For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.

Ephesians 2:10

We ought to be fully aware that in the Body of Christ we are not interested in the production of “cookie cutter” Christians.

This is a word of caution in the matter of Christian experience—there is no pattern or formula for identical Christian experiences. It is actually a tragic thing for believers to try to be exactly like each other in their Christian faith and life.

I have probably been overly cautious about testifying to my own experiences because I do not want anyone to be tempted to try to copy anything the Lord has done for me.

God has given each of us an individual temperament and distinct characteristics. Therefore it is the office of the Holy Spirit to work out as He will the details of Christian experience. They will vary with personality.

Of this we may be sure: Whenever a person truly meets God in faith and commitment to the gospel, he will have a consciousness and a sharp awareness of the details of that spiritual transaction!

Lord, help me to be a faithful steward of the gifts You have given me to use in the church.[1]

Salvation Is unto Good Works

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (2:10)

Although they have no part in gaining salvation, good works have a great deal to do with living out salvation. No good works can produce salvation, but many good works are produced by salvation.

“By this is My Father glorified,” Jesus said, “that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (John 15:8). Good works do not bring discipleship, but they prove it is genuine. When God’s people do good deeds they bear fruit for His kingdom and bring glory to His name.

The Bible has much to say about works. It speaks of the works of the law, which are good but cannot save a person (Gal. 2:16). It speaks of dead works (Heb. 6:1) and of works, or deeds, of darkness and of the flesh, all of which are inherently evil (Rom. 13:12; Gal. 5:19–21; Eph. 5:11). All of those works are done in man’s own strength and have nothing to do with salvation.

Before we can do any good work for the Lord, He has to do His good work in us. By God’s grace, made effective through our faith, we become His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. God has ordained that we then live lives of good works, works done in His power and for His glory.

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. (John 15:1–8)

The same power that created us in Christ Jesus empowers us to do the good works for which He has redeemed us. These are the verifiers of true salvation. Righteous attitudes and righteous acts proceed from the transformed life now living in the heavenlies. To the Corinthians Paul said there was in them “an abundance for every good deed” (2 Cor. 9:8). To Timothy he instructed that the believer is “equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). Christ died to bring to Himself a people “zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). Even this is the work of God, as Paul says: While you “work out your salvation … it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12–13).

Paul’s primary message here is still to believers, many of whom had experienced salvation years earlier. He is not showing them how to be saved, but how they were saved, in order to convince them that the power that saved them is the same power that keeps them. Just as they already had been given everything necessary for salvation, they also had been given everything necessary for faithfully living the saved life. The greatest proof of a Christian’s divine empowerment is his own salvation and the resulting good works that God produces in and through him (cf. John 15). These good works are expected because God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them, and that is why James says faith is illegitimate if works are not present (James 2:17–26).

It is from poiēma (workmanship) that we get poem, a piece of literary workmanship. Before time began, God designed us to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). Paul could therefore say to the Philippians, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (1:6).

The story is often told of the rowdy, disruptive young boy in a Sunday school class who continually frustrated his teacher. One morning the teacher asked him, “Why do you act like that? Don’t you know who made you?” To which the boy replied, “God did, but He ain’t through with me yet.”

All of us are still imperfect, uncut diamonds being finished by the divine Master Craftsman. He is not finished with us yet, but His work will not cease until He has made us into the perfect likeness of His Son (1 John 3:2).

A famous actor was once the guest of honor at a social gathering where he received many requests to recite favorite excerpts from various literary works. An old preacher who happened to be there asked the actor to recite the Twenty–third Psalm. The actor agreed on the condition that the preacher would also recite it. The actor’s recitation was beautifully intoned with great dramatic emphasis, for which he received lengthy applause. The preacher’s voice was rough and broken from many years of preaching, and his diction was anything but polished. But when he finished there was not a dry eye in the room. When someone asked the actor what made the difference, he replied, “I know the psalm, but he knows the Shepherd.”

