Grace For Good Works
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
“What are we saved for?”
This is an essential question to ask ourselves when we ponder what our lives should look like as followers of Jesus. I think we all could answer the question if it were, "what are we saved from?" But the gospel goes even deeper. This passage helps us begin to answer that question.
The first phrase is: "For we are his workmanship..." The emphasis is on the word "his." Paul is connecting this with the previous verse (hence the conjunction, "for"). In other words, we cannot boast, both because Jesus has saved us through his gift of grace through faith (verse 8) and because He is the One working in us after we come to Him (verse 10).
The text continues: "...created in Christ Jesus for good works..." Though it is true that Christ created all things (Colossians 1), this passage is specifically speaking of the new creation, the Church. As we come to trust Christ, He sends His Spirit into our hearts and begins to shape and mold our actions and desires.
This is different than just a legal transaction. Justification is an example of a legal transaction. In other words, we are declared innocent due to Christ's work on our behalf. That is a beautiful reality that is ours in Christ, but this is talking about something different. This is speaking of a transformative transaction. Think new standing (justification) vs. new nature (sanctification). When we trust Christ, He begins to work in us and shape us through His Word and His Spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:17 gives a clear explanation of this new nature: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
And in this way, we will begin to walk in these good works that this passage speaks of. But here is the encouragement for us: "...which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Our ability to walk in these good works is directly tied to God's sovereign hand ruling in our hearts. We cannot do anything good without the Lord. At the outset, this seems like a tension, but it is not. God's sovereignty and our obedience go hand-in-hand.
1 Corinthians 15:10 gives us a great picture of this correlation between God's work in us and our obedience: "But by the grace of God I (Paul) am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me." While Paul worked hard for the sake of the gospel, he knew it was only because of God's grace at work within him. The unseen reality of Christ's grace in our hearts manifests itself as we walk in the good works "which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
This takes intentionality. It means taking our eyes off ourselves and looking to the needs of those around us. Christ has called us to a life of self-sacrifice, serving others rather than looking to be served. These good works are meant to be for the good of others so that others would see them and glorify the Father (Matthew 5:16).
And why should we walk in these good works? Because Jesus looked down on our helpless state and came down to rescue us out of it. This is all founded in the gospel. And it is only by the power of the gospel that we can walk in holiness.
Christian, you are saved not so that you could serve yourself and simply live an easy life waiting for heaven. You are saved so that others would see your life and want to worship the God you worship. You were saved so that the name of Jesus would be lifted high in all your good works.