“which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10c)
Is it the walking in works prepared beforehand that saves or the grace through faith that is a gift of God, that saves? (vs. 8 -10b) I contend it’s what happens before the end of vs. 10 that saves. That’s the cause of our salvation. That’s the basis of it. We were created new in Christ Jesus. But the result of that or the effect of that is not just eternal life someday when we die, but also walking in that salvation here and now.
It’s undeniable. The verse says he’s got good works prepared beforehand for those who are his workmanship (those who came by grace through faith) to walk in.
So is it walking in good works that saves or coming by grace through faith? The answer is either that it is coming by grace through faith that saves. Or it is both. It’s coming by grace through faith, resulting in walking in the good works prepared beforehand for those who do.
The only thing we can for surely conclude from this is it is not good works that saves. Good works apart from coming to Christ by grace through faith does nothing as far as salvation is concerned for anyone. But we also for surely can conclude, is that anyone who does come to Christ by grace through faith will be in somehow, someway walking in the good works Jesus has for them. You can’t put the cart before the horse. But once you do put the cart behind the horse, horses and carts just do horse and cart type things.
Friends, seriously, there is a type of faith that does no good whatsoever. A dead faith. Maybe it’s a dead faith that trusts in works. Maybe it’s a dead faith that does not result in what Jesus means for true faith to result in. Not sure. I am sure there are many different variables.
But one thing I do know, the gospel (the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus) is the power of God unto salvation and people who receive that gospel believing that it can save, also receive the Holy Spirit permanently until the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13). In fact, I would say it is the Holy Spirit that empowers the gospel in all aspects. So that it is even the Holy Spirit applying the gospel to an unbeliever that draws an unbeliever from darkness to light. From unbelief to belief. That changes a person from unbeliever to believer. There is a supernaturalality to becoming a Christian and living as a Christian we must never discount.
“So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8b) “ For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14)
The Holy Spirit is the one that rose Jesus from the grave. The Holy Spirit inspired the words of the gospel. It is the Holy Spirit that unites one to Christ through faith. (1 Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:27)
The gospel is power unto salvation (Romans 1:16) so that the “righteous shall live by faith” (vs. 17)
Romans 1:17 comes after vs. 16 for a good reason. Again, I could go through the whole thing again; is it living by faith that saves or is it believing the gospel?
The point is the gospel is power to produce what it is calling forth to produce. Eternal life that starts at the moment of belief. Eternal life that we will walk in and be who we are until we get home to be with Jesus, getting rid of these earthly garments for good, to be who we really ultimately are for real. The point is being a saved sinner starts the moment we get saved. From the moment we get saved the result is we begin to pursue righteousness and say no to sin. We begin to say yes to the things of God, and say no to the things of the world. We begin to kill the deeds of the flesh, seek the things of God. Mortify and vivify. Exactly what Colossians 3:1-17 says if you need some real life examples. Colossians 3:5-9 is what killing sin looks like, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices” And Colossians 3:12-17 are what pursuing righteousness looks like, “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” In other words, follow Jesus. Anybody that doesn’t understand this, doesn’t understand salvation or how the biblical authors write. Indicatives (what is) and imperatives (what you are to do) are important. Imperatives are never meant to save. But that doesn’t mean they are not important. They are very important. They are invariably the natural result of indicatives.
You could say it like this; you are that, now be that. You are saved, now be saved. Or better yet, you are saved, now live like you are saved. An imperative in much of the biblical context is just us or the original audience being told to be who they are.
Or you could flip it around. If I am not living like I am saved, am I really saved? It’s not wrong to ask that. If a person who is saved is supposed to be living a certain way, however imperfectly, but is supposed to be striving, pursuing by the Spirit to live and think in a certain way, and is not. And I am not? Or I am not? Am I really saved? If this question moves you or anyone else to cry out to God and really be saved, then it is worth it all.
If someone came into the room you are in and said, “Hey, there is a bomb in the room, get out”. And you just sat there, and thought, you know, I really believe him, but you are not getting out. It’s probably a good thing to question whether you actually really believe.
Likewise, Jesus commands us, “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15) “Come unto me all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) “Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me” (Luke 9:23) “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—“ (1 Peter 2:2) If you really believe that Jesus can save you will come to him and be saved. If Jesus tells you to deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow him, you will. If you really believe. If you are born again, you will long for the pure milk of the word. You just will.
In much the same way, all these things are true, as in the bomb scenario was true. They are not true because the bomb scenario illustration is better than what the Bible writers clearly say, but it may help you understand a little bit what the Bible writers are saying. You see how, in the bomb scenario, if you don’t leave the room, how can you say you really believed that person? Yes, it is true my friends, the action doesn’t come before the belief. That just doesn’t make sense. But right belief does produce right action. Right belief produces whatever action is supposed to happen on the account of who or what you are believing in. If you don’t leave the room, you didn’t really believe. If you do leave the room spurred on by what was said, you really believed.
So what saves, leaving the room or believing? What saves, following Jesus or believing on Jesus enough to believe you should follow him? What saves, repenting and believing in Jesus or believing that repenting and believing in Jesus saves, enough to actually do it?
You get the picture. It is not wrong to ask those questions. What is wrong is to pretend they don’t exist. Peoples souls are at stake. Don’t create such hard lines between different aspects of salvation. The Bible writers don’t. Don't try to be smarter than God's word. Just try to understand it and apply it. Is justification not sanctification, and sanctification not justification? Yes, this is true. But it is also just as true that one invariably leads to the other, and if not there is something wrong. In fact much of the different aspects of salvation most likely all happen within nanoseconds.
Called, regenerated, justified (through faith), converted, adopted, sanctified (positionally and beginning to be progressively) all happen so close together that to try to pick them apart and see when all these different stages happened or are happening is kind of goofy. It’s just not the way it works. Salvation is a package deal. You either have it all, or you don’t have it at all.