Salvation does not come from knowing about the truth of Jesus Christ but from intimately knowing Christ Himself. This coming alive can be accomplished by the power of God because of His love and mercy.[2]

2:10 The result of salvation is that we are His workmanship—the handiwork of God, not of ourselves. A born-again believer is a masterpiece of God. When we think of the raw materials He has to work with, His achievement is all the more remarkable. Indeed, this masterpiece is nothing less than a new creation through union with Christ, for “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

And the object of this new creation is found in the phrase, for good works. While it is true that we are not saved by good works, it is equally true that we are saved for good works. Good works are not the root but the fruit. We do not work in order to be saved, but because we are saved.

This is the aspect of the truth that is emphasized in James 2:14–26. When James says that “faith without works is dead,” he does not mean we are saved by faith plus works, but by the kind of faith that results in a life of good works. Works prove the reality of our faith. Paul heartily agrees: we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.

God’s order then is this:

Faith → Salvation → Good Works → Reward Faith leads to salvation. Salvation results in good works. Good works will be rewarded by Him.

But the question arises: What kind of good works am I expected to do? Paul answers, Good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. In other words, God has a blueprint for every life. Before our conversion He mapped out a spiritual career for us. Our responsibility is to find His will for us and then obey it. We do not have to work out a plan for our lives, but only accept the plan which He has drawn up for us. This delivers us from fret and frenzy, and insures that our lives will be of maximum glory to Him, of most blessing to others, and of greatest reward to ourselves.

In order to find out the good works He has planned for our individual lives, we should: (1) confess and forsake sin as soon as we are conscious of it in our lives; (2) be continually and unconditionally yielded to Him; (3) study the word of God to discern His will, and then do whatever He tells us to do; (4) spend time in prayer each day; (5) seize opportunities of service as they arise; (6) cultivate the fellowship and counsel of other Christians. God prepares us for good works. He prepares good works for us to perform. Then He rewards us when we perform them. Such is His grace![3]

10 Paul supplies a reason why all boasting is ruled out (and perhaps why he can say salvation is God’s doing alone). He describes saved people as God’s “workmanship” (most versions), “masterpiece” (NLT), or “work of art” (NJB). The Greek poiēma (GK 4473) describes a work of creation (cf. BDAG, 842). In its one other use in the NT, Paul speaks of the literal creation of the universe—the things God made that reveal himself (Ro 1:20). The word does occur in the OT with reference to God’s ongoing creative works (Pss 64:9; 92:4; 143:5; Isa 29:16). In saving people, God performs an act of creation (cf. 4:24—“created to be like God”). In other words, Christians are God’s projects or, better to say, “works in process,” and as he works in them they can do deeds that Paul describes as “good.”

The preposition epi marks the purpose of this act of creation: “for” (NASB) or “to do” (NIV) good works. BDAG, 365–66, cites two of the eighteen meanings as “marker of purpose, goal, result, to, for” or “marker of object or purpose.” All good works that we do derive from our being created “in Christ Jesus,” i.e., in corporate solidarity in him. Part of God’s overarching plan secures works that are truly good. In the memorable words of T. W. Manson, “Works are a requisite of faith, not a prerequisite.” God transforms people on the inside to accomplish good works, with the result that they walk, i.e., live, in them. God arranged ahead of time (Paul uses the verb proetoimazō, “to prepare beforehand,” GK 4602) how it would work, and then he implemented his plan. God enables his people to do good. Doing good features elsewhere in Paul’s characterization of believers (Ro 2:7; 13:3; 2 Co 9:8; Col 1:10).

Paul contends not that God predetermined every specific good action performed by every Christian, but that he predetermined to refashion Christians so they can do what pleases him. I take the dative relative pronoun “which” (hois) as a true dative, not a direct object that was attracted to the dative case of its antecedent “works.” Paul says, in essence, that we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, for which God prepared [us] that we should walk in them.” The “us” is naturally supplied from the context. God has accomplished the preparation that enables his people to perform good works. Our good works owe to God’s work in us, not to our own efforts to be good.[4]

God’s Workmanship

Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Since the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century those who follow in the steps of Martin Luther have been strong to assert that justification is by grace through faith and not by human works. But does this mean that works no longer have any place in Christianity? Does this doctrine of justification by grace—Luther’s doctrine—actually lead to bad conduct?

