Ephesians 2:1-10 talks a lot about God’s grace in taking us from our death in sin to life in the resurrected Christ. Today I’d like to examine verse 10 in its proper context, so that we can understand the true source of our good works.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 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. 8 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. (ESV)
Again, Paul places emphasis on Christ, attributing any good works we perform to God. Strong’s Greek Dictionary says that the Greek word “poiema” (here rendered “workmanship”) means “a product,that is, fabric (literally or figuratively): – thing that is made, workmanship.”
According to Vincent Word Studies, the Greek construction of the phrase, “we are His workmanship” decidedly refers to God as the active agent. Notice that the next phrase, “created in Christ Jesus” clarifies the idea that the “workmanship” denotes the new creation He forms at the time of our conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17). When we consider that, prior to salvation, our base instincts locked us into a lifestyle of depravity (remember verses 1-3), we marvel that now God calls us His workmanship.
Further, God creates us as new creatures in Christ so that we can perform good works. Good works, then, follow regeneration rather than cause it. And the Lord has even prepared those good works “beforehand,” which Ephesians 1:4 tells us was “before the foundation of the world.” A good cross-reference for this idea of predestined works is Romans 8:29-30.
Perhaps Titus 2:11-14 offers the best commentary on Ephesians 2:1-10, especially as it illustrates repentance from the decay described in Ephesians 2:1-3 and to the good works of Ephesians 2:10.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~~Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)
As in Ephesians 2:5 and 8, God’s grace ushers in the gift of repentance (see Acts 11:18). (Incidentally, the phrase, “all people,” means that salvation extends beyond the Jews to all ethnic groups.) In Paul’s words to Titus, we see a clear picture of God’s grace enabling believers to turn from sin because they live in expectation of Christ’s return. Such expectation, of course, arises from the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith always expresses itself in repentance from sin and to holiness.
Ephesians 2:1-10 doesn’t mention the redemption that Jesus secured for us by shedding His blood on the cross (Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:20), but we can’t really talk about grace apart from the cross. Although this study ends at verse 10, Paul does clarify in Ephesians 2:11-13 that Gentiles have access to God’s promises through Christ’s blood, just as Jews do. What amazing grace! And what Good News!