“for good works”
The concept of “works” is one that confuses many well-meaning Christians. It deceives others into following the wrong path to salvation. But in the verses leading up to this one, Paul explains in as clear language as possible that works do not achieve salvation. It is by grace, he says in verse 8, that we are saved ~ a gift. Merciful forgiveness, the blood of the Sacrificial Lamb. That’s all. He even clarifies in verse 9: “not of works”. And then he even explains why: “lest anyone should boast.”
Which we would, wouldn’t we? I mean, we start off humble. People praise our gifts or our talents or even our efforts, and we blush and mumble modestly. But a little bit of that compliment stays with us, and the next compliment renders us a little less humble, and pretty soon we we are believing the praise, which is followed by even worse: we start reciting it to ourselves. And then comes the death of humility: we start to expect the praise.
By this time, God has completely left the equation and we have now started down a road of comparison that might lead to some conclusion that what we accomplish here on earth has a direct connection to salvation.
So God’s Spirit directed Paul to clear it up for us. Salvation is a gift of God not attainable by works. The end.
But let’s not now abandon the whole idea of works. They exist, by God’s design, and they play an important role in the Christian life. James says in 3:18 that works are how we show our faith, and that faith without works is a dead faith. Abraham for instance, was justified by faith but (I love this!) by works his faith was made perfect. What a wonderful concept! Faith instigates good works, and good works complete our faith.
Which brings us back to the verse we celebrate today. “We are God’s ,” verse 10 tells us. We are created in Christ Jesus ~ and that phrasing is significant. “Created in Christ Jesus” refers not to our being born, but our being born again. As sinners, we are dead. When we accept the gift of salvation, we are made alive, and that new life is in Christ Jesus. And we receive new life not by works, but for them. This is a crucial distinction. And these good works for which we are created are so sacred, they are hand-chosen by God for each one of us. Prepared beforehand for us, designed with our strengths and weaknesses in mind.
We are made in His image, He tells us. We are His workmanship. Our workmanship awaits us.