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God's Grace and Our Good Works

Tyler David    /    May 11, 2014


Tyler David speaks on Ephesians 2:8-10

Series: The Book of Ephesians



good works


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Sermon Transcript

In middle school, I thought if my parents loved me, they would never say no; they would always say yes, especially if my friends’ parents said yes. For them to discipline me was against loving me. If they really loved me, they wouldn’t discipline me.

When I was thirteen, I got in trouble at school. My dad told me, “One more time and the time of discipline will be yours.” The next day I got into trouble again. When I got home my dad told me to wait in my room. I waited in my room until dinner. He called me down for dinner, didn’t talk to me about it at all, and then sent me back to my room to wait some more. The whole time I was furious. In my mind, my dad had always told me he loved me. But yet, if he really loved me, he wouldn’t have put me through all of that.

The only conclusion I could come to was that my dad hated me. Finally my dad came to talk to me. The first thing he told me before any discipline happened was, “Tyler, I love you.” It was comforting, but still felt incompatible with the discipline.

Love and discipline could not coexist in my mind.

Yet today, my outlook could not be more opposite. I’m so thankful my dad disciplined me. Now, I’ve learned not only can love and discipline coexist, but they’re inseparable from one another.

As a teenager, what looked to be at odds actually wasn’t. When you read the Bible, you have a similar experience. There are truths that seem to contradict each other. It’ll say one truth, but then say another seemingly incompatible with the first.

For example, the Bible says God is completely sovereign over all things. But it also says human beings are completely responsible for their actions. These seem incompatible, yet they can coexist. The Bible also says Jesus is 100% God and at the same time 100% man. Human authors wrote the Bible, yet every single word is the very word of God.

In our text today, Paul shows us two more truths that seem to be incompatible, God’s grace and our good works.

These two seem to be at odds. People say if you really believe in God’s grace then good works don’t matter at all. Or you believe good works are a good thing, so make sure you’re faithful, because if you’re not, then you may not get God’s grace.

These two truths are not at odds. They’re actually inseparable.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

Two things are abundantly clear.

  1. Our salvation is dependent totally on grace and not works…
  2. But also, salvation is going to produce good works.

We Are Grace Dependent

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8 (ESV)

In the first seven verses of Ephesians 2 Paul has been unpacking what our state was like before God and what the salvation is that He’s given to us in Christ. You begin to see there is no way we can be saved apart from God’s grace.

It must have been God’s grace and not our good works, because in verse 1 we are told, “you were dead in the trespasses and sins,” (Ephesians 2:1, ESV). We were dead, not sick or sort of dead, but dead. Because our sin had killed our relationship with God, we didn’t want Him. We couldn’t want God.

It must have been God’s grace and not our good works, because in verse 2 we are told we had bound ourselves to Satan to make a world where God is not honored or talked about, where Jesus Christ is not worshipped.

It must have been God’s grace and not our good works, because in verse 3 we are told our very passions, desires, and what we want most in this life puts us at odds with God and makes His wrath come on us.

These verses make it clear our situation was worse than we thought. We’re surrounded everywhere with hopelessness. Inside of us, all we have is spiritual death and sinful passions. In front of us, all we have is Satan and his ambition to make a world without God. All we have over us is the wrath of God on us for our sin. The only way these types of people are going to be saved is if God is gracious and does something outside of them, for them.

The Salvation We Received Through Grace

Paul then describes our salvation and the incredible gifts God has given us through it. Typically, when we think of salvation, we talk about it in terms of God having mercy on us and showing us love and kindness. All those things are incredibly true, but sometimes they’re lacking in describing the specific nature of what God actually did.

God united His people with Christ. His love, mercy, favor and grace prompted Him to do the unthinkable and unite us with His Son. We now share in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus died and forgave us of every sin so you and I could possess everything that was His. He died so we could receive everything He receives. Everything the resurrected Christ gets, we now get also.

His Father becomes our Father. His Spirit becomes our Spirit. His life becomes our life. His righteousness is now our righteousness. God’s love for Him is now God’s love for us. His eternal destiny of ruling over everything is now our eternal destiny with Him.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV)

We are alive, because we are united with Christ. Everything He gets, we get. This is what our salvation is. It was love and grace that motivated God to unite us with His Son.

You begin to realize no work of ours could ever contribute to this. We could never warrant this sort of salvation. We were dead; we couldn’t do anything. God wants us to know that all we did was receive it.

Defying Our Dependence On Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

Paul is being redundant on purpose; it’s not your own doing, it’s not the result of works, again and again. He knows you and I have a tendency to move away from this truth. Even if we intellectually agree with it, we still want to take just a little bit of credit for our salvation. There’s a sin in us that pushes us to thinking we still need to do our part.

We don’t want our salvation to come to us solely through faith. We want to believe we brought something to the table. We want faith plus a little bit of effort.

We beat ourselves up when we sin. We labor under guilt until we’ve earned and proven we feel bad. Or we grow bored with the gospel. We hear it talked about and it doesn’t move us anymore. We think we don’t actually need grace; we only need a little help. We just need a couple of practices to help us realize our dreams.

We talk about the morals and disciplines God wants us to uphold, but not much about the Jesus He wants you to receive. Often our most difficult times with this truth are when we feel most consistent, most faithful and most moral. Those are some of the driest times spiritually for us, because we start to believe we’re not that bad. We don’t really need that much grace.

The gospel is hard, because it’s God saying your works don’t mean anything. Our salvation is totally dependent on grace.

The people who got most angry with Jesus during His ministry weren’t the immoral people; it was the moral ones, the faithful, consistent and disciplined people. He told them their works; their discipline, consistency, nor their morals did anything. He wasn’t impressed with all that.

