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"Salvation not by works but to do good works" Ephesians 2, 8 - 10 by Pastor Youngjae Jee

posted Oct 2, 2015, 2:57 PM by Bowmansville UMC


There are three foundational words of Christian theology that are found in Ephesian 2:8 – “salvation”, “grace”, and “faith”.  Yet another important word is found in Ephesian 2:9-10 and that is “work”.

Salvation is always the salvation from somewhere and into somewhere else.  It has a direction.  A German priest, whose name is Anselm Grün, told a story about a man who hated his own shadow and sought to remove it from him.  His method was to run.  So he ran and ran, but the shadow never went away.  He ran faster and faster.  Do you think that he succeeded in removing his shadow?  He never made it.  Instead he ran out of breath and dropped dead on the street.  Beside the street  was a big tree and a person was sitting under the tree.  Guess what? He did not have his own shadow because he was under the tree. 

This is like the story of salvation.  Our human condition is that we are all dead in our transgressions and sins. (Eph .2:1)  You cannot get rid of transgressions and sins by your own trial of running away from them.  You would never succeed.  Instead you should find the tree that would remove your transgressions and sins completely.  Salvation is not from your running, but from the tree that is given for you. 

Salvation is not by works but by grace of God.  The tree has been there for a long time waiting for people to go under.  It has stayed there while people were still running around.  “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)   The tree is given freely by God.  “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son…” (John 3:16a)  We did not do anything to the tree.  We did not contribute anything to the cross of Jesus Christ. 

God gives you  an invitation to the tree.  If you ask what you should do to go under the tree, the answer is “nothing.”  Just go there.  On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)  The tree is ready solely and completely by God.   You just need to be led into the tree.  “Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16b)  I hope that the statement is clear for all of you now: It is by grace that you have been saved through faith.

Since it is not by your works but by grace that you have been saved through faith.  You have nothing to be boastful about.  It is the pure gift of God.  If you boast of yourself,  then it is proof of the fact that you don’t really know what grace is or that you are  confused between grace and works.  It is like putting yourself on the throne where Jesus Christ is supposed to be seated.  The tree is Jesus Christ but not you.

Salvation has a fixed direction or purpose.  It is out of sins and transgressions, but into good works.  God’s intention is to save us through Jesus Christ to do good works.  We are not saved by good works,  but to do good works.  We are not saved because we are holy,  but we are saved to be holy.  We are not saved because we are obedient,  but we are saved to be obedient.

We are doing good works because we are saved by the grace of God through Jesus Christ.  It is not like paying back the price of God’s grace, but the very result of God’s grace through Jesus Christ.  If Jesus is in you, if Jesus sits on your throne, then you do good works because your life and your interests and desires would be directed by the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you yourself sit on the throne,  then your good works must be for your own credit.  You don’t find true grace but self-righteousness.  They were called hypocrites because it looks like out of God’s grace but in actuality it’s for self-righteousness.  Jesus warned, “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men to be seen by them in your giving, prayer, fasting, and everything else.” (Matthew 6:1-18)

You see, good works doesn’t always mean good at all.  Good works are sometimes a disguise, camouflage, or at best self-confusion.  Good works cannot be a means of salvation,  but purpose of salvation.  So, good works must follow salvation by grace through faith, but should not be done for self-righteousness.  The throne should be given to Christ Jesus our Lord.

May you believe that you have been saved by God’s grace in Jesus Christ to do good works!  Stop running around for your own sake!  That may not be a good work in God’s eyes.  Instead go under the tree,  then you may find the resource and power to do good works in Christ Jesus.  May you know that salvation is not by works but to do good works!   Amen.



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