By Scott Brown
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Waverly
Paul takes the time here to outline clearly our desperate need of Jesus and the importance of His grace as the root of our salvation. He contends that, apart from Christ, we were not just sick in sin but dead in our trespasses. We were entirely helpless and utterly hopeless apart from Christ.
Being made alive in Christ is not a picture of mere resuscitation but one of total resurrection. Grace is not the spiritual equivalent of the “take a penny” dishes in convenience stores that help you make a dollar out of 98 cents.
Neither is grace merely a booster shot to an already healthy body or a stool to help you climb a little higher out of your pit. Grace is this all-consuming, unmerited, incredible love of God that has done it all and now we must despair of our own ability apart from grace and thrust ourselves entirely upon Christ by faith in His finished work. Living the resurrected life is not growing to need Jesus less but is a deepening realization of our daily, desperate dependence upon Jesus and His great grace.
In Ephesians 2:8-10 Paul explains the four different works involved in salvation: our works apart from Him, His finished work for us, His enduring work in us, and our good works in Him. First, he restates and clarifies that our works apart from Jesus are meaningless and worthless in bringing us to Christ. All of our own personal righteousness apart from Him are just filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). They are stained by sin and unable to make us clean.
Paul also reminds that, although our works are not adequate, the finished work of Jesus is more than enough. There is no boasting in grace. We are saved by His finished work for us absent anything we could ever do to earn, deserve, or obtain a right relationship with Him apart from His grace.
Another work Paul highlights in the text is God’s enduring work in us. We are His workmanship, His artistic expression of His own glory revealed through us. The Greek word is poiema, where we get poem. Whether we be a haiku, novel, portrait, or sculpture God is working to sanctify us in constantly, carefully, and expertly chipping away all the rough edges that sin and shame has left that we might be a clear reflection of His beauty by His grace.
Finally, Paul explains the real role of good works for the believer. My good works can never bring salvation because only salvation can bring genuinely good works. God works in us to work through us to work in others! He has resurrected, redeemed, rescued, and restored us that He might then work through us to work the same miracle in others.