8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
For good reason, Ephesians 2:8-9 is one of the most quoted passages of Scripture in the Church. But in my experience, it’s rare to hear someone preach all the way through verse 10. That’s a shame, because the marriage of verse 10 to verses 8 and 9 could not be more important for our work. When read in its entirety, this passage shows us that the gospel is our ultimate source of rest and ambition.
The first half of the passage couldn’t be clearer: Our status as adopted children of God is “by grace….through faith,” and thus “not by works.” What a glorious truth! While we were His enemy, Christ died for us, gracing us with salvation we could never earn and thus can never lose.
Years ago, in an effort to help my kids grasp this truth, I borrowed a nighttime routine I learned from Tim Keller. Before I turn out their lights, I ask my girls, “Do you know I love you no matter how many good things you do?” They nod their heads. “Do you know I love you no matter how many bad things you do?” They nod again. Then I ask, “Who else loves you like that?” and they always reply, “Jesus.”
You and I need to hear those same words applied to our work. God loves you and I no matter how productive or unproductive we are today. Ironically, it’s that truth that gives us the ambition to be wildly productive. Why? Because working to earn someone’s favor is exhausting. But working in response to unconditional favor is intoxicating. Once you realize that God accepts you “no matter how many good things you do,” you want to be productive for His agenda as a loving act of worship.
That’s a good thing, because as Paul makes clear in verse 10, one of the very purposes of our salvation is to do “good works” for others. Jesus made this equally clear in Matthew 5:16 when he said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” The very purpose of our lives—the reason we were created and saved—was to do “good works” that advance God’s Kingdom and glorify Him.
We don’t do these “good works” to earn His favor. We are ambitious for good work because His favor is graciously secure, leading us to work for His agenda as a loving act of worship. Worship Him by doing good, excellent work for others today!