Here is the place where sound Protestant and Roman Catholic theology part company. Many Roman Catholics insist that justification is by the grace of God through faith. (Ephesians 2:8 says so.) But they answer questions about the relationship between faith and works differently than Protestants do. Catholic theology says that works enter into justification in the sense that God justifies us in part by producing good works in us, so that we are justified by faith plus those works. Sound Protestant theology also insists on works, but it says that works follow justification as a consequence and evidence of it.

Catholic theology says: “Faith plus works equal justification.”

Protestants reply: “Faith equals justification plus works.”

Of course, there is an unsound Protestant theology that eliminates the necessity of works altogether, maintaining that a person can be saved and show no evidence of his spiritual regeneration. But this must be rejected.

Good Works

This subject comes before us in the last sentence of the first great paragraph of Ephesians 2, which we have been studying: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (v. 10).

More than one commentator has pointed out that there is a striking repetition of the word “works” in verses 9 and 10. The first mention of works is negative. It tells us in no uncertain terms that we are not saved “by works,” by anything we did or can do. It was all God’s work of grace in us, so we have no reason to boast, no grounds for feeling a sense of accomplishment. This verse utterly repudiates the idea that works contribute in any measure to our justification. Grace and works are mutually exclusive possibilities. Either we are saved by God’s grace alone or we are trying unsuccessfully to save ourselves by our own works. There are no other possibilities. However, no sooner has Paul rejected the role of works in justification than he immediately brings it in again, saying that God has created us precisely “to do good works.” This is stated in such strong language—“works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”—that we are correct in saying that if there are no works, the person involved is not justified.

Failure of Good Works

Before we talk about the necessity of works that flow out of a believer through Christ and because of the believer’s spiritual union with him, it is necessary to look at the works human beings are capable of apart from Christ and see that there is no hope in them. This is because God’s standard can be nothing less than perfection, and even at our best no amount of good works adds up to that requirement.

Donald Grey Barnhouse illustrated our failure by reference to an old-fashioned scale—the kind in which grocers used to measure out sugar, salt, and other dry foods. A pound weight was put on one side of the scale. The sugar was poured out on the other side until the arms balanced. Barnhouse compared the pound weight to God’s righteousness, the standard which his own holy nature demands. That pound of righteousness is placed on one side of the scale, and we are invited to place our “good works” on the other.

The worst elements of society come first—thieves, perverts, murderers, sinners of all kinds. They are not without any human goodness. They have perhaps one or two ounces. But their works do not balance the scale. These people are set aside and thus pass under God’s just condemnation.

Next come ordinary folks, people like us. They are better than the “great” sinners. They have perhaps eight ounces of human goodness. That makes them four times as good as the ones who came first. But their goodness, great as it seems to be, does not balance the scale.

Finally, the morally “great” come forward. They are not perfect; their very “greatness” causes them to recognize that fact. But they have twelve or thirteen ounces of good works, and they present them. Will those twelve or thirteen ounces balance God’s scale? Not if the pound of righteousness is on the other side! The scale won’t balance for them any more than it does for the average folks or great sinners. Therefore, they too are set aside and fall under God’s wrath—unless another way of salvation can be found.

“But just here God comes with his message of free salvation. Note well, he does not change his standards one whit. The pound of perfection still stands opposite the empty scales. No one has been able to move the balance. But now God is going to move it for us. …

“Since Christ was the Infinite God, he could die for any number of finite creatures. He could take the eternal punishment of an infinite multitude and expiate it in the hour of his death—so that the weight of our sin was counted over upon him, and all of God’s righteousness is now available through him. Now God comes to us with the great invitation, ‘I want you to be in heaven with me. I love you. It does not make any difference on what plane of life has been your abode.’ You stand there on the empty scales with nothing but your few ounces to put in and with no possibility of getting anything more. But God says, ‘I love you; I came to die for you. Look to Calvary. Do you see Christ hanging there? It was for you. Look to the empty tomb. Do you see that he has been raised from the dead? It is the proof,’ says God, ‘that I am forever satisfied with what Christ did there on the cross, and I will take that for your side of the scales, if you will throw away all confidence in your own few ounces.’ And thus we come to Christ. … We take that righteousness of God and go boldly or tremblingly to the scales and put it over against all the perfection God has demanded and that he must demand. The balance immediately is made. We stand before God justified, for since the scales are tipped, God can never have anything against me forever.”

