Ephesians 2:8-10

I am the master of my fate;

I am the captain of my soul.

So go the words of W. E. Henley in his well-known Invictus. There is something intensely individualistic and ego-affirming in the idea that you make your own way. We would all like to think that we can pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We like the idea of being in charge of our lives.

There is an old story that tells of a man who was traveling on his donkey when he came upon a small fuzzy object lying in the road. He dismounted to look more closely and found a sparrow lying on its back with its scrawny legs thrust upward. At first he thought the bird was dead, but closer investigation proved it to be very much alive. The man asked the sparrow if he was all right. The sparrow replied, "Yes." The man asked, "What are you doing lying on your back with your legs pointed towards the sky?" The sparrow responded that he had heard a rumor that the sky was falling, and so he was holding his legs up to catch it. The man retorted, "You surely don't think that you're going to hold it up with those two scrawny legs, do you?" The sparrow, with a very solemn look, replied, "One does the best he can."

Our problem is like the problem of the sparrow. We might try to do the best we can, but our best is not good enough. Indeed, our most noble efforts seem altogether puny compared with what is really needed. When the sky is falling, our reaction might be to lift our hands to stop it, but it will do us no good.

The issue here is not the falling of the sky, but the falling of God's judgment. And man's natural response is not to lift his arms or his legs, but his good deeds in an effort to save himself. This passage teaches that salvation is an act of God's free grace.



For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9).

This passage contrasts both how we have been saved and how we have not been saved.

How You Have Been Saved

How You Have Not Been Saved

You have been saved by grace through faith

You have not been saved of yourselves

It is the gift of God

It is not as a result of works

There are only two possible ways to be saved. The first is through the effort of another. The second is through self effort.

I saw Dr. James Kennedy demonstrate these two ways in a graphic portrayal. To illustrate the first way of salvation, he turned and pointed to the cross at the front of the sanctuary. To illustrate the second way of salvation, he turned away from the cross and pointed to himself. Paul mentions the positive first. He then further explains it by contrasting it with the negative.

1. Grace: The Basis of your Salvation.

Verse 8 says, "For by GRACE you have been saved..." The word "grace" is translated from the Greek word charis. It is related to the word charisma - "gift" (from which we get our modern word "charismatic"). Grace describes that which is freely given. It is not earned or deserved. It is a GIFT.

While this is related to mercy, I believe it to be more than mercy. Mercy is when you are pulled over by a policeman for doing 50 miles per hour in a zone where the speed limit is 30 - and he does not give you a ticket. Grace is when that same policeman not only refrains from giving you a ticket but also invites you over to his house for dinner.

You have been saved by grace. You do not deserve to be saved. You cannot earn this salvation. It is a free gift.

2. The Fact of your Salvation.

The verb "you have been saved" is a perfect passive indicative. The perfect tense points back to an action that took place in the past, but which had continuing results. You were saved in the past with the result that you are still saved.

This tense takes us back to the actions of God in verses 4-7. God made us alive. And raised us up with Christ. And seated us with Him. And the point of this tense is that we are still alive and still raised up and still seated with Him.

The passive voice means that salvation was something which was done TO you. You did not save yourself. You were not able to save yourself. You needed a savior.

A dead man cannot raise himself up. He needs someone to do it for him. You needed a miracle. And God provided that miracle on your behalf.

The indicative mood is the mood of reality. It means that it really happened. When you awaken in the middle of the night and ask, "Is it really true?" be assured that God has spoken and has given His word with regard to your salvation. You can trust Him.

3. Faith: The Instrument of your Salvation.

Before we speak of what faith IS, let me pause for a moment to say what faith is NOT.

There are three elements in faith.

a. The first element of faith is KNOWLEDGE.

Faith must have some root in fact or else it is mere wistful thinking. There must be some objective fact which is to be believed.

Our faith is not in faith. There is an object to our faith. The object of our faith is Jesus Christ. We believe that He died for us and that He was buried and that He rose again. And we believe that His death and burial and resurrection had a result of purchasing our salvation.

b. The second element of faith is APPROPRIATION.

Knowing that Christ died is a mere knowledge of a historical event. Salvation requires knowing that He died for ME. I must appropriate that sacrifice that He made and see that it was on my own behalf.

c. The third element of faith is COMMITMENT.

This is where I accept Him as my Lord and Savior. It involves casting myself upon Christ, resting on His promises, and joining His forever family.

Jean Francois Gravalet was the most famous acrobat of the 1800's. Known as the Great Blondin, he became famous for crossing Niagara Falls on a tightrope 1,100 feet long and 160 feet above the water. Before an amazed crowd, he pushed a wheelbarrow across while blindfolded. Then he went back out and stood on his head on the wire. Finally, he carried a man across Niagara Falls on his back. When he had put the rider down, he looked into the crowd and asked a man standing near, "Do you believe I could do that with you?"

"Of course," the man answered, "I've just seen you do it." Then Blondin said, "Hop on, I'll carry you across." The man called back, "Not on your life!"

