Ephesians 2:1-10

And you he made alive, when you were dead thr ough the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. 
  Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 

  But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, 
  even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 
  and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
 that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — 
  not because of works, lest any man should boast.

 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.


Is there a contradiction there?

Saved by grace, not by works…no boasting…but we were created for “good works”…”that we should walk in them”.


Which is it? 

Is it both, grace…and works?

27 Responses

  1. My favorite quote in this regard (not sure who said it)… “Grace doesn’t get rid of works, it produces them. Grace doesn’t make works unnecessary, it makes them possible”.

  2. We’re freed from sin by grace, freed that we can do good works for others. I sort of think of it as ‘paying it forward’ just a little bit. We can’t pay God back, and the debt is already paid, but we do a little bit to send grace to the next person.

  3. Along the lines of what you guys have said…

    ‘The law demands good works, grace inspires them.’

  4. Grace both inspires and enables good works. As it is famously stated…You can not give what you do not have…We have been gifted with grace to believe, that we might walk in love and share our hope with the world.

  5. Thanks, Nancy!

    Is a Muslim, or Atheist, then, not capable of “good works”?

    • “Is a Muslim, or Atheist, then, not capable of “good works”?”

      In our eyes, yes. (an atheist or Muslim can give a drink to a thirsty man).
      In God’s eyes, no. (an atheist or Muslim cannot please God while rejecting the One He sent)
      Without “faith” it is impossible to please God.

    • It depends on what you mean by “good works”. Like Patrick said, if you mean works that are good in the eyes of the Lord, no. If you mean works that do actual good for people, then sure. But those works aren’t centered around glorifying God, which is the point of all good works (Matthew 5:16).

  6. The good works that come from non-believers stem from God’s common grace.

  7. Is there such a thing as ‘Christian good works’?

    How can one be sure? What if the motives are tainted?

    • I think we can sometimes see “Christian good works” in others… for instance, this blog may be a good work of yours Steve… that is, unless you think so. 😉

      *IF* “I” do a good work and come to recognize it… it ceases to be good because it immediately becomes tainted with self.

      Good works at best are dirty rags compared to the GOOD WORK of Christ for you n’ me. The GOOD WORK of Jesus is the only one to rely upon.

      How can I be sure works are good? I can’t… it’s a futile pursuit.

    • St Stephen,

      Of course the motives are always dual. Being still fleshly we have the motives of fear of punishement or hope of reward. In addition, thanks to having the Holy
      Spirit we also have fruit of the Spirit which God admires due to those being of him. And the robe of Jesus’ righteousness we walk in his good deeds which were ordained before the foundationof the world.

      Therefore we are set free from the law to do it not having to worry about measuring motives or anything.

      Thanks be to God!

  8. There is only one basis of genuinely good works…
    The Lord said of Jesus:
    HEAR HIM!”

    Jesus said: “Who soever believes in me, shall not perish but have life.

    That is the good work of God – which will lead to expression of the immeasurable riches in the ages to come – the work upon which all else will be built forever.

  9. 25When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

    26Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

    28Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

    29Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

    • Perfect answer!

    • Pastor Mark,

      That is one of my favorite passages. For when Jesus answers, “What must WE DO to do the works God requires?” He disposes of the flighty pietism in two ways: (1) The work OF GOD is this (disposing of our doing), (2) to believe in the one he has sent (faith alone). From this passage we see what Luther meant when we confess “I confess that I cannot by my own strength or will believe in my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ, but am called by the Gospel by the Holy Spirit.

      Here we truly see how grace and the Gospel operate, it comes to you (the work of God) to cause faith but before an without faith in any sense (Wesley or Calvin). Here we see the root of the sacraments and the absolution that comes, whether you believe it or not, to cause you to believe it.


  10. Pastor Harrison has a nice post on Good Works from yesterday.


  11. I always loved Ann Coulter’s response to a question posed to her asking if she considered herself a good Christian. She said “To believe with all your heart at every moment that God loved a wretch like you so much that he sent his only son to die for your sins. Most of the time, I’m an extraordinarily good Christian. ”


  12. The fact that we get hung up on good works all the time is the fact that we don’t understand the Law at all and the “hanging up” on good works screams of the fact of what Luther once said, “Many men will speak much of faith and good works but utterly not understand either”. Only he who can totally relax in the passive faith begins to truly taste of good works. That inability or better, alarm within us that says, “relax THAT much”, is nothing less than unbelief. When the old man/Adam hears, “Yes”, to the question concerning the Gospel, “You mean I don’t have to do anything EVER”, he all but relaxes and rather tenses up and tightens – thus revealing not true faith but shear unbelief and the utter and absolute bondage of his will. And thus all the old Adam’s huffing and puffing about good works and faith is really his not understanding either (Luther’s point).

    David has already alluded to this in the motivation of good works. Christ’s point is the tree has to be made, you cannot make the tree whereby good works are done. Likewise when Luther said you must always realize that anytime Scripture tells you to do something, it forbids you to do it on your own! It is only by grace whereby good works come and that must come by a continual utter naked passive trust without the support of works (as Augustine speaks of Romans 4) at all or ever.