A person who will trust that perfect righteousness of Christ, rather than his or her own righteousness is justified. A person who continues to cling to good works in any degree is not justified. Thus, salvation is “by grace … through faith” alone, as Paul says in Ephesians 2:8.

Necessity of Good Works

Ah, but if that is so, can a person rightly insist on the necessity of works at all? The key word, of course, is “necessity.” We can see that good works are by very definition a good thing. We can argue that a Christian will be happier doing good works than not doing them. We can even speak of a certain obligation to do good works. Most people would have no trouble saying that. But how is it that sound Protestant theology insists on the presence of good works as a necessary consequence and evidence of justification? How can we say that if works are not present, a person is not saved?

The answer is that justification, though it aptly describes one important aspect of what it means to be saved, is not the whole of salvation. God justifies, but that is not the only thing he does. He also regenerates. And there is no justification without regeneration, just as there is no regeneration without justification.

Regeneration is the theological term for what Jesus was talking about when he told Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). He was telling him that he needed to have a new start as a result of the life of God being placed within him. It is what Paul was talking about in Ephesians 2, as he described how God “made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (v. 5). It is even what Paul is talking about in our text, for he does not merely say that God commands us to do good works or even urges us to do them. He says rather that God “created us in Christ Jesus to do good works,” adding that these were specifically “prepared in advance for us to do.” Clearly, if a person has been created by God specifically to do good works, he will do those good works—even though they have nothing to do with how he was saved in the first place.

In my opinion, this is one of the most neglected (yet most essential) teachings in the evangelical church today. At the beginning of this study I contrasted sound Protestant theology with traditional Roman Catholic theology, showing how Protestants teach “faith equals justification plus works”—the view I have just been expounding—while Catholics teach “faith plus works equal justification.” Clearly Catholic theology is wrong. But what are we to say of a theology that has no place for works at all? What are we to say of a teaching that extols justification divorced from sanctification, forgiveness without a corresponding change in life? What would Jesus himself think of such theology? Yet such teaching prevails among Evangelicals today.

When we study Christ’s teachings it does not take long to discover that he was not slow to insist on changed behavior. It is true that he taught that salvation would be by his work on the cross. He said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). This is perfectly consistent with the doctrine of faith-justification.

But Jesus also said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

He said, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? … The one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete” (Luke 6:46, 49).

He told the Jews of his day, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20).

Moreover, as I am sure you can see even from this short selection of Christ’s sayings, it is not only a matter of our demonstrating a genuinely changed behavior and doing good works if we are truly justified. Our good works must also exceed the good works of others. After all, the Christian’s good works flow from the character of God within the Christian. Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). This means, “Unless you who call yourselves Christians, who profess to be justified by faith alone and therefore confess that you have nothing whatever to contribute to your own justification—unless you nevertheless conduct yourselves in a way which is utterly superior to the conduct of the very best people who are hoping to save themselves by their works, you will not enter God’s kingdom. You are not Christians in the first place.”

John H. Gerstner has called this, rightly, I think, “a built-in apologetic.” No one but God could think up a religion like this.