We have all become like one who is unclean,and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. Isaiah 64:6 (ESV)

Even your best day is nothing to steer God’s heart to love you. Good works mean nothing in terms of your salvation.

When you hear that, we can begin to make the faulty assumption God doesn’t care about good works. We begin to believe that if we believe in God’s grace, we can do whatever we want.

Good Works, The Fruit Of Salvation

Our text clearly shows us God cares a lot about good works, but He cares about them after you’re saved.

Good works flow from our salvation.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:1-9 (ESV)

No work can do anything.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)

We are united with Christ, seated with Him in the heavenlies. The fruit of that is good works. They’re not an afterthought for God. God was preparing them for us. When God was planning our salvation, He was also planning our good works.

Good works can do nothing to save us and make us alive, but they’re a sign we’ve been made alive.

Then What’s The Point To Obedience?

If they’re just fruit or a sign, then why even do them? How is this supposed to motivate us to obey? There’s no consequence if we don’t obey, so why would we ever obey and do good works?

God knew we would think like this. He answers this argument in Romans. Paul describes the amazing grace of God and then describes what it does to someone when they believe in it.

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:20-21 (ESV)

If you’re in Christ, when your sin increases, grace increases all the more. God never grows weary of forgiving you. Grace reigns over your life no matter how many times you sin.

If we can mess up and God will always forgive us, then why don’t we just keep on sinning?

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:1-4 (ESV)

When you experience the grace of God you begin to want to do good works. You want to kill sin and follow Christ. Not because you earned it, but because you’ve been made alive.

The grace of God produces good works in a person.

Martin Luther’s, who started the Reformation, main point was that faith alone saves you, not works, not church attendance, not morals, but faith alone in the grace of God through Jesus Christ. He said, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.”

When you see God for who He is, you can’t help but follow Him.

This was my experience when I first trusted Christ. I grew up around church a lot. We went to Sunday Services and church camp every summer. But I didn’t care. Nothing in me really wanted to do all these things. I believed generally that Jesus was important, but I just wanted to hang out with the people, until I experienced the grace of God for myself.

I went on a church retreat when I was eighteen. All of a sudden God woke me up. I could not get away from Jesus. Everything in me realized that I needed Jesus and wanted to go after Him. His forgiveness, love, and joy are like nothing I’ve ever known. I actually wanted to obey. It was bizarre to me, I had spent most of my life just faking it. Yet, all of a sudden I actually wanted to read my Bible and pray. It wasn’t just something I was told I needed to do, but something I wanted to do.

I wanted to obey and when I didn’t, I actually had sorrow about it. It was knowing the grace of God that made me want to obey. The same is true for me today.

The way the Spirit motivates His people to obey God is not by reminding you of all the good works you haven’t done. The Spirit of God encourages and fuels you to obey by reminding you of all the grace you’ve already been given.

To Those Guilty Of Failing At Good Works

When following Jesus becomes weary for me, I usually discover at the root of it all that I’ve begun to think my obedience is what warrants God’s love for me. I begin to think that if I don’t follow through on my end, God must be pretty upset and disappointed with me. This doesn’t make me want to draw closer to God; it makes me want to pull away from Him.

There are many of you who can attest that following Jesus has become a weary thing. It’s tiresome. You think about vacation and rest, but not about following Jesus. You think about wanting to be away from having to serve other people, from reading the Scriptures and do whatever you want.

When was the last time you stopped and received God’s grace? When was the last time you remembered your works don’t do anything for Him? When was the last time you remembered you are seated with Christ in the heavenlies, hidden in Him, qualified by Him, and in this moment God is not waiting for some better version of you to arrive?

God is already satisfied with you, because Jesus has taken care of everything.

Fight your sin. Fight for good works. But when you fail, don’t think those good works are what God is after. When you fail, go to Him, because when sin increases, grace increases even more. He never gets tired of forgiving you.

To Those At Peace With Yourself

There are others that need to be concerned with how at peace you are with yourself and with how content you are with the lack of good works. You find yourself persisting in attitudes and actions that are clearly against the word of God. You’ve become content and you’re justifying bitterness.

You’re saying there’s no way you’re going to forgive your spouse or friend. You’ve become content and satisfied in your love for money. You keep putting off giving anything to anybody. You’ve become content and justify that sexual distortion in your life. There’s a myriad of other sins I’m sure we’re struggling at becoming content in.

Grace does not remain dormant in a person.

The grace of God does not excuse a flippant attitude towards sin. Grace does not produce complacency. Real grace from God, if you’ve really experienced it, does not produce complacency towards sin or good works.

When you believe and receive the grace of God, you have fervency and zeal to put to death your sin and fight for those joyous works God is calling you to do.

If that’s not there, you need to be concerned. I’m not saying you’re not saved or don’t know Jesus. What I am saying is you need to be concerned and to know that sin in your life is not playing games.

We’ve all been in that place before. We begin to make peace with our sin and excuse it in the name of grace. But here’s the amazing thing, the way out of this dangerous place is not shame. The way back to joy is to go to the God of all grace. The God who took you while you were dead in your transgressions and sins made you alive together with Christ Jesus.

You need to spend time marveling that Jesus would give you everything He earned in the coming kingdom while He received everything you earned on the cross. As the Holy Spirit gives you faith to believe all the joys that are going to be yours with Christ one day, you’ll begin to see your sin and good works for what they are.

The Two Can Coexist

God has done something we cannot compute; a salvation that no good work could ever qualify you for and no particular sin could ever disqualify you for. The same grace that saves the inconsistent, the immoral, the messy, and the broken is the same grace that saves the moral, upstanding, disciplined, and faithful people.

May God make us a people of His grace and not some other cheap substitute that tries to add to his salvation or take away from his commands. When you experience this, the good works make all the sense in the world.