We Can’t Make Up our Own Salvation

Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV

“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.”

The Big Lie

Many people today are building a false doctrine of salvation based off verses 8-9 of Ephesians 2 and they are giving many people the wrong impression of what God’s grace and his salvation are all about. They are misrepresenting what these verses are teaching because they are not teaching these verses in their context. Thus, they are also misrepresenting Jesus Christ.

They are giving people the false impression that “faith” is just acknowledging who Jesus is and what he did for us on that cross and then it is accepting his free gift of salvation from sin and forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God. And they take “not of ourselves” as to mean that we do not participate in this at all, and that nothing is required of us other than to “believe.”

But what they are teaching is not true faith, but a false faith. What they are teaching is not true grace, but a false grace. And what they are teaching is not the true gospel, but a false gospel based off a lie and a false teaching and a false hope which suppresses the working of the Holy Spirit, and which is based off the passions of our sinful flesh, instead.

For, they are telling people that they can believe in Jesus, have their sins forgiven, be on their way to heaven, but that nothing is required of them – no submission to Christ as Lord, no walks of surrender and obedience to the Lord, and no putting sin to death in our lives on a daily basis. For, they call this “works-based” salvation which must be discarded, in their eyes.

So, what they do is that they leave people still dead in their sins and still living for sinful pleasures while promising them salvation from sin and eternal life with God guaranteed. For they reduce God’s grace to mere forgiveness of sins (unconditionally) without any teachings on repentance, obedience, and submission to Christ as Lord.

Even if they teach on repentance, it is usually reduced to a mere confession of sin but not actually meaning that we forsake our sinful lifestyles in order to follow Jesus Christ in obedience to his will and to his ways.

The Truth

So, let’s look at these verses in their context. Go back to the beginning of chapter 2 of Ephesians. It talks there about how we as Christians were (past tense) dead in our sins, and then it goes on to explain what that means.

It means we once (not presently, but in the past) walked in (practiced, conducted our lives in) sin, following the course of this world (the ways, values, thinking of this sinful world). This is not to be a present reality in our lives. In doing so, we were following Satan, not God, and at that time we were children of disobedience (in opposition to obedience to the Lord).

We once (past tense, not presently) lived (in lifestyle) in the passions of our flesh (our sin nature), carrying out the desires of the body and the mind. We did what our sinful nature wanted to do and we engaged in all sorts of sinful practices. And because of this, we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Then it goes on to talk about God’s mercy and his great love and grace to us and how he saved us when we were dead in our sins. So, we have to see the following verses (vv 8-9) in the light of the preceding verses (vv 1-7) which tell us what it looks like when we are not saved and which then explains what we should look like once we are saved.

Saved means we no longer follow Satan, we no longer walk in sin, and sin is no longer what we practice. We aren’t just delivered from the penalty of sin, but we are delivered from our slavery to sin. We no longer follow the ways of this sinful world, but we are holy, separate (unlike) this sinful world because we are being conformed to the likeness of Christ.

We are no longer living in disobedience to our Lord, but we are walking in obedience to him and to his commands. We are no longer living according to the passions of our sinful flesh, doing what our flesh desires, but now we are living according to godly passions and desires, wanting to please our Lord and not our flesh.

For, if we remain in our sins, doing what our sinful hearts desire, making sin our practice, and righteousness is not what we practice, then we are by nature still children of wrath like the rest of mankind. We are not children of God. And it is critical that we realize this, for many are claiming faith in Jesus Christ who are still walking in sin. And one day they are going to hear God say, “I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of iniquity.”

What it Means

So, when it says in verse 8 that by grace through faith we are saved, and that this is not our own doing, but it is the gift of God, it is not teaching that works are not involved in our salvation. The works of the flesh are not involved, but if you look at verse 10 you realize that we are saved to do the good works which God prepared in advance that we should walk in them.

Not of our own doing means we don’t make up our own salvation, either. We can’t generate it ourselves from our own flesh and we can’t create our own plan of salvation to please our sinful flesh, either, which is what many people are doing in how they are teaching these verses falsely in order to not put sin to death but to let it reign supremely.

The faith to believe in Jesus doesn’t come from ourselves, but it comes from God. Jesus is the originator and the perfecter of our faith, and we can’t even come to faith in Jesus Christ unless God the Father draws us to Christ, i.e. unless he persuades us to believe in Jesus, which means that this “belief” is going to align with God’s will and purposes for our lives.

This faith is going to align with the rest of the Scriptures and what they teach about that faith. And if you read into Ephesians 4 you realize that our faith there is described in terms of us forsaking our former lives of living for sin and for self to now follow Jesus Christ in obedience to his will and to his ways for our lives (see Ephesians 4:17-24).

If this faith comes from God and is not of ourselves, then we can’t make it up ourselves. Our faith is going to submit to Christ as Lord, and forsake our sins, and follow Jesus in obedience, just like it talks about in the beginning of chapter 2 and again in chapter 4. We can’t take Scriptures out of their context to make them say what we want them to say.

So, the conclusion here is that our faith comes from God, therefore it submits to God and to his will for our lives. We are divinely persuaded by God, therefore we will forsake our sins and follow Jesus in obedience. For, we are now God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus FOR GOOD WORKS, which GOD prepared beforehand, that we should WALK IN THEM.

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer

Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

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