Faith Works - Part Two
November 20, 2016 | Randy Smith
Faith Works-Part TwoEphesians 2:8-10
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Pastor Randy Smith
So if we assume that there is a God or higher being that calls the shots, are we also to assume that any belief is acceptable to receive His favor, even if those beliefs contradict each other? Logic says, "No." According to the Bible, the answer is clearly, "No." According to the Bible, there is only one God and only one way to reach Him.
If you remember last week, I began my message by presenting four math equations. I mentioned that these equations represent the four religious beliefs as to how a person may receive eternal life. Sadly, all of these are even taught in various denominations that claim to be Christian. Only one can be correct.
Works = Salvation + Faith
Faith = Salvation + Works
Works + Faith = Salvation
Faith - Works = Salvation
One is correct, which one? Which one is biblical?
Today as we finish up last week's message, we will examine not only some of the most adored verses in the Bible, but also some of the clearest verses in the Bible that explain how we can know God and where faith and works enter into the equation of salvation.
There is only one true saving message. The eternity of your soul hangs in the balance.
1. All of Grace (verses 8-9)
Before we get to the new material, let's take some time to review what we learned last week from verses 8 and 9.
Despite what many people seek to teach, the Bible is clear, from cover to cover, that salvation is nothing we earn through our efforts. Look at verse 9. "Not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."
Could it be stated any clearer? What the Scripture is saying is that if you believe you are going to heaven because you are a good person, you have been baptized, you went to church, you serve other people, you were raised in a Christian family, you experienced a Confirmation and the list continues, you have received a false gospel that originated from man and not from God. Your good works do not save you. Don't expect heaven to be in your future.
Why? Because you and I have sin that God will never accept in His presence. Because the standard of the holiness required is God Himself. Because, verse 9, God does not want us to boast, but rather, verse 7, "so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Because a love relationship is never based on the works one gives another. Because we will forever wonder if we did enough works. And because if we could save ourselves based on our works in whole or part, there would have been no reason to send Jesus Christ.
You see, unless we accept the teaching of verses 1-7 and have a right estimation of ourselves from God's perspective, will we never accept the teaching of verses 8-9 and have a right estimation of how desperate we are for God's works and not our own.
According to the Bible (Ephesians 2:1-7), we are spiritually dead, hell-deserving sinners in active revolt against God's authority in our lives. We are in bondage to the approval of this world and the lies of the devil. We are born in sin, in love with sin and dominated by our sinful disposition. A few good deeds here and there cannot change the reality that we commit cosmic treason against God's name and His commandments on a daily basis. We are hopeless. And that's how we are on a good day! And if we deny this, it only proves my point!
No wonder we read in verse 9, "Not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." And no wonder we read that salvation must be entirely a work of God. Verse 4, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us." Verse 5, "[He] made us alive together with Christ." Verse 5, "By grace you have been saved." Verse 6, "[He] raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Verse 7, "So…He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." And verse 8, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God."
Romans 3 teaches the same thing. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:23-24).
So answer some questions for me. Only one answer or each question can be correct. Is salvation a reward God owes you for your actions or grace that results from His action in Christ? Is salvation payment from on high or is it a gift given to us by God that we did not deserve? Is salvation God praising you for your goodness or is it you praising God for His goodness? Which answer do you believe?
So here is the biblical gospel, the true message of salvation according to the Bible. God is perfectly holy. Sin will never be allowed in His presence. Sin is a direct violation against His being. He cannot co-exist with sin and according to His nature; He must judge and punish sin.
You and I are a sinner. We were born that way. We sin by choice and have even our best deeds are contaminated with sin. There is nothing we can do in and of ourselves to remove our sin nature.
Yet when we were in rebellion without hope, God the Father in unspeakable love and mercy would send God the Son to the cross to pay our penalty. Jesus Christ would become man, live the perfect life to qualify as our substitute and die on the cross in our place. He would receive the wrath from the Father we deserved and then be raised from the dead in victory.
