For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship; created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (ESV – Read the chapter)
For anyone who would argue that our salvation has in even the tiniest of ways to do with our good works, this verse puts the lie to their position. Any individual, church, or even whole faith tradition that says otherwise is mistaken. That’s a pretty strong way to put it, but there really isn’t any other way around what Paul says here. Salvation comes by grace through faith and not by works. Period. We didn’t have anything to do with it being given to us beyond receiving the gift by faith.
I’ve talked before about why it is so important that salvation is by faith alone. Paul adds one more reason here. This system prevents boasting. It prevents boasting that would quickly lead to a multi-tiered society, stratified between those who can play a part in their salvation and those who can’t. The others might have it as well thanks to God’s mercy, but the first group has it more securely because they had something to do with getting it. What an awful society that would be!
Instead, our work, as Paul makes clear in v. 10, come subsequent to the saving. The grace comes first, and the works follow as a display of gratitude as well as the logical result of being in Christ.
What’s more, as the text makes clear, God has already planned for us to do good works. He’s even picked them out for us ahead of time. How cool is that?!? Well, it’s both cool, but also potentially a bit intimidating. I mean, what if we don’t get them all done? How do we know which are the right ones for us to be doing?
Yet this need not be a point of fear. Instead, we involve ourselves in serving from out of our gifting, passion, and location, both in the church and out in the community. As we come upon the opportunity to do good works while we do this, those are the ones God has prepared for us.
If we have received this grace, this work is what comes next. Look for ways, then, to make your salvation readily apparent to all who have eyes to see. Pursue good works in abundance with the glad confidence that they have nothing to do with your salvation, but are rather a gift of thanksgiving to the great God who did the saving in the first place.