do or produce. It is the basis of our English word “poem”).  Some have translated the word as “a work of art” or a “masterpiece”. At the very least it means that they are the product of His power. They are as they are, by God’s creative power in creating them. It is a creation in “Christ Jesus” because of their faith-union with Him. It is a similar expression to that in 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. Believers are in the process of being changed more and more by the Holy Spirit into the likeness of Christ, 2 Corinthians 3:18  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. This transformation is not just into a growing likeness to Christ. It has its outward expression through Christ-like character AND through the “good works” the believer is to exercise.


Their origin is in God Himself as He motivates and empowers His people by His creative power to do the things He wants them to do. They are not simply those things that may seem to be good things in the minds of the believers to do. One has to ensure that the “good works” we think we are doing for God,  are really from the mind of the infinite God rather than coming from our own finite human thinking. They are planned by Him rather than by us.

 There is another vital truth concerning the nature of these good works. They are good works which God prepared beforehand… . The word here for” prepared beforehand” is  (proetoimazō) and is only used in the New Testament here and in Romans 9:23. The latter reads “in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory”.  Both instances are based on God’s everlasting love for His people. Because God is omniscient, knowing the end from the beginning, it means that those works He has for us to do, have been in His mind from all eternity.  That is why we have to “walk in them”, as they have been laid out, as it were, for us to walk in. It is not a matter of the believers “dreaming” up all the good things they can do to please God.  Rather it is humbly “praying down” His plan and purpose for their lives. It is allowing Him to work in them to motivate and empower them to do those things He has eternally planned for them to do. As St Paul said in the verse we are considering (Ephesians 2:10), we are to “work out” what He is working in us. In believers of all ages I might add!

Praise God for His grace in saving us through Jesus. Praise God for the ongoing grace He gives us to do the things that we know are pleasing to Him, because they came from His mind and are part of His eternal purpose for His world.

Jim Holbeck.  Blog No.25.   Posted on Sunday 26th June 2011

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement in 2006 was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
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1 Response to 025. SALVATION. God Says Not “By Good Works” But “For Good Works”

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