His offer of salvation is made available to all who receive Him not through their works, but by sincere dependent faith and a repentant desire to turn from their sins. Salvation is a gift granted us entirely through His work through His mercy and grace so that we may not boast and that He might receive all the glory.
So again we read Ephesians 2:8-9. "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, so that no one may boast."
Are we all clear on this so far? Once again, the true and only gospel message is that salvation is a free gift extended to us through God's grace. It's all about Amazing Grace! It's all about His works and none of our own. And we receive this free gift on the basis of our faith.
Now, where I left you last week. "But pastor, that sounds too good to be true." "What about the need for right actions?" "Can I receive Jesus Christ and just keep sinning?" "Where do 'good works' fit into this?"
Well, we learned good works do not lead to our salvation. If anything, depending on our good works to achieve God's favor will lead us straight to hell. So if good works are important, we need to ask at this point where do they fit into the equation? And with only half my time remaining, that leads us to our new material and second point in today's sermon
2. Resulting in Works (verse 10)
Look at verse 10. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."
All right, let's break this incredible verse down. First of all we read that, "We are [God's] workmanship." NIV - "Handiwork" Literally from the Greek - "poiema" or we can say, "God's poem."
Do you see how this is in direct contrast from a mentality that believes we need to do works (make ourselves into a masterpiece) to achieve our salvation? The false gospel, the man-centered position states that I need to clean myself up in order for God to accept me. The true gospel, the God-centered position teaches that I come to God broken and He begins the process of cleaning me up, making me into a masterpiece. The former is self-reformation. The latter is God-transformation. The former is God will only accept a masterpiece. The latter is God will only make a masterpiece. So we come to God messy, with nothing to offer and then God in His divine love begins to shape us into a masterpiece. This shows that God not only saves us from hell, but through a personal relationship begins to shape us into the beautiful mold of Jesus Christ.
Folks, God does not clean His fish before He catches them!
2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (ESV). God is in the process of re-creating the world. His new creation work is already underway. His handiwork is alive in all of His children.
While at Rite-Aid this past week I passed by the magazine stand that featured the latest issue of Time. It caught my attention. On the cover was a picture of a sad girl with the words, "Anxiety, depression and the American Adolescent." There is no doubt young people, especially young females, are confused.
We have all been hardwired by God to be a masterpiece. And how have young ladies been taught to achieve that desire? Perfect complexion. Right figure. Sexual freedom. Rejected parental control. Substance usage. Progressive indoctrination. Career first. Anti-God in everything.
Young women have hungered and thirsted for these things. Are they satisfying them? Whatever happened to hungering and thirsting for righteousness? For in pursuing that, Jesus says one will be truly satisfied (Mt. 5:6).
My friends, it isn't working! It isn't made to work! Satisfaction, happiness, meaning, purpose and fulfillment can only come when we submit ourselves into the arms of a loving heavenly Father and then instead of trying to make ourselves great, allow Him to make us great (according to the false teaching of this world - Eph. 2:2). A young woman who is being transformed into the image of Christ is true beauty!
The Creator has an intended design. Why not allow Him to do His work in us?
When Michelangelo was asking about his sculpturing, He replied, "I am liberating an angel from a stone."
And why does God make us into a masterpiece? The rest of verse 10 tells us. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works." So God is ultimately shaping you into the image of Christ so that you might be a useful tool to be used by God for "good works," or we can say for His purposes which in no greater way will give your life purpose.
Think it through with me. You come to God as you are through faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit takes up full residence in your heart. Immediately he begins to transform you progressively more and more into the perfect, beautiful image of Jesus. More and more you start acting like Jesus.
This is Gospel-centered living. This is Jesus manifesting Himself in you. As He forgave you, you forgive others. As He gave you grace, you give others grace. As he demonstrated patience and mercy and love to you, you treat others in the same way. Like Him, you put others before yourself. You use wholesome and gentle words. You respect and stand for holiness. You live with gratitude, joy and peace. You love His church. You prioritize His will above all things. You love the Scriptures and prayer. You speak truth and live with honesty. You are filled with the Holy Spirit.