    Good works don’t come in a “list”. That’s critical to see, because as soon as we begin the list we are denying Christ alone and back to being UNDER the Law and against the Law and against true good works. To love your neighbor as yourself is to automatically spontaneously do so, without being told to do so. This is the root of the Law. It’s been said in a variety of ways but the Law, which is the only thing that speaks of true good works, points to the doing of true good works such that the Law never has to speak of it. It goes all the way back that if you have to be told to do it, Luther says, you have already fallen into mortal sin, such that whether you do or don’t do the next step that does the outward action of the good work is irrelevant for you have ALREADY committed deadly sin. The Law’s coming to speak to you to “do”, is already to have fallen into mortal sin.

    Good works are made good works via Christ. Not because we EVER have the right motivation for even to rest in the “right motivation” is against saving faith which remains forever resting in Christ ALONE utterly. Christ’s office is to take our stinking to high heaven evil works and make them good works. That’s HIS good work for us. Thus, whatever the motivation Christ brings it to its perfected telios so that you may rest in Him alone and not fret the good works nor their motivation. This is how true saving passive naked suffering faith operates. So that when you do a good work (outwardly) poorly (outwardly) and with wrong motivation (inwardly) you do not rest in it but Christ alone, and HE makes it a good work. Similarly when you sin (outwardly an evil work with inward evil motivation) you confess it to Christ and are absolved by Christ alone. All that the new man does, the naked truster, is thus a good work. Christ’s very point regarding the MADE good fruit tree, it CANNOT in ANYWAY produce an evil work. When the old man wrongly motivated or half assed outwardly does a good thing, or when the same outwardly does an evil thing, the new man, the passive truster in Christ alone, appeals alone to Christ on both these. The old man cannot in anyway do a good work whether it is outwardly good or outwardly evil. And the new man cannot in anyway do anything but a good work he so rests nakedly, passively in Christ alone, and I repeat for emphasis ALONE. The Law serves the Gospel not vice versa. In this way is only faith and good works spoken correctly of, yet, again, the old man will not relax on this for it is the death of the “doer” to so rest utterly passively (which is the naked truster). Thus, the Cross is the odor of death to the old Adam, it means to kill this way, “nothing you do EVER, in fact your doing is already condemned to hell.” In this way the Gospel is the harshest WRATH against the old Adam. Yet, to those being saved the same is the sweetest odor of life and the purest GRACE for the new man.

    Thus, the nervous tension we feel in so naked and passively trusting in grace alone; that ‘it cannot be that good of news’; that, ‘you mean even if I don’t get better, get worse, don’t do any good works I will still get to go to heaven for Christ’s sake’ with a resounding answer of “YES”; that nervous reaction to that wanting to get something to do back in the equation – that is not faith nor good works thinking but the raspy blood spitting up death rattle of the old Adam on the cross with Christ trying to get down off of his cross and just like the first thief the son of the devil saying, “If you are the Son of God get us down from here (hath God really said, turn these stones into bread, has God really baptized you, did you really eat and drink the very body and blood of Christ, are you indeed absolved, is that really what the Cross really means)” unbelief. Thus, many men will speak much and volumes of good works and faith and no NOTHING whatsoever of either one, even though they use the terms.


  13. In the Heidelberg Disputation Luther writes;

    “This is clear: He who does not know Christ does not know God hidden in suffering. Therefore he prefers works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly, and in general, good to evil. These are the people whom the apostle calls “enemies of he cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18), for they hate the cross and suffering and love works and the glory of works…God can be found only in suffering and the cross, as has already been said. Therefore, the friends of the cross say that the cross is good and works are evil, for through the cross works are destroyed and the old Adam, who is especially edified b works, is crucified. It is impossible for a person not to be puffed up by his good works unless he has first been deflated and destroyed by suffering and evil until he knows that he is worthless and that his works are not his but God’s”

  14. God’s working in us is not suspended because we work, nor our working suspended because God works. Neither is the relation strictly one of cooperation as if God did his part and we did ours…. God works in us and we also work. But the relation is that because God works we work.

  15. Ephesians 2:8 and 2:10 are both true. They are not contradictory.

    2:8 – We are saved by grace. Period.

    2:10 – Once we are saved, God will show us the good works that He has prepared for us to do. They don’t save us, but they are given to us to glorify and magnify His Name, to encourage the body of Christ and to spread the gospel. Any work that is done outside of God’s will is a work of the flesh since it was not prepared by Him.

  16. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

    One exegetical direction for this text is to talk about the inherent creaturely obligations that come with life. God has created us for good. Christ Jesus does not free us from this created intention. He frees us FOR this created intention.

    So, Christ Jesus says in Luke,

    “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” Luke 7:10

    To love, serve and do all sorts of good is to simply to be an authentic human being without any kid of self-consciousness. I’ve met a few folks in my life that seem to fit the bill but I can’t read beneath the surface.

    As an old blues guitarist, allow me to quote B.B. King:
    “Nobody loves me but my mother…and she could be jivin’ too!”

    Grace apart from works…thank God!

  17. Amen, Pastor!

    I would hate to have to rely on my seriousness for Him.

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