From a Self-Centered Life to a Self-Centered Life?
By Jean Cader
What Paul had to say in the book of Ephesians touches a range of moral and ethical behaviours designed to ensure that the Christ followers are living up to their heavenly calling after they are saved by grace, through faith. This morning as I was reading about Paul’s missionary journey, I came across a passage from Ephesians 2:8-9 once again, and thought it was worth stopping to ponder on its inference. The passage reads like this: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not works, so that no one can boast.” It’s very clear from this statement that works does not justify a person. There is nothing we can do or are required to do in order to gain salvation, except believe on Jesus and be converted. This is one of the strongest statements in scripture dealing with salvation by faith.
Along this line of thought Richard Stearns, the President of World Vision, and the author of Unfinished: Filling the Hole in Our Gospel, whose book I quoted from in my last blog, writes: “Even when we read perhaps the strongest statement in Scripture of salvation by faith alone and not by works, we find in the very next verse the outline of our kingdom mission to then go and do good works.” This morning verse 10 of Ephesians 2 arrested my attention stronger than ever before. The passage reads: “For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." In other words, we are saved by grace, and through faith. But, we are saved for works! God has rescued us from our old self-centered lives in order to enter into a new life of service for Him.
Ephesians deals with topics at the very core of what it means to be a Christian – both in faith and in practice. It encourages believers to walk as fruitful followers of Christ. The keyword here is fruitful. We are to be fruitful followers of Jesus Christ. While our works cannot save us, they nevertheless matter to God, who created us in Christ Jesus to do good works. And these are works that God prepared or determined in advance for us to do. And our works matter also to those who do not know Jesus yet. In another of Paul’s New Testament books, in which he explains that salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ, he referrers to those who do not know Christ: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” – Romans 10:14. Our good works are necessary! God has called us away from an egocentric lifestyle to enter a life of service for Him. The letter to the Ephesians is broad in its application and applies as directly to us today as it did to its first recipients.
We are not called from a self-centered life to a self-centered life. Instead we are called from a self-centered life to a life centered on God. How then can the Christ followers not go on to do good works?