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  • Writer's pictureGreg Palys

Not by Works, but for Works (Ephesians 2:8-10)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, ⁹not a result of works, so that no one may boast. ¹⁰For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. —Ephesians 2:8-10

What’s your lean?

Do you tend toward works-righteousness or toward lawlessness? Legalism or antinomianism? Are you a Pharisee or a Sadducee? Would you rather ask permission or ask forgiveness?

Of course, if you are a Christian, you have been rescued from both ditches. Yet I believe all of us are still tempted to fall in one or the other daily. 

Person 1: Perhaps our temperament inclines us toward God’s holiness. We love to do what is right because we rightly value the supreme value of God and His ways. Yet we can tend toward perfectionism, which often leaves us anxious, plagued with guilt, and critical of others. 

Person 2: Or perhaps we love that Christians have been freed from the need to perform. We are slow to condemn ourselves and others because we know that Christ died for us and offers salvation to all. But we can tend toward worldliness, which leaves us addicted to pleasure, apathetic toward serving others, and indistinguishable from the world.

Maybe, if you are like me, you oscillate between the two on the same day. You might think only the first person needs to understand grace. But actually, both do.

Ephesians 2:8-10 completes the thought Paul began in 2:1you were dead, but God made you alive through Christ. And every bit of this is by grace. Salvationeven the faith needed for salvation–is God’s gracious gift. Because it is a gift, we have no grounds for boasting. Our pride is shattered. Every good work we do is the result of God’s gracious decision to set His sights on us.

Yet grace does not preclude good works but rather requires them. God gives grace; we must exercise faith. God lays out the good works; we must walk in them. If we see that we have been shown grace today, then certainly we will act as one created for good works.

So, consider:

Does grace convict you and compel you?

Does grace amaze you and animate you?

Does grace humble you and hearten you?

If you are Person 1, consider how much this passage frees you from the bondage to rule-keeping and self-focus!

If you are Person 2, consider how much this passage encourages you to live as a servant to the one who has freed you!

How do we cut through our works-righteousness and our lawlessness? Grace. How do we tackle our perfectionism and our pleasure-seeking, our pride because of our works and our pride that ignores the good works God would have us do? Grace. Grace softens the hardest among us and quickens the most lethargic. May each of us be softened and quickened by grace today.


For Reflection 

  1. Do you tend to be Person 1 or Person 2? What do you think that says about the way you understand grace?

  2. When are you most tempted to act as if salvation comes from your works? What can you do in those moments to change your thinking and actions?

  3. In what ways are you most tempted to neglect the good works God has called you to do? How can this passage help you walk in the good works he has laid out for you?


Greg Palys is a pastor at College Park Church in Indianapolis, IN, primarily overseeing ministry to children and their families. He and Sarah have five children: Ruth, Ezekiel, James, Eden, and Luke. 


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