The man wouldn't go across with Blondin because he didn't really believe. He had intellectual understanding. But he didn't have real faith because he neither appropriated nor committed himself. He believed that Blondin could do it, but he wasn't willing to stake his life on it.

True faith in Jesus means that we stake our lives on Him. We commit ourselves to Him as our only hope for salvation. We give ourselves totally to Him, and burn our bridges behind us.

These three aspects to faith (knowledge, appropriation and commitment) are akin to a marriage relationship.






"Will you marry me?"


The Wedding

4. The Gift of your Salvation: It is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).

We have already noted that the words "grace" (charis) and "gift" (charisma) are related. But here we have a different word for "gift." This word is doron. Doron focuses upon the fact that the gift has been given (from didomi, "to give").



Focus upon the graciousness of the gift.

Focus upon the giving of the gift.

You have been given a gift. Not a loan. When you are given a loan, repayment is expected. But a gift does not anticipate repayment.

5. Not as a result of Works: Not as a result of works (Ephesians 2:9).

You cannot work for a gift. If you work for it, then it is wages earned. When your boss gives you a paycheck, you do not accept it and say, "Thank you for this wonderful gift!" You worked for it. You earned it. It is your just wage.

The Bible teaches that you have a just wage. There IS something for which you have worked and which you deserve. It is DEATH.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23).

6. Boasting is excluded: Not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:9).

You cannot boast in your salvation. You cannot even boast in your faith. Boasting in your faith would be like boasting in the fact that you reached out to take a check from somebody. Suppose you have a tremendous debt but someone offers to pay it for you, writes out a check for you for $500,000. And you reach out and take it from him. How absurd it would be if you then went around saying to everybody, "Isn't it wonderful that I had what it took to reach out and grab that check?" The wonderful thing would not be that you had received the gift, but that it was given in the first place.

One Sunday, the pastor of a church in London saw a former burglar kneeling beside a judge of the Court of England --- the very judge who had sent him to jail where he had served seven years. After his release this burglar had been converted and become a Christian worker. Yet, as they knelt there, the judge and the former convict, neither one seemed to be aware of the other.

After the service, the judge was walking out with the pastor and said to him, "Did you notice who was kneeling beside me at the Communion rail this morning?" The pastor replied, "Yes, but I didn't know that you noticed." The two walked along in silence for a few moments, and then the judge exclaimed, "What a miracle of grace!" The pastor nodded in agreement. "Yes, what a marvelous miracle of grace." Then the judge said, "But to whom do you refer?" And the pastor said, "Why, to the conversion of that convict."

The judge said, "But I was not referring to him. I was thinking of myself." The pastor, surprised, replied: "You were thinking of yourself? I don't understand."

"Yes," the judge replied, "it was natural for the burglar to receive God's grace when he came out of jail. He had nothing but a history of crime behind him, and when he saw Jesus as his Savior he knew there was salvation and hope and joy for him. And he knew how much he needed that help. But look at me. I was taught from earliest infancy to live as a gentleman; that my word was to be my bond; that I was to say my prayers, to go to church, take Communion and so on. I went through Oxford, took my degrees, was called to the bar and eventually became a judge. Pastor, it was God's grace that drew me; it was God's grace that opened my heart to receive it. I'm a greater miracle of his grace."



For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10).

In verse 9 we saw that salvation does not come on the basis of works. Here we read that salvation does not come apart from works. We are not saved BY works; but we are saved FOR works.

...not as a result of works, so that no one may boast


For we are His workmanship

This is presented by way of a contrast. Our salvation is not as a result of our own works. The reason this is so is that we are the result of HIS workmanship.

1. Workmanship versus Work.

It needs to be noted that the Greek word for "workmanship" is NOT related to the word for "works" which is used in verses 9 and 10.

An artist is known by the quality of his workmanship. If we are HIS workmanship, how should we live? Do you portray yourself as a Picaso or as an inkblot?

Think about this. In the same way that God has made the universe and it exists as the result of "His making," so also we exist as Christians who are created unto good works as the direct result of "His making."

2. His Workmanship.

When we think of the workmanship of God, we normally think of the wonders of the universe. The expanse of the galaxies. The wonders of the sun and the moon and the stars. Or perhaps we might think of the inner universe and how we are fearfully and wonderfully made and how each strand of our DNA contains more information than the most complex computer.

These are indeed wonderful. But what is more wonderful still is that God is making the very character of Christ in us.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works... (Ephesians 2:10a).

Paul talks about WHAT we are and WHY we are. Our identity is seen in the phrase, His workmanship. Our purpose is seen in the phrase, for good works.

For we are His workmanship

created in Christ Jesus for...

Good works

But that is not all. God has not only prepared us for good works when He made us His workmanship, He has also prepared good works for us.

3. The Sovereignty of God's Work.

The works which you have been called to work have been preordained and pre-prepared by God. Not only was your salvation predestined by God (we saw that in chapter 1), but also your good works were predestined by God.

Why does Paul tell us this? It is for our encouragement. It means that we can relax and know that God has planned the course of our Christian service. It means that we can trust Him for His leading.

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