Summary: We’re not saved by works, but are God’s works, created to walk in good works. (#19 in the Every Spiritual Blessing Series)
In verses 8 and 9 of Ephesians 2 we come to some words that are so familiar to those who have been Christians for a while, that they are almost too familiar. We’ve heard them preached and taught and debated; used as a sword against legalism, and unfortunately, a shield against any call to service.
Oddly enough, as familiar as verses 8 and 9 are, verse 10 seldom gets quoted.
We’re not quite so anxious, are we, to shout from the rooftops that perhaps God’s very purpose in making and shaping us, has been all along, so that we might perform works!
That confuses the issue. If I am trying to present the argument to the new convert, or the old legalist, that Christianity is a matter of faith and not works, then I may only be handing him a cache of ammunition, if I drag verse 10 out into the light.
So let’s preach sermons on Ephesians 2:8,9 and go away rejoicing that God requires nothing of us but faith, and even gives us that faith so that there can be no boasting, even in that. Let’s save the teaching of where doing good works would fit in, for when we’re studying James. James is a difficult letter anyway. Let’s leave the works ‘thing’ alone until then, and for now, rejoice with one another that we’re saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves. Then next Sunday, or maybe two Sundays from now, when we’ve had a guest speaker or a holiday sermon and everyone has forgotten what the preacher said anyway... ...go on to verse 11 and rejoice again as we see how gracious God has been to the gentiles, to bring us near by the blood of Christ.
That’s the tendency. It must be; because verses 8 and 9 seem to get a lot more press than verse 10. Just for giggles I checked the website that I send my own sermons to, and compared the number of sermons there on Ephesians 2:8,9, with those on Ephesians 2:10. Without boring you with numbers; there were a little over twice as many on verses 8 and 9 as there were that included verse 10.
So here’s what we’re going to do today.
We’re going to look at verses 8 through 10 of Ephesians 2, and we’re just going to take a deep breath, leap into the cool waters, and talk about works, works, works!
NOT OF WORKS
Ok, just for the sake of refreshing, let’s read the verses;
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”
Now I want the main point of our focus today to be on verse 10, and a very specific challenge that comes through that verse.
But we have to spend some time here first, because our understanding of verse 10 is dependant upon a good and healthy grasp of verses 8 and 9.
Paul is the supreme preacher of grace (second to our Lord, of course). He who confidently asserted that if there was any boasting to be done, he could do it.
“If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more; circumcised on the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.”
Now a lot of that doesn’t mean much to our western, modern day ears. I would dare say that if you read these words of Paul’s to anyone outside the church of God, they’d say, ’so what?’ ’big deal!’ ‘What is there in all that to boast of?’
Well, ok, so let’s bring it home a little. I could say, and proudly, “I am an American born. A product of the noble families of Tanner and Lockwood, of upstate New York. I am the son of a preacher and a preacher myself. Before that, I was a police officer, and a good one. Before that I served my country in Viet Nam during a time of war. I have a college degree, but much of what is important in life, I have learned by my own experience. I am a homeowner with a beautiful, intelligent, faithful wife, and we make beautiful children...” am I boring you yet?
What would your own boasts be? I’m sure you could come up with such a list in very little time.
Paul was able to boast of his national heritage, his zeal in his religion and the performance of his religious duties, his meticulous care in keeping himself untainted by the world so that nothing would interfere with his temple worship. Those things were important to the first century Jew, and they are very important to the orthodox Jew today.