Last week I had a wonderful conversation with a man who I am getting to know better and who is obviously growing in his faith and knowledge of God. That is, of course, exactly what God wants to happen. Paul often prayed for the churches that they would grow in their love and knowledge of God.
My friend wanted to know how faith and works intersect. Specifically, he wanted to know how good works fit into God’s plan that we are saved by grace through faith. I was encouraged that he understood perfectly that we are saved by grace through faith and not of works. “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, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
I explained to him that most people quit studying that passage with verse nine but that verse ten is critical for our real understanding of God’s plan. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). This verse should be memorized and quoted along with verses eight and nine.
The word for “workmanship” is the Greek word “poiema.” We get the word “poem” from this Greek word. The word refers to the work of an artist or a writer. We are God’s creative work to bring good into the world and to give glory to God.
Jesus told us that we are the light of the world as well as the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-15). We have been called to do good works so that others may see God at work in us and to give glory to God. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
We are not saved by good works, but we are saved to do good works. God is at work in us that we might do good works and glorify Him. We are saved by faith in God’s work for us in Christ, and He expects us to do good for others as we go through life.
This is the basis for all the ministry of the church. We belong to God. He has set us apart for His service. We are to do good works that others might be blessed and that He might receive glory.
In a sense, our salvation is not complete until we have begun to serve. As we serve others, we show the love and power of God in the world.