“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. For 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
Ok, so you’ve probably heard at least the first part of those verses a million times. I want you to read it again, but this time, think about what the author is trying to say.
When I read these verses, I notice one thing in particular. Just as this whole book of Ephesians has been doing, these verses show us how great and powerful and sovereign God is, and they ought to humble us. This is not our doing, it is the gift of God. It is not the result of anything we have done, or else we would be proud of it.
The gospel is not something for us to be proud of. The gospel tells us that God is in control over all the universe and that he is holy, righteous and just. The gospel tells us that we are basically no better than filthy little worms in God’s sight because we have sinned, we have rebelled against him and deserve his wrath. Yet God, that we might praise him for his kindness and grace to us, showed us compassion and sent his own son to die the death of a criminal to offer us life.
Really, my brothers and sisters? Don’t we know better than this? Let us boast only in the cross of Christ. The King of eternity died that the worms might live! We are the worms, so why do we pretend we are kings? The worms need not be proud of their filth. They did not save themselves; they could not save themselves.
For by grace, you have been saved.
Our salvation comes from his grace. That undeserved favor that he shows to us. By this unfathomable grace, we filthy worms are redeemed.
You have been saved through faith.
“But not everyone is saved!” you may say. Well, yes, that is true. Because there’s another component: faith. In order to be saved by that grace, we must place our full trust and confidence in Christ. (That’s literally what faith means if you look it up in the dictionary.) We are not saved through our own works.
We are saved by putting our lives in God’s hands, though they really were there all along; by trusting that he came to the earth as a human yet fully God, that he lived a perfect life, died in our place, paid the price for our sin, and came back to life to prove that one day, though we too will die, we will also be raised back to life and we will live eternally with God in paradise and praise him for saving the wretched worms. And what a glorious gift it is.
But the story doesn’t end there.
You see, we worms aren’t worms anymore. We’re children of God, and we have a mission. Though our works can’t save us, God wants us to do good works! We are God’s creation, and he created us to do good works. Verse ten even tells us that he prepared those things for us to do so that we would do them.
What are good works? Doing good things and exemplifying the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Why do we do them? Because the king saved the worms, so the worms should want to live to praise him; doing good things, showing kindness and patience and all that other stuff is how they can express their gratitude and love for the God who saved them.
Something we talked about last night at my youth group is how we should never “get over” the gospel. You see, the gospel isn’t just the starting point of your life as a Christian. It’s not just a quick fix. The gospel is our life support. It must be the central point of our lives because we cannot live spiritually without it.
-Always stand in awe
We should never stop being amazed at what God has done. Sometimes, it’s hard to care. Sometimes, you’re emotionally just wiped out and you don’t feel the warm fuzzies or the “wow” feeling when you look at the gospel. But, you know, it’s not just about emotion. It’s not about how you “feel”. My intention isn’t for you to go cry because you’re an awful worm, whether or not that’s an appropriate response. What I’m asking you (and myself) to do is to regularly reflect on what God has done and to let it impact your life.
Try making analogies like the worm and the King if that helps you think about the meaning behind it. Maybe you can listen to music that reminds you of the gospel. Studying your Bible in the mornings is always a good idea. But however you remind yourself of the gospel, you need to act upon it. When you recognize what God has done, your life should be changed as a result.
-Live as one who has been forgiven
We talked about how you’re made to do good works. So do them. I shouldn’t need to tell you all the different ways you can do good things. Whatever you do, you should be able to say, “I’m doing this because of what God has done for me.” When you show love to the people you don’t want to love, you should be able to say, “I’m loving this person because God has loved me.” Anything good in us exists because of the grace of God. We love others and do good because God has taken these worms and turned them into something much more glorious.
-This is the story, this is our mission
We must understand that, from the very beginning, we were made in God’s image to reflect his glory. Yet, when we rebelled against God and rejected him, we defiled ourselves. We are the ones who brought ourselves to that worm-like state. The beauty of the gospel is that when we utterly ruined ourselves, God offered to fix us. He has restored us to the full potential of what he created us to be. We are no longer worms. We are his children, and our purpose is to magnify our Father. This is the essence of the Christian life; this our mission.