“Whenever you find a person who puts a premium on morality and really specializes in conduct and expects to make it on his record, you invariably find him supposing that he can justify himself by his works. On the other hand, if you find a person who revels in grace, who knows the futility of trying to make it on his own and simply cannot say enough about the blood of Jesus and salvation full and free, he has a built-in tendency to have nothing to do with works in any form. When you get a person who really puts a premium on morality, he almost inevitably falls into the pit of self-salvation. And, on the other hand, when a person sees the principle of grace, he has a built-in temptation to go antinomian. But the Christian religion, while it preaches pure grace, unadulterated grace with no meritorious contribution from us whatever, at the same time requires of us the loftiest conceivable conduct. …

“You cannot for one solitary moment say anything other than ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.’ We are justified by faith alone. But we are not justified by a faith that is alone. Therefore, if you really cling to that cross, if you really do what you say you do, you will be abounding in the works of the Lord and will be living out an exceptional pattern of behavior.”

God Who Works

I know this sounds confusing and even contradictory. But the problem vanishes as soon as we realize that the good works Christians are called upon to do (and must do) are themselves the result of God’s prior working in them. That is why in Ephesians 2:10 Paul prefaces his demand for good works by the statement “For we are God’s workmanship.” It is why, in a similar vein in the very next book of the Bible, he says, “My dear friends, … continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:12–13).

In Ephesians 2:10 Paul calls this work of God a new creation, saying that “we are … created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” Beyond any doubt, Paul has a contrast in mind here between our new creation in Christ and our old creation in Adam, just as he does in Romans 5:12–21. When God made the first man, he made him perfectly furnished to do all good works. But Adam fell, as we know. And since that time, from God’s perspective even the best of the good works of Adam and his posterity have been bad “good works.”

But now God recreates those men and women whom he is joining to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is bringing into existence something that did not exist before and which now has new and exciting possibilities. Before, the one who was without Christ was, to use St. Augustine’s phrasing, non posse non peccare (“not able not to sin”). Now he is posse non peccare (“able not to sin”) and able to do good works.

In this spiritual re-creation God gives us a new set of senses. Before, we saw with our eyes physically, but we were spiritually blind. Now we see with spiritual eyes, and everything seems new.

Before, we were spiritually deaf. The word of God was spoken, but it made no sense to us. Or if it did, we resented that word and resisted it. Now we have been given ears to hear, and we hear and respond to Jesus’ teaching.

Before, our thinking was darkened. We called the good, bad; and we called the bad, good. Indeed, we reveled in the bad, and we could not understand what was wrong when the supposed “good times” turned out to be bad times and we were left feeling miserable. The things of God’s Spirit were “foolishness” to us (1 Cor. 2:14). Now our thinking has been changed; we evaluate things differently, and our minds are being renewed day by day (Rom. 12:1–2).

Before, our hearts were hard. We hated God; we did not even care very much for others. Now our hearts are softened. God appears altogether lovely, and what he loves we love. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Because our hearts have been remade we now give food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, homes to the strangers, clothes to the naked, care to the sick, and comfort to those who are in prison—as Jesus said we must do, if we are to sit with him in glory.

In my study I have a book by a great surgeon, Dr. Paul Brand, who is Chief of the Rehabilitation Branch of the United States Public Health Service Hospital in Carville, Louisiana, a man who has distinguished himself by pioneering research on the care of leprosy. The book is called Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. In it Dr. Brand examines the intricate mechanisms of the human body, and marvels at the greatness of a God who can create such wonders. He talks about the body’s cells, bones, skin, and complexities of motion. As I read that book I am amazed at man as the pinnacle of God’s great and varied creation. But as I marvel, I am aware of a creation that surpasses even that of the human body. It is the re-creation of a man or woman who before was spiritually dead, utterly incapable of doing any good thing that could satisfy God, but who now, as the result of God’s working, is able to do truly good “good works.”[5]

