I’d like to say a few things about good works – specifically as we see the revealed will of God for us in Ephesians 2:10,
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Now, the term “good works” often appears to me to have acquired among both Baptist and conservative Protestant circles a sort of stigma – this stigma arising from the misuse and misunderstanding of good works by false religious systems such as Catholicism and liberal Protestantism. The same sort of hesitancy that fundamentalists have about speaking of the Holy Spirit because the Charismatics have misused Him, or about “election,” because the Calvinists have twisted that doctrine. Works sort of get a bad rap, what with the Catholics trying to misuse the Bible (particularly James chapter 2) to support justification by works, and the liberals ignoring the Bible completely and replacing it with a doctrine of good works or “social gospel.” But this verse clearly reminds us (and many of us need reminded on this more than we’d like to think we do) that good works (which needs to be qualified here and now as service rendered TO the Lord FOR the purpose of honouring Him, else it’s not a good work) definitely do have a place in God’s economy for the lives of believers.
This verse comes right after the very well-known verses about salvation by grace through faith. But, as if to emphasis that even though works don’t save, they DO indicate salvation, Paul writes under inspiration that works MUST be in the life of a believer. And this definitely can be seen.
1) We’ve been created unto good works. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Paul reminds his readers in vv. 11-22 that they had (as Gentiles) formerly been alienated from the life that is in God, had been without any hope in the world, had indeed been at enmity with God. They had no place in the promises given by God to Israel, no standing with God as His children. This all changed with the coming of Christ and the preaching of grace to the Gentiles. They became part of the commonwealth of Israel, spiritually speaking, and shared equally in the promises and the inheritance of God. Well, they also share equally in the service and responsibility to minister before the Lord as well. Gentiles, as well as Jewish believers, are now a royal priesthood before God, tasked with offering up acceptable spiritual sacrifices to God and to shew forth His praise (I Peter 2:5,9). God saved us not only because of His love for us, but also for the purpose that through our changed lives and changed priorities, we might give glory to God the Father, just as Jesus Christ came to do through HIS work on the cross and in the resurrection (Philippians 2:5-11). This is why it is so doubly grievous when we act contrary to this calling, falling into sin and acting selfishly for our own glory or satisfaction, rather than His.
2) God has before ordained that we should walk in them. From eternity past, God’s ordination and will for us as believers is to walk in His will, being made into the image of His Son, and serving Him in newness of life. Paul told us that God works in us both to will and to do of His GOOD PLEASURE (Philippians 2:13) as we work out (not work FOR) our own salvation (here, sanctification) with fear and trembling. God’s good pleasure should be our own wills and the object of our actions as we submit to God’s direction, His will for our lives, His grand object for us that He had planned out from before the foundation of the world.
Good works are so important, that in another epistle, Titus, written to a young pastor, Paul includes exhortations to or speaks of the necessity of good works in the lives of believers five times in three chapters (2:7,14; 3:1,8,14). Good works glorify God, edify the saints, and provide a light of truth and purity in a world of deceit and corruption. Indeed Titus 3:8…
“This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.”
…provides the answer to the Catholic argument that James 2 teaches that works can bring justification, asis asserted from verses such as 14, 18, and 21. Paul writes in Titus that good works are profitable UNTO MEN. This same idea is presented in James 2:21, for instance, when Abraham is said to have been justified by works or in James 2:18 where James says that he will show his faith BY his works. These works are profitable unto men. The good works which show our faith, the justification Abraham had from his works, demonstrate the reality of faith already placed. The justification, such as it is, is not justification which makes one free from sin, but is justification of the truth of a man’s profession BEFORE MEN. These works are a TESTIMONY to the world around us, showing that our faith is real and bears fruit. By their fruit ye shall know them.
The life of a professing believer that does not bear fruit is in danger of being taken away and cast into the fire (John 15:2a,6). Let us, as God’s people, make our calling and election sure by being zealous to maintain good works for necessary uses. Let us be a fruitful people.