The ditch on the left and the right – Ephesians 2:8-10

As humans, we have a tendency to go to extremes in either one direction or the other. And, as I seem to recall reading in a quote from Jonathan Edwards, Satan likes to push us hard toward those extremes. Satan does not care which ditch we end up in, just that we end up in a ditch.

We can see this problem when looking at two sets of Scripture versus. In the first passage we have:

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.

Awesome, excellent, reassuring words. The danger here is that we can fall on the side of cheap grace and think we can go on sinning so that God’s grace can abound. By no means! (Romans 6:1-2).

On the other side we have this passage:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We can focus on this verse and zero in on the good works we are doing and believe they are at least a part of the reason God loves us and saves us. Crash! Now we are in the opposite ditch and Satan can again rejoice.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit put these 2 passages right next to each other AND in the perfect order. As many of you likely noticed, these verses are taken from one continuous passage:

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).

What comes first? Saved by grace through faith. What does it deny? Being saved by your works. What comes last and after you are saved? The reminder that you were created to go do the good works God has prepared. Perfect balance and perfect order. If we can can keep the whole passage in focus, we can avoid those nasty ditches on both sides no matter which way Satan tries to push.

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5 Comments

Filed under Christian Life, Salvation

5 responses to “The ditch on the left and the right – Ephesians 2:8-10

  1. One more time: No Catholic believes he is “saved by his works.”

  2. I’m sorry, but where exactly in this post did I mention Roman Catholicism?

  3. I know, but I felt the need to remind you. 🙂 You did tag the post “false gospel” and “good works,” which sounds like the usual jab against Catholics.

  4. If I just label it false gospel and good works generically, I can cover the Mormons, Muslims, Hindus, … AND the Roman Catholics. Much easier. And, I know you keep claiming that the Roman Catholic church does not believe in salvation by works, but I keep reading it in the Catechism, the Canons, etc. I just do not have time to deal with it more right now.

    • I suspect we have a fundamentally different understanding of what “works’ salvation” means. In particularly the Reformed understanding — which, as I have said, the Reformed folks tend to be the only ones who are still so virulently opposed to the Church — “works” are anything at all that we do, whether it’s entirely an act of God (i.e. the Sacraments) or something we do only by His grace (cf. Philippians 2:12-14, John 15:5); and in that understanding, the supposition that any “works” (whether action, effort, or assent) are necessary for salvation on our part amounts to “works’ salvation.” Salvation is only by the work and grace of God, and we have no role in it at all — what’s described as monergism, only one (God) working. Does that sound fair and accurate to describe your position?

      Whereas my understanding, and the understanding the Church has always has, “works’ salvation” is synonymous with Pelagianism, the idea that we as humans are somehow capable of attaining or meriting our salvation by our own works or actions or merits. And the Catholic Church has always strictly and explicitly rejected that. We are incapable of doing anything at all salutory (contributing to our salvation) apart from grace. Without grace, we are dead in sin; we are not even capable of accepting grace except by grace. But with grace, in the Catholic (and Lutheran, and Arminian, and Wesleyan, and pretty much all Protestant theology except hardcore Calvinist) some cooperation is necessary — we have to assent to it, most importantly. As Augustine says, “God created you without you, but God doesn’t save you without you.” And in that understanding, no, the Catholic Church does not teach “works’ salvation.”