So it's safe to say if you are saved, you will be conforming more and more to Christ. And as you conform more and more to Christ, you will be a more beautiful personal that God will use to reflect His nature and accomplish His purposes. You will be a blessing to others. You will be created and prepared for good works.
Now we are answering our question. Where do good works fit into the equation? Not to save us, but give evidence we are truly saved. Grace alone saves us, but the grace that saves us is never alone as it will always result in good works. Or as John Calvin once said, "Christ justifies no one at the same time He does not sanctify." Or as we read in the book of James, "Faith without works is useless?" (Jas. 2:20).
So are "good works" bad or good? If we are viewing them as something we need to do to earn God's favor, they are bad, damning for that matter. As the prophet, Isaiah said, "All our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment (Isa. 64:6). Ephesians 2:9, we are saved, "not as a result of works." Yet, if we come to God with nothing to offer and allow Him to transform our lives and work His grace through us, then are good deeds are indeed good. Good works in this sense are the intended goal of our salvation.
Kevin DeYoung in his book, "The Hole in Our Holiness," said, "There is no righteousness that makes us right with God except for the righteousness of Christ. But for those who have been made right with God by grace alone through faith alone and therefore have been adopted into God's family, many of our righteous deeds are not only not filthy in God's eyes, they are exceedingly sweet, precious, and pleasing to Him" (p. 70).
So we have now come full circle. Back to our math equations:
Works = Salvation + Faith
Faith = Salvation + Works
Works + Faith = Salvation
Faith - Works = Salvation
Which one is biblical? Clearly it is the second one. Faith = Salvation + Works
Understanding things from this vantage point allows us to view our good works from three important perspectives.
One, many verses in the Bible demand the need for good works. For example in Matthew 25 three parables are given that stress the need for three actions: Eagerly expecting our Lord's return, using the gifts and talents God has given us for His glory and serving other people in need. The conclusion from the Lord states that "eternal punishment" and "eternal life" hang in the balance (Mt. 25:46). So are we saved by our works? A contradiction of Ephesians 2? Of course not. Just the repeated truth that those who are truly saved will show it by being obedient to the Lord's teaching.
Two, the question is often asked, "How can I truly know that I am saved?" The answer to that question flows from the previous point. If you are saved you will see evidence that the Holy Spirit is working within you. Is God transforming you into a masterpiece, the image of Christ? Do you have the desire and ability to pursue righteousness and obey His commandments.
And number three, our good works fulfill the purpose of our salvation. Why did God extend such amazing grace into our lives? For the sole purpose, Ephesians 2:7, that our lives would result in the praise to His glory. When we are acting the same as before our salvation how does that result in praise for His work? But when God can take ungodly selfish rebels and infuse them with Holy Spirit, Gospel-driven, Christ-exalting grace so that their lives are completely transformed whereby their attitudes toward Jesus Christ, themselves, unbelievers, enemies, church, the world, sin, holiness, serving, conduct, work, thought-life, time, employment, priorities, marriage, parenting, politics, trials, suffering, social issues, entertainment, conflict resolution, speech, money, prayer, the Bible, music, hobbies and the list continues, is radically opposite from where it was before Christ, the world will testify to the mighty hand of God and the amazing masterpiece that He produced.
So before we walked (lived), Ephesians 2:2-3 according to the world, the devil and the flesh. Now we walk, Ephesians 2:10, according to the works, "God prepared beforehand." Now we live to please Him - not to gain His acceptance, but because we already have it. Now we show that we are a new creation. Now we give evidence of the Holy Spirit by displaying a changed lifestyle.
That's the goal of good works. Not ignoring them, not trusting them for salvation, but allowing them to give evidence of our salvation whereby God works them in us after salvation to show every created being the masterpiece that He is able to produce.
So again the sequence in Ephesians 2:1-10. Dead in sin. Made alive by God through His grace, mercy and love. Saved to do good works.
Last week I was reading Titus 3 to my family. Listen for the same sequence. I close with these verses: "For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another (like Ephesians 2:1-3). But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (like Ephesians 2:4-9). This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds (like Ephesians 2:10)" (Tit. 3:3-8).