A Question I was Asked:
What Are the "Good Works" of Ephesians 2:10?
“Can you please explain to me what the 'good works' of Ephesians 2:10 are, since I have heard the claim that that these are works 'which God prepared in advance for us to do' and this is simply a reference to His law - therefore we should all be keeping the sabbath, tithing etc.,...How about this?”
Hmmm! I sometimes despair of the Galatianism of some of these legalists and how they are prepared to twist and pervert perfectly clear Scriptures (if you are not entirely sure what Galatianism is, just read that epistle and check out the theology of those who were causing problems in that province)!
Firstly, I would advise all to read Ephesians 2 right the way through – context is so essential when we seek to understand any Scripture. When the chapter is read through, the arguments of those who would apparently be quite happy to place us all back under the Old Covenant (just as though Jesus had never died upon the cross) fade away rather rapidly.
In fact, one of the central points of this chapter is the inadequacy of law for believers in the Christ – and the fact that the law can save no one – but for grace we could not be saved!
Please notice how the first three verses in this chapter describe our former state before we came to Christ :
''...Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.' (Ephesians 2:3-5, NIV throughout).
What does 'grace' mean? Get any good dictionary! Well, obviously the word has several meanings, we say, for example, that some ladies are especially graceful in their movement – but I am not referring to that sort of grace but to the theological meaning of grace. Well here it is: 'The free and unmerited favour of God shown toward humankind.' (The Collins New Dictionary's definition of theological grace)
Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God teaches us all about grace - and what a glorious doctrine it is! It is all about unmerited and undeserved forgiveness. This Scripture is telling us that Christ died for us when – according to the law – we were unworthy transgressors. Are we beginning to see something here? But even more than that – '...God has raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms...' (verse 6). Do we realize that – if we are genuinely 'in Christ' - God sees us as right now inheritors of the greatest heavenly glory! It is that certain! Then verse 8 spells it out,
'For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no-one can boast.' (verses 8-9).
But for the grace of Christ, we would be lost - for the law itself could never save but, rather, increases condemnation. This is what the New Testament plainly teaches. Will we accept this plain teaching?
So – in the light of all this – what are the 'good works' of Ephesians 2:10? They are the same good works which Jesus expounded in the 'Sermon on the Mount' (Matthew 5-7). Jesus had shown the disciples the works which God wants to see in His people and He is very careful in those three glorious chapters of Matthew to show that this goes above and beyond the concept of 'law' ('You have heard that it was said' = the law; 'But I say' = going beyond the law). So the 'good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do' are the works which Christ will do through us when He has truly come into our lives.
'For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.' (Ephesians 2:14-16).
These 'two' are the Jews and Gentiles. The barrier of the law which had caused separation has been removed in Christ (vividly confirmed in Acts 15).
But one might protest: 'Okay, I understand that the law could not save – only Christ can do that - but now I am saved, I must surely walk in the law!' No, no, no – that is the error of the Galatians!! The false judaistic teachers who had caused havoc in that province accepted Christ's sacrifice but then they pointed the Galatians back to reliance on the law. In response to their errors, Paul produces his strongest language in all of his writings – just check out Galatians 1:7-9 as an example!!
Today Christians are to walk in the spirit of the law, we sometimes call this, 'the law of Christ' although it is truthfully no law,
'But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.' (Galatians 5:22-23).
The law no longer stands over the Christian, waiting to exact its retribution because Christians are now under grace. Of course, grace is no licence to do evil. Grace was and is expensive – paid for by the precious blood of Christ!
'For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.' (Romans 6:14).
'But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets (that's the Old Testament – my insert) testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe...' (Romans 3:21-22).
Robin A. Brace, 2005.