In some of my spare time I’ve done a bit of woodworking. Nothing too in-depth. A coffee table, a few shelves, and a couple end tables. While my woodworking skills could be considered amateur at best, there’s something distinctly satisfying when I sand away rough edges, cut pieces to an exact length, and apply a fresh coat of finish. Things I might normally overlook are high priorities. I’m bringing new life to this piece of lumber.
As we read through Paul’s words to the Ephesians in chapter two, I’m reminded of the precious and dignifying status that comes with being Christ’s workmanship.
We see that Christians are not only ascended to a place of glory by Christ, but that we have been, in Christ, “created for good works … that we should walk in them.”
These good works are simply means by which God invites us to continue in the Genesis 1:27 call to fill and subdue the earth with God’s image and for His glory. This should cause us to pause as we consider the call and the gift of co-laboring with God through the works of our hands.
In her book Kingdom Calling, Amy Sherman points out that though we have the call to walk in these good works, we are utterly unable to do so apart from our total reliance on him. For when Christ, through the Holy Spirit, dwells in us, one commentary notes, “his gifts and graces are bestowed upon them, so they, too, bear fruits.”
So being united with Christ is not so much about being saved from something but being saved for something. The for in the case of Ephesians 2:10 are the good works that we lay our hands to. Union with Christ always drives us towards missional engagement. Another commentary notes that our good works are “the fruit of faith.”
Sherman goes on: “The too-narrow gospel tells us what we’ve been saved from: sin, hell, and death. And that is very good news indeed. But the gospel of the kingdom tells us not only what we’re saved from, but also what we’re saved for.”
What’s so beautiful about this missional call is the preceding release-valve from Paul. Verses 8-9 read, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
The great equalizer is that these good works we are called to are not done as a means of striving towards God but working out of his glorious and amazing grace.
Duty turns to delight through His grace. Take heart that it is by grace you have been saved, and the Lord has graciously prepared works for you to bring Him glory, honor, and praise.
Gage Arnold is the Communications Director for the Center for Faith & Work Los Angeles. He is currently an M.Div student at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO., and holds a B.S. in Journalism & Electronic Media from the University of Tennessee.