Ephesians 2:9: Good Works Are From Salvation Not Unto Salvation

2:9 οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων (ouk ex ergōn), “not from works.” There are two important elements to v. 9. The first is the another abrupt statement: “not from works” (also Rom 9:12 and Titus 3:5; cf. Rom 11:6). This shows the fundamental Pauline opposition of works with faith (e.g., Rom 3:27–28 [with “boasting” also as v. 9]; 9:32; Gal 2:16; 3:1–10; 2 Tim 1:9). Notice that he did not say “Not from good works” or the like, but “Not from works (at all).” Works for Paul implies human effort and use of human resources (i.e., σάρξ, sarx), and these have no value for the acquisition of human standing before God (e.g., Rom 3:20–28; 4:2–6; Gal 3:10–12; Titus 3:4–5; cf. John 6:29; O’Brien, 176–77). Paul is not opposed to good deeds (see v. 10; “zealous for good works,” Titus 2:14), but for him they flow from a renewed heart as the outcome and result of God’s freeing justification and deliverance from bondage to sin by the substitutionary sacrifice and obedience of Christ (e.g., Rom 6:1–14; Titus 2:14; cf. Heb 9:14).

S. M. Baugh, Ephesians: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, ed. Wayne H. House, Hall W. Harris III, and Andrew W. Pitts, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015), 161–62.

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  1. I find it helpful to think about the comparison between Sarah and Hagar. Sarah is the wife of Abraham while Hagar is the slave. They are typological of works and grace. Sarah respects, loves, and obeys her husband, Abraham because she wants to please him. Hagar obeys because she is afraid of what will happen to her if she does not. Similarly the Church is the bride of Christ. She is secure in her marriage relationship with Christ. She obeys because she loves and wants to please her Husband.

  2. Ephesians 2.8-10 is an extremely important passage regarding the relationship between faith and works. You cannot perform any good works to either get saved or to stay saved. You perform good works because you *are* saved, out of obedience and gratitude to God.

    I don’t understand why some people think this is so hard.

  3. Our best works, the best we could possibly offer to God, is blemished and tarnished with sin. Yes, unfortunately that is the truth! Mortal man is a sinful man and even we, who believe that we have been saved, who believe that we are re-born, even we sin continuously and deserve nothing but hellfire and damnation. It is our sinful nature to hate God and our neighbour and but for the loving grace of God eternal damnation would have been our destination. That being said, how can anyone believe that he can do anything, any work, that could possibly justify himself before God. It simply boggles the mind to think that man can do better than God, that he can better extricate himself from the morass of sin than the vicarious offertory of Christ. Thank God, be grateful and rejoice in His loving kindness and grace.

  4. Thank you, Dr. Neveling for this beautiful, simple rendering of the wonderful gospel. How sad it is that there are those who are called leaders in Christ’s Church who are subverting the simplicity of the gospel by denying that the vicarious offertory of Christ is all sufficient for our justification and salvation. Such people had hijacked the medieval church. Thank God for the Reformers and martyres who risked and sacrificed their lives to defend and recover the wonderful, simple gospel of Christ’s all sufficient offertory sacrifice for our salvation. We now have leaders and pastors who would return the Church to those errors of the medieval church. We cannot just ignore it, we have a command to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. God is sovereign and ultimately in control of all things but he uses means, including the prayers, words, and actions of His saints to defend this precious gospel. Jude 3 .

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