Works in relation to our salvation

(1) Rejected

As a basis for salvation, a ground upon which we can plead, works are rejected. “Not the labors of my hands can fulfil thy law’s demands.” In this connection it must be remembered that the apostle is not thinking exclusively or even mainly of works in fulfilment of the Mosaic law, by means of which the Jew, unconverted to Christ, sought to justify himself. Surely, also by such “works of the law” “no flesh will be justified in his sight” (Rom. 3:20; cf. Gal. 2:16). But in view of the fact that Paul was addressing an audience consisting mostly of Christians from the Gentile world it is clear that he wishes to emphasize that God rejects every work of man, be he Gentile, Jew, or believer in his moments of spiritual eclipse, every work on which any man bases his hope for salvation. If, then, salvation is completely from God, “who spared not his own Son but delivered him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32), every ground of boasting in self is excluded (Rom. 3:27; 4:5; 1 Cor. 1:31). When the Lord comes in his glory, those at his left hand will do all the boasting (Matt. 25:44; cf. 7:22); those at his right hand will be unable even to recall their good deeds (Matt. 25:37–39).

Now all boasting is excluded,

Unearned bliss is now my own.

I, in God thus safely rooted,

Boast in sovereign grace alone.

Long before my mother bore me,

E’en before God’s mighty hand

Out of naught made sea and land,

His electing love watched o’er me.

God is love, O angel-voice,

Tongues of men, make him your choice.

(2) Confected

Paul continues: for his handiwork are we, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand … Fact is that though good works are non-meritorious, yet they are so important that God created us in order that we should perform them. We are his handiwork: that which he made, his product (cf. Ps. 100:3). To him we owe our entire spiritual as well as physical existence. Our very birth as believers is from God (John 3:3, 5). We are created “in Christ Jesus” (see on 1:1, 3, 4), for apart from him we are nothing and can accomplish nothing (John 15:5; cf. 1 Cor. 4:7). As “men in Christ,” believers constitute a new creation, as the apostle had said previously (2 Cor. 5:17): “Wherefore if any man is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old things are passed away; behold they are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Believers were “made alive together with Christ” (see above on verse 5; and below on 4:24; also Gal. 6:15).

Now along with creating us God also prepared good works. He did this first by giving us his Son, our great Enabler, in whom good works find their most glorious expression (Luke 24:19; Acts 2:22). Not only does Christ enable us to perform good works but he is also our Example in good works (John 13:14, 15; 1 Peter 2:21). God did this secondly by giving us faith in his Son. Faith is God’s gift (verse 8). Now in planting the seed of faith in our hearts, and causing it to sprout and with great care tending it, making it grow, etc., God also in that sense prepared for us good works, for good works are the fruit of faith. Living faith, moreover, implies a renewed mind, a grateful heart, and a surrendered will. Out of such ingredients, all of them God-given, God confects or compounds good works. Thus, summarizing, we can say that by giving us his Son and by imparting to us faith in that Son God prepared beforehand our good works. When Christ through his Spirit dwells in the hearts of believers, his gifts and graces are bestowed upon them, so that they, too, bear fruits, such as “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22, 23).

(3) Expected

Paul concludes this paragraph by adding: that we should walk in them. Though good works are a divine preparation, they are at the same time a human responsibility. These two must never be separated. If salvation can be illustrated by the figure of a flourishing tree, then good works are symbolized not by its roots nor even by its trunk but by its fruit. Jesus requires of us fruit, more fruit, much fruit (John 15:2, 5, 8). He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, with me abiding in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” To bear much fruit and to walk in good works is the same thing. When a certain occupation has the love of a man’s heart, he is “walking” in it. Note: walk in them, no longer in “trespasses and sins” (verses 1, 2).

(4) Perfected

Combining (2) and (3) we see that by walking in good works we have entered into the sphere of God’s own activity. Hence, we know that though our own efforts may often disappoint us, so that we are ashamed even of our good works, victory will arrive at last; not fully, to be sure, in the present life but in the next. Moral and spiritual perfection is our goal even here, but will be our portion in the life hereafter, for we are confident of this very thing that he who began a good work in us will carry it to completion (Phil. 1:6). Cf. Eph. 1:4; 3:19; 4:12, 13.

This doctrine of good works, when accepted by faith, deprives man of every reason for boasting in self but also takes away from him every ground for despair. It glorifies God.[6]

[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 62–63). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1919). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 70–71). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (pp. 69–74). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.

[6] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Ephesians (Vol. 7, pp. 123–125). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.


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