Ephesiansby Robert M. Solomon
Having spelt out what God has done for us in His mercy and grace—made us alive, raised us up, and seated us with Christ—Paul reiterates an important truth about our salvation: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). We are saved from the death, bondage, and condemnation mentioned in 2:1–3 entirely by God’s grace. Our salvation—our rescue from death, slavery, and judgement; our new life; and our glorious eternal future—is not our own doing but the gift of God (v. 8). We have done nothing to contribute to our salvation, and are totally indebted to God.
Because this salvation is God’s gift, we receive it by faith, by trusting in Christ and God’s promises in Him. Even this faith is a gift from God (Philippians 1:29): we are enabled by God’s grace to place our faith in Christ (1 Timothy 1:14). All the more are we eternally indebted to God for saving us.
We are not saved by our works (Ephesians 2:9); there is no one who can boast about his salvation save in the mercy of God. Our best efforts at righteousness are “like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). In Bible teacher John Stott’s words, we “shall not be able to strut round heaven like peacocks”. Instead, “heaven will be filled with the exploits of Christ and the praises of God”.
Our salvation in Christ is an accomplished fact. We have been saved; the Greek verb is in perfect tense, meaning that we can have the full confidence that our salvation is fully secured.
Paul concludes by declaring that “we are God’s handiwork” (Ephesians 2:10); the Greek word means poem or work of art. Truly we can offer nothing to God in His transformation of us. Salvation is not an improvement but a new creation, not a repair job but a total overhaul. Also, though good works cannot save us, we are saved to do good works. God has planned all this from eternity and has saved us accordingly. Because of God’s grace, instead of walking in our sins (v. 1), we can now walk in our good works (v. 10).
Why does religion tend to degenerate into a belief system based on works? Why is it important to maintain in both thinking and practice that we are saved entirely by God’s grace? Reflect on your own life in this regard.
We are saved to do good works. What does this mean for you? Who do you think should receive credit for any good work that others may see in you?